Golden Circle, Kerid Volcano, Blue Lagoon in Iceland

GOLDEN CIRCLE, KERID VOLCANO, BLUE LAGOON: This is probably the most well-known and most popular excursion from Reykjavik that almost everyone does. Each site of this tour was better than the others and Blue Lagoon is the cherry on top. 

Scenic drive during the Golden Circle tour in Iceland

Scenic drive during the Golden Circle tour in Iceland

This was our first guided tour in Iceland, on our 2nd day here. It was $134 per adult which doesn’t include any meals. We were picked up from the Tour Bus Stop-12 near our hotel in Reykjavik by Nice Travel Iceland, a little after 9am and were dropped off at the same place around 8pm. It was a minivan and our guide/driver was a knowledgeable but couldn’t keep our attention for long. The sites and the drive were fantastic, but we couldn’t understand half of the things our guide said in a very monotonous voice.

Moss covered lava fields in Iceland

Moss covered lava fields in Iceland

Meals are not included in this trip. But the good part is that you don’t need to tip the drive or the guide…haven’t seen anyone tipping them during any of our trips. We did get a lunch break but lots of things were packed in the itinerary, therefore, everything was done in a bit hurry. 

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during my kids’ summer break (end of July to be specific) when we flew to Iceland and met my little sister from the East Coast in Reykjavik. Four of us were in Iceland for a total of 5 nights. Although we were prepared for rain and sun with waterproof jackets, hats, rain boots, and hoodies, it barely rained during our stay…nothing we couldn’t have handled with just a t-shirt. But it does get chilly and windy in some places. So, being prepared doesn’t hurt, especially if you are traveling with children like I was.

EATING and SHOPPING: We had lunch when we stopped at Geysir at a very well-organized restaurant. The complex has a wide range of Icelandic designed clothing and accessories. Although a bit expensive, this is a great souvenir shop. Icelandic lamb is something very flavorful and different from other places. My lunch of lamb, salad, potato, and rice was about $30 per plate. 

My Icelandic lamb for lunch in Golden Circle tour

My Icelandic lamb for lunch in Golden Circle tour

PLACES I’VE VISITED: The tour was for 11 hours in total. Many people rent car and do it on their own leisurely. 

Here is rough itinerary of this tour:

From Reykjavik to Thingvellier National Park – Þingvellir – 35 minutes drive

From Þingvellir NP to Geysir/hot spring – 40 minutes drive

Lunch break at Geysir – for about an hour (including visiting the geysers)

From Geysir to Gulfoss and stay 40 minutes – 10 minutes drive

From Gulfoss to Kerid Volcan – 40 minutes drive

From Kerid Volcano to Blue Lagoon and stay here for ~2 hours – 1:15 hours drive

And here are all the places we’ve visited during this excursion:

  1. THINGVELLIER/Þingvellir NATIONAL PARK: Our first stop was at Thingvellier NP, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Iceland’s most important historical sites. This is the most popular national park in Iceland. Not only this is a stunning place to explore with miles of lava fields and beautiful landscape, but this is also the original site of the longest running parliament in the world, which was founded in 930 AD. Many crucial events in Iceland’s history took place here, like the adoption of Christianity around 1000 AD and the foundation of the modern Icelandic Republic in 1944. 
Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier NP also lies on the junction of two tectonic plates, on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The junction of the plates is more clearly visible here than anywhere else in the world. The two plates are constantly diverging, causing fissures and gullies throughout the zone. It’s where the North-American and the European continental tectonic plates are drifting and being torn apart at a rate of few millimeters to 2 centimeters each year. The most exciting thing is that you can actually walk on the continental drift.

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Since 1930, Thingvellier has been a National Park and in 2004 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The natural environment of Thingvellier NP is unique in the world. 

We started our walk from the visitor’s center, looking over the vast valley where the river flows. The walk from there to the original parliament site and further is magnificent with breathtaking landscape. 

_Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

The one hour that we stayed here was really not enough to explore some of the gorgeous views that this national park can offer. 

