|Geological beauty of Þingvellir National Park|
Day two of my 'kiss-and-fly' tour of Iceland involved a fast-paced full-day 'kiss-and-bus' tour of the 'Golden Circle' near the capital city of Reykjavik.
The Icelandic have tourism down to a fine art, and our stoic bus driver, and jolly tour guide could not have packed more into our day. I stood so close to the awesome Gullfoss Waterfall, mesmerized by the power of the thundering smash of water on rock. A short kiss-and-bus to our next stop where I witnessed silently steaming water as the famous, but now dormant, Geysir refused to spout. Steps away Strokker's rolling water overflows, and retreats, building in momentum until finally bursting into a spectacular and short-lived cascade shooting thirty meters high.
Hours later, and many steaming hillsides, and distant volcanoes behind us, our tour bus descended into a stark valley. Our guide sang an Icelandic lullaby, and the sun glowed orange over the hills. Cliffs jutted high above a flat valley blanketed in low bushes and volcanic outcrops. We approached the wall of cliffs and stepped off the bus onto the Mid-Atlantic ridge.
In this one incredible place, my whole trip made sense. I stood between the North-Atlantic and Eurasian techtonic plates - my eyes drank in this geological wonder, apparent in every direction. Deep crevices ran parallel across the land, continually growing as mighty plates widen their gap. Cliffs towered, and a distant waterfall dropped in one mighty plunge. Is it any wonder that this ever-changing landscape is a hotspot for earthquakes and volcanoes?
In this stark valley, the first parliament in the world was established in 930 AD and remained until 1789. Þingvellir National Park was founded one thousand years later to protect this area which holds great political, cultural, and geological importance for Icelanders.
I explored, took pictures, marveled at strange formations of hardened volcanic rock, and enjoyed the peace of this quiet valley. An hour later, a bus full of exhausted travelers sank into our seats. Our previously jolly guide gave stern instructions to go to sleep and a gentle lullaby drifted down the isle.