Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area and the Gullfoss waterfall are all world-famous attractions, and the Golden Circle route whisks you to each of these natural wonders in turn, taking just a little while to get there from Reykjavik.
The Golden Circle can be visited all year round. Each season paints the surrounding landscapes with varying colors and has their own charm. There is no “right or wrong” time of year to visit the Golden Circle. It really is up to you!
The landscape dramatically changes from one season to another, which makes the experience worthwhile for returning visitors. The Icelandic summer brings out all the vibrant colors of flowers and grasses, while a visit here in the winter months allows you to experience a genuinely Nordic environment.
Our Golden Circle tour begins with a pick up from your accommodation in Reykjavik, before driving out of the capital city with the beautiful Mount Esja on one side, and then deep into the southern uplands.
Thingvellir National Park
In no time at all, we will be approaching the first stop of the tour, the stunning sight of Thingvellir National Park. This is where the enormous gap between Eurasia and America’s continental plates can clearly be seen, as they slowly part from each other along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This geological movement triggered the gigantic volcanic eruptions which gave birth to this country around 20 million years ago, and eruptions and earthquakes still continue to this day all over Iceland. But don’t worry – there hasn’t been an eruption here for two thousand years!
The beautiful lake of Thingvallavatn spreads as far as the eye can see, and here you will have the rare opportunity to stand with one foot on each continent at the same time too.
Thingvellir is a national shrine for Icelanders, as it used to be where the Althingi, the national Parliament sat from 930AD right up until the 18th century. Laws were passed here at the “Law Rock”, disputes were settled, and festivals were celebrated. Iceland declared her independence from Denmark here in 1944, and Thingvellir was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.
Next, we will pass through the little village of Laugarvatn, which sits next to a gorgeous lake of the same name in a geothermally active area. The locals even use the hot steam vapor for baking rye bread in the ground here!
Geologically enthralling, Thingvellir is also significant in the cultural and historical life of Iceland, as it was the site of the oldest surviving Parliament in the world, established by the Vikings in 930AD. Laws were passed, disputes were settled, festivals were held, and the Icelandic nation was ruled from here for nearly a thousand years. Iceland declared its independence from Denmark here in 1944. It is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its rich cultural history and the stunning natural environment that lies all around.
Geysir & Haukadalur Geothermal Area
We soon come to the Haukadalur Geothermal area and Geysir, the place that gives its name to spouting hot springs all over the world. Geysir and Strokkur are the biggest geysers here, with Strokkur erupting every few minutes, sometimes as high as 30 meters into the sky.
Known throughout the world for its power and beauty, Geysir has become a synonym for this fantastic show of nature. Strokkur, another hot spring, sits nearby and is very active, reliably erupting to heights of up to 30 meters every few minutes.
It’s possible to get quite close to Strokkur too, but it’s wise to check the wind direction first! Streams of super-heated water trickle all around, leaving intriguing colorful residues behind. While we are in the Geysir area, you will also have time to buy lunch or some snacks or shop for souvenirs at the adjacent service station.
All around this area, you will also find many bubbling hotpots and superheated streams that leave multi-colored residues behind. This is the place you’ll have seen in the guidebooks, and this is where you’ll get some of your best photos while you’re in Iceland. Just make sure that you’re standing upwind when Strokkur explodes!
Known throughout the world for its power and beauty, Geysir has become a synonym for this fantastic show of nature. Strokkur, another hot spring, sits nearby and is very active, reliably erupting to heights of up to 30 meters every few minutes. It’s possible to get quite close to Strokkur too, but it’s wise to check the wind direction first! Streams of super-heated water trickle all around, leaving intriguing colorful residues behind. While we are in the Geysir area, you will also have time to buy lunch or some snacks or shop for souvenirs at the adjacent service station.
Gullfoss - The Golden Waterfall
We will then make our way to Gullfoss, which translates as the “golden waterfall” – but not before we pass through many remote upland farms where there are often more beautiful Icelandic horses than people to be seen. You might even get a chance to say hello to the horses if they are standing by the fences.
Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most popular and cherished natural wonders. A double drop waterfall with a cascade of more than 30 meters and generating lots of spray as millions of gallons of water crash into a narrow ravine, Gullfoss is a sensational sight at any time of the year.
On sunny days, huge rainbows cover the area, triggered by the constant spray. The waterfall is continuously fed by glacial meltwater from the Langjokull glacier, 40km deeper into the Highlands, which leads to the Hvita (White) river, with the flow doubling in the summer months. There are several viewing platforms here, with some closed in the winter months.
Kerid Volcanic Crater
There is still more to see though as we drive you back towards Reykjavik by a different route, passing by Reykholt, which is famous for her geothermally-heated greenhouses. Then we will come to our last sightseeing stop. This is a bonus for you, as the “classic” Golden Circle usually just contains the three famous stops.
We are giving you an extra treat by bringing you to Kerid, a 55m deep and 270m wide volcanic crater that is beautifully streaked with red earth and green mosses, with a turquoise-blue mineral water lake to complete a fantastic spectacle. It’s even possible to walk down a pathway to the crater’s bottom for a better look.
On our way back to Reykjavík, you will see the rolling farmlands of the South Coast and the geothermal areas surrounding the town of Hveragerdi – famous for numerous greenhouses and many horse farms.
You will also see rugged lava fields as we climb the Hellisheidi mountain pass, and a geothermal power plant with superheated plumes of steam billowing into the air.