Globetrotting journalist DAVID CHAPMAN completes his Icelandic story with a look at the country’s Golden Circle tourist trail which covers all the things you would expect to find in a country called Iceland.
THE Golden Circle tourist trail is Iceland’s most popular attraction. It consists of three destinations — Pingvellir, the site of the first Icelandic Althing, the oldest parliament in the world; Gulfoss, a spectacular double-storey waterfall where huge volumes of water crash into a canyon below; and, of course, the world-famous geysers.
For years the most famous resident at the field of geysers was Geysir, from which the English word is derived, but it has been mostly dormant since a volcanic eruption in 2000 messed things up.
Luckily little brother Strokkur erupts pretty much on cue every five minutes. As the water simmers, a big blue bubble appears before erupting into a pillar of water shooting high into the air.
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s best known attractions. The bus on the road there passed nothing but moss-covered rocks for half an hour before pockets of steam appeared in the distance, rising towards the clouds.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spring in a lava rock field, something like a giant outdoor hot tub. You have to shower before getting in the springs, but then you head outside and straight into the icy air wearing nothing but your bathers.
Our feet got icy cold en-route from the change rooms, producing a stinging sensation once we dipped our toes in the 40C water.
But it was oh, so worth it.
Sinking into the lagoon is enough to ease any worries.
The mineral-rich water was the blue of a husky’s eyes and it certainly wasn’t due to reflection of the sky, which was grey and overcast, creating an eerie, out of this world feeling combined with the mist and steam from the water.
It was a weird juxtaposition seeing people wearing very little in the water, while the resort’s workers were rugged up in their winter woollies.
Snæfellsjökull is the country’s smallest but most famous glacier.
Iceland’s tourism industry was kicked off at the end of January 2000 when visitors streamed to the country to visit the glacier because they’d received messages from outer space saying aliens were going to land at the top.
Funnily enough, they never arrived. But tourists kept coming as word got out about Iceland’s remarkable attractions, not least of which is Jokulsarlon.
Our trip to Jokulsarlon, or the Glacier Lagoon, was the most memorable of our visit to Iceland.
Glacier Lagoon is a glacial lake in the country’s south-east at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, and it is breathtaking.
Icebergs break away from the glacier and float towards the mouth, before eventually drifting into the Atlantic Ocean. Seeing a small armada of icebergs setting sail, knowing so much more was hidden beneath the water, was a mystical experience.
Viewing them up close (well, part of them, anyway only 10 per cent of an iceberg is visible above the water) was reminiscent of seeing Titanic on the big screen. However, I stopped short of declaring myself king of the world.
We boarded an all-terrain amphibious vehicle, a large boat with giant wheels on which it drove into the water, and powered through the lagoon, getting up close to the icebergs as seals bobbed their heads out of the icy water.
When a guy jumped on board with a block of ice and a chisel under his arm, we were a little surprised – but as it turns out, an iceberg taste test is part of the Jokulsarlon experience.
The one we tasted was about 800 years old.
And yes, it was cold.
Just like Iceland.
Just like Iceland.