Iceland-The Golden Circle, October 22, 2022

Saturday, October 22, 2022
Reykjavik, Iceland

The Golden Circle

We're up early and ready to start our Icelandic Adventure. After a nice breakfast in the Centerhotels Laugavegur Lóa Restaurant, we meet our group and head to the van.

Our Nordic Visitor Guide, John Paul, takes us for a quick tour around the city center and then down to the harbor.

The Whale Watching tour boats are starting to head out and the harbor is still pretty quiet. I'm shocked at how sunny and clear the weather is. Everything I've read about Iceland is that in October, expect rain, a lot of rain. But fingers crossed there is no rain on the horizon, yet.

The air and skies are so clear you can see the snow-capped mountains off in the distance. Along our drive we see some pretty lunar-like landscapes (see my gallery

We slowly make our way along The Golden Circle. When people do a one or two day stopover in Iceland-The Golden Circle is the usual tour they do. The 300 Km route hits Iceland's three most popular natural attractions: Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, the Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall.

 Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park

At Þingvellir - literally "Assembly Plains" - the Alþing general assembly was established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798. Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders.

Iceland is divided by the Mid-Atlantic Rift; some parts of it, such as the Westfjords and Reyjavík, are on the North American tectonic plate, while others, such as Vatnajökull glacier and the East Fjords, are on the Eurasian plate. 

Iceland is the only place in the world where this rift is above sea-level, and nowhere can you see the edges of both plates as clearly as in Þingvellir.

There is even a beautiful waterfall waiting for us at the end of our hike. 

Back into the van and off we go to our next stop Gullfoss. Our luck with the weather continues and we can see a glacier off in the distance. That white patch is ice and snow not clouds.

Hvítá River

Gullfoss is a breathtaking two-tiered waterfall on the Hvítá River that drops 32-meters into a narrow canyon that is 70-meter deep and 2.5 Km long.

The weather is starting to turn against us. It's getting colder and lots of clouds have rolled in. The pathways to the edge of the waterfall are quite icy but we take our time and being Vermonters, we can navigate the ice fairly well.

Gullfoss fun facts:
--Gullfoss appears on the cover of the album Porcupine by the British band Echo and the Bunnymen.
--Gullfoss appears briefly in a sub-plot of the TV series Vikings, and one character kills herself by diving into it. The waterfall appears near the beginning of “The Bible: In the Beginning…”

We grab a bite to eat at the restaurant at the falls. Smoked salmon bagel and mushroom soup hit the spot.

Haukadalur valley, Iceland

We hop back into the van and head back down the road to visit the famous hot spring Geysir.
The English word geyser (a periodically spouting hot spring) derives from Geysir. The name Geysir itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa ("to gush").

The Great Geysir had been pretty quiet since the 1294 eruption of Mount Hekla. But in 2000 after  another eruption of Mount Hekla, Geysir came alive but has gone back to its dormant state.

It's neighbor hot spring-Strokkur, erupts every 8-10 minutes and has become the star of the show. We saw it erupt three times while we we walking around the geothermal field.

Reykholti, Bláskógabyggð

Our final stop of the day is to the Friðheimar Tomato Farm.

There is a lot of geothermal activity in South Iceland, boiling water just beneath the surface of the ground. This allows for natural hot springs, such as at Reykjadalur, for spa facilities at the nearby towns of Flúðir and Laugarvatn, and for the greenhouses at Fríðheimar to flourish throughout the year.

Geothermal energy is being  used to power greenhouses. Now, much of the produce sold in stores come from the geothermal powered greenhouses. And many of the tomatoes in Iceland are from Fríðheimar.

They have quite the operation going here. In the nursery greenhouse, seeds are planted, and the plants are grown in pots for the first six weeks, with automated watering. 

The plants are transplanted into the greenhouse when they begin to flower and seven to eight weeks later the first tomatoes blush red. 

At Friðheimar the tomatoes are cultivated in turf, and plants are renewed twice a year. As the crop takes a long time to reach picking time, a system of interplanting is used: young plants are planted in between the older plants, and the two grow side by side for seven to eight weeks.

They even house many bees to do the plant pollination. They are truly a "farm" to table as their restaurant in set up right in one of their greenhouse. You can sit among the plants and enjoy a bowl of their signature tomato soup (it was delicious!)

They also operate a horse breeding farm. The horses of Iceland are a so-called gaited horse breed. This means that most Icelandic horses have two extra gaits to offer besides walk, trot and canter/gallop. 

All horse breeds have these three natural gaits and can perform them without training. The extra gaits that set the Icelandic horse apart from other breeds are called tölt and flying pace. 

These extra gaits are so smooth, the rider hardly bounces at all. So smooth that you could ride around and not spill your beer!!

Tölt is the unique four-beat lateral gait, that the breed is best known for. The horse’s hind legs should move well under the body and carry more of the weight on the hind end, allowing the front to rise and be free and loose. Tölt is very smooth to ride since there is no suspension between strides, as is the case in trot or canter, and it can be ridden very slowly up to a very fast speed, depending on the horse.

The flying pace is the “fifth gear”, offering a two-beat lateral movement with suspension. This gait is ridden very fast, even used for racing and only for short distances, 100-200 meters usually. Not all Icelandic horses can pace, but those that manage all five gaits well are considered the best of the breed.

After a wonderful mini horse show we're back into the van and heading to our hotel in Selfoss.

The soup we had at lunch (and at the tomato farm) is wearing off and we're both hungry, so we run over to the local grocery store (Kronan's) for a carpet picnic of cheeses, crackers, chocolate, and ice cream for dessert).

More photos from the Golden Circle: CLICK HERE

Next up: Waterfalls and Northern Lights Hunting

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