The Golden Circle, Iceland

The Golden Circle is probably the most popular tourist destination in Iceland. Most travelers want to go around the Golden Circle loop but there is always this classic travel dilemma in this; how to enjoy the trip, get most out of it without sacrificing the budget and with limited time. So often suggestion is to join a tour (e.g. Golden Circle ), though there are several but just minimal problems with this idea; that there are so many tour packages available, promises different kinds of experiences, some pricey, some with reasonable price, some overcrowded, some in small group and the time period can be too short that it is even shorter than the time planned for you to roam around. Those are the things you must face when choosing tour packages, the selection so broad you will need some huge amount of time weighing which is the best, you’re lucky if you stumble in some local’s site that happens to offer free travel planning and will choose the right tour package for. Yes, some locals do that to help promote tourism in their country. Another way to go around the famous Golden Circle route is to drive around it by yourself. You would need to rent a car, turn on your reliable GPS or you do it the traditional way by using a map and looking at the signs. The Golden Circle is not far from Reykjavik and it is conveniently located to where a quick snap drive will take you to each destination. A day or a full afternoon is not quite enough but the Golden Circle is absolutely amazing that every second you spend in it will be worth it. So no matter how limited your time will be, you will not get disappointed because in every turn you make, there are magnificent sights and wonders of nature. You will not ever ask why Golden Circle is the most popular tourist destination in Iceland.
The Golden Circle covers about 300 km loop from Reykjavik going to the central Iceland and back. There are three primary destinations or stops on the route and they are the Þingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss waterfalls or the Golden Waterfalls. The loop will continue passing or having stops at Kerið volcano crater, Hveragerði greenhouse village, Skálholt church, and Nesjavellir or Hellisheidarvirkjun power plant. Depending on the time allotted.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland
First Stop: Þingvellir National Park

Golden circle Iceland

Þingvellir National Park, the first stop of the Golden Circle Iceland route, is full of history, culture and geological significance. The site of the rift valley marks the crest of the large Mid-ocean ridge or better known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge or MAR, this is the constructive plate boundary at the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. It actually separates the Eurasian and the North American Plates. Every year the plates drift about 2 cm apart that builds up tension and can be felt every ten years in the earth mass above creating cracks and fissures in Þingvellir and thinking that this is Iceland, every crack created by natural phenomena is considered another nature’s gift for the locals. The largest crack that started in a deep cave underwater is the Silfra fissure. This is located at the rim of the largest natural lake in Iceland, Þingvallavatn Lake. This is also called the diver’s paradise or the ultimate dream because literally the scuba divers are swimming between two continents and the clear water that makes the wonders underwater visibly possible allures them to swim deeply and explore broadly. Plus the feeling of weightlessness when diving in Silfra is like being in space without getting into a space ship, most of the feedbacks are “as close to a spacewalk as one can get without being in space”. You can also add this activity when visiting Golden Circle because just looking at the picture won’t justify the real experience. If you are kind of afraid to dive deep, you can also snorkel, as this is one of the most popular activities when passing by Silfra.
What makes Þingvellir National Park important when we talk about history is the Parliament or Alþingi which was established in 930 at Þingvellir. The park was founded to protect the remains of the parliament. The new parliament is now in Reykjavik, it’s been moved in 1798, but not really open to the public. Þingvellir National Park is also the first national park in Iceland.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland
Second Stop: Geysir

Golden circle Iceland

Geysir, the home of the sprouting hot spring; The Great Geysir. This is like the Old faithful in California but The Great Geysir erupts higher than it. The level of the sprouting water is about 70 meters high; it even reached the height of 170 metres in 1845. The activities of The Great Geysir vary from time to time, during the old days, the interval per eruption is 30 minutes, and it is now down to only 3 times a day. But when you get to catch the erupting Geysir, it would be the greatest experience, just be sure to bring along your waterproof camera to capture that remarkable moment.
Geysir geothermal field contributes with the applauses that the Golden Circle receives as it has these otherworldly-like features. Geysir, Þykkvuhverir is a group of hot springs scattered in the geothermal field of Geysir. The hot springs are: Spring Gey 1, located at the corner between the trail and highway 35; Sóði (messy spring), located a little bit north of spring Gey 1; Spouting spring Gey 2, situated a little further to the north; The handsome Spring or Smiður (the smith) is located in the north; Cistern spring is just beyond Smiður; Tröllaauga (trolls eye), just along the trails; Proceeding north is the unnamed spring Gey 3; Gey 4 is just behind Gey 3; A mud pot Vigdísarhver is seen from the north; Àlfaauga is located close to the trails; Litli Strokkur can be seen northernmost part of Þykkvuhverir; Þvottahver, Sísjóðandi and Móri is not inside the fence you have to leave the fenced area at Geysir Centre; Neighboring spring east of Sísjóðandi have two pools the Strokkur and Óþerrishola; And Þvottahver (laundry spring) is quite close to the highway 35. Yes there are quite so many springs and it is merely difficult to remember their names but they’re all stunningly beautiful and visiting the geothermal area is quite as rewarding as you would ever think. In actual visit of the Golden Circle at the Geysir geothermal field you can use the location stated above to distinguish which is which.

