Iceland – Driving the Golden Circle
One of the ‘can’t miss’ things to do in Iceland is the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle consists of a few prominent sites, including Þingvellir National Park, the Gulfoss Waterfall, and Haukadalur Geothermal area. There are a few other stops you can make. One we made was at the Kerið volcanic crater.
Because we rented a car, we didn’t have to book a bus trip to see these famous sites. Looking into those, they seemed pretty pricey. Those all leave from Reykjavik at 9am. Knowing that information, we left our Air BNB at 8:30am, hoping to be able to beat the crowds a bit.
The whole drive, including stops, took us about 4 hours.
Þingvellir National Park
Pronounced “Thingvellir”, this national park is just 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik. Iceland’s parliament was founded at this site in 980AD. It’s also one of the sites where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plated meet.
There’s a nice look-off here, and you can do a little hike to a waterfall. We skipped the hike based on a recommendation from a friend, that this was the least impressive of all of the waterfalls we would be seeing. We didn’t feel any regret in skipping this.
When we were driving to the next site, we found another beautiful lookout from the other side of the lake.
Haukadalur Geothermal Area – The Geysers
The geyser was the thing I was most excited about seeing along the Golden Circle. When we were getting close, we did see the geyser go off. We got to the site, and we stood watching what we thought was the geyser for a while, until we heard another one go off behind us. The Strokkur geyser goes off every 5 to 10 minutes. We stood there for about 25 minutes and we watched it go off 3 times (4 if you include the time where we were busy staring at something else!)
I had at great time at the geyser! We both could have watched it all day. Hot tip – there’s a cafe and restaurant at the geyser.
Gullfoss, AKA “golden falls” is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland. It has a really cool duo waterfall thing going on. In the warmer months, you can get pretty close to the falls. But when we visited in October, this walkway was already frozen over.
Kerið Volcanic Crater
Our last stop on the Golden Circle was the Kerið Volcanic Crater. In the warmer months, the vegetation around the crater gives a really cool rainbow effect. It cost ISK 40 to get into the crater area, and you can walk around the top and then down into the crater.
The water was frozen, but they do not recommend walking on it. Listen to that! The water is pretty deep and you don’t want to risk falling in. We saw people doing some pretty dumb stuff, like trying to climb up and down the crater. Maybe don’t do that??
I also saw this great bird with fuzzy feet.
We enjoyed the Golden Circle, but I’ve got to be honest in saying we didn’t love it. The geysir and Gullfoss were really cool, but the other sites weren’t our favourite. I’m not really sure why. We enjoyed our south shore drive a lot more.
- If you’re driving, fill up your gas tank before leaving on your journey. Gas stations along the way are few and far between.
- Bring lunch! There aren’t a whole lot of restaurants on the route, and the ones you find tend to be geared towards tourists.
- Use the free bathrooms when you can! Þingvellir and the geysers had free bathrooms.
- These aren’t the only stops along the Golden Circle! Do some research and find a few hidden gems.