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Geysers, or hot springs, exist all around Iceland with one of the main areas being in the south west. As the area is within easy reach of the capital, Reykjavik, it is one of the most commonly visited sites in Iceland, particularly as it forms part of the popular Golden Circle tour - which is the tour I took to visit.
Here, the spring named Geysir (the name comes from an Old Norse verb geysa, meaning "to gush") gave its name to geysers in general. Geysers are generally found near volcanic areas, and are formed when water near the surface of the ground works its way down and contacts hot rocks warmed by magma. The resultant pressure causes the water to intermittently erupt from the surface vent. Several geysers are found in this particular area in Iceland, but many are now extinct and others, including Geysir itself, erupt very rarely and unpredictably. However, one, Strokkur (Icelandic for "churn") erupts reliably and often and this is the one most tourists now flock to see.
On the day I visited, the bus pulled up at around lunchtime and we were given almost two hours to explore the geyser area, visit the exhibition and have lunch. The weather was absolutely freezing, but I couldn't pass up the chance to see a geyser in action!
Like all the other tourists from the bus, I crossed the road to the geysers. The air was rather misty and there was a distinct smell of sulphur in the air. I wandered over to Strokkur, the most active geyser, and waited like everyone else with an expectant air. Strokkur reliably erupts every eight or so minutes and it was rather funny standing around waiting with all the other tourists with cameras glued to the spot. Eventually, with a gurgle, it erupted quite spectacularly and there were several gasps! I waited around to watch the eruption a couple of times and it was pretty impressive and like nothing I'd ever seen before. Just before it erupts it starts to bubble so you have about half a second to prepare yourself before the explosion!
Afterwards I took the time to look at some of the other geysers and pools. Geysir itself doesn't erupt much these days. There is a pair of pools a little further up, one is bright blue owing to the mineral content and one is incredibly warm - I stood downwind and felt like I was next to a radiator, a relief in the freezing weather! You are advised not to go past the ropes as you run the risk of being burned.
I crossed the road to the building housing the exhibition. The exhibition room was dark and had some videos of volcanic eruptions and more information on the history and science of the hot springs. It doesn't take very long to look round.
The building also has a café selling sandwiches and hot food. Because of the cold I chose some mozzarella sticks and some fries which were bog standard fast food but tasted delicious as I was so hungry! There was also a reasonably large gift shop.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the geysers, seeing Strokkur erupt was a unique sight and something not to be missed on any trip to Iceland.
The Golden Circle tour can be booked in several ways both before you go to Iceland and after you arrive. I booked mine online at www.icelandair.co.uk as part of a package including my flights and hotel, for a cost of around £55. As part of the tour I was picked up and dropped off from my hotel so the whole procedure was very easy. My tour also included the waterfall Gullfoss and the Thingvellir National Park.
It would also be possible to hire a car and visit the hot springs yourself, however you'd need to be a confident driver and to know where you were going! For most people booking onto a tour would be the easiest way to see them.