2. GEYSIR: This is another popular and touristy geo-thermal hot spot with steamy water coming out of the earth. It’s amazing how close you can get to these boiling water and smell the sulfur. You can touch the flowing water which is not hot as much. 

Steamy "Geysir" in Iceland

If you walk along a few more steps, the big geyser, Strokkur, shoots up every couple minutes. And it’s a thrill to watch such a show created by nature. 

This is also a good place for meals or snacks. Across from the geysers, are the restaurants where you can find a variety of food options and souvenirs. We had about an hour to visit the geysers and for lunch. 

A bigger geyser that shoots every couple minutes in Iceland

A bigger geyser that shoots every couple minutes in Iceland

3. GULLFOSS: Gullfoss, also known as the Golden Falls, was our next on the itinerary. This is considered to be the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. Rain and glacier water on the White River plunge down a double cascade to create one monstrous and the largest volume falls during summer in Europe.

Gullfoss or The Golden Falls in Iceland

Gullfoss or The Golden Falls in Iceland

Tourists started to visit Gullfoss around 1875. Prior to that time the waterfall was hard to reach because of rough terrain and impassable rivers. A local female, name Sigridur in Brattholt and her sisters often guided visitors to Gullfoss, building the first trail that led down to the waterfall. 

There are few theories how the name Gullfoss was given. One is that it was named Gullfoss because of the golden evening hue which often colors its glacier water. Another story is that the name was inspired by the rainbow which often appears when sunshine hits the water spray thrown up by the waterfall. And another story goes that once upon a time, a farmer named Gygur lived at Gygjarholl. He had plenty of gold and could not bear the thought of someone else possessing it after his lifetime. To prevent this, he placed the gold in a coffer and threw it into the waterfall. And since then, it has been named Gullfoss. 

Gullfoss in Iceland

Gullfoss in Iceland

 

We could feel the mist from the falls from the parking lot while walking towards it. It was about 10 minutes walk on the trail rim right by the falls. Anyone would be awestruck by its sheer size, beauty, and enormity of this falls. 

After the Gullfoss, our driver stopped at a small area where we could pet some Icelandic horses. I bought some horse food for my daughter to feed them. Icelandic horses look very much like Mongolian horses…extremely elegant yet cute looking. Seems like, other tour guide buses were also stopping here to pet these few horses and feed them.

4. KERID CRATER LAKE: This is a small volcanic crater lake on the route back toward Reykjavik from Gullfoss that is about 6500 years old.. You can walk up to the rim and can take an easy hike down into the belly of the crater and circle the lake. This is a very easy crater to visit, even with children. 

Kerid Volcano Crater Lake in Iceland

Kerid Volcano Crater Lake in Iceland

While most of the sights in Iceland are free to enter, Kerid Volcano requires 400 ISK charge which was covered in our excursion fee. 

5. BLUE LAGOON: Our last stop of the day was the highlight of Golden Circle excursion and the most anticipated site, Blue Lagoon. Everybody gets hyped about this and for a very valid reason. This is the most famous and iconic hotspot to visit in Iceland. It’s a man-made lagoon/pool and a geo-thermal health spa center near the airport. Sliding into the warm milky blue water is an experience that I’ll never forget. The water coats your skin in silica. While you are there, slather on a mineral mask for a rejuvenating spa experience (it comes with the entry fee).  

Milky blue water of Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Milky blue water of Blue Lagoon in Iceland

The Blue Lagoon’s geothermal seawater is born 2000 meters within the earth where ocean water and freshwater converge in a volcanic frontier of searing heat and immense pressure. The water temperature stays around 40 degree Celsius all year round, even in the winter weather. And the vast lava plain surrounding the Blue Lagoon dates from the year 1226. The beneficial powers of the Blue Lagoon were first discovered by a man seeking comfort from psoriasis. 

Pre-booking is almost a must if you are planning to go to Blue Lagoon on a specific date and time. Time slots get sold out days or even weeks before sometimes during busy seasons. It is an expensive yet one of a kind experience to have. We got the cheapest package for about $94 per adult (kids are free) which included face mask, a drink, a locker, and a towel. 

