Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Golden Circle, Iceland

Before I went to Iceland, I’d heard of this illusive “Golden Circle”, but to tell you the truth, I wasn’t too sure what it was.

The Golden Circle is basically a looped route that has some of Iceland’s most popular tourist spots along it. Starting from Rekjavik, travelling in a loop to central-ish Iceland and looping back round again.  

There are 3 “must see” spots on the route. Þingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall and the valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers (hot springs) Geysir and Strokkur.

So packing up my camera gear, including my tripod (I really need to find some sort of suitable travel bag for it- any suggestions?) I piled into this beast. A super jeep. It really is the best way of getting around Iceland. If not a little inelegant to get in and out of. 

Driving past rolling hills of endless countryside with barely a sign of life about, we suddenly pulled sharply on the side of the road. A beautiful rainbow had formed across a lake.

Seriously, Iceland is just so picturesque. You can’t make this stuff up.

Carrying on along the empty roads, we arrived at our first Golden Circle spot, Þingvellir national park.

Þingvellir is the national shrine of Iceland as it is where the oldest parliament in history took place. The very first parliament was assembled in 930 AD where the park is now. For this reason Þingvellir has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But besides this, it's incredibly breathtaking and also fascinating. Above is Almannagjá, these are two tectonic plates which separated due to continental drift. Now that's amazing.

Even with the graying skies it's gorgeous to wander around. It's one of those places that make you really look at your surroundings in details.

But I have to say it is nothing compared to Gullfoss waterfall.

The sheer size of it is spectacular to witness. Hearing the rush of the water pouring down over the rocks, it's a true moment of feeling so insignificant to nature.

If you look closely in my photo you can see people. How tiny are they?

It's funny as if this waterfall was in the UK, there would be big barriers stopping you getting close, yet in Iceland, you can go right up close at the top, and only a thin rope separates you from well... death.

If you do get close though, you are rewarded by getting absolutely soaked.

I was still pretty happy though.

After attempting to dry off a little, it was back in the big jeep and onwards to the final stop on the Golden Circle; the geysers, Geysir and Strokkur.

Geysir, or The Great Geysir as it is also known, is the first recorded hot spring and so from it's name we get the English word Geyser. However The Great Geysir is now inactive, but just a few hundred feet away is Strokkur which is highly active. Every 5-10 minutes it errupts to around 30ft in the air.

No warning, no sign, everyone crowded around waiting for the big moment to arrive....

Lasting merely seconds, it's a fantastic site to witness. It really makes you jump too!

With the rain now coming down fast, it was back on the road.

Now all this sight seeing is hungry work. So where do you eat along The Golden Circle? Well don't you worry, I've got a rather unique place.

Friðheimar is a family run business that grows tomatoes all year round. Yes, even in Icelandic winters under thick now. Despite Iceland’s dark winters, using the latest artificial lighting technology, they can grow tomatoes in greenhouses.

But what's really cool is that they have a tomato themed restaurant right in the middle of the greenhouse beside the growing plants. Oh and when I saw tomato themed, I literally mean everything. 

Like I said the restaurant is based around tomatoes, so everything uses what is grown on site.

There's tomato bread (OK and other flavour breads, but they are all baked in the kitchen each morning)

Tomato soup which really was outstanding. Apparently it's made from an old family secret recipe. Bread and soup is perfect to warm you up from the outside cold weather.

What was pretty cool was that the basil for the soup, grows on the table, and you just cut a little bit off yourself. Nifty.

They also do lots more dishes, like tomato ravioli and tomato tortillas, but we were planning to have a 9 course menu that evening so lunch was a light one.

However there is always room for drinks and dessert. Bloody Mary's of course, done 4 different ways, and dessert was even tomato based too.

We shared a tomato ice cream which sounds weird as hell, but my goodness it's good. Also cheesecake with tomato jam, which again I expected to be repulsed, but instead wolfed it all down.

I highly recommend Friðheimar for a light, unique lunch on your journey.

Although with those sights to see, I think I could get so engrossed, that I could possibly forget lunch.... well I said possibly.

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