Has diving between two continents ever been your bucket list?

No trip to Iceland is complete without exploring the Golden Circle, and today I was going to discover why. It was an exhilaration filled morning unveiling the fact that the Golden Circleroute takes you through some of the most amazing sights in central Iceland, with scenery ranging from natural sites to historic landscapes. I started on to this 300-kilometer (190 mi) loop making my first stop at the geothermal energy exhibition.

Sneak Peek into what awaits ahead

This place not only gives you an insight about the adventures that await you but all gives you a lot of information about the efforts put in by the Icelandars into conserving geo-thermal energy. This energy plant is owned by Reykjavík Energy and shows how geothermal energy is harnessed in a sustainable manner. Also one of the perks to make a pit stop here is the amazing restaurant only 50 metres from the Geothermal Park. This restaurant uses the geothermal heat for its outdoor kitchen and the breads here are a must try before embarking on the trip ahead.

Freshly baked breads with geo thermal energy

Stirring towards the golden circle the next stop was at ‘the Earthquake Town’ or ‘the Hot Spring Town’ as named by the locals, due to the active geological and geothermal forces that define it. Yes, Hveragerdi is known as Iceland’s “Smoky Valley” having a beautiful river that is shrouded in a constant cover of steam clouds. This little town gives you a sneak peak into what awaits you ahead. 

The Smokey Valley
A little history about Hveragredi

Then it was time to finally discover the very famous Geysirs of Iceland. There’s a little walking trail complex full of geysirs, the most consistent of which is Strokkur.

The steaming walking trail towards the geyser

Walking up the steaming path leading to Strokkur, I had no idea what to expect. Was it just constantly spouting? Would I need to stand there for an hour twiddling my thumbs to get the perfect shot?

This famous Icelandic fountain geyser erupts every 6-10 minutes with a height typically around 15-20 meter, sometimes erupting up to 40 meters high.

The famous Strokkur geyser about to erupt

After waiting through 2 eruptions we finally saw one that possibly was 40m.

Witness the eruption upto 40m

These Icelandic hot geysers are about 80-100 degree in temperature, a natural wonder in itself. Even with the engulfing cold weather around, they have been around years producing the same amount of heat every single day. And to see them erupt at a height of almost 40m was just incredible. 

Other little geysir along the trail

There are many other dormant geyser and their beauty lies in thecolors, the formations, everything about it was just so beautiful! 

The beautiful colors of geyser

But yes you have to be extra careful and walk only along the trailed path. There are signs warning visitors with sprouts of water ranging from 80-100°C (176-212 °F) in this open field.

Walking along the steaming trails of geysers

Icelanders have always known to have a crush on waterfalls. This country has more than whole of Europe put together. And there is no waterfall so tiny it doesn’t have a name, because all of the waterfalls have history. And you believe in it whenwhen you hear the Gullfoss in its full glory! 

Arriving at Gullfoss waterfalls

It’s all about the pounding heart and the racing sound from a distance when you are arriving at the waterfall. Gullfoss is all about different tiers of flowing water. And in the month of March with most of the waterfall still covered in snow it was a unique blend of sight.

The amazing sight of semi frozen Gullfoss waterfalls

The windy was blustery but it did not stop me from exploring the edge of this waterfall. They have an admiring viewing deck, which was frozen with the most slippery pathway.

Making my way to the viewing deck

But being willful as ever I took the chance of slipping down a couple of times just to get the view from the top. The dramatic views of Gullfoss waterfall crashing over the cliffs into a relatively narrow crevice was a sight worth all the grit.

Finally made it to the viewing deck

From this viewpoint you couldn’t even see where the water disappeared, and only see the plume of spray rising into the air.

Iceland is full of geological wonders, with the edges of the waterfall made from hard lava basalt. The actual falls themselves rest on soft sedimentary rock on which the river can carve a channel. Mother nature can really be impressive sometimes, especially as layers in these waterfalls date back to the mid-Ice Age.

