by Nicha Jones
Most people who make it out to Iceland will likely go on the ever-so-popular Golden Road Tour. Being that we were brand-new-to-the-scene tourists, were no exception. Before embarking on our trip, I had mistakenly assumed that the experience could prove to be a bit watered down, considering the slew of American tourists--but I was pleasantly surprised that find that everything exceeded expectations! The landscape is not of this world, completely awe-inspiring, and the experience felt intimate despite the plethora of other people.
So, without further ado, here is my breakdown of our second tour of the trip!
THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
Upon arrival, it was a bit overwhelming to be surrounded by so many people so early on in the day, but that didn’t deter us from taking full advantage of exploring the park! It’s perfectly located between the European and American tectonic plates, which is one of the rare places where the plates are moving apart as opposed to colliding. As a result, fresh water from the center of the earth spring forth and is so clear that it has become a popular diving spot. The day before, a man had actually died while on a guided dive due to the shock of submerging himself in the glacier water, even with the thickest of wetsuits. As beautiful as Iceland can be, it is to be noted that it is still a harsh and dangerous climate to navigate if you are not prepared.
Walking through the park felt as if you walked onto a Hobbit movie set, especially with the overcast fog painting a mystical backdrop. The stones were black as night, with the bright green moss contrasting the darker aspects. Everywhere I turned, there was an overabundance of water and lush trees. Maybe it was because it was early in the AM, but I couldn’t help but get a sense that I was lucid dreaming. A place that felt as if it was fabricated from my imagination. The only interruptions during my stroll here were the little kids walking too slowly in front of me--but that was easily dismissed.
GEYSIR GEOTHERMAL AREA
Our second stop was probably the least exciting, but we had a long lunch break at the Geysir Geothermal Area, which gave allowed us time to roam about. The moment we stepped out of the tour bus, it reeked of sulfur, but it was by no means unbearable. What made this stand out from the rest of the places we had seen thus far, was that they geysers were situated in soft pastels with rocky terrain, creating a pretty romantic color palette. Eventually we made it to the only active geyser that was up and running every 15 minutes. It wasn’t intense when it went off--it was more of a friendly blow.
This is the largest waterfall in Iceland and it is by no means to be taken lightly. The glacier water is rough and destructive as it makes its way to the falls. Slipping and falling to what lays below definitely weighs on you as you peer down to see the epic glory of the rushing white water. It was another completely surreal moment and being bombarded by glacier spray made the experience even more polar. We continued to walk around the viewpoint to avoid the lot of tourists, but the mud was a lot more of an inconvenience the further we strayed. If you plan on making this trip ever (which I highly suggest you do), bring a good pair of boots that will protect you from all of the elements!
FONTANA NATURAL STEAM BATHS
The geothermal baths were one of my highlights and much needed after a full day of being exposed to the cold. We proceeded to the outer limits of the lake upon arrival, where the baths are situated. It was here that we received a demonstration on how to bake bread underneath the sand, which contains boiling hot water underneath the surface. I explored the beach farther and saw pockets where the water was boiling, so I stuck my finger in. It felt like bath water.
Once our tour retreated into the building, we proceeded to strip down to our swimsuits and robes (bought courtesy of Fontana). There were different pools outside boasting different temperatures. It felt like a luxurious Goldilocks scenario. Naturally, I tried every single one, but settled on the hottest since I had been freezing all day.
It was so relaxing to finally get to hang back in natural bath water and bond with the rad ladies that came along with me for the adventure. We hit up the saunas, which had landscape views of the lake and mountain range in front of us. Eventually, we decided it was time for some beers, so we cruised through the cafeteria in just our robes and muddy boots, only to realize everyone else was fully clothed. We may have gotten some looks, but I figured...when on vacation, you can be as fabulous as you want.