I was very excited about visiting Iceland. It is a geological wonderland. The funny thing is that we arrived during a heat wave. It was 70 degrees during the day and the people who live there having problems. Their houses are built to keep the heat in and not to let it out. We chose to use GeoIceland as our tour company because of the owner’s education in geology. We took the same tour as almost all tourists in Iceland take, the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle tour includes Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir hot spring & Haukadalur geothermal area and Hveragerd earthquake town. If I had to do it over I think I would have done a tour that concentrated on some of the other areas. Our first stop was in Hveragerd. It is an active geothermal area. They suffered a 6.2 earth quake in 2008. If I hadn’t lived in California most of my life, I would have been more interested in their story but the big earthquakes in the bay area and southern California told a better story on how disruptive an earthquake can be. One thing that was interesting was the greenhouses, which are heated by hot water from volcanic hot springs. Hot water in Iceland doesn’t come from a hot water heater like we are used to but through pipes just as we get water. That means that each house has two sets of pipes. One for regular water and one for hot water that is also used for heating the house. During the ride around Iceland, we saw lots of horses. They were stocky, small horses. While some are used as horses, a lot are raised as meat to export. I guess that it really isn’t any different from raising cows for their meat. We stopped at one small waterfall (I forgot it’s name) that had a fish ladder going up it. Our next stop was Gullfoss waterfall. Glacial water feeds the waterfall. The water is brownish, since it carries lots of sediments that the glacial ice has picked up. It is called the “Golden Falls” since on a sunny day the water plunging down the three-step staircase and then tumbling in two steps down into a deep crevice is suppose to truly looks golden. We didn’t get to see it be golden so it looked more like a regular waterfall. After the falls, tt was time to head for the geyser. We had to laugh at the Geysir hot spring area. Yellowstone is one of our favorite National Parks. In our head we were thinking this area would be similar to what we see in Yellowstone. Not even close. There is one small geyser, a couple of mud pots and a boiling steam. That is the extent of it. The good news is that this is also our lunch stop. There was several options of places to eat. We chose the Geysir Glima on advice of our guide. It was kind of a cafeteria type set up with a variety of standard fare like pizza. But they also had some traditional Iceland foods. My husband selected Fish Stew which is really Fish Hash since it is fish, onion and potatoes all mushed together. It had good flavor but was monotonous to eat since every bite tasted identical. It came with Geyser bread which is supposedly cooked 24 hours in the geyser. It was a very dense bread that I think may have had rye in it. I think it would be considered a steam bread. I wish I could have seen them make it. I had the traditional Christmas Pork dish with potatoes, vegetables and gravy. My husband was jealously of my meal and I was a bad wife and only gave him one bite. I think it was pork belly that had been cooked for hours and hours but I am not really sure. All I can really tell you is if you get an opportunity, order it. They also had a wonderful souvenir shop but we didn’t get anything. The things I wanted were very expensive or made from arctic fox. Living in a desert we don’t have much of a need to wear fur. The last stop of Thingvellir National Park was our favorite. It is a beautiful area that forms part of the volcanic fissure zone running right through Iceland. This zone is part of the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which extend the length of the Atlantic Ocean from north to south. The movement of these plates has shaped the valley for the past 10,000 years. The tectonic plates are still moving apart by an average of 1/8 of an inch per year. Thingvellir also has the largest natural lake in Iceland. It’s deepest point it is 374 feet. Most of the water comes from springs and fissures on the bed of the lake or shore instead of rivers and streams flowing into it. This area is an important historical site to Iceland because it is where the Althing, an open-air assembly representing the whole of Iceland, was established in 930 and continued to meet until 1798. Over two weeks a year, the assembly set laws – seen as a covenant between free men – and settled disputes. It was a long day. We waved at Reykjavik as we drove through it. We had talked about visiting the capital but we were worn out and decided we could do it the next day. Unfortunately, the fog rolled in the next day so we decided to stay on board. It was really fun watching the fog roll in and overtaking everything. I haven’t experienced that since I lived in San Francisco.
Iceland is a wonderful country and really deserves more than a day and a half to visit it. There are so many other areas to explore including visiting a glacier. Of course, as we are leaving the fog vanishes.