Iceland is a country that is becoming an increasingly popular destination for people who are looking for different and diverse experiences. Whether you have a stopover in Iceland on a flight from North America to Europe, or spending a long weekend, there is so much to see and do in this beautiful country, and no shortage of attractions and interesting experiences that you can enjoy.
If you only have a short period of time (like I did, I was there for a long weekend) Driving Iceland’s Golden Circle is an amazing experience, and can be explored in as little as a few hours. Whether you are driving yourself, or taking a tour, I highly recommend touring the Golden Circle on your next trip to Iceland.
Here’s my guide to Iceland’s Golden Circle in one day!
With many options out there, I went with Trip Advisor this time, and decided to take my tour through Reykjavik Excursions. They were a fantastic tour group from beginning to end, and I loved that I was in a smaller van, and not on a large bus. It was a more personal experience worth the extra money, in my opinion. (No, I was not paid or contacted by Reykjavik Excursions-they were just that good that I had to mention them here)
After getting picked up in the dark around 9:00am, we were off on the tour, that was scheduled to end around 5:00pm. I love that they were able to pick us up and drop us off directly from our hostel.
What I like about The Golden Circle tour is it allows you to visit some of Iceland’s most stunning sights.
Faxi Waterfall at Sunrise
One of many waterfalls in Iceland, so ensure your tour guide stops here on your Golden Circle tour. We stopped here first, right as the sun was coming up The signage is not very clear so it took a while to find the way leading to the waterfall. As this waterfall is super easy to access, those traveling the Golden Circle route should consider taking the 5 minute detour to view the falls, just don’t expect it to measure up to the nearby Gullfoss (though not many waterfalls in Iceland do).
Geysir Geothermal Area
After Faxi, with the sun fully up, we drove for 20 minutes or so, by the miniature horses (which you can’t stop and pet anymore. Too many tourists are doing it and disrupting the horses environment. Dang it!) and headed over to the geothermal active valley of Haukadalur where we saw the famous Geysir and hot springs. Strokkur geyser spouts every five minutes or so and projects steaming water to a height of about 60-100 feet. They gave us time to view the geyser as long as needed, although it was very windy and freezing so we only saw it spout once. Here they also gave us time to relax and have lunch (we brought a sack lunch to save money) at the nearby restaurants.
Next, we went to Gullfloss Waterfall after lunch. This waterfall was simply stunning to see, and the sheer force of the water cascading was magnificent. It’s a short walk from the car park and there are a couple of paths to different viewpoints. Please observe the roped off areas though, they are there for your safety; we saw numerous people stepping over the ropes to get a better selfie, and this just seemed incredibly dangerous with the wind. it is a beautiful site, so take pictures down by the parking lot AND up by the gift shop. Different views, but both spectacular.
Thingvellir National Park
This actually ended up being my favorite part of the trip. To complete the Golden Circle we ended with visit to the National Park Thingvellir. The area holds great historical importance and has many remarkable geological features. The Eurasian and American tectonic plates meet here and Althingi (the Icelandic parliament) was formed on these rocks in 930 AD, making it the oldest parliamentary site in the world. It was absolutely stunning to see as the sun began to set, and we had over an hour to walk the area and explore.
The weather in Iceland can be pretty unpredictable. You can go from rain to snow to blue skies in just one hour along the drive. I went in January, and it was pretty cold but sunny most of the time. The sun is only up from about 11 to 4, so they do adjust the timing of the tour accordingly. Be prepared for all weather, regardless of what time of year you go. I would always bring a heavy jacket for those gusty waterfalls. Be careful of ice throughout the tour – on the walkways, paths, and stairs at each stop. But I think that is come to be expected in Iceland, I just want to make sure you wear the appropriate shoes!
Make sure to check weather and road conditions ahead of time, and you can use this site to do so! I hope you enjoy your drive around The Golden Circle as much as I did!
All in all, I loved my time traveling through The Golden Circle. Although being in a tour can be constricting, it was also easy when you are on a limited time schedule. You could easily spend weeks traveling through Iceland! So whether you drive yourself or take a tour, I think it is so worth it!
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