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First Day on the Golden Circle

We woke up at 8 after sleeping nearly 12 hours. It felt good to sleep and that helped a lot with resetting our internal clocks from the jet lag, although it ended up taking another 2 days for the jet lag to finally wear off. We wasted no time and packed up to head to the Golden Circle.

We left Reykjavik and our first stop was a quick 2-mile hike in the Þingvellir National Park to see our first Icelandic waterfall: Oxrafoss. We picked this one first because it was facing Northwest so it would be lit up in the morning. We got to the parking lot, which was right off the Golden Circle to find it was jam-packed with tourists. That's because this "hike" wasn't really a hike and the waterfall was less than a quarter mile from where we parked. This turned out to be an incredibly touristy activity because of how accessible it was. Although Oxrafoss was beautiful, the amount of people and the lack of it being an actual hike didn't really give us as much joy as a true hike to a waterfall would have given us. But that’s okay, we were still a little but jet-lagged and needed something easy to start our first real full day in Iceland. Hiking around this area resulted in a 2.5 mile hike with a couple hundred feet of elevation gain.

We left Þingvellir and headed 45 minutes to Laugarvatn for some lunch because that was the closest town that had food. We didn't plan out the day very well in that respect - we should have brought food with us. After that, we backtracked again towards Þingvellir to go hike to Glymur waterfalls. This is a little longer of a hike coming in at 4.5miles and 1300 feet of elevation gain. That combined with the fact that it's a little further away from the Golden Circle made us hopeful that it would be less busy. And it was, although there were still maybe 50 cars in the parking lot. But the trail was big enough that it wasn't too bad with all the people.

The hike started off with us putting on real hiking attire. The first cool thing in the hike that made us happy to be on a real hike was passing through a keyhole. It would have been easy for the trail makers to have us go around but I appreciated that we went through it. After crossing the river shortly after the keyhole we started steeply ascending where we got absolutely stunning views of Glymur the entire way up. We kept stopping at all of the outcroppings to get photos and catch our breath.

Both Katie and I were happy to have done the hikes today in this order for two reasons: first because we did the crappy hike first and the real hike second so the disappointment of Oxrafoss wasn't as bad. Second, the lighting was perfect for both hikes, which is something I planned out that morning. The only bad thing was the backtracking and wasting so much gas. It would have been at least an hour less of driving to have done these hikes the opposite way, but to have perfect lighting was worth it.

We went back up towards Laugarvatn to get to our hotel for the next 3 days, a cute cottage called Úthlíd Cottages that had a full kitchen and a grill on the patio. Before getting there we stopped and got groceries so we could relax at the cottage after a long hike and also to save a little bit of money since Iceland is so expensive. With Katie's gluten intolerance, we wish that we had stopped at a larger grocery store in Reykjavik to get some gluten-free foods, but we'll be able to make do with the food at the smaller grocery stores in the towns along the way. So far, the hardest thing to figure out is what to pack for lunches on hikes. The grocery stores sell a lot of sandwiches for this, but that doesn't work for Katie. Luckily we found a great gluten-free brand that’s sold in larger grocery stores that worked well for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but it took us a few more days to find that as an option.

The lighting here is weird, the sun stays so low on the horizon all day. It rises in the East, swoops to the South, then sets in the Southwest. And then even in the middle of the night, you can see the glow from the sun that’s just below the Northern horizon. It's weird looking at the sun at noon and seeing it so low, but it created for unique lighting that was never too harsh.

Trailhead Location
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7.14 mi 4 hrs 1,144 ft 1,660 ft
View Graphs
Curch in the Park
Random Pulloff
Through the Keyhole
In the Keyhole
Glymur Waterfall
Selfie with Glymur
A Little Bit Closer
Glymur Waterfall Water Source