Ready for more of Iceland? Off we go on our second day to explore the countryside around Reykjavik. Let me tell you guys - the countryside is where it's at in Iceland! We decided to rent a car and drive around the Golden Circle, which is home to some of the most famous sights in the country.
Day 2 - Golden Circle
For breakfast, we made a pitstop at our favorite bakery - Bakari Sandholdt (see also my post about Day 1) to load up on sandwiches and pastries for the drive.
Our first stop was the oldest parliament in the world - called Þingvellir. (By the way, even though it would sound kind of cute, it's not pronounced "Pingvellir". The "Þ" is pronounced like the "th" in "thing" - so it's "thing-vellir". Now you know ;)). It was the first democratic parliament ever, established in the year 930! Pretty amazing. You can't see much of it now (though they do tell you gruesome stuff like where people used to be hanged, or where women who were thought to be witches were drowned...), but the nature around it is breathtaking and inspired a lot of Game of Thrones references.
It also happens to be right at the crack between the two continental plates - Europe and America. Of course we had to take a photo with one foot in each continent (before a park ranger chased us out!). Can you believe nobody could tell us which side is which? Finally the same park ranger said she *thinks* Europe is on my left and America is on my right. Hah! By the way, for the more adventurous among you, you can also go diving or snorkling between the continental plates - the water is about 35 degrees Fahrenheit / 2 degrees Celsius. D really wanted to do it, but to be honest, it sounds cooler than it looks - very crowded and the area you can swim around in is tiny.
Our second stop was - believe it or not - an ice cream place! (Actually if you know me at all this is quite easy to believe.) It's a dairy farm called "Efstadilur" a little bit off the road on the Golden Circle that makes its own cheese and ice cream from their cows' milk. On a good day, they have a flavor with Kokosbullar, which according to our host is "to die for", but unfortunately not when we got there. If you go, definitely try that one. The cookies and cream is great, too, and you can watch the cows through a window while you are savoring your ice cream (there are some outside, too).
Faithful to our motto "dessert first", we then headed to lunch. You guys have to try this place if you are driving around the Golden Circle - it's a tomato greenhouse called "Friðheimar", it's family-owned and run and is responsible for producing 18% of Iceland's tomatoes. They have a restaurant in the greenhouse where you can get the most delicious tomato soup and homemade bread, as well as tomato-based cocktails (all kinds of different Mary's - Bloody Mary, Healthy Mary, Happy Mary and Virgin Mary), and other tomato-ey things. So yummy, and a very cool experience.
After eating until we could eat no more (the tomato soup and bread are all you can eat! Challenge accepted...) we were off to see the Geysir that all Geysirs were named after. If you are going to be a stickler, the one that erupts the highest today is NOT actually the mother of all geysirs - that one kind of faded and just looks like a jacuzzi at this point. But the main guy is still pretty cool to watch!
Our next stop was Gullfoss, a very cool two-tiered waterfall. A few decades ago, the Icelandic government (or maybe a private electrical company? I am not sure) wanted to turn it into a power plant, but this woman walked barefoot all the way from there to Reykjavik to stop the project, and it never happened. So we can still see the waterfall in its natural beauty today! Make sure you bring waterproof clothes - after D and I made fun of all the middle aged tourists wearing water proof khaki pants all day, we got preeeeeetty soaked.
Last but definitely not least - actually one of my favorite things of the day (it's a tie with the ice cream) - we went swimming in Iceland's oldest pool. It's called the "Secret Lagoon" and it's not especially touristy, though obviously the "secret" is out. They have pool noodles there for you to float around on while you sip on a cold beer and you can walk around it to see actual geysirs erupt (not as high as the one we saw before, but it's still a scene from a different world!).
A quick word of warning for the designated drivers - these hot pools will leave you feeling suuuuuuper tired! Thank god D was driving, I could barely keep my eyes open.
Day 2 in a Nutshell:
Mind you, we only did the free stuff (or cheap stuff - entry to the Secret Lagoon was a few $$ but not much). There is a lot more to do if you are willing to shell out, but we had plenty to do with just exploring.
What to do:
Þingvellir (Iceland's oldest parliament - walk around to see the waterfalls and the rift between the continental plates - and for the more adventurous of you guys, dare to go snorkling or diving!)
Gullfoss two-tiered waterfall
What to eat:
Ice cream at the Efstadilur dairy farm (try the one with Kokosbullar if they have it!)
Tomato soup and homemade bread at the Friðheimar tomato greenhouse