Geysir, Gulfoss and þingvellir

Date: Thursday 27th JulyPlace: Selfoss

On the 27th we had a drive around some of the major sites of Iceland. We headed out of Selfoss, and soon took the road inland. The routes around this area are some of the few inland roads which are reasonable for two wheel drives (beyond Gulfoss it apparently gets hairy).

Crater at the Kerið VolcanoOur first stop was at the kerið volcanic crater. Not much to see here, in the sense of 'once you've arrived, you've seen it', but it's worth a look nonetheless. The crater has steep sides, and is full of water. It's an active volcanic crater.

It's a bit of a case of 'blink and you miss it'.

A bit further on we stopped at a small waterfall, which was quite pretty (but pails compared to Gulfoss just up the road). Again, rather easy to miss from the roadside.

The first main stop of the day was Geysir (not a mis-spelling). At the right of the road is a car park and visitor centre, and to the left is a steaming geothermal area.

The scene at GeysirLitli-GeysirAt Geysir there are several Geysers. The great geyser is quite dormant at the moment, but Strokkur makes a good standby. Strokkur sends jets of boiling water skywards every eight to ten minutes, sometimes it sends several large jets in close succession.

Eruption of StrokkurEruption of StrokkurEruption of StrokkurNow, Strokkur is fantastic, and it goes off so often it's hard to believe. Protected by a small rope is a hole in the ground, maybe four or five feet across. It's full of water. Then we see a little bubbling...

Then the water surges a little, a bulge appears. Shortly after that the water spouts high into the air, there's boiling water and steam. It's very impressive.

After an eruption, water flows into StrokkurAt Blesi, one can see a hole down to the bowels of the EarthAfter the eruption, water flows back into the hole, the water level is topped off, presumably, from groundwater.

The process begins again.

Old Faithful in Yellowstone may be a bigger geyser, but you'd find it hard to beat Strokkur for sheer frequency.

Geysir has a few other features, for example, at Blesi there is a blue pool, and one can see a large hole beneath it, leading down to the depths. Blesi is actually higher than Strokkur, which probably tells geologists something significant.

GulfossMe at GulfossAt Gulfoss, there is a tea room and visitor centre (again), but the main attraction is the waterfall itself. There was a time when the authorities wanted to place a dam and flood this valley in order to generate hydroelectric electricity, this fell through, and Gulfoss survives.

The falls themselves have immense power, yes there are larger falls in the world, but I thought that Gulfoss was large enough to impress, yet small enough that a human could grasp how big it was (if that makes sense). In the same way, if one goes into a large cathedral there is a sense of size, that isn't present when walking under the infinitely larger sky outside.

Tea and Cake at the Gulfoss CaféWe took a little lunch at the café, and Monica bought a hat.

We then made our way across to þingvellir. (Þ is pronounced 'th'). The shortest route is a bit of a rough road, but was quite okay in our car, and we soon found ourselves descending into the rift valley. Þingvellir is the home of the first Icelandic parliament, the Alþing, the site was chosen perhaps for the cliffs which would provide reasonable acoustics and allow people to be heard.

The edge of the North American tectonic plateLooking toward LögbergMonica reads about the þingvellir fissuresIt's set in a rift valley, it's the site where the North American and European tectonic plates seperate, and the valley floor sinks as they do so. The floor of the valley is riddled with fissures, many are filled with incredibly clear water and one can see a long way down.

As we left þingvellir I stopped at a geocache, which was in an obvious place if looking for it, but was very unlikely to be found by the average passer by, not least because it's in the middle of a lava field!

Back in Selfoss, thoughts turned to food. We didn't want anything too big, so we nipped to the local supermarket, but could not find anything which we could easily use (other than things like crisps). We ended up visiting the subway near the hotel, don't knock it, it's better than McDonalds! At the back of the hotel (past the subway) is the local cinema. We toyed with the idea of going to see 'Superman'. We didn't want to see it if it was dubbed (subtitles would have been fine), but the we couldn't make ourselves understood to the woman in the ticket office when we tried to find out - our first, and last, language issue in Iceland. In the end, we left it. We'd see the film on our return to the UK.