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Tuesday, June 14, 2005: With only one full day to spend in Iceland, we planned to drive the Golden Circle, a vaguely circular route in southwest Iceland that most tourists visit during their stay. We stopped first at Þingvellir, the original home of the Icelandic Parliament.
Many historic events have taken place here, but regular readers of this website will know that such things are lost on us. We admired the scenery of the plain and moved on. Note the pile of rocks in the foreground.
We could have remained on paved roads to get to our next destination, Geysir, but we chose the much shorter, unpaved route, since we were old pros at driving on dirt by now. We encountered many sheep in the road, on the side of the road, and in the fields nearby. There were baby lambs everwhere and every single one was the cutest thing we have ever seen.
We saw many Icelandic horses as well. These are beautiful animals, and they come in more colors than we captured here. Our favorites were white with large brown spots. Their coats were thick as they have adapted to the cold Icelandic winters.
We had a very clear day, so in the distance, we were lucky enough to see Mt. Hekla, which has been erupting roughly every 10 years lately, most recently in 2000.
Our next stop was Geysir, home of the geyser for which all other geysers are named. As you walk toward the larger geysers, small geysers bubbled and steamed and lobbied for attention. Here is Smiður ...
... and Litli-Geysir ...
... and then Strokkur, which is the only one that still erupts.
Let's watch it happen, shall we? Here is Strokkur gathering pressure. The outer ring is very shallow, perhaps 6 - 8 inches in depth. It works as a gutter for gathering water which pours back into the center hole through a depression on the right in this photo. The water in the center bubbles, rocks back and forth, and bubbles some more, then suddenly ...
... boom! Strokkur erupts roughly every 5 minutes or so based on our measurements, or every 10 minutes according to the guidebook. Several times, it erupted three times in a row with less than a minute in between, and other times the wait was 6 or 7 minutes.
After eruption, most of the water returns, but some of it escapes downwind, and the process starts over again.
Further up from Strokkur is Blesi.
This is Geysir, the original. Sadly, it no longer erupts due to tampering, but it is still an impressive sight.
We got a shot of its sign before heading back past Strokkur for one last eruption.
Boom! Want to see more geysers? Visit our Yellowstone page and our New Zealand pages. We were fortunate enough to visit the three largest geothermal locations on the planet over the course of nine months, quite by accident.
Next, we headed just up the road to Gullfoss, the famous waterfall. In the distance behind the visitor center was the huge glacier Langjökull. This photo doesn't begin to do it justice, as the glacier stretched in both directions for miles and miles. We'd need about 5 more photos just like this on each side to capture it all.
We walked the short distance to the falls, which were spectacular in the sun. The wind was fierce, so we didn't stay long.
Making our way to the city of Selfoss, we stopped briefly at the crater at Kerið.
More lovely scenery on our way to Selfoss. Once in Selfoss, we did a little shopping and had some hotdogs (pýlsur) at a gas station. As far as we can tell, they are sold at every gas station in Iceland, so we thought we'd indulge in the local tradition. We decided to have fried onions on our hot dogs, which were chopped onion pieces fried until crispy. Yum.
This photo may seem uninteresting to you, but we saw no fewer than 8 columns of steam rising out of these hills. Just holes in the ground with steam coming out of them. Wild.
Back in Reykjavik, we spent a little time before our next adventure at a local mall, where we picked up a Harry Potter book and a couple of Eurovision Song Contest CDs. (We are Melodifestivalen addicts thanks to Debbie's Swedish cousins, and now we're branching out to Eurovision.)
Through one mishap after another, we were unable to schedule a time to go on a whalewatching tour with the Moby Dick company based in Keflavik, so we went on a different tour in Reykjavik instead.
Our great weather for the day did not extend to Reykjavik, so it was very cold on the boat's deck. We enjoyed a Viking beer and some paprika-flavored potato chips belowdecks where it was warm.
As we waited patiently for whales that never appeared, we wondered if competing whale watching companies helped each other out by notifying each other when they've spotted something. Sure enough, a rival company spotted some dolphins and notified us, so we sped off to their location. Note that Camera Guy from Greenland is second from the left in this photo.
We did get to see the dolphins up close several times, but this was the only photo we got of them. They were black/grey with large white spotting.
Our tour took us past Puffin Island where thousands of pairs of puffins nest and raise their young.
Puffins are funny-looking little birds that seem to be a cross between a penguin and a toucan, but we didn't get any close up shots. It's not for lack of trying, but we thought that posting 20 grainy, out of focus pictures of blobs wouldn't be very interesting.
As we headed back to the Reykjavik harbor, the large church, Hallgrimskírkja, was visible in the distance.
Our next destination was a restaurant in Hafnarfjörður, a town just south of Reykjavik which happens to be mentioned in Tom Clancy's book, "Red Storm Rising." As Debbie consulted the map, Tom looked out at the harbor and spotted ...
... Maersk! Tom: 2; Debbie: 0. What a crushing defeat!
Our dinner destination was the restaurant at Viking Village, more officially known as Fjörukráin. Sure, it's a tourist place, but guess what? We're tourists, so we had a great time there.
We ordered nearly every seafood item on the menu, including these two appetizers that we had already dived into before we decided to photograph them. On the left, smoked puffin with blueberries. Yeah, sorry about that, but we had to try it. On the right are many different types of Icelandic delicacies, including putrefied shark, duck's brain, salmon, pickled herring, and several other things we'll never try again.
This was the first night that the sun would set after midnight, making it officially a night of midnight sun. We headed out to our favorite pair of lighthouses in Garður to watch the sunset. This photo was taken around 11:30 PM.
With midnight approaching, the sun dipped lower in the sky as we desperately attempted to figure out exactly what direction the sun was setting into and where it would rise again. We never did figure it out, but we guessed that it had to be pretty far north.

As it turns out, our photo of the sun just before midnight is more interesting than our photo of the sun completely set after midnight, so we offer you this shot taken at 11:55 PM. On a completely unrelated note, as we drove back to our hotel, we saw a front lawn that was actually steaming. Now, there's a gardening problem we don't have to deal with in Indiana.

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