There are plenty of ways to see the amazing natural wonders in Iceland. If you want to head out on your own, hire a 4×4 and indulge in some serious off-roading across the trails. If that sounds a bit strenuous Reykjavík Excursions also run 25 different coach trips to various parts of the island from their base in the capital. These are ideal if you are on a short break and want to spend some time in Reykjavík too. Tickets can be bought on the day or in advance from their website (www.re.is) All coaches have English speaking guides and super-fast free Wi-Fi on board. Prices vary, we hopped aboard the Golden Circle Tour which was 9100 ISK (approx £50pp). The day trip is the most famous of all in Iceland and covers a 300km loop and 3 main locations, Pingvellir National Park, Gullfoss and Geysir. They provide shuttle services from the main Hotels over to the coach station, and on the way back they will drop you off again.
After some 20,000 years of activity and reaching heights of up to 170 metres, the one time reliable ‘Geysir’ spring has been less frequent in recent years and the main source of spurting interest is now the nearby spring ‘Strokkur’. Erupting much more frequently (every four or five minutes) up to 30metres in height. The anticipation can reach fever pitch as a circle of tourists attempt (and usually miss) to photograph it. There air is dense with Sulphur and even if you aren’t really interested in geology or nature you can’t help be intoxicated by it. There is a good outlet type shop close by and a small museum space (admission is included as part of your coach trip).
Just down the road is Gullfoss (Icelandic for Golden Waterfall), it’s one of hundreds of spectacular Waterfalls in Iceland, but probably the most well known. It came to prominence in the early 1900’s when plans were developed to harness its power for the production of electricity, something that was met with fierce opposition. People of a certain age may also recognise it from the Echo & the Bunnymen record cover ‘Porcupine’. Up close the power of the water is breathtaking, when you realise it was created by a huge glacier at the end of the last Ice Age it seems even more impressive.
The last stop on our Golden Circle tour is the stunningly beautiful Þingvellir National Park. Here the air is so fresh you can taste it. In 1930 a law was passed designating Þingvellir “a protected national shrine for all Icelanders, the perpetual property of the Icelandic nation under the preservation of parliament, never to be sold or mortgaged.” It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 and the panoramic views are spectacular with Glaciers on one side and Þingvallavatn, the country’s largest lake to the other. This is where meetings took place of the Alþingi (the open air assembly that set laws and settled disputes) from 920 to 1798, and only the Isle of Man can claim to a longer running Parliament. It’s also one of the few places where you can see the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates. The tectonic plates move about 1 cm per year, not much, but it can start to add up after 6.5 billions years.