After returning to Reykjavik, we were mostly spent. The next day we compensated for this by sleeping in and spending a relaxing afternoon at the Blue Lagoon, a hot spring spa/resort about 45 minutes south of Reykjavik.
The waters contain a silica based mud which is supposed to be good for your skin. We all gave it a try, some more eagerly than others. ;-) Besides the pools, they also had hot and dry sauna, a walk up bar, and a waterfall. It was relaxing and yet tiring at the same time. :-) By a strange chance of fate, I ran into the photographer Art Wolfe there. He was doing a workshop at the pools outside the resort and seemed surprised when an almost total stranger approached him there.
After we got home, we had but a little time for rest because we had an evening whale watching tour set up. The boat company (whose motto is "Meet us, don't eat us!" because tourist driven whale meat consumption is on the rise in Iceland) took us out in the harbor.
You'd hardly know it was 10 o'clock at night...
We passed an island with a bunch of summering puffins, which was honestly a little uninspiring after the bird cliffs in the West Fjords. After a while we came across some Minke whales feeding and followed them around for a while. They look mostly like this:
Then we turned around and headed home. We got to sleep as soon as we got in because the next day we had: The Golden Circle Tour! This tour is pretty traditional to do if it's your first time in Iceland. We got on a tour bus around eight in the morning. And they drove us through the interior, past geothermal plumes:
Old volcanic craters:
until eventually we got to our first major stop on the tour: Geysir, from which the word geyser is derived. As you might expect, they have a lot of geothermally fed springs and hotpots and the like:
There was a short lunch and then back on the bus to our next stop, Gullfoss, aka the Golden Falls, probably the most popular waterfall in Iceland.
The last main stop on our trip was Þingvellir (Thingvellir), where Iceland first held its Alþingi (All Thing) or Parliament almost 1100 years ago. For hundreds of years, the Icelanders ruled themselves until they fell under the control of the Norwegian and Danish kings. When they became independent again near the end of World War 2, they met again at Þingvellir to start their new country. Þingvellir is in a large rift valley where the North American and European continental plates are pulling apart, so it is geologically of interest also.
The valley is sinking away from the plates because not enough magma is filling in between the plates as they pull apart.
This is the location where the speakers used to meet and debate:
This is the Drowning Pool where women convicted of crimes such as witchcraft or adultery were executed by drowning in olden times. Men were beheaded or hanged.
After a quick stop at a rest area after Þingvellir, we made the long journey back to Reykjavik, dozing in the summer sun.