Reykjavik is totally cool, but much of Iceland’s real gems are outside of its capital city. Since Husband J and I were only in the country for a long weekend, we decided to stick to Iceland’s three most visited natural sights, collectively called the Golden Circle. These natural wonders aren’t necessarily the most scenic or exciting areas to explore in Iceland, but their proximaity to Reykjavik make them easy to get to and see in a day. We had our own private tour, but I’ll explain more about that below.
Our first stop was Geysir.
It doesn’t take very long after leaving Reykjavik for the landscape to change completely. The volcanic rock covered by moss seems pretty eery to me.
When we finally got to Geysir, you can tell that this place is hot. Literally hot. Check that steam…
Iceland’s known for its thermal springs, and the heat from below is the main force pushing water to the surface. By the way, if you’re wondering if English has borrowed from Icelandic, it has. This very place inspired the English word “geyser”.
Before seeing the main geysir, you’ll notice all of these heated pools. Don’t jump in. This is not an outdoor hot tub.
There are two main geysirs that are still (naturally) putting on a show. Unlike Old Faithful in the U.S. that makes sure to erupt on a clear schedule, these geysirs have a mind of their own. People spend several minutes just waiting for one eruption. I read that for several years, the geysirs had stopped erupting at all.
Waiting some more….
Even when you do get to see something, it might not be all that exciting. Patience is totally key here.
I still enjoyed the scenery and loved seeing the mist drift off of the heated pools of water.
If you’re wondering, I have not becoming a blonde man. For the first time during our travels together, Husband J and I had a local contact, Mr. G. Husband J met Mr. G. in graduate school. Husband J’s program emphasized international economic and business issues, and there were students from all over the world, including Mr. G who’s a native of Iceland. Mr. G was beyond hospitable to us during our weekend and was our tour guide for the day. Thanks, Mr. G!
While you’re waiting for the geyser, you might as well take pictures.
When an eruption happens, you have to be camera-ready. I felt lucky just to get this small eruption. The smaller bursts of water are usually a sign that a bigger one is coming.
So happy the point and shoot got this!
The Big One!
While the Big Geysir is cool (I’m naming it Big Geysir), I thought the rest of the site was worth a quick walk. Many of the small bodies of water were actually old geysers that are no longer erupting or small hot mineral pools. Iceland is all about thermal springs, and there are more than enough spas and thermal baths (both public and private) to experience them.
Being curious (or crazy. Take your pick), I wanted to see how hot these springs really were. I found a little stream trickling next to a pool and bravely (stupidly?) put my hand in to test the water.
It actually wasn’t that hot. Maybe I’d gotten lucky? It was hot enough to warm up my hands from the super cold weather southwestern Iceland was having even in late May, but it was far from scalding.
There’s a warning sign? Ooops….
At this point, I had whipped out my hat and even though it was a quietly beautiful place, I was ready to get back into Mr. G’s car.
Luckily, we got to witness one last eruption. Apparently, the water can go up to 70 meters high.
This was only stop number one of the three Golden Circle sights that we’d see that day.
Tip: If you want to see the Golden Circle, there are numerous tours leaving from Reykjavik each day. If you want the most flexibility, you can rent a car. Iceland’s roads are excellent, although if you’ll be there during the winter, I’d make sure that the rental car is properly fitted for winter conditions.
Any geyser observers out there? Has anyone been to Old Faithful?