Iceland’s Congested Corridor – The Golden Circle: Laugarvatn, Great Geysir & Gullfoss  Falls

Have you ever gone to a vacation destination and felt like you are so inundated by tourists that it almost ruins the experience? And are you like me, that you selfishly wish that you were the only tourist there to enjoy the beautiful place? It seems that with the advent of social media and cheap airline tickets, so many beautiful places in this world are getting overrun by tourists. Then the overwhelming number of tourists presents challenges to the infrastructure of the beautiful destination. 

I realize that Iceland is a very popular tourist destination these days and they have had massive increases in the number of tourists over the past few years, so it comes as no surprise to discover that the Golden Circle is a congested corridor. The Golden Circle is an area  within 100 km of Reykjavik that has many beautiful sights, including dramatic waterfalls and an amazing geysir that shoots steam high up in the air. There are dozens of tour buses buzzing around. They stop at the gas stations and restaurants where you want to stop at, and the sheer volume of people clogs up the public toilets and makes getting food in a timely manner a great challenge. Luckily we have everything we need in a cooler! 

Since we are adventure travelers and prefer quiet places and seclusion, we decided to leave our visit to the Golden Circle for the end of our road/camping trip. I don’t know. Maybe it would have been better to start here, because we find that we are short on patience when it comes to the tourists that seem to be everywhere. 

We just spent our last night of tent camping in Iceland at Thingvellir National Park. It was a gorgeous, albeit surreal place where we pitched camp. I will tell you that I had a really frightening experience during the night, and that I still am not sure if it was a dream, or a real visit by some strange spirits ( 

This day had started out kind of gloomy, but now it is beautiful and sunny. We make a brief stop at the Laugarvatn hotsprings, just to check things out. This hotspring pool has a sauna in addition to the hotsprings. 

Laugarvatn Hotsprings

The lake at Laugarvatn is beautiful, and the shore is bubbling hot here. 

Laugarvatn HotspringsLaugarvatn HotspringsLaugarvatn Hotsprings

My baby girl has the wildest hair on the island today!

It’s the warmest day so far on this trip…..witness short sleeve shirts…..

Laugarvatn Hotsprings

Needless to say, we choose not to pay the fee to get into these hotspring pools. We plan to go to a secret lagoon later today. We have things to see and places to go, hence we head off to the famous Geysir of Iceland. 

Of course I am very interested in the crazy  cars that they have here in Iceland. I tell you, fuel is frighteningly expensive here, but there are lots of amazingly huge vehicles like this here…..I don’t know how people can afford to drive them! This pig must suck back fuel like crazy!!

Well…..there goes the Great Geysir. This geysir is the one after which all other geysers are named. It is pretty cool, as you get to stand really close by to watch. Every few minutes the geysir emits a cloud of steam and sprays high into the sky. If you are standing downwind of the geysir you get spray on you that smells like rotten eggs….mmmmmm…..I have been to Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park a few times, but at Yellowstone you are required to stand pretty far away to watch the geysir…..of course the litigious society in the U.S. results in such precautionary measures. 

There’s tons of people everywhere here…..

Geysir of IcelandGeysir of IcelandGeysir of Iceland

Oooooh….here’s another monster van…..this thing could probably plough through anything!

Next up is Gullfoss Falls, perhaps one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. This waterfall is on the Hvítá River and it surges dramatically in a zigzag fashion down several stair steps, and then in two stages into an impressive gaping crevice. It is breathtakingly gorgeous! The waterfall’s hammering force carves a lightning-bolt shape into the surrounding landscape.

Gullfoss translated into English means “Golden Waterfall”. The water that thunders through this gorge and plunges over the precipice here comes from the Langjökull glacier. It’s glacial water has sediment in it from the glacier, and this is what gives the waterfall its golden hue. 

Now, I have to say that I think this waterfall is pretty incredible, but the kids are not impressed at all. They are disappointed that we are stuck in a gaggle of people, all vying for a spot from which to view the falls. Maybe they have seen one too many waterfalls on this trip. David and I don’t understand how they aren’t impressed!

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

There was a point in time at which this gorgeous waterfall was going to have its power harnessed for the production of electricity, which would have destroyed it! Legend has it that the 12 year old daughter of the property owner, Sigríður, threatened to throw herself over the falls if the plan moved forward. She was so distraught about the plan that she walked barefoot all the way to Reykjavik to oppose the proposition. Whether the legend is true or not does not matter, for the area is now protected and preserved for generations to come. 

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

I love how these waterfalls twist and turn and amazingly disappear into this canyon! I don’t even know how to describe it. 

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

I know you did not believe me that there is a lot of people here until you see this photo. The walkway to the waterfalls has a steady stream of camera touting tourists – me included!

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Even though there are tons of tourists I can still see the beauty of this amazing place, and I attempt to capture it with my camera. When I approach the waterfall from this angle the edge is obscured from view, and it seems as though the river simply vanishes into the earth. The raw force of the thundering water has me at awe. I breathe in the moist earthy air, the cool spray brushing gently across my cheeks, the thundering noise a deafening crescendo in my ears. 

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

The water is incredibly powerful as it thunders over the precipice.

Gullfoss Waterfall, IcelandGullfoss Waterfall, IcelandGullfoss Waterfall, IcelandGullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

The safety barriers here are not that significant…..seems to me like it would be pretty easy to fall into this rushing water!

Gullfoss Waterfall, IcelandGullfoss Waterfall, IcelandGullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Now would you not think that such a beautiful place must have a love story associated with it? 

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Upstream of the waterfall there are some rapids. The river is wide and has every appearance of being quite dangerous. Yet in the 17th century there was a young son of a Brattholt farmer herding his sheep on one side of the river, and a young woman herding her sheep on the other side of the river. They inevitably fell in love. Eventually the young woman was successful in coaxing the young man to attempt to cross the river to be with her. How do you suppose such an attempt to cross this river might have ended? Well, apparently this young couple were the parents of many “well-respected descendants”, so the story must have ended happily. 

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

The waterfall has two viewing points. We make our way to the viewing deck above the falls. 

Gullfoss Waterfall, IcelandGullfoss Waterfall, IcelandGullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

When we return to the visitor center we find Annika with flowers in her hair. If I should say so myself, I think that my baby Annika could be an Icelandic girl…..she has that warrior spirit….the spunk….the determination….the zest for life…..the compassion….

As we pull away from the Gullfoss parking lot the kids ask me where we are off to next. 

“To a secret lagoon,” I reply. What child doesn’t love a secret? I am beginning to wonder how secret this supposed secret lagoon really is…..we will find out soon enough!

It’s getting to be lunchtime, and as luck would have it we find a really nice place to have a picnic lunch! We turned off the main road to go to the “Secret Lagoon” on roadway 30, and lo and. behold….. we have run across the Hvítá River…..the one that thunders over Gullfoss Waterfall…..

Hvítá River, Iceland

Here the water looks deep. Hvítá River, IcelandHvítá River, Iceland

If you have a keen eye you. Might notice that we have a lost lifeguard’s board for a table. Looks to me like maybe this is a famous river rafting area…..better stay away from the edge of this river….Hvítá River, Iceland

Guess what we have cooking……yeah…..?

Hvítá River, Iceland

You’re right…..Icelandic hotdogs…..they are good!

Hvítá River, Iceland

Before we head off to the Secret Lagoon I make a big stack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The kids are bound to be hungry later on!

Hvítá River, Iceland
Ok kids… it’s time to mosey on…..