Is The Golden Circle Tour For You?

If you’re short on time and have to choose one touristy thing to do, then a guided tour of the Golden Circle may be your best option. I was hoping they’d have Icelandic goodies for us to sample but all we got was our tour guide Gunther. I’ve named him Gunther because I can’t remember his name and even though he was Icelandic he looked like a Gunther to me!

There are many bus tours for the Golden Circle but we decided to go with Iceland Excursions Gray Line because it was the best deal — more stops for the same price as other companies.  We were blessed with beautiful weather the entire time we were in Iceland except the day we went on our tour.  All tours leave from the central bus station, which looks like this on a sunny day:

Be prepared to adhere to a tight schedule. Even though nothing else in Iceland seems to start ‘on time’, your tour guide may reprimand you in front of the entire bus if you’re late (like Gunther did to a couple who were 7 minutes late at one of the spots).  Our first stop seemed a bit random but a nice spot for photos.

Not exactly sure why we stopped here but we got some cool photos and got to experience  the bouncy lava fields for the first time.

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We also got a taste of Hjónabandssaela or ‘happy marriage cake’ at a rest stop:

Traditional Icelandic oatmeal cake with rhubarb jam

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The tour highlights include a stop at Þingvellir National Park, home to the first parliament and about 75,000 flies. The clued-up tour groups had fly nets for their guests or perhaps they had brought their own.  We had to swat them away as we hurried along and thus, were not able to appreciate the full significance of the historic site. To be honest, I was scarred after my traumatic bug experience earlier this year so wasn’t too pleased when I saw all those flies.

Þingvellir National Park was founded in 1930 to protect the remains of the parliament site.

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Another tour highlight was the glorious Gullfoss, where we stopped for a quick lunch and of course a walk up to the waterfall. Prepare to get very wet or come prepared like we did with our rain gear. We stayed warm and dry but G got soaked and his brolly barely held up against the wind.

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But that didn’t stop him from getting some great footage:

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And finally, Geysir, which we waited ages for to erupt.  But since we were short on time we moved on to Strokkur, which erupts every few minutes.

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We enjoyed watching everyone with their cameras positioned to catch the next eruption.  I love my camera but it’s so bloody heavy that I kind of gave up in the end.  Had we had more time I would have liked to just watch the damned thing go off instead of being so anxious about getting a good shot.  Patient G, however, was able to capture some great footage on his Blackberry of all things:

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We also stopped at Skálholt Church (which I didn’t get a great photo of but the inside was very pretty), as well as a random power station, which we all think was because Gunther likes the hot chocolate there. Most of us didn’t even join the tour of the power plant and sat around eating ice lollies or drinking coffee instead.

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Traditional Icelandic cabin next to Skálholt Church

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Although we were constantly herded from one stop to another, it was fun to observe tourists from other countries and also listen to Gunther’s ramblings about Iceland.  We learned a great deal from him, though he went on for ages about the eight indigenous mammals of Iceland, most of which hailed from the rodent family. We were knackered from sitting on a cramped bus the entire day but all in all, it was good fun and we have absolutely no regrets!

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