Yesterday we spent almost 9 hours being driven around Iceland by a Spaniard in a minibus with 10 Americans.
It wasn’t a big minibus and we were one of the last groups on, so the look on everyone’s faces as we rocked up and climbed in was priceless. But I apologised in advance as we got on board, the other passengers laughed and from then on all was well.
We managed to get the back seat for the kids and DH and I sat in the seat in front, well within ‘dealing’ distance. And it wasn’t long before we had cries of ‘I’m bored’ and ‘What can we do?’
The guy driving was also commentating and imparting knowledge at such speed that I had to concentrate on what he was saying to keep up. I really didn’t need the kids whining in the background.
We are now experienced enough at travelling with the kids that we came prepared, and handed them a fully charged iPad each. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when they realised that only 2 tablets had the games on that they all wanted to play, but they settled down after a while and left us in peace to listen to our driver.
We didn’t have much time to enjoy the peace and quiet. We were doing a ‘Golden Circle’ tour with Iceland Horizons and our first stop was at Hveragerai, not far from Reykjavik, where we stopped at a small shopping centre with a display dedicated to the 2008 earthquake, and a glass floor over a lit up rift in the earth’s surface.
The kids were fascinated by this but needed some urging to try standing on it themselves.
They also had a rock that had tumbled down from the hills during the earthquake, and a photo of it next to a much bigger rock. The kids were aghast at its size; it was much bigger than two of them, so imagine how big the main rock in the photo was.
The rock DS and DD are hiding behind is in the right hand side of the photo.
After evading yet another gift shop, we got back on the bus and headed out to a volcanic caldera called Kerid. A caldera is formed when a volcano erupts and empties its magna chamber. The chamber collapses and fills up with water from the water table. Basically, it’s a deep depression surrounded by some raised edges.
We had 20 minutes here, so we walked to the highest point and took some photos while stopping the kids from shoving each other off the edge.
Next it was on to a smallish waterfall known as Faxafoss.
To the kids’ delight there were some people riding Icelandic horses in a field nearby. They were displaying that weird 5th gait they use; the tolt, and my eldest DD spent a lot of time watching them and sighing wistfully.
I was more interested in this salmon staircase, especially built to count how many salmon are in the river during spawning season.
Then it was on to Gulfoss, the Golden Falls of Iceland. These were amazing, if a little crowded by Icelandic standards. But you can’t blame people for wanting to see a huge amount of water seemingly disappear into a crevice in the earth-until you get close up to it, it looks like magic.
You can see people standing on a little rocky outcrop to the left of the photo. DH took the two older girls out there which they loved; I was quite happy to remain at the bottom of the falls with the younger two!
From Gullfoss, we also got a great view of the glacier Langjökull.
That gap in the distant mountain range isn’t cloud, it’s a huge glacier. In the winter it’s hard to see as the snow covers everything, but in summer, what you see is all ice!
It would have been nice to have got a closer look at the glacier, but instead we swung around in the opposite direction and headed towards another popular tourist spot; the site of the geyser Geysir.
This is where is became difficult travelling with a bunch of Americans. They would say Geezer and my husband would say Guyser and I would hopelessly alternate between the two!
The original Geysir is still there but is no longer erupting. From what I can tell, it last erupted in 2003 but there may have been more recent occasions. A couple of recent earthquakes have damaged its plumbing to the extent that the pressure needed to cause eruptions is escaping elsewhere.
Luckily there is a nearby geyser called Strokkur which erupts every 4-6 minutes. Apparently, it’s not as big as the original Geysir but we found it very impressive.
The best bit was the ‘bubble’ that was produced just before the whole thing erupted. It was only there for a second and so was hard to get photos of, but I managed in the end.
There were also some different coloured pools in the same area as well as a few much smaller geysers and steam vents in the area. We had lunch at the nearby food court, and then loaded back into the bus for more adventures.
We passed the police attending to an accident involving an overturned car which the kids were greatly interested in, but we managed to distract them a few minutes later by stopping, and feeding some of the Icelandic horses grazing in the roadside fields.
They had young foals with them, so weren’t too keen at first but eventually they came over for some grass and strokes. The girls were beside themselves with excitement.
Finally we were driven into Þingvellir National Park. This breathtakingly beautiful area includes the site of the ancient Icelandic Parliment and is in close proximity to the lake Þingvallavatn. It is the site of a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, so on one side you have the edge of the continent that hold Europe and parts of Asia and on the other you have the edge of the North American plate.
To stand here is absolutely mind blowing. I’m not sure the kids really ‘got it’ but they enjoyed the chance to run around madly.
Þingvellir also has public toilets with the most amazing view.
It’ll cost you 200 krona to use them, but it’s well worth it.
We arrived back in Reykjavik just after 5pm, absolutely exhausted and feeling very educated about the incredible things we had seen. The iPads had all lasted well, so the kids stayed out of trouble on the road but had enjoyed the geographical sights we had dragged them along to.
They had found the commentary a little too relentless to follow, so we found ourselves recounting our newly acquired knowledge to them at every place we visited. This was a good way of making sure what we had been told had sunk in, and I feel pretty sure I know 1000% more about Iceland than I did before we arrived on Saturday.