The Land Rover felt like it was auditioning for a commercial as we drove downhill to the “old road” along the Golden Circle. We made it to the bottom over many a bumpy road filled with rocks and dirt only to wash it off through the small stream. I hadn’t planned on having this type of adventure in Iceland on my first day but the Golden Circle tour was from start to finish a “once in a lifetime” type of day when everything worked perfectly despite the weather.
Choosing the small tour option of SuperJeep, I was picked up in the morning at 8:30 a.m. (it’s still dark out) and offered the front passenger seat (one of the perks of going solo) for a great view after I climbed way, way up and into the jeep. Our vehicle would have a total of six passengers – two couples from the UK, a lady from Copenhagen and me (a good mix of friendly, happy people despite the rain and clouds). The cost was 35.900,00 (about $288 per adult) for the 8-9 hour tour (excluding snowmobiling which was extra).
Golden Circle Thingvellir – Viking History
Our first stop, about an hour or so outside of town, was Thingvellir National Park. We met the other Superjeep groups and the guides explained how the day of 300km+ would progress showing us the map inside the visitor center before we went back outside to the viewing platform.
With the sunrise scheduled for 10:20 a.m., there would be little light especially with the overcast day. We were told the importance of the location as the first parliament of Iceland and while there are no ruins left on the site, they have marked it with a flagpole. It was really windy this morning as we then made our way walking from the top to the bottom and over the water to meet the guides. It was a peaceful place (maybe because it wasn’t summer full of tourists) to visit and very important to Icelandic people.
Golden Circle Geysirs – Waiting for the Water to Erupt
The next stop would be Haukadalur where the geothermal pools of steam and geysers are active and inactive. The sulfer smell of rotten eggs is always so appealing in the morning but my nose quickly adapted as I wandered from pool to pool waiting for the larger one, Strokkur Geyser, to erupt (usually every 5-10 minutes or so). Of course, my timing was bad with photos but that’s ok, it was fun to see how others reacted. The visitor center here has the best food, bathrooms (about 30 stalls for ladies) and shopping of the day so take advantage of it. I bought the big Chocolate Chip cookie as my morning snack (note: we would return here on the way home providing me with another cookie opportunity – this time the double chocolate).
Golden Circle Gullfoss Waterfall – Nature at it’s Best
Gullfoss Waterfall looks like a pizza (I may have been a bit hungry by this lunchtime stop) shaped waterfall as you approach. The “Golden Falls” are massive with water roaring quickly into the gorge below. Walking toward the viewing edge but not beyond the marker (so many people went beyond the “danger” ropes to get closer to the edge”), I was able to get a good view and appreciation for the waterfall. Even with the wind and drizzle of rain, it was impressive. We would meet the guide at the café atop the stairs (so many stairs it qualifies as the daily workout). The food here, premade sandwiches and soup, is dreadful if you have a dietary special need. I attempted a ham sandwich by asking the girl to remove the cheese, which she made me do instead, only to see that both sides had a dairy spread on it I couldn’t eat. Thankfully, I had a power bar and cashews with me for lunch and a bit of my cookie from the Geysir snack stop. Unlike the Geysir visitor center there are only four ladies stalls in the bathroom (plan accordingly and be prepared to wait in line especially if you are on the big bus tour).
At this point, many of the tours call it a day and see a smaller waterfall, Faxi, on the way back to Reykjavik (we would visit later on our way back to the city). We, however, would proceed further to the glacier. As four of the group decided to snowmobile, I didn’t want to sit in the truck and wait for them so alas the Danish woman and I decided to snowmobile on the glacier at an additional cost (by this time, the costs for the day were irrelevant as it was a “once in a lifetime” day). To save $50, we shared a snowmobile (this was my only bad decision of the trip – I was trying to be nice but I should have been selfish to have the snowmobile to myself), each paying 17,900 Kr (about $159 per adult).
Deflating the Tires – it’s Glacier time!
We stopped along the old (dirt) road to deflate the tires before we proceeded to the Langjökull glacier. As we neared the glacier, we stopped at a trailer along the way to get our snowmobiling gear (note: use bathroom here before suiting up). We were given a jumpsuit, headmask, gloves and a helmet. I didn’t realize at the time, that my cool helmet didn’t have a wind shield like the others (these things seem to happen to me).
We drove down to the glacier and then onto it as we met the others for our snowmobile adventure of one hour. It was then I realized the missing shield and having snowmobiled in the past, I knew that without it, I couldn’t go. Luckily, I found the leader and he found goggles for me to wear – the other two ladies in my group weren’t so lucky as they didn’t have goggles or masks for them.
The Danish women drove first and we started out 4th in the group of 20 or so snowmobiles. We would finish last and try to keep up along the way. I had this amazing view during the slow ride of the mountains and glaciers along the way (I can see why a GoPro would have been good to have). We would catch up with the stopped group for a break and driver switch.
Had I been on my own, I may have taken some more risks but with someone else holding on, it was another story. At one point, I did open it up but since there hadn’t been snow in a while, it was icy on many parts and a bit uneven so I slowed down for more control of the vehicle. Driving and keeping up with the group sadly made me miss out on the incredible views of the glacier, I was too busy keeping my eyes on the road and wiping the water from my goggles.
When we finished, we took photos of each other – hilarious!
Golden Circle – Once In a Lifetime Day
Back in the jeep we all recounted the fun we just had and the incredible opportunity to snowmobile on a glacier in Iceland – really does one think of the cost then of this “once in a lifetime” experience? We were all animated as we returned our gear, happy to shed the weight of the outfit and recount with wonder this “once in a lifetime” day of adventure in Iceland.
Back in the Rover commercial we were off roading again on the way back to Reykjavik – down the dirt road, through the stream and up to join the paved road again. As we sat on the side of the road waiting to inflate the tires, I just stared at the landscape, happy. This is what I thought Iceland would be – a happy place of beauty and adventure. The fact that I was fueled by cookies? Well, that of course, was a bonus!