Once upon a time, the Schwegfam shot a Ray-Ban ad in Iceland.
KIDDING. But doesn't it look like we could have? I mean, SERIOUSLY.
One of the definite highlights of our time in Iceland was the Golden Circle tour we took on our second full day there. We were fortunate enough to have freakishly good weather for our entire Scandinavia trip, which was especially fortuitous for an outdoor day on the Golden Circle!
We booked a small-group tour through Viator and loved the experience...our guide for the day, Dooley, picked us up from our condo and, with just seven other people, we got a much earlier start to the day than the larger, coach-bus tour groups. As such, we arrived at Thingvellir National Park well in advance of the crowds...giving us an almost-private experience that we all appreciated!
As soon as we stepped out of our van, we officially reached consensus: Iceland is hideous.
No, I mean, really. Have you ever seen such awful natural vistas or unspoiled panoramas?
Iceland is not a very thickly-vegetated country - most trees are imports, and the natural vegetation tends to be more of the "moss and shrubs" variety. This, combined with the whole "volcanoes and cliffs and mountains" thing, made for an almost alien landscape - stunning in its starkness, and unlike anywhere we'd seen before.
Thingvellir National Park is home to Iceland's first Parliament, which dates back to 930 AD. The park is a "rift valley," formed in the four-mile gap between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. As such, it's host to an absurd and dramatic amount of continental drift activity, and new gorges, cracks and thrusts in the park's surface landscape are common. Tourists are strongly encouraged/warned to stay on the paths...and to watch where they step.
Dooley dropped our little group at the top of a rift gorge for about a mile-and-a-half stroll down a canyon, with views of Lake Thingvallavatn and the surrounding cliffs and mountains. He also encouraged us to keep an eye out for "trolls," rock formations that resemble faces, which Icelanders take very seriously. They're very superstitious about their elves, fairies and trolls - and if tourists don't respect them, word on the street is that they'll mess with you! (Can you see our first troll, above?)
We also marveled at the volcanic flows that ran alongside the trail...
...and the crystal-clear waters flowing to the lake. The entire park is technically not on any tectonic plate - we were hiking on the earth's crust, guys! (I mean, yeah, it's 30-50 miles thick at any given point, but STILL.)
Parents being photogenic in stunning setting!
Schwegchildren, one with nature!
You know, casual/average day out for a stroll.
As we headed down, there were strategic spots to stop and read about the early parliament and learn about Icelandic history and such. Jodester and I took our time getting down the gorge...
...while the Schwegmen blazed ahead.
Eventually when we came out of the gorge, we were greeted with this view of the wide-open plains of the park, along with the cutest little church and tiny cabins that Icelanders can rent for the summer. Looking back, I'm pretty sure I need to take a sabbatical some summer and move into one...write a novel, take lots of hikes, and become one with my inner troll-lover, ha!
I mean, with views like these, how could you NOT be inspired?
Being a family of daring and bad-ass rule-breakers, naturally we couldn't just follow Dooley's advice and stick to the path. It all started when Papa Bear got daring...
OOH OOH HE'S OFF-ROADING....
So naturally Em and I followed suit and did a little exploring. The drop-off behind us is actually much steeper than photos would lead one to believe...not like we were ready to cliff-dive or anything, but me being my afraid-of-falling self, I wasn't exactly loving it. Hence moderate look of terror on my face, ha.
Needing a bit of a break, Dick sat down on some lava for a quick breather.
I call this his Icelandic Glamourshot. Jonny D and I, in the meantime, got in touch with our epic explorer sides...
"Look at that rock."
"Yes. It's a nice rock."
"We are epic."
Not to be outdone, Papa Bear joined us...before hightailing it to the summit.
We're going to collaborate on a family novel, "Sort of Wild," the story of how a family stayed mostly on a 1.5-mile path and hilarity ensued. I think it's going to be the next big hit, a la Cheryl Strayed! ;)
As this post is already so photo-dense, more Golden Circle soon! As the Icelanders say,
"sjá þig á morgun, hjólhýsi:" see you tomorrow, campers!