This is my final blog post on my recent Iceland trip. I hope you enjoyed reading my previous posts!
Here are the links to my previous Iceland posts:
During our last few days in Iceland, we stayed at First Hotel Kópavogur. First Hotel Reykjavik Kópavogur is located in the second largest town in Iceland, Kópavogur, only 7 km distance from Reykjavík city center. The hotel has 24/7 self-check in and is in the middle of a grown neighborhood in walking distance from restaurants and Iceland ‘s largest and most modern shopping mall.
First Hotel Kópavogur works with tour companies providing a long list of activities, like the Northern Lights tour, Snæfellsnes tour, Golden Circle tour and many more.
We were able to join both the Northern Lights (9900 ISK) and Golden Circle (10900ISK) tours. For the Northern lights tour, Here is how it works: Every day the company will take a look at the forecast for the evening. First, you need activity of the lights. Second, you need to have a clear sky. And last you need to get out of the city to rid of the light pollution.
If conditions are favorable, they will send guests an email. If they don’t t find any lights, you have the option of going again for free. If the tour never operates due to unfavorable weather conditions, you will get a 100% refund.
However, we were not that lucky to catch any Northern lights during our two-week stay in Iceland.
The Golden Circle tour, the most popular tourist route in the country, is an 8-hour day trip. You will explore the most visited natural nature attractions in the southern part of Iceland, Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Area, Þingvellir National Park and the volcanic crater Kerid. This full-day tour of Iceland’s stunning Southern part is ideal for nature lovers.
Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir – which translates directly to ‘the fields of parliament’, became a National Park in 1930. In 2004, it was accepted as part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The number of tourists visiting Þingvellir National Park increased by 77% in ten years. Located just 45 minutes’ drive from Reykjavík, and the first stop on the Golden Circle, these numbers are only expected to increase with the rate of tourism
Iceland is divided by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge; 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.
As you enter the park from Reykjavík, you descend a steep cliff into a valley. Looking upon the face of this cliff is to literally look at the edge of North America. If you drive through the park, you will ascend on the other side adjacent to another wall; this is Eurasia. The valley in between, in which Þingvellir is contained, is the rift valley.
You are welcome to walk alongside both of these plates. One of the park’s most pleasant walks takes you between the edge of the North-American plate and an old part of the wall that collapsed away; this is called the Almannagjá gorge. This path impresses the geological processes going on here upon you very clearly, and ends with a charming waterfall called Öxaráfoss. This is also one of the locations where Game of Thrones was filmed at.
The tectonic plates move apart at approximately 2.5 centimetres a year and have done for millenniums. The effects of this movement are very clear within the park. Lava fields fill the valley, from magma that welled up as the continents spread, and the whole area is littered with ravines, ripped open by centuries of earthquakes.
Earthquakes continue every day in Þingvellir, although most are far too minor to be felt. No volcano has gone off in the area in 2000 years, but they are not considered extinct. More eruptions are expected; the question is only as to when.
While visiting Þingvellir is a highly sought-after experience and is very rewarding, the number of visitors coming through the park has had a significantly negative effect on the nature. As tourism boomed, infrastructure struggled to keep up.
The moss that covers the lava rock throughout the park is incredibly delicate, and those who have not stuck to the paths during their visits have damaged much of it; it will likely take decades to recover fully. The heavy metals in coins that people have thrown into a ‘wishing well’ have seeped into the lake and are now above appropriate levels. Those staying at the campsite have been known to leave their waste behind. These are just a few of the ways tourism has damaged the park.
Visitors to Þingvellir can greatly help its survival by respecting the basic rules and leaving as little impact as possible. Ideally, Þingvellir can be a beautifully preserved place that will leave you wanting to bring the ideals of natural beauty and cultural protection back home with you.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Iceland is 10300 square kilometres and 11% of the country is covered with glaciers?
Laugarvatn is a shallow lake, about 2 km2 in size, and is located in the inlands of Árnessýsla, midway between Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir, 100 km from Reykjavík. Under its floor there are hot springs heating the lake so it is warm and suitable for bathing all year round.
“Laugar” means places of wash. “Vatn” means water. The locals go there to shower, wash their clothes, cook and even bake breads. That’s right, people actually bake their breads in the ground because it is so heated by the hot springs!
Efstidalur Dairy Farm
In Efstidalur you will get a unique and different experience. Right in the middle of the Golden Circle, you get a glance of the farm life in Iceland. This family farm has opened up for tourists and offers a variety of products straight from the farm, such as the famous ice cream, skyr and feta cheese.
The farm is known for its home-made ice cream and it shows by the long queue of customers. Efstidalur farm produces its own ice cream from the milk of the cows at the farm. You can actually watch the cows in the barn while enjoying your ice cream since the restaurant is in the same building as the barn.
Strokkur is, arguably, the country’s most famous hot spring, shooting vast jets of boiling water from 20 metres (65 feet) up to 40 metres (130 feet) high. Don’t worry about missing this incredible spectacle of nature, as Strokkur erupts every five to ten minutes; just make sure to have your camera ready. It sprouts hot water as high as 30 meters into the air! I managed to take 3 videos of the beautiful eruption.
The iconic Gullfoss Waterfall is famed for its scale and beauty. Gullfoss Iceland is one of the country’s signature waterfalls and it is no surprise to see why! In Icelandic, Gull means Golden and Foss means falls/waterfall.
Gullfoss Waterfall is unique because you view the falls from above and it appears that the Iceland waterfall is actually going underground! It is a very interesting perspective making Gullfoss one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. If this is one of the first waterfalls you see in Iceland, you will certainly remember it because it is one of the only waterfalls in Iceland with such a unique formation.
Hope you guys enjoyed reading my very last blog post for Iceland!