The Golden Circle may be top of most visitors’ lists but not without cause. Easily reachable as a day’s round trip from Reykjavik, the Golden Circle takes in some of Iceland’s most breathtaking natural phenomena including the mighty (there’s no other word for it) Gullfoss Waterfall.
I took a bus tour through Sterna – chosen because their buses are slightly smaller than some of the coach tours but at a similar price (9200ISK through Sterna). The guide was fairly informative but only spoke during the journeys, leaving you free to explore at your own pace in each stop. As I mentioned before, renting a car to get around would also be a great option but wasn’t the best one for me.
The day’s trip began with a stop at Iceland’s largest geothermal power plant, Hellisheiði. Around 87% of all buildings in Iceland get their hot water and heating through geothermal power – making them, from what I gather, about the only low-cost amenities in Iceland. The power plant has a very small exhibition (an additional 600ISK), only worth going into if you want to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the plant and source of the steam that shrouds the entire area.
The next stop was volcanic crater lake Kerið. The wind was well and truly howling up around the crater and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say I didn’t go all the way to the uppermost edge for fear of being blown in. There was a small hut at the entrance to the crater area which suggests an entry fee applies, but this was unmanned on my visit.
As a warm-up for the big one, the next stop was Faxi waterfall. Though impressive in itself, I’m glad we visited Faxi before heading to the much larger Gullfoss…
Following this was a longer stop in the Haukadalur valley, home to Geysir (the original geyser from where the generic word originates!) and Strokkur (the active hot spring seen below). We also had a quick snack stop here and chance to warm up in the lovely café.
After the exceptionally yummy pecan caramel muffin you can see here, we made our way to Gullfoss – literally “Golden Falls.” Made up of two stages, the waterfall drops an impressive thirty-two metres into a huge crevice. To really appreciate the scale take a look at the people in the photos!
The wind was also in full force up and around the falls to the point of needing two pairs of gloves and still feeling like my hands might drop off! Still, once I’d finally defrosted in the bus, there was just one more stop to make. þingvellir (I think the first letter is a ‘th’…) National Park – home to the continental divide between the Eurasian and North American plates and the world’s oldest continuous parliament. Our tour guide informed us that Iceland grows around 6cm every year as the tectonic plates pull apart; in his words a very sutble form of world domination!
OK there was one more quick stop on the way back to Reykjavik…
The Golden Circle was a definite trip highlight… in a trip full of highlights! What are your recent travel highlights?
More in my Iceland Diary: