Vanilla Ice

Golden Circle, Iceland.

We finally give in to the “tourist route” and join (a sparing few) coach buses to the Golden Circle, which touches the famous sights of Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss.

But the drive, I am convinced, is not to a tourist trap but into the depths of Siberia. There was nothing but vast whiteness ahead; snow-covered plains lie in front of snow-covered mountains, as our snow-covered rental car skid atop the lonesome icy road.

White road golden circle Iceland skidding highway
Nothing but snow and a tough road ahead

We make a stop at a lookout point by Thingvallavatn Lake, the largest natural lake in Iceland. As soon as we pulled in our front wheels became mired in a foot of snow, but a small group of warm-hearted fellow adventurers helped us push our car out of the quagmire. We admire the blood-stained sunrise views before passing on the love, helping a 4×4 Jeep push out of the same trap we fell into just minutes ago.

Thingvallavatn Lake sunrise Thingvellir Golden Circle Iceland
Blood-stained sunrise at Thingvellir above Thingvallavatn Lake

Another precarious hour of driving later we reach the nicely furnished Geysir visitor’s center, rising out of the snow like an oasis in a desert. The original Geysir, the root of the English word “geyser”, is no longer active; but its smaller cousin, Strokkur, continues to put on a show for visitors. The eruptions are irregular but averages once every 5-7 minutes; an army of photographers stand waiting patiently if also nervously, afraid they will miss the perfect fraction of a second to click and capture the peak moment of release.

Geysir Strokkur Iceland Golden Circle geyser eruption
Strokkur erupts amid a hundred shutter clicks
Geyser Geysir Iceland silhouette photographer shadow Golden circle
A daring photographer walks up to the edge of a geyser

A brief 10 minute drive away, Gullfoss (Golden Falls) appears as if out of nowhere; there is no mountain to drive up to see this force of nature, as the water dumps into a rift valley below. For the adventurous who ignored the chained-off warnings, a brief downward hike on a narrow trail takes you closer to the origin waters that feed the beast.

Gullfoss Golden Circle Iceland waterfall
Gullfoss rages on despite the winter freeze

The day grows weary and we reverse our tracks, returning to Reykjavik for a cozy Thai meal. Despite the smoky clouded skies that gave Reykjavik its name,  we found another type of light show to wrap up the day’s adventures.

Solfar Imagine Peace Tower Iceland Videy Island
Solfar backlit by the Imagine Peace Tower (dedicated by Yoko Ono to John Lennon)
Harper Iceland Reykjavik Concert Hall Convention Center
Harpa Concert Hall at night

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton

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