Running between the continental plates

Chasm at Gullfoss.

Where do you start with a day like today? The weather perhaps, simply because it provides a backdrop to all the amazing things we saw. There’s an advertisement for a ubiquitous brand of Icelandic warm clothing that goes “There’s a place in Iceland where you should wear our clothes. And it’s called ‘outside'”. Today we were outside in incredible wind and cold. But that’s just backdrop.

Gullfoss is the most famous waterfall in Iceland. It’s certainly in the top few we’ve seen. The lovely thing about it is that it cascades down several huge levels and combines a broad fall with a tumbling, mist-filled chasm.

Geyser about to go off.
Geyser in full flood - 35m high.

Geysers are all named after one called Geysir. Unfortunately Geysir has been dormant for many years – although they used to set it off by adding soap, but they thought better of that quite a while ago. No matter, because right beside the gently smoking Geysir geyser is the Strokkur geyser which goes off every ten minutes.

Strokkur reaches about 35m high which makes it one of the tallest in the world and it is probably the most regular. It was great watching the well-like entrance to the underground tube fill with water, then bubble up like an alien jelly-fish, and then erupt high into the air. This being Iceland where they rely on your common sense rather than a complex risk assessment, you get to stand about two metres away from the geyser. We watched it erupt about ten times and it never got old.

American plate to the right, Eurasian to the left.
Gully between the continental plates.

The highlight of our day was a visit to Thingvellir (Þingvellir) which has two claims to fame. The first and most exciting is that it is where the American and Eurasian continental plates are pulling apart. It’s not subtle either. You can stand in the gully formed by the tops of the two plates and run between them. It was an absolutely brilliant thing to do.

Declan helped the process along by falling in a hole and kicking the Eurasian plate forcefully. He now has a very ugly cut and bruise on his leg as a souvenir. The plate did not noticeably move.

Thingvellir is also the site of the original Icelandic parliament. Icelanders would come together for a couple of weeks every year to set laws. The parliament was established in 930 Iceland has an amazing history of democracy. Highlights include voting to get rid of the Norse gods in favour of Christianity and, more recently, voting to get rid of the letter ‘z’.

Waterfalls, geysers and continental plates – this definitely ranks up amongst one of our best days in Iceland.

4 thoughts on “Running between the continental plates

  1. I love this post especially. It’s exactly the kinds of things I would do on a trip to Iceland. I’m glad you’re having such a fantastic time! Thanks again for sharing it all.

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