As we arrived at Thingvellir we could see why the area was a UNESCO site, steeped in geological and historical interest the park was surrounded by volcanoes, most extinct or dormant. However, the most striking geological aspect of this location is that this area represents a divergent rift valley where the North American plate and the Eurasian plate are pulling apart in opposite directions. Other than the Great Rift Valley in East Africa (an area we have also been lucky enough to have visited) this is the only other place in the world where the spreading of the sea floor is visible. In the past 10,000 years the valley has moved by 70m and subsided by 40m. So in non technical terms its possible to stand in Europe and North America on the same day whilst in Thingvellir National Park!
Not only is the area a significant site in terms of geology it is also steeped in history as the site of the oldest parliament in the world, founded in AD930 and where settlers from all over Iceland would converge to discuss events and pass new laws.
We strolled around the main area of the park absorbing its natural and historical aspects, old lava flows could still be seen and the two plates highly visible either side of the valley, it was utterly fascinating. Its violent past also evident through fault lines where earthquakes had severed the rocks revealing deep crevasses.
After spending a few hours here it was off toward Gullfoss waterfall, passing many old lava fields, farming settlements and small towns along the way.
Approaching Gullfoss we could see a deep canyon, followed by mist rising into the air and as we got out of the car we could hear the roar of the water, a sound louder than anything we had heard from any other falls during the trip. Climbing down the wooden steps we then got our first glimpse of Gullfoss, no words other than 'wow' could describe the awesomeness of this waterfall! It was a mighty wall of water, gushing down in two tiers. It really was Iceland's answer to Niagra Falls and it was just spectacular.
We spent sometime here snapping away happily with our cameras, although to be honest no photo was going to do this place justice! You really had to be there to absorb the sound and power of the water as it spewed into the deep canyon below, carved out by thousands of years of water cascading through.
Damp from the spray we then moved onto our last location and where we would stay overnight. We had done waterfalls and volcanoes and now it was time for geysers!
We checked into our hotel, aptly named as Hotel Geysir, which was quite literally right opposite the geothermal area. Not wasting any time we were off to see our first ever Geyser. The smell of sulphur was quite putrid as the steam from at least ten geysers filled the air. However, as we walked around the area we were 'rudely interrupted' and practically stopped in our tracks by a huge whoosh of water that shot into the air like a rocket. Although the 'Geysir' (one of the most famous geysers in the area) is no longer active the second highest geyser called 'Strokker' quite evidently is. No more than 5 minutes passed and It was off again and it was a sight to behold. Watching in between 'eruptions' the water at the base bubbled and boiled at 80-100 degrees C as we watched and waited in anticipation for its next show. On average it spouted every 3-5 minutes. Sometimes the water reaching 20-30 metres high and other times much lower and on one occasion covering me with its watery sulphuric matter as the wind blew in my direction right at the moment that Strokker fired out her watery fountain (much to the amusement of other onlookers!)
It became almost addictive waiting for the next fountain of water to spout, and as a dome of water grew at the base it was followed by less than a second or two with the release of air and water giving us the opportunity for some great shots.
It had been another packed day of history and geology and by now we were ready to call it a day. However, what better way to end the day after dinner with a dip in the hotels outdoor 'pool' heated by an underneath geyser. Lying in the warm waters under the cold dark sky, staring at the stars was really quite a surreal experience. The only thing missing was the Northern lights that due to the heavy cloud on the last 3 nights was not visible and even though our last night in Iceland was a clear night the lights were not out for us that night, what a great excuse to have to return to Iceland!
And so the next morning we left the hotel and began the journey back toward Keflavik airport. It was a glorious morning, crisp air with nothing but blue sky and a huge contrast to the previous days! Given the amazing weather we abandoned our planned visit to the Blue Lagoon spa and instead took a detour back toward Mt Hekla, passing Kerio Crater along the way. We knew that it was not every day that you could view Mt Hekla without clouds brimming around the top and so our detour paid off with the most incredible views of the volcano and the glaciers.
Our brief trip to Iceland had been amazing in every way, the scenery had been spectacular and had whet our appetite to one day return again and explore more of Iceland. It was certainly evident why this amazing place is nick-named 'the land of ice and fire'.
So it is here that our blog concludes of our Icelandic adventures and in the next coming weeks we are fortunate and very excited to be once again returning the Kenya and hope you will join us as we will be back blogging from amongst the wilds of the African bush.
Thingvellir National Park