|Best laid plans||Continents and Caves||Reykjavikian ambiance||Waterfalls and sunsets||Human wrecks and legacies||Kristinartindar: The Journey is the Reward||The finding of firsts, and birthday peace||The endurance of history in Snæfellsnes||The edge of the Earth||An unexpected discovery||Community, love, betrayal, and sharks||The adventure comes full circle|
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The Golden Circle is a 300km loop that can be explored in a day trip, but if you really want to enjoy it you'll want to give it more time for some smaller detours - as with any Icelandic trip - especially if you have a 4x4 vehicle for the restricted F-roads! Most notably, along its route are numerous geological sites ranging from geysers to craters, volcanoes, caves, and hot springs, but there are also many interesting historical and cultural landmarks to which you can pay a visit.
With only a half day remaining with Hrunting (and still needing my power naps!), and most of that time covered in darkness or with very little sunlight, I sadly couldn't truly appreciate, on this trip, all the beauty these sights had to offer.
Pronounced "thing-vet-lihr" ('parliament plains'), this geologically rich and active area is a rift valley along the ridge between the North American and Eurasian continental plates and a hot spot for exploration, at the north end of Lake Þingvallavatn. Thingvellir National Park provides numerous walking trails and activities in the area, including snorkeling and scuba-diving in the fresh crystal clear waters of the Silfra fissure. Þingvellir is also a protected site on the World Heritage List for cultural, historical, and geological significance.
Þingvellir was an important meeting place in Icelandic governmental history from the 10th to to 13th century, thus its namesake "parliament plains". A large rock overlook, the Lögberg, became the platform the Law Council gathered at and from which the elected Lawspeaker would recite the laws to the assembly of followers gathered below in the plains - orally, before the laws were written down. Legal dealings would occur here for the entire nation (though carrying out rulings, enforcement was carried out in other ways), as well as corrections to chronologies and event announcements. This was the era of Icelandic Sagas - legends, tales, vengeance, family histories and conflicts. This structure changed quickly in the mid-13th century when the King of Norway secured authority over the land. The trails are lined with information plaques describing historic meaning and purpose to various locations, including how and where punishments and death penalties were carried out - drowning, hanging, beheading, burning at the stake, whipping and branding. There is quite a history here.
On our arrival, knowing I wouldn't be seeing very much in the dark and with a light snowfall, I took a walk down the first part of the main trail, examining and reading the plaques, and learning what was needed in order to complete tasks for the Earthcaches posted here. I quickly discovered that not every risky crevice was cordoned with warnings. I explored a little crevice near parking, but with so much snow and ice, I was quite hesitant since at some spots there was no way to know if a secure rock was actually under foot. I retreated back to the marked boardwalk heading along the big crevice - learning that the constant shifting of the ridge between tectonic plates had in 2011 caused a small collapse along the trail, which prompted the construction of the boardwalk for safety.
What a place to explore in the solitary stillness of an Icelandic winter midnight... A trip to Þingvellir is highly recommended, as one of Iceland's most popular attractions.