The Golden Circle Iceland: Geysir Geothermal Field

Golden circle Iceland

Geysir Geothermal Field of the Golden Circle have so much to offer, you can spend time in the Geothermal area and roam around to get the most of it. Besides, The Great Geysir and the numerous hot springs, you can find Blesi, where you can bathe in a blue spring, a pail like shaped spring called Fata and Konungshver (the royal spring) a little to the northwest and above Blesi. Seidir, Litli-Geysir and Oþerrishola are once the principal springs of the area but now can only be induced by soap. And finally just near Geysir geothermal field is hyperactive Strokkur which erupts every five minutes or so. This geyser is so unpredictable, at first you can spot it as a churning pool and without any notice it would burst out water.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland
Third Stop: Gullfoss Waterfalls

Golden circle Iceland

The main event of the Golden Circle is the Golden falls of the Gullfoss as it is popularly named. This is the crowned jewel of the Golden Circle, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Iceland. From the parking lot to where you will enter the great Golden falls you can feel the anticipation. From there you will take a short walk to a cliff where you can witness the magnificent waterfalls. Gullfoss is actually two separate waterfalls but flows as one. The upper water flows down 11 meters and the lower one 21 meters to three steps of lava formation created during the interglacial period. It is like the water disappears down to nowhere as the water flow an average rate of 109 cubic meters per second. Recorded heaviest floods are about 2000 cubic meters per second. In summer, the flow if 130 cubic meters per second that is about 3 seconds to fill a building of 10 floors. You can hear the powerful gush of water even from afar signals that the Gullfoss is at its best work. Capturing the Gullfoss by camera cannot even define how magnificent this waterfall is but it is worth the try for remembrance that you have been in Europe’s most beautiful waterfalls. It would be a big mistake not to put Gullfoss into your itinerary when visiting Iceland or the Golden Circle for that matter.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland
Fourth Stop: Kerid

Golden circle Iceland

The next stop would be Kerid. This is a volcanic crater lake and it is the one that has the most visibly intact caldera. The volcanic rock in the area is mostly composed of red rather than black so it has this Mars-like feature. This is rather a pretty cool volcanic crater and stopping by to check it out is worth it, definitely! The moss around it makes the perfect crater’s symmetry with blue water makes is more attractive.
Huge number of tourists passes through or by Hveragerði every year, and like a magnet, it drives people to explore the place everytime. Located just 45 km from Reykjavik, this place also has numerous hot springs and steams that rises out of the ground can be seen all over the place. Without a doubt, by Hveragerði is one treasured gem South Iceland holds. You can enjoy a natural clay foot bath, and after you can soak your feet in one of the hot springs. It is rewarding. One joke about the hot springs is that you can cook an egg, and then yourself. Hike a bit and you will enjoy a nice bath at the natural heated pool in valley of Reykjadalur. This town isn’t only known by its geothermal activities or hot springs and mud pots but because of its greenhouses. They are heated by the geothermal water from the volcanic hot springs. This is the hotbed of most of Icelandic horticulture, the green part of the Golden Circle.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland
Optional Stop: Skálholt church

Golden circle Iceland

You might have heard about the Skálholt church once in your life or if you didn’t, this is your chance to learn about the church and its significance to the country. The ancient seat of the Icelandic bishops and the center of culture and education for centuries is this church. Though this church has been reconstructed and the remains of the old church are now kept in the National Museum in Reykjavik, which is also worth a visit, the place where the reconstructed church stands holds historic traces and ruins of a fortress is still visible. A monument stands on its spot this was the place where the last catholic bishop and his two sons were beheaded. Yes it may sound gruesome but as respect the place it well preserved. The stained and windows are hand crafted by two Icelandic female artists.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland
Optional Stop: Nesjavellir or Hellisheidarvirkjun Geothermal Power Plant

Golden circle Iceland

The last stop on the Golden Circle Iceland route would be Nesjavellir or Hellisheidarvirkjun geothermal power plant. This is where you can fully understand how energy is supplied all throughout the city and its neighboring towns. Hellisheidarvirkjun (or Hellisheidi) heat and power plant is the largest power plant in Iceland and the second largest geothermal power station in the whole world. The power plant’s visitor center displays geothermal energy exhibition and explains how it sustains to flow out energy in Iceland. The exhibition is an informative presentation with multimedia shows to let the audience learn about green energy and how it can possibly be a global energy source. The second largest geothermal plant in Iceland is Nesjavellir and it is about 11 km away from Hellisheidi.
Exploring the Golden Circle can be a long drive and process but with its excellent places, the trip would be more that you ever dreamed of. The best Golden Circle Iceland route to take can be either head clockwise or counter clockwise, either way, you’ll find yourself into exceptional places. In every turn you can have plethora of photographic opportunities to capture. You couldn’t get enough of the scenery of the Golden Circle Iceland.


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