Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Spray and Steam

All flights and connections through Minneapolis to Iceland on time, hallelujah! We landed in Keflavik, a small airport town outside of Reykjavik. The very efficient Grey Line door to door service whisks us to Hotel Vellir in less than an hour. I am immediately struck by the simplicity of the towns and buildings.  For example, our hotel looks like a concrete block with windows but inside is typically Scandanavian - clean, tidy and utilitarian. It is a pleasant change from the traffic, heavy construction, and overabundance of material goods we have gotten used to. I love the crystal clean air with dampness from a recent light rain, and the unbelievably quietness. With barely any traffic on the highway, it certainly seems that stress levels must be low here!

In the morning, a large German tour group occupies most of the seats at breakfast and we end up sharing a table with a woman who lives on an island north of Hanover. She is here with her adult son who is accompanying her on her dream trip, so sweet. Our Go Car driver arrives and we set off in a little VW Polo. We are feeling lucky as we are told this sunny clear day is highly unusual! The plan for the day is to visit stops along the Golden Circle just outside of Reykjavik. First stop, Pingvellir National Park, site of one of the world's great geological boundaries, a rift valley where the North American and Eurasian continental plates are breaking apart. This rift stretches across Iceland but here is 4km wide and 16 km deep at this location. Pingvallavatn was the site where Iceland's chieftains gathered to formalize their laws.

Only 30 min. from Rejkjavik, this is a top tourist stop and we are shocked by the large numbers of people. The crowds thin a bit as we walk further to the boardwalk and descend to the Almannagja Canyon. The footpath follows the river past the old church to join a network of paths.

Leaving here, we follow the tour buses past Geysir, a gift shop and small geothermal area in the grasslands. Next stop up the road is Gullfoss, where the mighty Hvits River thunders into the canyon at the "Golden Falls" with its massive spray and rainbows delighting the hundreds of visitors. Two viewing platforms give very different perspectives.

Back on the road, we take the road until it ends as a gravel road and are at the edge of Iceland's interior, with a view of the glaciers. Our afternoon is spent making our way back, stopping at small geothermal areas with very unusual permafrost-like undulating scenery. We end the day with a quiet meal of fresh fish and lobster bisque from Talent in Hafnarfjorður where we are staying.


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