Follow by Email

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reykjavik, Iceland: Golden Circle Tour with Geo-Iceland Tours

Reykjavik, Iceland:  Golden Circle Tour with Geo-Iceland Tours

Our tour route from Reykjavik took us east on Hwy 1 then north on 435, the pipeline road.

We left the port of Akureyri, Iceland on calm seas with a beautiful sunset in the inlet. However  once the ship turned west and north toward the Arctic Circle, the wind began to blow and it turned rough.  We knew we were in for a rocky night,  as in rocking and rolling!  The next day we were supposed to dock at Isafjordur, Iceland but when we woke up it was clear this was not going to happen. The first clue was the  fifteen foot swells outside our cabin window. Very early in the morning the Commodore announced it would be unsafe for the tenders to transfer passengers to shore. Instead we turned south toward Reykjavik and docked there late that same day. Our stay in Reykjavik would now include an overnight in port.

We started the day in the rain and concluded with partly cloudy skies.

The private tour bus had seats for 20. There were 19 of us. It was OK.
Reykjavik, Iceland:  Golden Circle Tour with Geo-Iceland Tours
The next morning we were greeted by a light, but cold rain. Undaunted we were off the ship by 7:45. The dock was a parking lot of large tour buses, however, we didn't see ours. But we quickly got oriented and found our guide who pointed out a white Mercedes Benz 20 passenger bus.  Our other 18 tour companions soon boarded and off we went Berwyn, a young man who would spend the day with us. Berwyn spoke great English and he told us that was from his two years as a high school exchange student, a year in Florida and another in Massachusetts.
He first took us on a mini-city tour through Reykjavik. The most unusual structures I saw was an impressive Lutheran church and the performing arts, concert hall.  The walls are composed of small hexagonal shaped glass bricks. I was quick on the trigger and got a photo!
Performing Arts building, an unusual glass wall
Berwyn told us we would be on different routes from the large tour buses. They would be more scenic and we could avoid crowds by arriving at our destinations either just before they did or after. This tour was called the "Golden Circle" which focuses on Iceland's geothermal sites.  We turned on to Road #435, which is called the Pipe road because it parallels the thermal water pipeline from Iceland's power plants into Reykjavik.  The pipe is about 2 feet in diameter and carries the super-hot (200 degrees) water from the steam generators into the city which in turn heats almost all the homes and buildings in Iceland.
Geothermal power begins with a large bore hole into the earth's core. It strikes an underground layer of steam. The steam is piped up into and turns a turbine generator.  There is enough electricity that Iceland sells it to business and manufacturing plants at a discounted rate. Large aluminum smelting companies have relocated in Iceland because of the cheap electricity.
Our next lesson about Iceland was the sheep industry. At both our Iceland stops we have seen hundreds of long haired sheep. The sheep are owned by different farmers and all of them have an ear tag.  The adult sheep as well as lambs are turned out into the hinterlands in the springtime where they eat their way to the following September. The farmers then get together on their Icelandic horses and do a cooperative roundup. The sheep are herded into large pens where they are separated by owners. Each owner trucks his sheep to his farm where they are kept for the harsh winters. The lambs are sold for slaughter. The adults are sheared for their wool. And now you know.

Toward the end of the pipe road we came to some mountains that Hollywood studios have used as film backgrounds. If you saw the movie, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," you saw where we were. Berwyn explained that we were in the middle of a giant "riff," an area where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling away from each other. It is visible in the photos.  The 35 square mile lake on the map is the middle of this riff.

We clearly saw these cracks at our first stop down the middle of one of them where we were able to walk to a beautiful waterfall. Berwyn had driven around to a parking area and met us there. It was a great half mile walk with crisp air and beautiful views. By the way, the weather got better. It had stopped raining and the sun began to peek through the cloudy skies.

Our next stop was the Geysir Hot Springs Area.  If you've ever been to Yellowstone this place is similar. Like our "Old Faithful" in Yellowstone, Iceland's Geysir is a very unpredictable. I was able to get a couple of photos of the thing blowing its top. There are signs everywhere warning tourists about the hot water and to stay on the trails. One sign reminded tourists about all the things they should not try and the last warning was that the nearest hospital was 45 miles away. We had lunch at the local restaurant ($30 USD for two bowls of soup and one bottle of water!) and then we were off again.
Our next stop was at the largest waterfall in Iceland, the Gullfoss. As the bus was stopping in the parking lot I noticed a rainbow over the falls and managed to get a photo of it before the sun ducked behind the clouds. The waterfall here comes from the melting glacier and all the runoff from surrounding snow capped mountains. As it flows through the volcanic ash and dirt it looks brown or golden. Our tour, the Golden Circle, gets its name from the color of the water.
Gullfoss Waterfall and Rainbow

We made one final stop at a town east of Reykjavik where a small shopping mall was built over a fissure crack.  The center was to be a four-story building, that is until the builders discovered a large fissure right there at the construction site. Instead, they built a Plexiglas viewing window over the fissure and limited the structure to a single story. 
Those are red lights resembling the earth's molten core.

We finished the day and said goodbye to Berwyn. 
Aboard ship we had supper with friends Cathy and Richard whom we had met last spring on a Transatlantic from west to east. We then all went to a fantastic piano concert given by classical pianist, Christopher Contillo.

Our next three days are all at sea. The next port of call is St. John's Newfoundland, Canada. Look for the next journal entry after that port. Meanwhile we'll be doing team trivial pursuit games, reading, talking to new folks, walking around, and oh, did I mention, eating and drinking Cappuccinos!

Life is good.  God is good.  Later! Wayne


  1. You captured wonderful shots of the Grand Circle and beautiful Iceland.

  2. Beautiful blog Wayne and the photos are very nice


Comments-Questions-Just Say Hello...........let us hear from you. WW&MA