Gold Glittering in the Snow
Let Gray Line Iceland take you around a Circle of Gold this winter
Each of the four seasons is dramatically different in Iceland. Its northern latitude tends to extremes – of beauty, weather and experience.
Experience the real Game of Thrones
Winter completely changes the countryside, making it like a scene from ‘Game of Thrones’ – a popular tour Gray Line offers where you visit the sites where the series was filmed. Today, we will be going to at least one of those sites on a circular tour that takes us up to the very edge of the forbidding Highlands – the rugged central interior of the country. It’s a tour of contrasts, where no site is like the others and gives an insight into the country’s diversity.
History, Culture and Geology
Leaving Reykjavik, the coach starts to climb gently, watched nonchalantly by groups of horses, now wearing their thick winter coats. The landscape becomes more rugged until a large lake appears on the right. We are approaching one of UNESCO’s famed World Heritage Sites: Þingvellir (Thingvellir). Its first visitors, Vikings in the 10th century, chose this spot to establish the world’s longest running parliament: the Alþingi in the lea of the stark cliff face. They knew that this was a special location. It is here that you can see a rare sight: the earth’s tectonic plates tearing apart, leaving jagged rents in the rocks in this national park area.
Water at its most dramatic
We drive on to the next site – totally different, and dramatic in different way. We can see mist rising from what seems to be a crack in the ground a little distance away. Walking closer, we see the powerful Gullfoss waterfall. Now, depending on the weather and temperatures, it can either be a thundering roar or an eerily silent panorama of ice. Beginning miles into the interior between a two glaciers, streams flow together to form the Hvítá – the White River. If the winter is hard, the river can freeze over and the waterfall itself turns into an amazing picture of white ice. If it’s warmer, you’re treated to its power, with rainbows playing over it.
Untamed Geothermal Eruptions
After lunch, we move to the geothermal Geysir area, where patches of snow mingle with steam pools and streams of hot water. While Geysir, the hot spring that gave its name to this type of phenomenon, is currently rarely active, its sibling, Strokkur more than makes up for its silence with bursts of boiling water and steam that shoot skywards as high as 40m every 4-8 minutes. Here we are surrounded by geothermal mud pools, deep sapphire blue hot water pools and bubbling little geysers and hissing steam vents.
History and Culture
We move on to what, for over 800 years, was one of the most important sites in the country: the ancient bishopric seat of Skálholt. The new cathedral church was built on the site between 1956 and 1963 as part of the millennial celebrations of the episcopal see and today, it is an important seminary and information centre for the Church of Iceland.
Tapping the Earth’s Power
Given favourable weather and road conditions, the final stop on the tour is at Hellisheiðarvirkjun geothermal power station, a testament to the power available from beneath the mountains just outside Reykjavik. Much of the hot water and electricity for Reykjavik comes from this area.
Don’t miss the Northern Lights
Being winter, the Northern Lights are most visible. Gray Line Iceland takes you out of the city to the spots where they are most likely to be seen – and if you have never seen them, it’s an opportunity you shouldn’t miss.
New Year’s Bonfire and Fireworks
If you’re in Reykjavik for the New Year celebrations, one of the best ways to celebrate is to join the tour for the bonfire and fireworks. It’s only available on New Year’s Eve and it’s one of those events you’ll never forget – an experience of ancient and modern Iceland.
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