The next morning we were up early for our first full day in Iceland. As I mentioned earlier we planned to stay in Hveragerdi for several days and take day trips to the sites in the region. On this day we planned to hit some of the major sites on the Golden Circle Tour.
We headed out on the ring road toward Selfoss. Just before Selfoss we turned on highway 36 heading for Thingvellir National Park. We had seen Icelandic Horses along the road but this was the first chance to stop and take a photo of them.
There was some spectacular scenery along the road as we drove toward Thingvellir including this sod hut.
Thingvellir is the site where parliament was established in the year 930, and because of this it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. There is also geologic significance, as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (separating the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates) runs through the park. We were happy to find that Iceland does not charge an entrance fee for its Parks so we drove right in.
Our first stop was Öxarárfoss where we took a few photos of the river and the falls.
As we walked along the trail through the Almannagja Gorge, where the tectonic plates display their separation, we encountered a number of birds. As an avid bird photographer I was more than happy to take their pictures. The Redwing reminded me of our American Robin. As I watched it it has many of the behavioral traits of the Robin.
The water in some of the rifts is so clear you can see the bottom in many places. This is a popular spot for divers. One whole parking lot was reserved for divers to use. As you can see it was mid May and things were just starting to bud out. The second photo shows a popular spot, PeningagJa rift pool, where people throw money into the pool.
This is a photo of Althing, the open-air assembly representing the whole of Iceland, it was established in 930 and continued to meet until 1798. Over a two week period each year a year, the assembly met to set laws and settled disputes.
The Thingvellir Church has a beautiful setting in front of the Rift with the mountains in the background.
This is a raised platform near the Thingvellir Church. The Althing area can be seen in the background. The area in between would have been filled with people attending the Althing.
We walked along the trail in the Almannagja Gorge until it finally petered out.
Thingvellir is situated on the northern shore of Lake Thingvallavatn which is the largest natural lake in Iceland.
After a lengthy stay at Thingvellir we backtracked and caught the road to the Haukadalur Valley commonly known as Geysir. There is a beautiful new visitors center at the site. Our visit was short. The Strokkur geysir is still active and was blowing off steam but after several visits to Yellowstone this was not all that impressive.
We moved on to Gullfoss. Gulfoss is a huge waterfall with lots of spray and lots of people wandering around. They have been improving the walkways along the cliffs above the falls. Sometimes it was difficult to get photographs because of all of the people. It was at this point that I concluded that serious photographers probably did their photography at night when it was still light out but when most people were sleeping.
Every place we stopped my wife took the opportunity to use the restrooms because they were few and far between. Most of them accepted coin and credit cards.
After our visit to Gullfoss we decided to backtrack and look for Brúarfoss. We had driven past the area where it was located but didn’t see any sign for it. We understood it was a difficult waterfall to find. It is close to Reykjavik so lots of people have summer homes in the area and it was a spider web of unmarked dirt roads. We put the waterfall on our Google Maps and it found it. However, as we drove through the subdivision Google became confused. Apparently the locals with the summer homes would prefer that visitors stay out of the area so no attempt has been made to provide signage. We finally gave up and moved on to another waterfall. The next day we met several young people from Alabama. They were more persistent and after some effort did find Brúarfoss
Our next stop was at a small but beautiful little waterfall called Faxi Waterfall. In this case little is a relative term. It this waterfall were in the Midwest it would be huge. We actually drove past it and had to back track to find it. In addition to the waterfall there are some sheep sorting pens and a small forest.
It was starting to get late but not dark. Our final stop of the day was Kerio Crater Lake. We hiked up to the rim of the crater and walked around the rim.
On the way back to Hveragerdi we ended the day where it started taking pictures of Icelandic Horses. There was a summer cabin with some horses in a beautiful setting.
More photos and a complete listing of my Icelandic blogs can be found on my website.