One thing I’ve noticed Iceland has a lot of is waterfalls. It’s kind of their thing, along with frozen water, boiling water, and seawater. It’s basically impossible to go on a trip anywhere in Iceland without encountering at least one of these things. Yesterday we hit two: falling and boiling water.
The trip planning started as these things often do:
And ended with intense bargaining and vague threats until we got all members of the party into the party car. As you do.
Circled in pink is Þingvellir National Park, the site of løveli lakes, volcano stuff, waterfalls, and the original AlÞingi, AKA the og of parliament. Also circled is Geysir, but I will come back to that. Before I dive in, let me first say that, despite being the one behind the wheel, I had no idea where we were going or what we were seeing until we got there and was, if not literally, then at least figuratively just along for the ride.
Þingvellir was a lot of beautiful scenery in a classic Icelandic montage that, while stunning, is difficult to remember in detail. There were rocky cliffs rendered hospitable by the ever-present moss growing on them:
Classic waterfall scenery:
And a charming graveyard with dates spanning three centuries:
I realized on this trip that it is, in fact, well and truly autumn. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but hear me out: There is a total of like, 28 trees on this island, and 26 of them are conifers. The weather is always cloudy and rainy. The pumpkin spice express has not yet stopped in Iceland– like, at all. Ever. RIP me. I had been robbed of all the usual indicators of the fall season.
Anyway, I think the photographs speak for themselves: Þingvellir encapsulates the best of Icelandic scenery, and the rainy weather was the icing on the cake in terms of the quintessential Icelandic experience. And somewhere along the way was a famous rock where some guy would yell all the laws once a year at the AlÞingi. Classic.
The next stop was Bruarfoss, which Luca insisted was real and the rest of us had serious doubts about as we tramped through a veritable mud pit and confronted the least helpful sign in the universe.
The good news is, the scenery was beautiful
and there was, in fact, a waterfall!
The hike was (obviously) completely worth it. The poetic part of my brain marveled at this perfectly haphazard beauty, while the jaded college student noted that the water is the color of blue Powerade, which is, as we all know, the best flavor.
If you can believe it, this was not the bluest water we saw that day. We left Bruarfoss for Geysir, which is just a huge ass geyser. Bet you didn’t see that one coming, huh?
The cool thing about Geysir is that it’s a bunch of hot springs and geysers. The awful thing about Geysir is that it smells like eggs. And when it’s chilly out (which it was) the clouds of warm steam were kind of nice until you also smelled the sulfur, which is when you realize that steamy egg smell is a million times worse than regular egg smell. I know I’m prone to hyperbole, but that is the literal truth. It’s so upsetting.
Anyway, we saw a baby geyser explode a few times, which was neat. The interesting part is that the one that kept erupting was not Geysir. Geysir is a shy geyser and only erupts every couple of years as the result of some x-treme seismic activity.
Up the hill were some other springs, as varied as they were captivating.
This pool was opulent. It glows. I asked over and over what it is that makes it look like a liquid opal, but the best answer I got was Manuel repeatedly saying “It’s my soul.” I didn’t get to marvel at it as much as I wanted because of steamy egg clouds, but that was probably good news for the rest of the group because otherwise I’d still be standing there. And I had the keys.
Right next door to the magical spring was the deep black hole to nothingness.
But this one also had steamy egg clouds since it was literally like two feet away from the opal pool, so we moved on. Per Manuel’s suggestion, we stopped at one of Iceland’s only forests, where we thought he might have brought us to murder us. Our fears were not alleviated when he said he brought us to this forest to murder us. Obviously we made it out alive, and it was actually a really beautiful place. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the smell of pine trees and seeing something green standing more than half a meter tall. There’s something cleansing about coniferous forests.
As we walked along the water, Luca remarked that the only thing that would make it better was a waterfall. Waterfalls make everything better, he said. I asked if a waterfall made a waterfall better. The answer was yes. I was soon to see the evidence myself. But I thought the walk was nice enough even without a waterfall.
I could’ve stayed in the forest all day, but we had one last stop. The big boy. Gullfoss.
Gullfoss is a giant among giants. I mean, I thought Skógafoss was big. I had no idea what I was in for. Because Gullfoss is not just this waterfall.
It’s not just this waterfall, either.
That’s right, it’s both of them.
I know. The pictures are so fuzzy because of all the mist that waterfalls of this caliber tend to make. Since it’s sort of inside a canyon, the water just kind of goes straight up. It’s quite fascinating. It’s also fascinating to see how different the two waterfalls are: neither of them are particularly tall, but the bottom one is far steeper than the top one. Falls like the top one and Bruarfoss are incredible up close because they lack the fury of steeper drops. It’s not the velocity that makes it so powerful, it’s the sheer amount of water bounding over rocky steps to the next stop.
So that was the trip. A few stops in the Golden Circle, not far from home. But if you just scroll back through the pictures like I did, you’ll be shocked at what an incredible diversity of landscapes exists all within a three hour drive. And if you’re not, I cannot help you but you should probably get checked out by someone who can. You’re probably tired of reading it, but I’m not tired of saying it: Iceland is unbelievable. That living here is the reality of my life is, still, unfathomable to me. I’m a lucky lady.