2024.14.13 Golden Circle

After yesterday’s extreme adventures, we slept in until 9am.  Our hotel the next few nights, the Grandi Center Hotel, offers a free breakfast with the stay, as do most all hotels and guesthouses in Iceland.  We were anxious to see they served up, so we went downstairs immediately before breakfast closed at 10.

The breakfast place was pretty ritzy, at least compared to your standard continental breakfast you might expect hotel. The host was a 60-something British man, and when he learned it was out first time at breakfast, he gave us a tour of where everything was, and directed us to a table. 

The lineup was a mix of American, Icelandic, British and other European delights.  My breakfast staple, granola and yogurt were available, plus fried potatoes, sausage links, bacon, and scrambled eggs.  Also a variety of fruits such as pineapple and oranges, plus one called canary fruit we were not familiar with.

Breakfast Bar

Stephanie is always more adventurous on the buffet than I am, and she delivered on her reputation today.  She brought us two shots of fish oil, which I honestly didn’t even notice.  The highlight was the pickled herring, which not only was tolerable – it was good!  The breakfast gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from us.

One neat observation was that around 9:30, about 8 ladies marched into the breakfast area in a line, all dressed in black pants and black t-shirts.  They got in line and fixed their plates for breakfast.  Later, we realized this was the housekeeping staff.  What a perk to get fed a delicious breakfast every morning.

While in line for coffee, a gentleman noticed my OSU cap and asked me if I was an Oklahoma State fan, which I gave him an enthusiastic positive response.

Stranger: “I went to Texas Tech.”

Me: “Go Big 12.”

Stranger: “Go Big 12.”

As we were leaving breakfast, the British host asked about our plans for the day, and he wrote down a handful of places we should be sure not to miss.  Very friendly of him.

Today our plan is to drive the Golden Circle, one of the primary sightseeing activities in Iceland.

The first stop on the Golden Circle was Thingvellir National Park. This location holds a lot of cultural significance in Iceland. It was the site of the annual parliament of Iceland from the year 930 to 1798.  It is also a site of some geological significance as it sits in a valley between the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates.

Kings Visit Thingvellir National Park!

Instead of paying an entrance fee to the National Park, you pay a fee to park at the Visitor Center.  Everyplace, and I mean every place, in Iceland takes credit cards.  We did not convert any dollars to Icelandic currency for this trip.  We paid for our parking at the kiosk, and made use of their bathrooms right off the bat.  Holy Cow, it had the greatest view of any bathroom we had ever been in.  The sinks were on a wall of windows that looked out into the park.  First class bathroom.

Scenic Bathroom

When we parked, we took a moment to put all our layers on.  Stephanie got hers on first and after a few moments said “I think I am wearing your pants!”  We have matching waterproof/windproof pants, and she had grabbed mine, and did not like how there was an extra 12 inches of pantsleg at her feet.

The primary activity at this part of the park was to take the hiking path and learn some history about the parliament.  We expected more emphasis on the geological aspect of the park, which was not really emphasized.  We did see a nice waterfall.

A Walk Through The Park
Scenic View at the Park, including Iceland’s largest natural lake, Thingvallavatn

Upon our return to the Visitor Center, we asked an employee if you could walk between the tectonic plates.  She said that the plates are 7 kilometers apart and the National Park sites on a microplate.  We told her we thought it would be more like how the plates are close together at the tourist site, “Bridge Between Continents”, near Reykjavik.  The employee looked at us very seriously and told us “That is a metaphorical bridge.”  OMG, we now look like the most gullible tourists this lady has ever seen.  Stephanie and I laughed so hard at ourselves on the walk back to the car.

Looking at this picture of the Bridge Between Continents, it is not obvious it’s a metaphor!

Our next stop was at Lougarrant Fontana, known for its geothermal spa and rye bread. This pairing is not as ridiculous as it first sounds. This resort sits on edge of a lake, and the geothermal properties create “boiling sand”.  They make the rye bread, then put it in pots and bury it in the sand, and the geothermal heat cooks it.  We tried some of the bread, and we will be the first to admit – it works.

After leaving the Fontana, we wanted to try to put gas in the car for the first time at a gas pump in this small town.  The first pump we pulled up to did not work with the fob provided us by the rental car company for us to receive a discount on our gas purchases.  So we moved to the other pump.

The pumps default to Icelandic, but you can select English, which I did.  But at some point in the process, I canceled the transaction.  So Stephanie ran the pump and immediately apologized for selecting Icelandic.  We managed to bungle our way through the transaction and at the end, the screen told us “Taka Kort”.  Stephanie immediately translated that into “Take Card”.  She was right! Again, we had a great laugh at our own expense.  Iceland is getting to us.

Next stop: Geysir.  This is the granddaddy of them all.  The reason that the world calls geysers what they do is because of this original named “Geysir”.  Unfortunately, the original Geysir is currently dormant, but the entire area is still very active.  We saw one geyser erupt 4 times in the short time we were there.  The entire landscape is covered with steaming vents, and it absolutely gives off a mini-Yellowstone vibe.

Thankfully there were other geysers operating today
Steaming Vents

After leaving Geysir, we mapped to Bruarfoss, which translates to “bluest waterfall”.  Interestingly, this was an obvious private enterprise and not a government park.  The waterfall itself was small, but definitely blue.  A good waterfall.  More please.

Bruarfoss Waterfall

A 30 minute drive away was the Gulfoss waterfall.  This one is massively wide and very impressive.  The sun was getting lower in the sky so much of the waterfall was in the shadows when we arrived, but it didn’t matter.  Great waterfall.

Gulfoss Waterfall
A Lower View of Gulfoss

There is a set of stairs you can take down to get closer to the falls.  On the way back up, I counted the stairs and asked Stephanie to guess how many there were.  She guessed 450.  It was 109.  It only felt like 450!

In the parking  lot where we parked, there were several ginormous vehicles that are used to take people on tours of glaciers.  Turns out there is a glacier just down the road from Gulfoss.  So convenient.

Glacier Bus

On the drive to our next stop, we came across a farm with Icelandic horses out near the road, with a sign to stop and pet them.  Next thing I know we are in the parking lot.  The pen had a cabinet next to it promoting “Horse Candy” which was for sale.  So we bought a small package (paid via Apple Pay) and Steph got to make some friends.  It was well worth the stop.  Their hair is so soft, and that mane is crazy big and fun to run your hands through.

Icelandic Horses!

Our last waterfall of the day was the Faxafoss waterfall, but as we drove up, the entrance was closed.  Again, some type of a private enterprise. Oh well, no Faxafoss for us.  Next!

The last stop on our Golden Circle Tour is the Kerid Volcano Crater.  Online, it says that it is “open while the sun is shining”.  Well, the sun is NOT shining, but it was definitely light enough to see.  Thankfully we could still get in the parking lot and walk up to the crater.  Even in twilight, we could make out quite a few of the colors that makes the walls of this crater a real sight to behold.  As an added sight, the water in the crater was frozen solid.  A benefit of touring in the spring!

We arrived back at the hotel at 10:30pm.  We stopped and asked at the front desk if there were any places still open to grab dinner.  Unfortunately No (we already knew the answer, but had to ask), but the staff recommended we download an app named Wolt, which works like Doordash.  We did this, and ordered food and had it delivered around 11:30.  Lamb Donner and chips & hummus in our hotel room.

Dinner At The Hotel

 We are the champions of eating in unorthodox places on this trip. 

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