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The Golden Circle in a 4×4 Jeep

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Viktória is the “new girl” – here at What’s On and in Iceland. She comes from Hungary, studies Viking Stuff at the University and loves photography, so we’re sending her on ALL the tours to get a fresh perspective on what they’re like. As the old Icelandic saying goes “perceptive is the eye of the visitor.”

Photos by Á Viktória Jávorszky. 

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The Most Popular Tour of Them All

The Golden Circle is the single most popular day tour in Iceland, probably because it features some of the most impressive natural phenomena in the country, but you can still get back to the city before dark. The first stop is Þingvellir, the national park, where the Þing, the Icelandic parliament, used to gather. It is also one of the places where one can look at the fissure that separates the two tectonic plates. The next stop is Geysir, one of the biggest geysers in the world, and the one that gave its name to the phenomenon. Close by is one of Iceland’s most powerful and majestic waterfalls, Gullfoss, the Golden Waterfall. The Golden Circle tour then comes to an end with the drive back to Reykjavík. In addition to the classic Golden Circle tour, I was doing the Golden Circle in a 4×4 jeep, so I got an extra stop at Langjökull glacier.

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A Sunny Disposition is Key

I was really excited about this tour. My enthusiasm, however, was briefly dampened when everyone started telling me how it was supposed to be raining all day when I would be hiking and walking around in Iceland. I weighed my options but quickly decided that I was going to have a good time no matter what the weather was like, which turned out to be the perfect disposition for a trip like this. The jeep (my first ever encounter with a Defender super jeep) arrived around 8:30 to pick people up from the hotels and then the four of us along with Stefán, our driver, were off on our adventure.

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A Rainbow Reward

Our first stop was Þingvellir, a national park located about 40 minutes from Reykjavík. The clouds were looking ominous at this point but we took a walk anyway and arranged to meet Stefán – and his amazing white land rover – on the other side of the park. When we were about halfway there it started raining fairly badly, at least compared to Icelandic rain, which is usually on the lighter side. At this point we were starting to worry that the whole tour would be ruined because of the weather, but at the eleventh hour the sun peeked out a bit and lo and behold, we were rewarded for our patience with a clear and bright rainbow above Þingvellir.

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A Watery Eruption

After Þingvellir we got back into the car and drove to Geysir, chatting and talking in the car on the way. Geysir – the original inspiration for the English word geyser – is dormant and doesn’t put up the show it used to. Luckily the nearby Strokkur is keeping up the family business, with an impressive burst of boiling water every ten minutes or so along with Litli-Geysir bubbling in the foreground. Even though the weather was fairly chilly, the hot steam rising from the water kept us warm. Oh, and there were more rainbows!

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Walking on a Glacier? Harder Than it Sounds…

After Geysir, we took a detour – for a few hours – to Langjökull, one of Iceland’s many glaciers. Thankfully it wasn’t raining there and even the wind was fairly friendly. Stefán took us onto the glacier in his super jeep (that car can do anything, short of flying) so we did not have to spend much time walking. Walking on a glacier, especially without crampons, is also very tricky and dangerous, so you can’t go exploring there on your own. The view from the glacier was impressive and being on a glacier was an interesting new experience. My adventurous spirit made me try and do the impossible when we were given the chance: walk on the ice. As you might have guessed I was unsuccessful, and learned an important lesson: falling on a glacier will soak your clothes through pretty quick. At least if it’s not too cold for the ice to melt a bit.

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The Golden Part of the Golden Circle

Two hours of a car ride in the rain later (luckily for us it was mostly raining whenever we were in the car) we reached Gullfoss, the Golden Waterfall. The waterfalls (there are actually two of them) are an amazing sight and very, very loud. The rain caught up with us at Gullfoss, but since the waterfall was already doing its best to soak us as well, we barely felt it. The wind, however, had picked up, making it very hard to walk at certain points, for instance, the wooden steps leading down to the waterfall from the edge of the cliff. Despite all that, Gullfoss was a great experience. enhanced by even more rainbows! Yes, again!

We finished up by visiting yet another waterfall, Vatnsleysufoss (or Faxi) which translates to “the no water-waterfall”. It’s tiny compared to Gullfoss but almost as beautiful and definitely contains some water, despite the name. After this, tired but happy, we were on our way home.

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A Successful Day

Despite my temporary reservations because of the weather forecast, the trip ended up living up to my earlier expectations. In the end I think I actually preferred our drizzly day with the rainbows to sunnier weather. Stefán – the awesome fellow he is – gave us an incredible amount of information and answered our every question to the best of his knowledge. The car rides between destinations were a lot of fun with filled with lots of talking and joking around and of course, no amount of cloud cover can bring down the amazing natural wonders Iceland has to offer.

Photos by Á Viktória Jávorszky.