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. 🙂

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