Road Trip Edition: Iceland's Golden Circle
On my recent trip to Iceland, I spent much time researching what was a must do. Everything I could find stated that the Golden Circle was not to be missed. So we went.....
We woke up early to a cloudy and drizzly Monday morning in the city of Reykjavik. I gathered everything I might need on a full day road trip through Iceland. (rain coat, sweatshirt, boots, rain boots, extra socks, hat, gloves, a head lamp, hot spot, chargers, cameras, snacks, and a water bottle) Just the day before we experienced sun beams, rain, and snow in a matter of two hours. With unpredictable weather I didn't want to be unprepared. We stepped out of the Rey Apartment door and quickly grabbed a coffee and headed out of town.
One of my favorite things about Iceland was how amazing the landscape was. I found that no matter where I drove there was always something to look at from the lava fields to the beautiful Icelandic horses. Every inch was covered in mesmerizing beauty.
Our first stop on the Golden Circle was Þingvellir National Park. It took us about fifty minutes to get to the visitors center. After a quick walkthrough we continued on to the lower parking lot where we walked down to the Silfra Crack (the place where the North America and Eurasian tectonic plates meet). This was by far one of the coolest natural landscapes I have seen, and was my favorite stop on the Golden Circle. You can dive or snorkel there and I regret no doing it. I planned to, but because the weather was around 40 degrees, I was a little too cold and so was the water. The park is Iceland’s most important historical site because the Vikings established the world’s first democratic parliament, the Alþingi there in AD 930. It was the country’s first national park, and it was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2004.
From there we continued west towards the Great Geysir. We slowly made our way there passing through small towns and farms. It took us about an hour to go from the national park to Great Geysir. Great Geysir is the original hot-water spout after which all other geysers are named. Great Geysir has been active for close to 800 years, and once gushed water up to 80m into the air. Currently it is gushing close to 30m.
Once we got there we went inside the visitor center to eat lunch and look around. Inside was a restaurant, a cafeteria, two stores, and a gift shop. After we grabbed a bite to eat, purchased some base layers, gloves, and a few gift shop items, we made our way to the geyser. There was a small crowd of people circled around the geyser, and each person was patiently waiting for it to blow. Like everyone else I took out my iPhone and anxiously waiting to capture this semi-predictable vertical gush of hot-water on camera. It went off roughly every ten min or so, and each blow was different, some bigger and some smaller. We hung around and watched the geyser blow a few times before we headed back to the car.
We continued on our way to Gullfoss, a 32m waterfall and the final stop on our Golden Circle road trip. On sunny days they say you can see a rainbow, but even on a cloudy drizzly day it was still just as spectacular. From Great Geysir, Gullfoss is only a short ten minute drive down the road. Once there we went into the visitors center which was a small gift shop and place to grab a quick bite to eat. There were two lookout points. One low and one high. We chose the higher one for a more panoramic view. The walkway was made out of wood making it easily accessible for just about everyone. The waterfall was bigger than I imagined. Even from the higher looking point you could hear the constant rush of water. Had it not been so cold, I would have loved to stay longer, but after a few min and some good pictures, we headed back to the car.
The ride back to Reykjavik was about an hour and forty-five minutes back to our hotel. The whole trip took us most of day so we could really enjoy each site. No matter who you spoke to the Golden Circle is an absolute must. Also, renting a car made this so much easier too. We could go at our own pace and really enjoy without having to rush back on to a tour bus.