I am humbled by the raw beauty here. The landscape is dramatic and unusual, something that you would almost expect from a science fiction movie at times. Today we travelled what is known as the "Golden Circle" which covers areas frequently visited by tourists and locals alike. Our first stop was at Pingvellir National Park which holds historical significance as being the site where Iceland's Parliament began first meeting in 930 AD. Pingvellir itself is a huge rift valley where the North American and Eurasian continental plates meet and are physically tearing apart. Iceland's largest lake (Pingvallavatn) is here and its water reflects the clouds and the sky like a mirror. When Icleand's Parliment did meet here, they camped so there really are no historical buildings here except a small church and a farmhouse from the 1800's. We spent over two hours hiking around the site and found our way to a waterfall as well.
Our next stop was Geysir which is really what the name states...a geysir. The landscape here is dotted with pools of boiling water and steam vents from the ground below, which is an unusual site since there is a glacier in the background. The Strokkur geysir explodes every 10 minutes or so and is the highlight of the site.
Our final stop on the Golden Circle was the Gullfoss waterfall. As you park in a fairly flat field, you can hardily imagine that there is a waterfall here until you begun to see a hint of mist hovering above the ground in the distance. As you get closer, you begin to realize the enormity of this waterfall, that at first drops 10 meters, and then turns to drop another 20 meters into a gorge below. A spray mist from the falls created a rainbow over the entire site. Huge, dramatic, and beautiful are the best words that I can find to describe Gullfoss and its remoteness and non-commercialism puts Niagra Falls to shame.
Still having the advantage of longer daylight hours, we drove along the Ring Road on the coast to the tiny seaside town of Vik. The journey to Vik was actually more impressive then Vik itself as we passed fields with sheep and horses, towering cliffs, ruins of old homesteads, and various waterfalls. We caught some good views of the Myrdalsjokull glacier towering over many of the farms and homes and enjoyed walking on a black sand beach in Vik before heading to our hotel overlooking the Hekla Volcano.