After a couple of days in the West, we’ve got our bags packed (again) and are heading South by way of the The Golden Circle, a collection of must-see attractions for first-timers in Iceland. This popular route is located within an hour of Reykjavík making it especially convenient for those visitors short on time.
“So… it looks like we can just get on Route 1 and go back the way we came for the most part.” I advise Billy from the passenger seat.
“The way we came?” his distaste for the idea immediately apparent. He leans over the map. “What about this other route?” he suggests, clearly feeling the call of the unknown.
“That works too, although it’s Iceland… not sure what the road conditions will be like.”
“It’ll be fine,” he says.
The Road Less Traveled
Rain falls and chunks of rock ping the underside of our rental as we bounce along the gravel stretch of the road less traveled. There’s nothing but hills as far as the eye can see and no sign of life. Even the sheep are elsewhere. The radio cut out about 20 minutes ago so Billy and I sit in silence. I could fill the void with “I told you so” but this is a marriage, dear Reader, and that shit don’t fly in a marriage.
“The map has us turning up ahead shortly. Hopefully the road will even out a bit there,” Billy offers. Yes, hopefully it will, I think. Luckily for us both (and the underside of our car!), paved road was in our future after all. The rain stops and the sun begins to creep out from behind the clouds. The tunes – and sheep! – are back.
“So serene…. feels like we’re the only people in Iceland,” I remark. “I’m glad you suggested this route, it’s really gorgeous.” Check me out, totally crushing this wife gig! And it’s true, I am glad.
Lush green hills, glaciers, crisp air… it all reminds me of our trips to Bavaria or Switzerland. And yet, there is something distinctly different about Iceland – something altogether more wild and unpredictable. If the tidy, wooden clusters of Europe’s alpine villages suggest strength in numbers, the modest homes of Icelanders – often located miles and miles apart – lend credence to the Icelanders’ reputation for isolation. Clearly these are people who aren’t afraid to go it alone.
The Golden Circle
A flood of tour buses signal our arrival to The Golden Circle. Our first stop is Þingvellir National Park (don’t stress, that weird symbol just makes a th- sound: Thingvellir). Home to Icelandic parliament circa 930 AD, the park is also the site of the continental rift splitting Iceland between the North American and Eurasian Continents. It’s a hot spot for sure – and there’s a gazillion people here to prove it. William and I spend an hour or so enjoying the views but it’s drizzling again and any real exploration is becoming less and less appealing.
We drive on to Haukadalur Valley, home to several hot springs including Geysir – the geyser after which all geysers are named (yet another fun fact for your next cocktail party, dear Reader). We score a primo parking spot and make our way over to the crowd of tourists. Though Geysir is dormant, the Strokkur geyser erupts every 10-15 minutes and is the major attraction in these parts. Judging by the horde of tourists with their cameras at the ready, the eruption should be any minute now. And sure enough… The waters of Strokkur spring forth, leaping high into the air just as a tall, overbearing man knocks me over in pursuit of the perfect photo.
It begs the eternal question: does anyone care where you’ve been if you were a total asshat while you were there? Food for thought.
We hop back into the car and I begin snacking on a lunch wrap I had squirreled away. Billy puts the car in reverse and I comment on my tasty lunch when a horrific metallic screech stops us both in our tracks.
“What the hell was that?!” I demand.
“The car,” my husband responds, puzzled. Fahk.
We both scramble out of the vehicle in search of answers. Somehow a metal plate behind the front bumper has been knocked out of place. It’s hanging low and dragging on the ground. Lovely. Billy wastes no time getting under the problem and, rather unceremoniously, bangs the plate back into place (or at least closer to ‘into place’). We get back in the car.
“Is it fixed?” I ask. He shrugs, putting the car into reverse once more and no doubt praying silently. We both hold our breath. No sound.
“You did it!” I cheer, immediately clicking my seatbelt secure and returning to my lunch.
But I can tell Billy is still anxious.
“Don’t worry about the car,” I say with a wave of my hand between bites. “Did we learn nothing from the Neapolitans? If it drives, it’s fine. I mean… until it blows up on the side of the tangenziale anyway… but whatever – va bene! We’re on vacation and we need to focus. Make this left…”
Rule #1: Have Fun
Good Looks & Even Better Intentions
With that brief interlude behind us, we come to our final stop along the Golden Circle: Gullfoss, a thunderous two-tiered waterfall. Water crashes down into a narrow canyon nearly 70 meters deep as spray kicks up, dousing throngs of admirers along the footpath. On our way out I pause to read some information about Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the woman who dedicated her life to preserving Gullfoss. When foreign investors sought to dam the waterfall for hydroelectrical production in the 18th century, Sigríður was having none of it – she even threatened to toss herself into the falls if they didn’t reconsider!
The information board goes on to make some interesting notes about Sigríður. Apparently she “was of average height and strongly built. She was also considered good looking in her younger years and had thick and beautiful blonde hair.” Poor Sigríður. She was one of Iceland’s first environmental activists and here we are, talking about her hair! Can you imagine? Here lies Malia Rosado. She cured cancer, brokered world peace, and was a solid 7 when she put some effort in.
I shake my head. Sad!
Not Featured, But Still Pretty Awesome!
Yet again, it was impossible to include all of the day’s activities in one post, dear Reader. I know I’m already pushing my luck by sharing 1,200-word blog posts in an image-obsessed society, so here’s what you missed today real fast:
- Our horseback ride at Hestheimer. The farm’s adorable dust mop of a dog, Scündi, accompanied us the entire two hours. A band of wild horses ran alongside us for a while. It was so beautiful, I think my heart stopped for a moment. Also, Billy’s horse was super flatulent (his horses always are).
- Our lunch in a greenhouse on Friðheimar Farm. The tomato-themed menu is limited and also incredibly delicious. And yes, we paid $30 for a bowl of tomato soup. Because, also yes, Iceland is kick-you-in-the-pants-pricey. The sooner you accept it the better!