Yes there were also some hidden spots we discovered on route the golden circle, like making an impromptu detour to the Faxi Waterwall.

Hiking my way down to Faxi Waterfall

 Faxi turned out to be a little hidden gem that most people drive right by. We were literally the only ones there! And even though it was windy with a little hike down, it was still pretty to see!

The magnanimous view of Faxi Waterfall
Upclose Faxi Waterfall

There were also some surprise sights on our way to the main escapade of the day, or should I say cute little sights. While we did see Icelandic horses all around the island, we got a close glimpse at the ones in the Golden Circle. 

Say hello to Icelandic Horses

Finally having arrived at Thingvellir National Park, northeast of Reykjavík, this moss-covered national park is impossible to miss. 

Arriving at Thingvellir National Park

You can actually drive through the most of it and arrive at the most impressive part of this park. 

This is where the tectonic plates of Eurasian and North American content move apart at approximately 2.5 centimetres a year and have done for millenniums and seeing them drift apart, makes you realize nature’s tremendous power.  The effects of this movement are very clear within the park. Never ending views of Lava fields fill the valley, a view you would get nowhere else! 

At Silfra Fissure just before the dive

Beholding the exhilaration as I neared the Silfra, yes the only place in the world where you can dive between the tectonic plates of Eurasian and North American continent. The Silfra Fissure, with its divergent tectonic boundary is one of the most incredible dive destinations on earth, and it had been on my bucket list, an absolute MUST when in Iceland.

So far the only diving experience I have had was in more tropical destinations so diving somewhere a bit chillier ( or say a lot lot more) in this Icelandic country in freezing cold temperatures was on my bucket list. However the quirkiest experience was to get prepped up for this dive rather than the dive itself.

Being prepared to have your face and hands freeze while in the water even with the dry suits on, was going to be a challenge. Getting into the drysuit, which I have never worn before was a task getting yourself into one, but once you do, you are all set to explore the beautiful world down below.

Stepping into the fissure for the dive
Ready steady dive!

Having my heart in mouth I walked towards the dive only to explore the surreal beauty I had heard or seen pictures of. Diving between the tectonic plates of Eurasian and North America was an experience you can’t put into words.

The contrasting views from above and below the dive
Diving into the Silfra fissure
Seeing the other edge of the world below

 With water so clear that you have a visibility of more than 100meters, you forget about the 2°C freezing cold water and the only thing that engulfs you is this beautiful silent and peaceful world below.

Touching the tectonic plates of Eurasian and North American continents

Having spent about an hour in the freezing Silfra dive which was a phenomenal experience, the trip to golden circle was finally being worth the wait. 

Frozen but extremely thrilled after the dive

It’s a fun story how the Silfra actually got created. Evidently the ice melted from a glacier outside of Þingvellir National Park, running with a river into Þingvallavatn Lake. Shortly after, nearby Skjaldbreidur Volcano erupted, causing a lava blockage in the river. Fire and ice united, and that’s how we have Silfra, a gorgeous fissure with visibility reaching over 100 meters.

Soaking up after the dive and getting all warmed up I rambled up to the Visitor Center’s Hakið viewpoint.

You can see rifts cut through the ground showcasing crystal waters and creating an otherworldly effect. I could even see where I snorkelled just few hours back. You can see exactly where the earth descends as the plates move apart — about two centimeters each year — and even walk through the Almannagjá Fault.

Seeing the rift drift apart

It is fascinating to sink in the fact that while walking in Almannagjá that one is walking in a rift between the two tectonic plates and can thus experience the unique geology of Iceland while standing on its own two feet. 

The further you walk the sights kept getting prettier!

Not yet being ready to leave this magical place there was another waterfall just 5 minutes drive from Silfra. The Öxarárfoss situated within Þingvellir National Park flows out the river Öxará, cascading in two drops over the cliffs of Almannagjá gorge, which marks the eastern boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. 

