After the excitement of day 1 of our Icelandic road trip, we were keen to get back out on the road and explore more of this fantastic island. After a great night at our log cabin, eating a home cooked meal, catching up on a couple of episodes of House of Cards and drinking vodka (not too much of course) in our very own geothermal hot tub (which was amazing!) we slept like babies praying not to wake so early again. Unfortunately, our internal body clocks were not playing ball and just like the previous day we woke at 6.30am – we were obviously just too eager!
As we pulled the curtains back, it was obvious that the weather was not on our side today – it was raining hard! Great! It was my day to drive too, as Mr ESLT had driven the day before. Breakfast eaten, packed lunch made, showered and changed we decided to hit the road and take a steady drive to our first destination of the day, Þingvellir National Park. Even with the blackness of the road and the heavy rain, the journey wasn’t too bad, in fact, we didn’t pass one single car in the 60km we travelled. So we actually arrived at Þingvellir National Park before sunrise.
Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is free to explore and is one of Iceland’s most popular attractions. Don’t forget to grab a parking ticket from the Visitor Centre or the Information Centre – roughly £3 for the full day. You can use any of the car parks in the park and can move your car between them at any point.
With the rain still pouring, it looked like our day at Þingvellir National Park was going to be a total washout with many roads closed due to flooding and many walkways impassable. But we were determined to see as much as we could despite the weather. So we parked the car and headed to the closest site – Öxarárfoss. This waterfall flows from the river Öxará over the Almannagjá. A combination of spray, rain and freezing conditions made getting very close quite difficult as it was very slippery. As the rain continued to beat down we retreated, feeling deflated back to the car, keeping our fingers crossed that it would pass quickly.
Guess what? It did, by the time we had driven round to the Information Centre and had a quick sandwich in the car, the rain had stopped and even the sun had come out to visit. We headed to the large fissure running behind the Information Centre where we walked between the Eurasian and North-American plate boundaries that run through Iceland. At Þingvellir, the plates have broken apart and the land between has subsided. The movement is pretty constant with the plates moving about two centimetres a year. It was a really cool experience, walking between two continents. If you are feeling more adventurous, at Þingvellir you can also dive and snorkel between them.
Next stop was to view the largest natural lake in Iceland – Lake Thingvallavatn, this is where the snorkelling and diving takes place between the Silfra fissure. With a surface of 84 km² it really is huge and seems never-ending. The lake is very fertile despite the cold and often freezing temperatures making it a great spot for anglers and keen fishermen (and women of course). Together with the fish, a total of 150 types of plants have been found and 50 kinds of invertebrates, from the shore to the centre.
As with most, if not all churches in Iceland this one is another little-whitewashed beauty and is open daily, 09.00. – 17.00, from the middle of May to the beginning of September. It is reported that a church was built at Thingvellir shortly after the acceptance of Christianity in the year 1000 and over the years parts have been rebuilt. The present church was built and consecrated in 1859 and a new tower was built in 1907. Unfortunately, the church was not open when we visited so we didn’t have the chance to see inside it for ourselves, which was a shame because we love visiting churches.
As time was pressing on and we still had two further destinations on the day’s itinerary we reluctantly dragged ourselves away from Þingvellir National Park, jumped in the car and headed to Gullfoss. The Gullfoss waterfall is probably the most famous in Iceland and is the one of, if not, the highlight of the Golden Circle tour. It is located on the Hvítá (White) river which is fed by Iceland´s second biggest glacier, the Langjökull and really is a sight to see. The power of the water is evident and mesmerising. Due to the freezing temperatures, the path down to the falls was closed as it was extremely icy and slippery, meaning we couldn’t get very close. Although it didn’t matter too much as we still had a great view of the falls from the paths we were allowed to walk on.
Our last stop of the day was to the Strokkur geyser, which is a fountain geyser located in a geothermal area beside the Hvítá River. It is one of, if not Iceland’s most famous geysers and erupts roughly every 6–10 minutes. Its usual height is 15–20 m, although it can sometimes erupt up to 40 m high. With temperatures of between 80 and 100 degrees, it’s important not to get too close. Even though we watched it erupt about 10 times, every time it did, it made me jump and the gasp from the crowd watching it was very loud!
After another amazing day exploring the wonders of Southern Iceland, we made the short journey (around 5 minutes) back to our log cabin, to relax for the evening.
Day 2 kilometres travelled – 142. Driving time – 2hr 2 mins