iceland’s golden circle: gullfoss & geysir

Sunday, August 14:  We drive next to the stop furthest afield along the Golden Circle: Gullfoss. It is proclaimed as Iceland’s most famous waterfall.  Brown sediment from the Lángjökull glacier, about 40km north of Gullfoss, flows into the glacier lake Hvítávatn (“white river” lake) and then into the river Hvítá (“white river”), where it falls in two magnificent cascades into a 32m deep narrow ravine.  Apparently on sunny days, the mist creates rainbows, but as today isn’t sunny, we don’t experience any color at all!  At least, thank goodness, it’s stopped raining.

The waterfall is quite a sight when we first get a glimpse of it.

First view of Gullfoss
First view of Gullfoss

We walk down a long path to a ledge overlooking the first drop. Lots of people are walking around taking pictures on the slippery rocks and I can’t help wonder if anyone has ever fallen in.

Gullfoss
Gullfoss
Mike at Gullfoss
Mike at Gullfoss
Gullfoss
Gullfoss

It’s overwhelming to watch where the second drop thunders into the ravine.

Gullfoss and its mighty mist
Gullfoss and its mighty mist

It’s also quite heart-stopping to watch where it tumbles down a three-step staircase to the second drop-off.

from the top of Gullfoss
from the top of Gullfoss

Gullfoss and the surrounding area were made a nature reserve in 1979 to give people the best possible opportunity to enjoy the wonder of nature.  The area’s ecosystem is also protected, and its vegetation remains untouched.  Attempts are made to minimize man’s footprint, to keep man-made structures to a minimum and not to disturb the land and geological formations.

the power of Gullfoss
the power of Gullfoss

I look like a little round barrel with my multiple layers of clothes on.  Here I have on leggings and rain pants on the bottom and a denim shirt, a cardigan, a rain jacket and a vest!

me at Gullfoss
me at Gullfoss

It’s difficult at first to see the depth of the ravine because of all the mist, but finally we get a glimpse.

Gullfoss - the second drop
Gullfoss – the second drop

I try to mess with my shutter speed and get this shot.  I can’t believe I still am no good with my manual settings!

Gullfoss
Gullfoss

As we walk back to the top again, we see a memorial to Sigríður Tómasdóttir, born in 1871, the second eldest of 13 children.  Only seven of those children reached adulthood.  She quickly became the leader of the siblings.  Of average height but strongly built, she had thick blonde hair and was considered good-looking in her younger years.  She was hard-working, and early in her life mainly worked outdoors.

Tourists started to visit Gullfoss in 1875.  The waterfall at that time was hard to reach because of rough terrain and impassable rivers.  Sigríður and her sisters often guided visitors to Gullfoss, building the first trail that led to the waterfall.

Sigríður is memorialized here because of her heroic struggle for the waterfall’s conservation.  In 1907, an Englishman wanted to harness the power of Gullfoss for electricity generation.  Sigríður’s father declined to sell the land.  Later, the waterfall was leased to foreign investors by the government.  When Sigríður tried to have the rental contract voided, her attempt failed in court.  She spent many hours fighting her case, even walking barefoot to Reykjavik to “protest;” at one time she threatened to throw herself over the waterfall if the development went ahead.  Luckily, the rental contract was canceled due to non-receipt of payments.  Sigríður has often been called Iceland’s first environmentalist.

She died when she was 87, in 1957.

Sigridour
Sigríður

After our walk down to the waterfall’s edge, we hike up to the lookout over the falls.  In the distance, we can see the glacier Lángjökull nestled into the jagged mountains.  This is our first glimpse of many glaciers we’ll see in Iceland.

Langjökull - Iceland's 2nd largest glacier - is nestled in the mountains
Langjökull – Iceland’s 2nd largest glacier – is nestled in the mountains

Langjökull is the second largest ice cap in Iceland.

Langjökull in the distance
Langjökull in the distance

We have a nice view of the waterfall from the lookout above.

Gullfoss from above
Gullfoss from above
view overlooking Gullfoss
view overlooking Gullfoss

In the distance, we can see another mountain with a cloud hat.  I make Mike pose sideways in front of it because their hats match.🙂

a mountain with a hat
a mountain with a hat
Mike and his hat / mountain with hat
Mike and his hat / mountain with hat
Langjökull in the distance
Langjökull in the distance

We go into the visitor’s center at Gullfoss because they’re reputed to serve a famous organic lamb soup made from locally sourced ingredients.  We share the soup and some bread as a snack because we’re looking forward to eating a hearty dinner in Reykjavik tonight.

the gift shop at Gullfoss
the gift shop at Gullfoss
food at Gullfoss
food at Gullfoss
Lamb soup and bread
Lamb soup and bread

We leave Gullfoss and head toward the third famous tourist attraction along the Golden Circle.

landscape on the way to Geysir
landscape on the way to Geysir

Geysir, which literally means “gusher,” is the original hot water-spout after which all other geysers are named, according to Lonely Planet Iceland.  The great Geysir has been active for some 800 years, and at one time gushed water up to 80 meters.  The geyser has been going through a period of lesser activity since 1916 and thus is now more undependable.

