Icelands ‘Golden Circle’

After a comfortable, no frills flight with Icelandic Air, we touched down in a wet cold Iceland wearing only our shorts and t-shirts. The summer sunshine of New York was behind us and we were well and truly back in Europe.

The first surprise was that I’d plotted the wrong airport on the map – the airport 3km from the hotel was the domestic airport – Keflavik International Airport is actually a 45min drive south.

With our first day’s tour leaving at 10am we took a FlyBus coach transfer with hotel drop-off, for Kr3,000 each it dropped us off directly at the hotel.

As it turned out we had plenty of time, arriving at 8am – too early to checkin. After a quick costume change into jeans, hoodies and waterproof jackets we stowed our bags and relaxed.

Jamie was soon spread out on the sofa snoring, while I kept an eye out for our Grayline tour bus. Almost bang on schedule a shuttle to the bus terminal arrived where we then ushered hurriedly onto a waiting coach.

Moments later we were underway, although efficient we had very little information on the days itinerary.

First stop was Þingvellir National Park, known to most people as the ‘The Wall’ from Game of Thrones. Whilst during summer it’s green and rocky it’s easy to picture it as the imposing Wall of ice protecting the north from the White Walkers. You enter a lower valley area through an impressive slip road.

Beneath the Wall is a famed exposed grass mound where the earliest Icelandic ‘parliaments’ sat and which today is used for major ceremonial events.

After a short walk we split up, Jamie heading to the main waterfall Öxarárfoss, while I headed off the path to fly LARS. The weather was gloomy and there was a heavy drizzle in the air making flying risky and setup very damp.

Once airborne the first view was across to Lake Þingvallavatn and the meandering rivers flowing down the valley. From there I headed over The Wall, discovering that it was in fact a craggy set of canyons on the edge of the plateau.

Further down the plateau was the waterfall where I spotted Jamie amongst the crowds, capturing some overhead shots on the water crashing over the Falls. I descend down over the valley, taking photos of the rugged volcanos landscape and rich green colours of the moss growing on the debris fields.

Being a group tour it was always a bit of a rush getting back to bus so not to keep the rest waiting. After a quick sprint back to the bus we headed off to the Laugarvatn Fontana geothermal spa.

This was where the tour got a little confusing – unbeknownst to us only seven of the bus were stopping here. The rest were heading to the second and third sights of the triangle, while we spent two hours at the spa, before we then joined another ‘express’ tour for parts two and three.

Enlightened we headed into the spa, showered and headed out into the ice cold afternoon drizzle and breeze. The spa itself was nice but probably would have looked for impressive covered in snow in winter – during summer it was just a series of sauna rooms and small swimming pools, heated to various temperatures from 32-40c. The pools look out onto Laugarvatn Lake.

After working our way up to the warmest pool we relaxed, keeping submerged to our shoulders. We watched as other guests braved wading into the artic waters of the Lake. Eventually we summoned the energy to try it – we got knee deep before we screamed and ran out. As we exited to jump back in the warm, a couple of old ladies dived straight in…clearly they were tougher than we were.

After showering and changing we sat down and had some soup for lunch. Be warned, Iceland is expensive – £30 for two small bowls of soup and water expensive.

Our bus arrived on time and we headed to Gulfoss Waterfall, a massive fast moving Falls. The sheer volume of water was awe inspiring.

We descended down into the valley and walked the boardwalk up to the edge of the falls – getting soaked by the spray. After taking photos we headed back to a viewing point where I set up LARS however just as I was about to take off I had a tap on the shoulder from a warden saying no drones. I pointed out that there was no signage but was informed that the large sign I was stood right next to the back of, actually said on the reverse ‘drones forbidden’.

Alas there would be no flight this time round so we climbed back up the plateau and followed the upper boardwalk to the edge side viewpoint.

Photos done and time running out we headed to the gift shop – we needed to pick up some presents for family and this was our last chance. Despite eyewatering prices we found a few things we liked and armed with shopping bags climbed back on board the fun bus.

Next stop was Geysir – a large geyser that erupts every 3-8mins. Before you think it’s rather silly to name a geyser Geysir – it was this geyser that gave us the noun!

As we parked up we could see the steam plumes. We also spotted a number of no drone signs. With this and our experiences of geyser photography in the US in mind we split up – Jamie went up to Geysir to shoot some video while I found a quiet spot to fly LARS.

Once airborne I got some great shots of the valley and rivers and a couple of decent photos of the geysers spouting and the contrasting red soils, rich green moss and black molten ash fields.

When we got back to the bus Jamie had taken some spectacular photos and video of the geyser bubbling and then exploding. He won that round of the best photo contest.

We had booked to be dropped off at our Hotel, but seeing as we only had two days in Iceland we instead opted to jump off in the centre of Reykjavik. We wandered through the pretty but small city centre, passed busy restaurants which had our stomachs rumbling as the soup is all we’d eaten all day.

We persevered however, making it to the Hallgrimskirkja Church which sits on a small hill in the middle of town. The impressive Nordic Art Deco building has a striking design and with a statue of the bow of a longboat at the front, slight resembles a sail.

From the church we could see the harbour and waters edge so decided to head down before sunset. The bleak weather and clouds made from some great photos and on the boardwalk we found a large silver sculpture of a Viking boat.

Photos finished it was time for food. We headed back into town and found a nice upmarket restaurant for what was likely to be our last dinner of travelling together.

I ordered the fish and chips and washed it down with an Icelandic bear. Still slightly peckish we ordered a stunning apple crumble – we left with our pockets lighter but our bellies full to bursting.

What we hadn’t banked on was the lack of taxis in Reykjavik – we walked for a few minutes expecting to see one and eventually ended up heading out of town. We hadn’t imagined we’d end up having to walk the 2.6km back to hotel, but at least we didn’t feel as bad about the apple crumble!

Back at the hotel we finally checkin at 10pm and collected our bags. In the room it was bags down and lights out – the two hours sleep in the past 36hrs meant we were out for the count.

Tomorrow it was time for extreme Iceland.

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