On my way to  Öxarárfoss waterfalls
 Öxarárfoss waterfall

By Icelandic standards, the twenty-meter tall waterfall is a small one in comparison to all of the others you are going to see on your trip.

Yes, Iceland is the only country that can surprises you each day .You can go from a complete snowy white-out to blue skies in just one hour along the drive. Being here in the month of March I experienced all four seasons in a day- nearly every day!

A happy me at Golden Circle trip

Golden circle was a day trip you cannot miss while in Iceland. Believe me, you will want to make a million stops, so give yourself enough time to enjoy it all!

Cannot Miss: 

  • Witnessing the geysers sprout 40m high and their unique colors
  • Exploring the many waterfalls on this route
  • The scenic drive on the Golden Circle
  • Diving in the freezing Silfra dive to touch the two tectonic plates
GlobeTrotting365Days: ICELAND March 2nd 2019.

When I finally made it to the place on top of my Bucket List: Iceland

Going to Iceland had been on my wish list for years. I was enticed by the otherworldly landscapes, the rich cultural output, and, of course, the Northern Lights. It had always been one of those out-of-this-world destinations where adventure is found around every corner. And that’s when I realized that I couldn’t spend any more days away from this adventure. I decided the time was finally right. 

When I first starting searching about the things to see in Iceland, I was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to see in this country. My list of places, list of adventures in Iceland was not built overnight but over the years. The more I discovered about this wonderful country, everyday little new nuances kept on creeping onto my list. And yes to cover them all in 10 days was definitely going to be the most amazing 10 days of my travels so far. I realized that although this volcanic island is small, there is so much natural beauty packed in that you could spend a lifetime exploring its nooks and crevices without seeing it all. 

Years and months of planning this epic trip

All the waterfalls, hot springs, glaciers and beaches looked incredible and I wanted to see as much as possible when in this country. But for starters, the names of all the attractions were seriously faltering me up and making it even more difficult to plan. Icelandic is one crazy language. (how can one fit so many constants next to each other in a single word.)

I wonder if I made a list of places or several spelling errors

After compiling my years of saved information from many different places and spending hours spelling things and places wrong in the Google search bar, I was finally all set to explore the Land of Fire and Ice.

First views of the glaciers in Iceland

Having set foot in the capital city of Reykjavik my heart was already pounding with excitement. With temperatures dropping by drastically as you neared the destination, I chose Reykjavik as the base to explore this Volcanic Island.  

Arriving at Reykjavik in wee hours

Of all the nights booked in Iceland I had booked my Northern light experience on the very first night to make sure I could catch glimpses of this every night possible. I was following the Aurora forecast months in advance and exactly knew which dates were most viable to make a trip to Iceland. And being so very lucky on the very first night with clear skies it was the perfect start to this trip. 

Heading to the outskirts of the city in search of darker skies away from the city lights, I was lucky to have a geo- storm night on this very day with high KP index. Yes weather plays a big role and making your Northern Light night. 

Here’s my very first glimpse at the Aurora Borealis and we were lucky enough to catch this was shot on Iphone with the Northern light app.

They say to see magic you need to wait for the moment and yes waiting for this moment in sub zero degree was definitely a moment worth it. We witnessed our first aurora show dancing all night bright and beautiful, sometimes green and then purple all the way. It was like watching magic happen right there above us in the sky. The kind of magic I would want to witness every night.

I must say once you have seen the Aurora Borealis you can never get enough. There is this yearning to seeing it again and again. And yes we were lucky to see them again the next night, colour the sky not only in green but shades of green and then suddenly purple in a moment.

Too see the auroras in a geomagnetic storm is like watching someone paint the night sky in colors and bring it to life. During this beautiful symphony of lights nothing seems to matter, the cold gusty winds, sub zero temperatures or even the blinding night. All that matters is the those dancing right above you.

Shot on camera with ISO 1600, Aperture = f-stop. f-2.8. Shutter speed. 20 sec. 
The camera setting guide I followed to capture the Northern Lights

A night I din’t want to end, but the eagerness of witness other marvelous sights was what I looked forward too as well.

