(Photo above: Me on the waterfront in Reykjavik by a Viking ship made completely of Aluminum. Aluminum smelting in Iceland uses 80% of all of Iceland’s power usage)
My second day in Iceland (first full day) I woke up early, ate my complimentary breakfast at the 4th Floor Hotel and waited to be picked up by Iceland Excursions for a full day of touring.
On my first day in any new place I normally take a hop on hop off tour or walking tour so I can get to know a place. While going through the Iceland Excursions list of day tours on their website I thought the City Sightseeing tour was exactly what I was looking for and why not see some of the amazing sites that Iceland has to offer at the same time with the Golden Circle tour. Perfect, the tour for me was “City Sightseeing & Golden Circle Afternoon“.
The Blue Lagoon is the most popular tourist destination in the country and with out a doubt the “Golden Circle” is the second most visited. Excited to finally be in Iceland, a place that I had wanted to visit for a few years I couldn’t wait to get out and explore.
Itinerary for the day:
- City tour – See the President of Iceland’s house, learn about the history of the city of Reykjavik and the country, see some stunning views of the city from “The Pearl” visit their iconic church and more.
- Golden Circle tour – Visit Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall and a Geysir hot spring area.
The following is just a small account of my trip as 1) I’m sure you don’t want to read an extremely long post about the awesome time I had and 2) I can’t give everything away! :)
My tour guide for the day was the awesome and friendly Matthias from Germany. Very knowledgeable he took us all over the city and one of the first stops was at the Presidential Mansion. Iceland is a small country with a population of 318,000 people. Reykjavik the capital city has 200,000 people. However no matter the size of the country you would at least think the President would have some kind of protection surrounding his house. Or maybe that is just the North American in me showing? We drove down a driveway that lead us out onto a bit of a peninsula and in front of us stood a church with a small cemetery and a big white house. That’s it no fences no nothing. Our tour guide stopped the mini-bus and told us the house behind the church was the Presidents house, the flag was flying so most likely the President was home but then he added “Yes you can just walk right up to the door and knock however we ask that you please do not do this.” I was tempted, but refrained from doing so and after a few quick photos we kept going.
After this stop we learned a lot more about Reykjavik and got great 360 degree views from the Pearl a building built on top of 6 large geothermal hot water tanks of which one is now emptied of water and has been turned into the Saga Museum. We visited the Hallgrímskirkja church and the viking Leif Ericson Statue that stands in front of it.Leif Ericson was the first European to “find” North America 1,000 years before Columbus ever did. Matthias then told us about how 90% of Icelanders believe in trolls and ferries, the whole country uses geothermal and hydro power, saw the famous house where Ronald Regan and Mikhail Gorbachev met to discuss nuclear weapons in 1986 and a whole lot more. We took a lunch break in the city center and then headed off for the most exciting part of the day “The Golden Circle”.
We tackled this 300km loop in an afternoon – there are however options for full day tours to the Golden Circle which allows for a few extra stops and longer time spent at each attraction but for me the Golden Circle express afternoon was just great. One of the coolest places I visited on this whole trip (aside from the Glacier) was Þingvellir National Park ( the Þ is pronounced Th so the pronunciation is kind of like “thing-vel-ir”). Not only was this National Park the first place of Parliament in not just Iceland but in the world in 930 AD but also it is where the American and European Continental tectonic plates meet or as Matthias says “this is where they separate, 2cms each year 1 in each direction”.
Standing high up on the rocky lava field you could literally see rifts in the ground where the earth was pulling apart. There was even one spot where you could walk between the rifts and there was a fenced off area where wood covered a large sink hole area that had suddenly formed just weeks before. Crazy.
After we spent some time at Þingvellir National Park and I filmed some video footage and cursed myself for forgetting to have the microphone on at one point, we were on our way to the Gullfoss waterfall and a Geysir hot spring area but lets save that for Iceland City Sights and the Golden Circle Part 2!
Stay tuned for more posts on Iceland as I will be adding a new one every day and up on the posts you may have missed “How to Get Drunk in Iceland” “Blue Lagoon, Iceland – aka The best way to relax after a flight.”
Disclaimer: I was invited on the City Sightseeing & Golden Circle Afternoon tour with GrayLine Iceland however all views and opinions expressed are my own. Hop on a plane and visit Iceland now already would ya!?