What is Iceland’s Golden Circle? Thoroughly Travel introduces it as such: “A 190-mile (300km) mile circular route, Iceland’s Golden Circle encompasses three of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions.”
Those three attractions are Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall — and key to the appeal of the Golden Circle is that it is possible to complete the whole route in one day.
If you are seriously considering taking this route for yourself, here are several tips and tricks for making the most of the journey.
How to prepare for your Golden Circle trip
The Mindful Traveller hails the Golden Circle as “a perfect day trip from Reykjavík and a must-do when traveling to Iceland.”
However, you will need to think about how to get to Iceland — and, in particular, Reykjavík. You could journey in comfort to both places by taking a cruise — especially as a number of P&O cruises stop at the Icelandic capital.
Once you have arrived there, you could proceed to hire a car with which you would be able to traverse the Golden Circle at your own pace.
See where tectonic plates meet at Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park
Those tectonic plates in question are the North American and Eurasian ones — and this National Park is the only place worldwide that enables you to see them above ground.
Even as you approach the park’s entrance in the car, you will see lava fields lined with cracks caused by rifts that have resulted from continuous seismic activity.
Watch out for geysir eruptions
Watch out for them where? The Geysir Hot Spring Area, to be exact. This geothermal area situated within the Haukadalur Valley is home to several geysers — including the especially well-known ones of the dormant hot spring Geysir and the often erupting Strokkur.
The latter erupts every 6-10 minutes, and regularly sends boiling water flying 15-20 meters (59-65ft) into the air.
Keep in mind that, if you will be visiting the Geysir Hot Spring Area in the winter, the pavement could be entirely concealed in ice and, as a result, dangerously slippery.
Take in awe-inspiring views of Gullfoss Waterfall
Gullfoss Waterfall is another attraction where you could see a lot of ice in winter. In this instance, that ice could hang in vast columns over the falls.
In contrast, if you visit the Gullfoss Waterfall site in summer, you could instead catch the breathtaking sight of lush vegetation framing that waterfall.
There’s a walk — or, as it could be more precisely described, a combination of a path and a wooden boardwalk — where you can easily admire the waterfall from a safe distance.
Where else could you stop on the Golden Circle?
Good examples of places you could seriously consider adding to your Iceland itinerary include the compact but impressive Öxarárfoss Waterfall, where water drops 13 meters into a rocky pool.
Meanwhile, Laugarvatn is a small but feature-rich village that would allow you to enjoy a break on a journey between Thingvellir National Park and the Geysir Geothermal Area.