Geysir
Geysir

Luckily the more reliable geyser, Strokkur, which sits nearby, erupts every 5-10 minutes in a 15m-30m plume.  We stand around the edge with other tourists until we hear it gurgle and heave like a whale, erupting suddenly with surprising force.

Strokkur
Strokkur
the more dependable Strokkur
the more dependable Strokkur
Strokkur
Strokkur

We walk around the field looking at the other geysers and then we’re ready to be on our way.  I’ve seen a lot of impressive geysers at Yellowstone National Park, so these don’t thrill me that much!

at the Geysir site
at the Geysir site
at Geysir
at Geysir
Strokkur erupting
Strokkur erupting
Strokkur errupting
Strokkur errupting
another hot pool at Geysir
another hot pool at Geysir
landscape at Geysir
landscape at Geysir
landscape at Geysir
landscape at Geysir

We finally leave Geysir and head back to Reykjavik on the Golden Circle loop, going through Selfoss, which doesn’t have much to speak of.  We stop for a couple of scenes along the way: sweeping plateau-top mountains, white farm houses with red roofs nestled cozily against the mountain slopes, strange desolate landscapes covered in bulbous, moss-covered rocks.

The Golden Circle on the way back to Reykjavik
The Golden Circle on the way back to Reykjavik
the surreal landscape of Iceland along The Golden Circle
the surreal landscape of Iceland along The Golden Circle

We set the Garmin to go  directly to Nora Magasin, a hip bistro-bar in Old Reykjavik.  There I have a wheat beer with citrus in a Viking glass and we share a delicious dinner of mushroom risotto topped with baby spinach and a large appetizer platter of warm Camembert with blueberry compote on bread, accompanied by corn on the cob with a sweet-sour sauce.

me at Nora Magasin
me at Nora Magasin

Then we go to our Airbnb room at Freyja Guesthouse where we get cozy for the night.  Our plan is to explore Reykjavik tomorrow and go to the Blue Lagoon tomorrow night.🙂

our room at Freyja Guesthouse in Reykjavik
our room at Freyja Guesthouse in Reykjavik

Fitbit step tally for today: 16,453 steps, or about 7 miles.🙂

28 thoughts on “iceland’s golden circle: gullfoss & geysir

  1. I am looking forward to the sunny days! I must say this was one rather grey day and I did wonder whether Yellowstone was better. And Niagara come to that. I imagine those Nordic sweaters were very expensive, but they do look rather nice. Did you buy one? The food looks good and that second B&B looks very nice. Own bathroom I hope!

    1. I was looking forward to the sunny days too, Jude. I was so worried when we first arrived that we’d have rain the whole time, and the forecast had not been good. It was still often cloudy and we had short periods of rain many times during the trip, but after the second afternoon, the weather got considerably better. They have a saying in Iceland, “If you don’t like the weather here, wait 5 minutes.” And it’s really true; the weather is very changeable!

      Yellowstone has much more extensive geyser fields than this spot, although we went to another site in the north that was a quite extensive geothermal area.

      I never even looked at the price for the Icelandic sweaters. I just touched them and and they were very itchy; I often have trouble wearing wool depending on its level of itchiness, and these were extremely so. I did see lots of people wearing them though, and they looked like they fit right into the landscape!

      The Freyja Guesthouse was much roomier and nicer than the first one near the airport, but we still had a shared bathroom. Many places in Iceland have such and none of them are cheap! You’d think you’d pay a lesser price for a shared bathroom, but that wasn’t the case at all. Supply and demand, after all, determines the prices. With a population of 330,000 and swells of tourists in the summer, you take what you can get.🙂

      1. I’m the same as you with wool, even fine lambswool makes me itch so I have to wear cotton, which is why I have fleece tops and not sweaters. I’m not keen on shared bathrooms either, I don’t mind having to walk to one, but prefer to myself! Anyway it sounds as though the trip was a success which is the main thing. The weather can be like that here!

