As sad as I am about summer leaving me for the cold embrace of what is sure to be another polar vortex-filled winter, I try to remember that the cold can be fun too, right? At least it can be in another country. I've already covered some of my epic trip to Iceland, but haven't yet talked about the most visited tour in the country: the Golden Circle. Full disclosure -- I have no idea why it's called this. It's neither circular nor golden.
Technically the first stop on our tour was to the greenhouses of Friðheimar where I sampled the best tomato soup I've ever had. Not all tours stop here, but I'm so glad that ours did. Some go to the Nesjavellir power plant and some to the Kerið crater, but as you know, I'm all about eating, so I think we won. Plus, those other people can't say they've had tomato soup grown in the Arctic Circle, now can they?
Anyway, after enjoying all the soups, we headed off to Geysir, which was exactly what you think it is because we took the word from here. If giant, steaming holes in the earth that explode regularly don't impress you, then you probably live in Iceland. I'd seen similar boiling pots in Yellowstone, but these were cooler because you could practically stand on the edge of them.
Next stop on the tour was nearby Gullfoss or "Golden Falls." This massive two-stage waterfall was literally breathtaking. There really aren't words that can describe the feeling I had while gazing at it. And sadly, the pictures don't do it justice, especially since our visit had snow, ice, and wind that affected some of the shots. In summer months you can actually stand on the edge of the falls, but it was scary enough being behind a fence and peering over.
Þingvellir National Park
The last stop was Þingvellir, which is home to the world's first parliament (Althing, 930) and the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates. You can literally stand (AND SNORKEL!) between North America and Europe.
The Golden Circle was probably my least favorite experience in Iceland and that's saying a lot for the other tours because it was still CRAZY AWESOME. If you're heading to Iceland, even for a quick stop over, you have to take this tour (which leaves from Reykjavik). Every company offers it in either half-day or full-day versions. It gives you a taste of the surreal geology of Iceland and packs in some cool history.