This tour takes you about 120 kms (75 miles) inland from Reykjavik, heading pretty much straight east. First stop along the way is a greenhouse where they show you how they are growing their own tomatoes and cucumbers here in Iceland, and they are doing it year round!
Rows and rows of tomatoes are allowed to ripen on the vine so that they arrive in shops as fresh as possible.
This small family run operation produces 300 tons of tomatoes annually, which is enough to supply 18% of Iceland's tomato market.
Iceland is fairly expensive in a lot of ways, but two things that are cheap and abundant are hot water and electricity. So these greenhouses have tapped into the natural hot springs and the water supply keeps the greenhouses at a constant temperature year round. The lighting is all computerized to make use of the short periods of natural daylight that occurs during winter as well as the long days of summer. Computers also control humidity and CO2 which are important for perfect tomatoes. The tomatoes are totally natural and no pesticides of any kind are used.
The owner of the farm is Knutur and he does a good job explaining how they do things. You can also buy a cup of fresh tomato soup made by his wife Helena to enjoy while you wander around the production facility!
They also grow cucumber, but on a smaller scale.
From there, we head to the Gulfoss Waterfall. This is a popular tourist destination and is a very busy spot. We are surprised by the number of tourists still visiting Iceland at this time of year. Our tour group yesterday was two busloads and over 100 people.
Our first view of the Gulfoss Waterfall.
This is a huge waterfall!
There are times where the gorge below has actually filled with water.
Then we started backtracking, making our way to the Strokkur Hot Springs where a natural geyser shoots a spout of hot water into the air every 4 to 8 minutes. Tried really hard to get a picture of this, but it happens so quickly and then all that is left is steam which is quickly blown away. Also, it is not like clockwork. Sometimes it's a column that goes straight up, and other times it's a big bubble that looks like it pops. Either way, it's something else to see but it's very difficult to get a great photo of!
Natural steaming pools of water. Too hot to dip your hand into, with many of them close to the boiling point!
This one actually was boiling!
This area was actually our lunch spot. It's fairly touristy here and there's a big tourist trinket store and restaurant. Of course we had once again brought our own lunch which we ate on the bus so we had the full hour and a half to explore rather than wasting that time sitting in a restaurant. So we went for a little hike!
We made it to the top of a hill to see the view on the other side.
And had a nice view of the surrounding area.
Looking down on the hot springs.
Saw the geyser go off, but I was about 5 seconds late!
It's actually kind of funny. Everybody stands around and stares at this hole in the ground with bubbling water churning around in it. And you never really know when it's going to go off.They say every four to eight minutes, but sometimes it burps and then does it again in ten seconds. And it happens so quickly. So you're standing there with your camera at the ready, and it seems like forever. Sure enough, as soon as your arms get tired and you relax for a moment, it goes off!
People patiently waiting.
And sometimes all you get is a little burp!
Other times, it shoots straight into the air. Again, I only got the aftershot!
The next stop was Thingvellir National Park. This place is significant because it's where the tectonic plates that separate the American continent for the Eurasia continent are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year. Every few decades there's a bit of an earthquake that causes the plates to drop, and there's now a significant crevices in the ground that runs miles across the land at this point.
You can see the huge cracks in the ground due to the shifting of the tectonic plates. This is the actual spot where the North American continent officially ends.
It has caused a lot of weird rock formations. Have a close look at the one Ruth is standing on.
They have built a ramp where the ground collapsed a few years ago so that you can walk right through one of the crevices.
It's a beautiful spot.
Too many photo opportunities!
Which leads me to our only complaint about these types of tours. But it's not the tour operators fault that they are operating in a very photogenic country! The problem is that you see so many things out the bus window but there's really no point in taking photos because they won't turn out decently. Of course, if they stopped everywhere for a photo op, you wouldn't have time to drive that distance in a day because you'd spend too much time at the side of the road. Iceland is such a scenic country!
The Golden Circle Tour with Reykjavik Excursions costs 9,800 ISK ($80) and is an eight hour tour. Our guide Ragna was a wealth of information and kept everyone entertained with her knowledge of Iceland's geography and it's people.