We had only 2 hours here, which is definitely not enough…I could spend a couple more hours in that warm water. Also, if you are planning to buy souvenirs from the Blue Lagoon store, be ready to spend more than expected. 

 

Advertisements

What to Do in the Poconos in Every Season

The Poconos region spans 2,400 square miles and is known for its mountainous peaks, abundant forests, waterfalls, wildlife, and ample opportunities to get out and explore the countryside. Indeed, one of the best things about this area is that you can visit any time of year and find something fun to do. Here’s a small fraction of what you can look forward to during each season in the Poconos.

Spring

poc1

Image via Flickr by Alexander Day

Between the lows of winter and the highs of summer, spring is one of the best times to get outdoors and go hiking or biking in the Pocono Mountains. Plan a trip to one of these areas:

  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
  • Bushkill Falls
  • Dingmans Falls

You’ll find dozens of locations and trails to explore, but each of these will give you a look at the area’s best waterfalls. The tallest one at Bushkill towers at over 100 feet high.

One of the best things about exploring the state parks and nature areas in the Poconos is that the mountain range is a popular spot for discount hotels, luxury accommodations, and everything in between. Check out a Poconos hotel room from Hotel Planner in the area to enjoy proximity to these natural spots and all the other local attractions.

Summer

Summer in the Poconos is ideal for swimming and water sports. A visit to one of the waterfalls will cool you down, but you can also go swimming or camping at Worthington State Forest or Beltzville State Park. You’ll find beach areas at Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area and Gouldsboro State Park as well.

The area is also home to a couple of water parks that the whole family will love. Visit Camelbeach Waterpark, which features indoor and outdoor pools and slides, or go to Aquatopia, which has water slides, water rides, and a swim-up bar where you can order a cocktail and some bar food.

Fall

poc2

Image via Flickr by Ravi_Shah

Poconos is in a northeastern part of the United States that ignites with color every fall. From September through November, you can visit locations throughout the states to see the changing leaves. If your priority is to see the rich fall foliage deep in the mountains, keep an eye on the color forecast throughout the year in order to plan a successful vacation. The color zones run through the Poconos, so you should have several weeks in the fall when you can visit and see this phenomenon.

Fall is also a popular season for festivals in the Poconos. If you’re visiting this time of year, attend the Apple Harvest & Timber Festivals, Black Bear Film Festival, or Pocono Food Truck & Art on the Mountain event.

Winter

The area’s many ski resorts open their lifts and trails in the winter. These are a few of the areas where you can take the family for lessons, equipment rentals, and skiing and snowboarding fun:

  • Big Boulder Ski Area
  • Blue Mountain Resort
  • Camelback Mountain
  • Jack Frost Mountain
  • Shawnee Mountain Ski Area

Poconos promises tons of outdoor fun regardless of when you visit. Add these activities to your itinerary to make the most of your time in the Pennsylvania mountains.

 

Bridal Veil Falls (Columbia River Gorge)

BRIDAL VEIL FALLS, OREGON: It was a gloomy morning of early autumn (October, 2015) when I drove to Columbia River Gorge in Oregon to capture some fall colors. I wasn’t going to visit Multnomah Falls or Latourell Falls or Horsetail Falls, because I’ve been there and done those. This time I decided to go somewhere, of course another falls in the gorge, but within short hike…I mean very short. I wasn’t in the mood of lots of walking, but I was in the mood for some yellow, orange, and red leaves. Unfortunately, it was drizzling the whole morning…making my camera wet and hard to work with. But still got to enjoy some quietness there with few other photographers and tourists.

