Jan Kraus
A close view of water flow at Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland
A close view of water flow at Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

My Iceland Highlights - Part One

28 April 2022photo story6 min read

I wrote and published earlier two photo stories from my trip to Iceland in 2021. Still, they were only about Fagradalsfjall volcano, and I have so much more to share from that travel. I regret that I didn’t review and process my photos right away when the memories were fresh. Nevertheless, the second-best time is now!

Stunning colours everywhere. This panoramic view was just taken from a random stop at road 435, west of Reykjavík, Iceland
Stunning colours everywhere. This panoramic view was just taken from a random stop at road 435, west of Reykjavík, Iceland

When I browse the photographs for this photo story, it is still hard to grasp that I will only cover just one day of my Iceland travel.

In only one day, we’ve seen vast landscapes, mountains with snow-covered peaks, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, lakes, historical buildings, steaming hot springs, sunset and more!
It was a very ambitious timeline, I have to admit, starting very early in the day and finishing long after midnight!

The Golden Circle tour

For the first couple of days, we stayed just outside Reykjavík and our first destinations we planned along the so-called “Golden Circle”.

The Golden Circle is a famous scenic route west of Reykjavík, visiting some beautiful and spectacular attractions: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss Waterfall.

The vast space with some heat-transporting pipeline cutting through it, view from Road 435, west of Reykjavík, Iceland
The vast space with some heat-transporting pipeline cutting through it, view from Road 435, west of Reykjavík, Iceland

First encounter with geothermal activity, valley with steaming outlets, west of Reykjavík, Iceland
First encounter with geothermal activity, valley with steaming outlets, west of Reykjavík, Iceland

We departed early, aiming at Thingvellir National Park as the first stop on the way. But there were so many exciting views and places along the way, and I couldn’t resist stopping at every parking spot to admire and soak up the views.

Some mountain view from Road 435, west of Reykjavík, Iceland
Some mountain view from Road 435, west of Reykjavík, Iceland

The scenery was so different from anywhere else I’ve been. Sometimes just some rough rocks, covered here and there with skimpy sheets of grass and lichen.

But then, half-hour later, the road was leading to the side of a calm, blue lake.

Þingvallavatn lake, seen from Road 360, Iceland
Þingvallavatn lake, seen from Road 360, Iceland

Thingvellir National Park

Þingvellir (Icelandic name) is a site where the parliament of Iceland held sessions up until the end of the XVIII century. The area is a national park not only because of its historical significance but also because of its geological features.

Þingvellir at Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Þingvellir at Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

The park lies in a rift valley, marking the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It features stunning views of a rift valley created by the rift of the plates.

Þingvellir seen from the information centre, Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Þingvellir seen from the information centre, Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Due to its proximity to Reykjavík, it is a popular place among tourists.
Nevertheless, it was still a delightful experience to walk some of the paths and recognise small, humble buildings used by the government.

A closeup of some paths leading through the area of Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
A closeup of some paths leading through the area of Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Geysir Geothermal Area

We drive further east from the park, following Roads 36, 37 and 37 towards the next destination, passing along some beautiful views with brown hills and mountains painted with occasional splashes of green.

Some hills seen along the roads Roads 36 and 365, east of Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Some hills seen along the roads Roads 36 and 365, east of Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

The next step on the Golden Circle is a visit to Geysir Geothermal Area. The area is named after Geysir, one of the biggest geysers in the world, which actually gave the name for this natural phenomenon.

For a long time, Geysir remains calm and dormant. We saw the nearby Strokkur geyser that erupts every 5–8 minutes to a height of around 30 metres.

People watching Strokkur geyser erupting regularly every few minutes at Geysir Geothermal Area, Iceland
People watching Strokkur geyser erupting regularly every few minutes at Geysir Geothermal Area, Iceland

The whole area is geothermally active, and you can most definitely smell it before you even see it. The sulphur fumes are noticeable in the air. You can also observe boiling water in the ponds, and the small streams along the path are steaming hot!

Multiple patches of steaming, exposed vents and small ponds at Geysir Geothermal Area, Iceland
Multiple patches of steaming, exposed vents and small ponds at Geysir Geothermal Area, Iceland

Little Geysir spewing boiling water at Geysir Geothermal Area, Iceland
Little Geysir spewing boiling water at Geysir Geothermal Area, Iceland

The area is covered with multiple small hot springs and active steam vents.

