Day 58 – Reykjavik, Iceland Circle Tour – July 18th, 2015 (Part 1I)

This post covers the continuation of our Golden Circle and Icelandic Horse Show tour in Iceland. It covers the visits to the Gullfoss Waterfall, Thingvellir National Park (N America/Eurasia Fault Line), views from the Perlan Building in Reykjavik and the return to the ship through downtown Reykjavik.

Gullfoss Waterfall

After visiting Niagra Falls last summer and Victoria Falls only a few months ago, no other waterfall has a chance to compete against the big two. However, each waterfall is different and they all have strengths that are worth a visit. Sitting in the bus waiting to disembark we noted the huge volume of spray blowing down the parking lot from the waterfall. Yes, the wind was rather strong, so a jacket was definitely the order of the day. Many years ago the Falls were leased to foreign investors as a potential electricity generating site, but were later purchased by a local businessman, who donated the land to the government, provided the lands were used for tourism, or the local people in perpetuity.

Gulfoss waterfall from the bus parking lot

Gullfoss or Golden Waterfall, is a 2-step falls on the Hvita River in SW Iceland, with drops of 35 feet and 70 feet. It drops into a 105 foot deep crevice that is only about 65 feet wide and extends for about 2 miles. The above photograph was taken from the viewing platform at the end of the parking lot. I then continued along the trail to the platform adjacent to the Falls.

Gulfoss waterfall with lower falls pouring into the gulley

The lower falls plunging into the deep, but narrow crevice.

Gulfoss waterfall looking up at the top falls

Looking up at the Falls from the trail to the viewing platform adjacent to the Falls.

Gulfoss waterfall with rainbow

It was fading in and out, but with some perseverance, I finally captured evidence that their really was a rainbow.

Gulfoss waterfall upper and lower falls with rainbow 

Another faint hint of the rainbow. More than a little wet I returned to the bus, it definitely wasn’t Victoria Falls, but it was impressive and we both enjoyed the experience.

 

En-route to Thingvellir National Park

Back on the bus for the 75 minute drive to our next stop at Thingvellir National Park. We initially retraced our route passed the Geyser, then turned off onto a different road, which is an alternate road to Reykjavik. Initially the scenery remained consistent, being a fertile valley, but closer to the National Park we climbed the mountains and the scenery changed to more moorlands.

SW Iceland fertile valley collecting the winter's hay crop

More arable land providing a huge crop of hay to sustain the animals through the winter.

Glacier that provide Reykjavik with drinking water

In the distance is the glacier that provides Reykjavik with an abundant supply of clean, fresh drinking water.

Interesting cloud formations in high winds

Interesting cloud formation in the high winds as we reached the edge of the valley and started climbing.

 

Thingvellir National Park

One of Iceland’s most important tourist destinations, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, of historical, cultural and geological importance. Established as a national park in 1930, it was further afforded the World Heritage designation in 2004. From a geological perspective it contains the fault line between the North American and Eurasian Tectonic Plates and from a historical perspective it was the home of Iceland’s first parliament.

The first Parliament was established on this site in 930 AD, although in the 1600’s rule of Iceland was transferred to Denmark. In the 1930’s the population of Iceland overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to be an independent state, with the parliament moving to Reykjavik.

Fault line looking down the expanding gap between the American and Eurasian plates

From the parking lot where the bus dropped us off, looking along the fault line between the North American and Eurasian Tectonic Plates, which are constantly moving apart. The North American Plate is on the left side of the walkway, so we live on the other side of this plate, about 6,000 miles away.

Fault line guide drawing the tectonic plates and where they meet in Iceland

Our guide providing a quick Geology lesson, drawing the fault lines that dissect Iceland on the map.

Fault line continues with North American plate to the left 

Walking along an actual fault line with the North American plate to the left and Eurasian plate to the right.

Fault line end of river flowing into the lake

Looking down at the Eurasia side of the fault line at Lake Thingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.

Fault line looking at land that sank during an earthquake

Looking down from the fault line at the land that sank in an earthquake.

Fault line with Judi dressed for the Arctic

Judi dressed for the Arctic at the fault line

Fault line with river flowing out of North American plate and the drowning pool

Small river from the North American plate that forms a deep pool just before the bridge. In the medieval days, this pool was used for drowning people convicted in the nearby courts, hence it is referred to as the drowning pool. The walk along the fault line was about 1 mile, mostly downhill, and on reaching the lower parking lot we boarded the bus for the hour drive through the moors back to Reykjavik.

During the return our guide explained why they have a high cost of living. The total population of Iceland is only about 350,000, of which only about 200,000 are not on pension or of school age. Therefore, the tax base is fairly small for the extensive social services provided by the government. All health care is free, as is primary and secondary education. University education incurs fees, but the government provides students with loans, which are not paid back until after graduation and attaining employment. Once employed, 10% of after tax money is paid to the government each year until the full amount is paid off.

In Reykjavik, we stopped at Perlan, a dome shaped building constructed atop four old water tanks that were de-commissioned in 1991. Situated on top of a hill the 360 degree observation deck on Deck # 4 affords excellent views of the city. One deck above the observation deck is a restaurant, inside the dome, that rotates 360 degrees every 2 hours.

Pearl building looking across Reykjavik with Sea Princess in background

View across the city towards the commercial port where the top decks of Sea Princess are visible.

Pearl building looking across downtown Reykjavik wide angle

Wide angle view of downtown Reykjavik.

Pearl building looking towards Reykjavik's southern suburbs

View of the suburbs with an interesting heart shaped path just below the Perlan building.

 

On return to the bus we took the circuitous route back to the ship through downtown Reykjavik. As we drove, the guide pointed out the various government buildings and a white house where Ronald Regan and Mikhail Gorbochov met to discuss the end of the Cold War and eventual break-up of the old Soviet Union.

Disembarking the bus, we elected the short walk from the gate to the ship, arriving to find only 1 gangway remaining and a lengthy queue to get back on the ship. It took about 10 to 15 minutes, but on a cool, but pleasant evening it certainly wasn’t an issue for us. However, we have since heard that numerous complaints were received by the customer service department.

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