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Golden Circle // Iceland - Day 2

April 25, 2016
Day Two -  Another early morning...  We left our apartment, grabbed a latte and headed east, out of the City towards the Golden Circle route.  The Golden Circle is a 3-4 hour driving loop that contains some of the most iconic Icelandic sites: National Parks, beautiful vistas, geysirs and of course, waterfalls.  It has become a tourist trail in Iceland since the drive can be accomplished in a short half day window, and the roads are well maintained.  We opted to drive ourselves so we could take our time along the way, and stop for a leisurely lunch...

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1st Stop - Þingvellir National Park (or Thingvellir).  Located at the Northern tip of Iceland's largest natural lake, Þingvallavatn, Þingvellir National Park is a location of both historical (a UNISCO World Heritage Site) and geographical significance: read more on that here.  The entire Park is situated on an active volcano area.  But even cooler, the North American and European tectonic plates collided at this very location forming the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  Over time, the canyon that has formed here serves as evidence of Continental Drift.  We took some time to explore the park, unique rock formations of the canyon, waterfalls and views of Lake Þingvallavatn before heading on to the next stop...

2nd Stop - Strokkur Geysir -  We were able to witness the phenomenon several times, each time more exciting than the previous.  The Great Geysir (the original attraction to this active geothermal area) has been dormant since 1916, only erupting once in 1935 then returning to its dormant state.  We didn't see the Great Geysir.  The new attraction to the area is the Strokkur Geysir, which erupts regularly every 6-10 minutes and spouts boiling water nearly 100 feet in the air.  The most intriguing part (in my opinion) had to be the beautiful crystal color of the water right before the gush -- simply amazing!

3rd Stop -  The Gullfoss Waterfall, or "the Golden Falls", a beautiful 3-stepped waterfall (maybe Iceland's most famous) that carries glacial water from the Highlands...  It was crowded and cold, but worth the stop. 

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4th Stop - Lunch at the delicious Friðheimar -- so good that I wrote an entire post dedicated entirely to it. 

5th Stop - Skálholt Cathedral.  Our stop here was pretty short.  To be honest, I hadn't researched this stop much so I didn't know what to expect.  I have since learned the town of Skálholt has an deep religious and cultural history in Iceland, as it served as the capital of rural society for centuries.  More recently, the Skálholt Catherdal has become home to archaeological investigations, further deepening the historical significance of the town.  We were able to freely explore the excavations and even venture into a tunnel beneath the Church...  Also, I have since learned the Cathedral recently has become known for its summer concert series, attracting music lovers from all over.  I can only imagine how beautiful this landscape would be in the Summer months...  


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6th Stop - Kerið Crater.  Before we arrived, we convinced ourselves this 'crater' must have been formed by an asteroid...  Wrong.  Turns out, the Kerið Crater is actually the result of volcanic activity.  When this volcano erupted thousands of years ago, the chamber of magma beneath the crater emptied, causing a large void that then filled with groundwater (or so they think....)    
At this point in the day, I think know we were exhausted.  We didn't even walk around the entire thing... As you can see from the people at the top left corner of the images below -- this oval crater is huge, about 550 feet wide.  So we left and headed on to the 7th and final stop...

7th Stop - ON Power at the Hellisheiði Power Plant.  By the time we arrived here, the exhibition was closed.  So we researched and found out that this power plant exhibition focuses on how geothermal energy (which is largely abundant all over Iceland due to the high concentration of volcanoes) can be harnessed in a sustainable manner.  In conjunction with other power plants, the natural geothermal heat they produce provides for almost all of the heating and hot water requirements in the entire country. The building itself was cool, architecturally speaking.  But even more beautiful was the geothermal clouds whisking by the beautiful mountains beyond.  
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We arrived back in the city around 6:30, with plenty of daylight to spare, as we got ready for our dinner at Tapas Barinn and night out in Reykjavik.  The night ended with this: 

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