Feature Writer: Stephanie Mayo
Wow! What a full day of beautiful sunshine, spectacular sights and interesting people. For our second day, we booked The Golden Circle Classic tour with Iceland Excursions. Never have I been on such an amazing tour before. We managed to take in a Viking size boat load of geographical wonders, historical sites and Icelandic trivia.
From the scenic landscape of Lake Þingvallavatn to Þingvellir National Park where the Icelandic parliament Albingi was founded in 930 AD, the world´s oldest existing national assembly and also where the tectonic plate boundaries form a breathtaking scenery from out of this world.
Next was Gullfoss waterfalls, Iceland´s 8th highest at 31 metres, which more than took my breath away When I first stepped out of our van and saw the falls I couldn´t help but feel the pull towards it and the closer I got, the faster I walked and by the time I was right on top of it I could feel the rush of endorphins within It was amazing to stand there beholding nature´s beauty with it´s mist tickling my face, I could have gotten lost in the zen-like moment.
Just when you think it couldn´t get any better, with Mount Hekla watching over us we headed to the incredible spouting hot springs of Geysir and Strokkur. And just like clockwork, every four minutes, Strokkur blew and WOW! is that a sight to see – and smell. With the horrid sulfur smell wafting which ever way the wind blew, I´m surprised we didn´t reek when we left. Or maybe we did, but so did everyone else or maybe we got accustom to the smell. I certainly hope not, I´m sure there is nothing worse than smelling like rotten eggs.
After the geysirs and passing by yet another waterfall, we stopped at Skalholt, a plot of land rich in Viking history with a quaint church on a hill with a view of the surrounding mountains. Within the church walls were beautiful stainglass, mosaic windows. Just when I thought there couldn’t be anymore fantastic geological features to fit into this tour I was stunned when we arrived at Kerid. Kerid is a crater formed about 6,500 years ago, at 270m long, 170m wide and 55m deep. We were given the opportunity to take a stroll around the entire crater, with astounding views of the landscape that surrounds it as well as down into the crater itself with its beautifully still green/blue water. I couldn’t help but take my time, to get close to the rocky edge and peer down into the wonder, to look around at the others in our group scattered around truly bringing into focus the immense size of it, and to stop and breathe it all in.
Along the road we were told by our fabulous guide some of the tall tales of Iceland’s elves and even showed us where to look for them. In the tall rock face that lined the right side of the road, on fallen rocks were hidden painted houses, doorways to the illusive elves of Icelandic myth.
The second last stop on the tour was certainly an educational one and proved how advanced Iceland is especially in respect to environmentally sound energy, it was to one of Iceland´s geothermal plants. Geothermal power is used for heating purposes and to create electrical power. Amazingly enough, 90% of Icelandic homes are heated with geothermal energy, which started in 1930.
A surprise last stop was to a site off the highway where we could get up close and IN mini-volcanoes, extinct mini-replicas of their giant living cousins that loomed all around us.
I highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Iceland, especially if only for a short while as it packs in a lot in one day. Leaving the tour I felt richer in knowledge and appreciation of Iceland´s history and culture and richer in experience of this awe-inspiring island.
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