Crystal clear, boiling water pond at Geysir Geothermal Area, Iceland
Crystal clear, boiling water pond at Geysir Geothermal Area, Iceland

Observing live Strokkur erupting is definitely a thrilling experience!

Gullfoss Waterfall

Departing from the geothermal area of Geysir, following Road 35, only a couple kilometres further is the Gullfoss waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river. The name can be translated as “Golden Falls”,

Gullfoss Waterfall seen from the platform above, Iceland
Gullfoss Waterfall seen from the platform above, Iceland

This waterfall is huge, with water cascading multiple levels to finally fall into a narrow, transverse, 30m deep crevice, thundering loudly and covering everything around with mist.

Hypnotising flow of water falling into a narrow crevice at Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland
Hypnotising flow of water falling into a narrow crevice at Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

After visiting the waterfall, the “Golden Circle” route guide points you back towards Reykjavik, suggesting a couple of other stops along the way, like the Kerid crater, which I’ll cover in the next part.

However… we still had some time left, and there was one interesting place that we could possibly visit.

Road F35 to Hveravellir nature reserve

Hveravellir was some kind of hidden gem but also a notable highlight of that day. It is a small nature reserve and a tourist centre located at the Kjölur mountain route between the Hofsjökull and Langjökull glaciers, Central Iceland.

Views from F35 road leading towards Hveravellir geothermal area, Iceland
Views from F35 road leading towards Hveravellir geothermal area, Iceland

It took almost 2,5 hours of driving via rough, gravel F35 road. And I have to admit, I was driving fast!

Side note: Hveravellir is only accessible only via F35 Kjölur Highland Road, connecting the north and south Iceland by intersecting the highlands. F-roads can only be used during the summer, and 4x4 vehicles are required.

Views from F35 road leading towards Hveravellir geothermal area, Iceland
Views from F35 road leading towards Hveravellir geothermal area, Iceland

There were magnificent views on both sides and some glaciers visible far, far away.

Hofsjökull Glacier seen from F35 road, Iceland
Hofsjökull Glacier seen from F35 road, Iceland

The drive was definitely worth it. We arrived before sunset (around 9PM) only to be rewarded by the beautiful spectacle of golden sun rays reflecting in bubbling water holes, splashes of water and mist.

Hveravellir hot springs

The area has nice wooden pathways across the fields covered with hot springs, tiny geysers, fumaroles, solfatara, boiling pits and others.

Beautiful blue sky and stunning scenery of wooden path leading through Hveravellir Nature Reserve, Iceland
Beautiful blue sky and stunning scenery of wooden path leading through Hveravellir Nature Reserve, Iceland

A boiling hot spring at Hveravellir Nature Reserve, Iceland
A boiling hot spring at Hveravellir Nature Reserve, Iceland

Small fumaroles at Hveravellir Nature Reserve, Iceland
Small fumaroles at Hveravellir Nature Reserve, Iceland

Everything was flooded with golden light, creating this glittering, dream-like atmosphere.

I would love to use the word heavenly to describe it however, the dominant momentarily quite strong sulphur smell was suggesting something quite the opposite ;-)

Golden reflections in the steaming water at Hveravellir, Iceland
Golden reflections in the steaming water at Hveravellir, Iceland

Towards the end

Unfortunately, we knew we had to leave the place as it was still a long journey ahead to reach back to our Airbnb. Fortunately, the sunset was progressing slowly. We were going on lower grounds, so there was still a quite bright. We continued north along F35 to merge with Ring Road and follow it to Reykjavik back to our place.

Haze sky, blue, dreaming mood on the way back from F35 road, Iceland
Haze sky, blue, dreaming mood on the way back from F35 road, Iceland

I think that evening I managed to see the sunset at least three times, if not more!

Sunset visible from F35 road, Iceland
Sunset visible from F35 road, Iceland

One more sunset, this time at the sea level, somewhere north, along Ring Road, Iceland
One more sunset, this time at the sea level, somewhere north, along Ring Road, Iceland

This was a very memorable trip! Although I remember returning* dead* tired in the deep night, but it was still well worth the effort! This was just one day! Stay tuned for more highlights.

Entry published on 28 April 2022 under #photo story, #photography, #iceland, #travel, #golden circle, #sunsets.
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