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Iceland's Golden Circle Tour

Posted By PrincessRoxy on Jul 31, 2016 at 11:50PM

UHOTW visited Iceland at the start of their summer season April 20th, unsure of what to expect for weather in this most northern of capital cities.

Pleasently surprised, we discovered that it rarely gets cold in Reykjavik, with summer temperatures between 5°C and 15°C, due largely to the warming Gulf stream current. Winter, the only other Icelandic season (traditionally there isn't Spring or Autumn), average temperatures rarely dip below -5°C. We were told that umbrellas aren't required - not because there was no prospect of rain, but instead that strong winds meant that most rain was horizontal and umbrellas were of little use. Thankfully, on this occasion we had no rain at all! 

Every tourist visiting Iceland is likely to have taken one of the many Golden Circle Tours - or at least copied the 300km circuit themselves by self-drive car.

The day tour takes in 3 sights - the original (and oldest) parliament site in the Þingvellir national park, the "golden falls" Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur.

Þingvellir National Park

Parliament or Alþingi was established at Þingvellir in 930 and remained there until 1789. The site is geographically significant as the junction of the Mid Atlantic ridge, where the European and North American tectonic plates meet. As such the area is prone to earth tremors and seismic activity. The National Park was founded in 1930 to protect the remains of the parliament site and was later expanded to protect the natural rock formations surrounding the area.

Iceland

The Alþingi was an assembly where the elected elders would meet annually to enact law from its establishment in 930 until 1271. The Lögberg (Law Rock) was the focal point of the Alþingi and a natural platform for holding speeches. The Law Council served as both a parliament and supreme court - holding rulings over cases brought towards the judiciary. Penalties were severe - drowning was the punishment for women or beheading the punishment for men. 

Iceland

However, in 1789 the Danish Crown took responsibility for Judicial procedures and the assemby was no longer used.


Gullfoss Waterfall - birthplace of Ecology movement.


If you've taken the Golden Circle coach tour, from the coach park you'll see a wide river that simply disappears into the earth. On closer inspection you realise that the river descends a couple of sheer rock face waterfalls, before disappearing from view down a narrow valley below you, at right angles to the original river flow. The path to the waterfall is down a gravel track that is easy to negotiate in summer.

Iceland

The site is also considered as a birthplace of ecology as during the first half of the 20th century, plans were made to use Gullfoss to generate electricity. The waterfall was actually rented indirectly by its owners, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson, to foreign investors to build a hydroelectric scheme. The daughter of Tómas Tómasson, a lady by the name of Sigríður Tómasdóttir, was however determined to preserve the waterfall and petitioned for it's protection. 


Thankfully, the investors' attempts were unsuccessful, and the waterfall was later sold to the state of Iceland.

A stone memorial to Sigriður, located above the falls, depicts her profile.


More information on the Golden Circle tour in the next blog installment.

 

UHOTW went on the Golden Circle Tour with Iceland Excursions - Gray Line Iceland who arrange pick up from all the major hotels around Reykjavik. They run a number of excursions further afield to some of the most amazing sights in Iceland.

Contact them on +354 540 1313  www.grayline.is

 

UHOTW travelled to Iceland thanks to Icelandair. Easy direct flights from the UK - and great value too!

- www.icelandair.is

Iceland

UHOTW stayed in Hotel Viking - <find out more details here>

We also checked out Hotel Ranga, famous for visits to view the Northern Lights - and the new - and funky styled Marina Hotel - and modern Natura Hotel in Reykjavik. More details of the hotels <here>


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