Waking up bursting of excitement, today I decided to explore the city of Reykjavik. Walking around the city center the lanes and corners added to my amusement. 

Exploring the Icelandic city

Been here just for a day I wondered what do the locals do in an extremely cold and windy country to keep themselves warm. And the answer was right there hidden in the city center. I found their natural hacks!

The Icelanders make good use of their waste heat by diverging them through these pipes at all public places!  They are installed throughout the city corners to keep the locals warm all year round. 

Graffiti paintings on houses all along the street
Then there are colorful ones too

With graffiti painting and houses carved with colorful sights, this city had its own culture.

At times I wondered what exploring the world’s northernmost capital would feel like? With nearly two-thirds of the country’s population living in the capital area; that’s only around 123,000 people in Reykjavik, there’s nothing that gives this city less of a culture or tradition.

First views of the church

One just sight, which made me completely believe in it, was the Hallgrímskirkja Church

Hallgrímskirkja Church

This magnanimous structure that stands as the tallest building in Iceland took 45 years to build. It was build to resemble the trap rock formations, mountains and glaciers of Iceland’s landscape. This is most noticeable in the wings and the steeple of the church which were inspired by the famous cliffs of basalt columns found along the south coast of Iceland.

Cant get enough of the view of this beautiful church

Walking by the Islands shore towards the city center Solfar is another tribute you will notice. 

The city shores itself will leave you awestruck

Solfar, or the Sun Voyager, is a unique modern sculpture located by the Reykjavik seaside with a great view of Mount Esja.

Sun Voyager

The vision for this piece of art is to convey the promise of the undiscovered territory, the Sun Voyager symbolizing the dreamboat that goes into the unknown, for the promise of hope and freedom.

Exploring the city center much further you are bound to stumble upon the glittering Harpa center.

Harpa Center

This outstanding architecture with the glass facade seeks inspiration from Icelandic nature. They say the artist who constructed this building was of the idea to move the famous basalt blocks which are found in several places in Icelandic nature closer to the citizens. 

The light which comes on during Iceland’s dark winter months is projected onto the building’s façade creating a magical light show reminiscent of the northern lights. Even during the summers with the sun in full glory, Harpa radiates in beautiful light and colours reflected in the sky at different times of year when the weather changes.

After all the expeditions in the Reykjavik center nothing more soothing than dipping in the so very warm Blue Lagoon the next day.  

Arriving at the Blue Lagoon
Before taking a dip in the geo thermal lagoon

This was another must do on my list since I arrived in Iceland.  Listed among the 25 wonders of the world the 6 million litres of geothermal seawater comes from 6,500 feet/1981 metres below the surface.

Among 25 Wonders of the world

The moment I set my foot on this geo thermal spot, you could feel the warmth in the air even with freezing temperatures outside. 

The smoky Blue Lagoon

Soaking away in the Blue Lagoon I grasped the Lagoons distinctive blue colour owes to the way the silica reflects sunlight although the colour of the water is milky white! The temperatures were so warm inside the lagoon that you surely dint want to step out anymore.

Trying to stay warm the Icelandic way in zero degree temperatures

The temperatures of the milky water hover between 37 and 39°C all year round. It basically feels like you’re taking the bath of your life in a giant hot bathtub with 0° C temperatures outside! To make the experience even more exciting they give you different mud packs to apply only making your skin more radiant at the end of the dip.

Silica Mask mode on

This was just my encounter with the Iceland’s City life that had already left me awestruck. And there was still so much more to see and explore. 

Living the Icelandic Life

Iceland is the dream destination of pretty much every traveller and it was only now I had started to say that I totally understand why.

Cannot Miss: 

  • Witnessing the Northern Lights
  • Exploring the Reykjavik city on foot
  • A dip in the Blue Lagoon
  • Bringing your warmest jackets, clothes everything you can
GlobeTrotting365Days: ICELAND March 1st 2019.