      2. It’s too bad about that wool, Jude, because I often like the look of wool clothing, but I can’t wear it! I hate shared bathrooms especially, as in one place, where there are too many people sharing and you have to wait. I know the weather can be similar in England too; I remember when Mike and I went years ago, I was wearing a red raincoat in every picture of me because of the rain sputtering throughout every day. I hated that red raincoat by the end of the trip, as I now hate the periwinkle one you will see me wearing in all the pictures in Iceland! 🙂

  2. It’s so fun to read about your life and adventures knowing how we met by chance in Oman! Iceland. I would love to go there.

    1. Thanks so much, Anne, for dropping by. It was so fun to meet you in Oman. Are you enjoying your time back in the USA? Do you have wanderlust again? I know you are quite passionate about sailing so I’m sure that’s keeping you busy. How was your trip back from Hawaii on the sailboat?

      Iceland was great, by the way. I wish I could go back and do some other activities we didn’t have time to do!🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Charlie. I’m glad you enjoyed my videos and pictures of Iceland. We just returned from an 11-day trip around the Ring Road, so I’ll be posting a lot more in the coming weeks. You would love it there; I highly recommend it, but I warn you, it is very expensive, even to do it simply.🙂

      I dropped over to your blog, but I couldn’t figure out how to follow. Any hints?

  3. That waterfall looks incredible, Kat. It’s great that you took Mike along with you. Did he enjoy the trip as much as you? I know that your appetite for travelling is insatiable hahaha. I hope you are feeling better now. I’m still on the mend and have some strength again now.

    1. Thanks, Dai. It was one of many incredible waterfalls in Iceland. Yes, Mike and I had an amazing trip together, after our initial struggles figuring out the car and our accommodation in the middle of the night! He and I both enjoyed the trip immensely. He works so much and usually only takes two full weeks off a year, so that’s it for his travels until he retires in about 5 more years. As for me, I’d still like to go abroad to work again, so I can keep traveling! I’m glad you’re better. I still have a horrible cough that seems to come from my chest; I hope it’s not bronchitis.😦

  4. It’s such a shame that you didn’t manage to see the waterfall on a sunny day – it would have been magnificent. When we were there it was miserable and we could barely see the waterfall at all in the low clouds. I love your shot showing the ravine – I don’t think I realised that it was there! We went into the gift shop too, and enjoyed the same meal as you! 🙂

    1. It was a real shame, Elaine, but at least we got to see some of the other waterfalls on sunny days and even got to see some rainbows. I know how frustrating it is to have fog and rain on a holiday; when Mike came to visit me in China in 2015, it rained or was foggy the whole two weeks; we both ended up sick and could hardly see anything! As for the ravine, we could hardly see it at first, but then the mist lifted and we caught a glimpse. I’m glad you enjoyed the lamb soup too. 🙂

  5. Gullfoss is quite spectacular, almost like an Icelandic Victoria Falls. The geysers are so similar to Yellowstone. I’ve read that Strokkur erupts far more often than Old Faithful does. Looks like you really enjoyed yourselves there, Cathy.🙂

    1. I thought it was quite spectacular, Sylvia, even on the gloomy day. Strokkur erupted twice in the short time we were there; it did seem more regular and dependable than I remember Old Faithful being. We really did enjoy our trip to Iceland, despite the weather not always being ideal.🙂

  6. You have one totally heart-stopping photo, Cathy! Where you can see along the ravine. I love it! I can just feel the power of the water as it thunders down. 🙂 🙂 It really is an incredible-looking place. I’ve had difficulty finding your Iceland posts because I usually just follow your comment back to wherever it takes me (the lazy way 🙂 ) but the Europe link at the top won’t open up. No worries! I’ve just followed you on here so I ca find you from the Reader. Hope you’re starting to perk up a bit?

    1. Thanks, Jo. The waterfalls in Iceland were really amazing, so huge and with so much power! I’m glad you liked that photo, even though it’s so dark. I encountered many great waterfalls in the country, and some on sunny days with rainbows, so it does get better.🙂

      I think to open my Europe blog, you actually have to go to the drop-down menu when you click Europe, and find “in search of a thousand cafes” (the title of the blog – it doesn’t really apply to Iceland, but it is a blog about Europe!) and then click. But thanks for following anyway. I know it’s confusing!

      I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with walking pneumonia/bronchitis, so I’m on meds and laying low for a while. Mike tells me I shouldn’t even be on the computer, but I don’t want to be a total slug.

      1. Doesn’t sound like fun, Cathy! But you can’t just twiddle your thumbs 😦 I tried the drop down but ‘In search of’ doesn’t appear! No probs- I’ve got you now. I’ve put you on the Monday walks. Now you just need to get yourself fit again. Hugs, darlin 🙂

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