Bridal Veil Creek, a short distance from the famous Multnomah Falls in the gorge

Bridal Veil Creek, a short distance from the famous Multnomah Falls in the gorge

Not too far from Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls is another spectacular site of this gorge in Pacific Northwest of the U.S.  The hike is short, perfect for beginners and for any ages. Start your journey to the falls from the Bridal Veil State Park. Parking is ample for the tourists. After few feet of steep but pleasant steps on a winding footpath, I was standing on the wet wooden bridge on Bridal Veil Creek. Did I mention, it is a calm place to enjoy a perfect autumn morning?

Bridal Veil Creek in an autumn morning of October, 2015

Bridal Veil Creek in an autumn morning of October, 2015

After the creek I went near the water to get some close up shots. Then came back up towards the ascending stairs to a vantage point with a good view of the falls. From there you can see the tiered falls with the upper falls dropping 60-100 feet and the lower falls dropping 40-60 feet.

Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon

Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon

I am planning to go back to the gorge again within couple weeks, may be to another falls for more colors. Hope you enjoy these pictures and make a stop here next time you are in Oregon.

Frozen Beauty – Horsetail Falls in Oregon

We started our 2015 by visiting some frozen falls on Historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon. It was the afternoon of January 1st, 2015 when we started driving towards this scenic highway. My uncle-in-law from Chicago was visiting us and we wanted to show him the wintry look of Oregon. We first visited Latourell Falls, then made an attempt to visit Bridal Veil…but because of the icy path, we couldn’t go all the way down to the falls. Then started driving towards Multnomah Falls. And from there, another ten minutes drive to our final spot Horsetail Falls.

Multnomah Falls in January

Multnomah Falls in January

I’ve never visited Horsetail Falls before. It’s right on the historic scenic highway, you can’t miss it…because your car will be showered by the water from the falls. There is a small parking lot opposite of the falls. None of my family members came out, not only because it was freezing cold and windy, but also it was very slippery. I managed to go as close as possible towards the falls, took some pictures, and hopped right back inside the car.

Winter look of Horsetail Falls in Oregon

Winter look of Horsetail Falls in Oregon

Here are some pictures of frozen Horsetail Falls of Oregon. I am planning to go back there again in summer or autumn and will upload different view of the falls then. Happy New Year and best wishes to everyone.

Horsetail Falls in Oregon

Horsetail Falls in Oregon

Mystical Latourell Falls in Oregon

LATOURELL FALLS, OREGON: Latourell Falls is another gem of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. Located on the Historic Columbia River Highway, this holds no less charm than its granddaddy Multnomah Falls. This is a perfect place for family, kids, beginner hikers, photographers, nature-lovers, and anyone who enjoys outdoors. When this highway was completed in 1915, generous landowners donated property to create scenic retreats along the route. So when you are here, don’t leave the site without visiting the nearby historic bridges, numerous stunning falls, friendly hiking trails, and breathtaking views of the river, gorge, and mountains.

Latourell Falls - a gem of Columbia River Gorge in Oregon

Latourell Falls – a gem of Columbia River Gorge in Oregon

Latourell is a plunge falls with a majestic height of 249 feet that drops straight down from an overhanging basalt cliff. I took the Historic Columbia River Highway, passed Bridal Veil and Shepherd’s Dell to reach here. You don’t need to hike to see this one of a kind Columbia Gorge falls. It’s a nice and short walk from the parking lot. I was there around 9 in the morning in November 2014 and I was lucky to have that misty autumn morning surrounded by Latourell Falls and Creek all to myself. Autumn colors, mossy rocks, misty water, and wet wooden footbridge made this place right out of a fairy-tale book.

Latourell Falls drops straight down 249 feet from an overhanging basalt cliff...Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Latourell Falls drops straight down 249 feet from an overhanging basalt cliff…Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

It’s located in Guy W. Talbot State Park. I didn’t hike to see the upper Falls, but after a 0.8 mile of hike from the lower one, that’s supposed to be very rewarding too.

 

Autumn in Latourell Falls and creek in Oregon

Autumn in Latourell Falls and creek in Oregon

A magical fall morning in Latourell Falls in Oregon

A magical fall morning in Latourell Falls in Oregon

Previous Older Entries

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,757 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 634,781 hits
%d bloggers like this: