The original geyser is not all it’s cracked up to be.
The rotten egg smell that steams out of geothermal Icelandic water is just something you get used to after a while. In fact, you may even begin to enjoy it. If so, head over to Geysir, where Strokkur erupts every eight minutes, impeccably timed with each new deposit of German tourists all making their way in coach-loads around the Golden Circle Tour.
Geysers (named after the original Icelandic Geysir, because it was the best geyser in the world) are blasts of super-hot water and steam that shoot into the air from a hole in the ground. Water going up, which makes a nice change from water coming down (i.e. waterfalls, the rain etc). Geysers are pretty rare—only about 1000 active ones exist in the whole world—and are caused by hot geothermal water deep underground colliding with cooler water and bursting up through the earth’s surface. Well, it’s slightly more scientific than that, but hey, that’s what this is for.
But the eruptions are only exciting to watch approximately twice. After that it gets a bit, well, predictable. And as the area around Geysir is the most uninspiring in Iceland—except for downtown Keflavík, of course—don’t expect to be entertained by anything after the first blast. The landscape is dull, the souvenirs are overpriced, and the weather is overcast. Every single time.
On the upside, existential fun can be had taking pictures of people taking pictures—as pictured above—and “admission” is entirely free. Just think, if geysers existed on the outskirts of Manchester you’d spend the best part of the day standing in queues while reluctant teenagers in Viking helmets tried to flog you brochures and novelty gifts. But thankfully, at Geysir, a café and a shop—and an old bit of string to stop the visitors falling in—is about as touristy as Iceland gets.
Geysir: Less than an hour and a half’s drive from Reykjavík, in the South West of Iceland.