May 27, 2015

The Golden Circle: Our Self Drive Tour

Most-Popular-Sites-in-Iceland

Our first morning in Iceland, we got up early in Reykjavik and had an amazing breakfast at our hotel. We fueled up and hit the road. Our plan was to travel the Golden Circle before heading towards the South Coast.

This drive takes you past a few of Iceland's most popular sites. There is a complete circle, but we weren't heading back to the capitol so our route was a little different. More on the South Coast later.

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The first stop was ├×ingvellir National Park. It is located on the largest lake in Iceland and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The park has lots of interesting history. It is the site of the first assembly in Iceland back in 930 AD. There are tons of hiking trails and beautiful views of the lake and mountains surrounding it. You can even scuba dive in between the tectonic plates - I think that's on Justin's list for the next time we visit.

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We left the park after wandering around for a while and headed towards Geysir. This was a very busy site. Back in the 1950's, some tourists threw rocks into the big Geysir to try and set it off, so that one doesn't shoot into the air anymore. There is a consistent show at nearby Strokkur that goes off every 10 minutes or so and it is still very impressive. There are lots of people that gather round, but there isn't a bad view of this natural phenomenon.

The park surrounding it has lots of steam and hot spots. There is also a very large gift shop and cafe there as well. We had coffee and pastries and enjoyed the people watching. It's definitely worth wandering around to check out the beautiful colors of the blue water, the green moss and the red mud.

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In the last picture, you can see a person to the right of the water so it gives you an idea of how high it shoots up. Be aware that you might jump a little when it goes off - it's pretty sudden, but awesome.

Our last stop on the Golden Circle was Gullfoss. It is a 70 meter high waterfall that plunges into a canyon. It's gorgeous. The wind was crazy there and it was hard to stay outside and explore for long, but we walked to a few different levels to take it in. Pictures just do not do it justice.

Many websites will tell you that Gullfoss is the most popular or famous waterfall in Iceland, but we heard that about everyone we visited, so I'll try and refrain from using those descriptions. There was a point in history where investors wanted to take control on the land and the landowner's daughter threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if the government allowed this to happen. She is known as one of the world's first extreme environmentalists. Luckily now, people appreciate the natural beauty of Gullfoss and it is safe for generations to come.

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There are about 1000 different tours and websites dedicated to the Golden Circle, but I'll share my thoughts.

Things I Loved:
  • The Scenery. There's a reason these places are so popular.
  • The proximity to Reykjavik. It is an easy day trip if you are in Iceland for a few days.
  • Free admission. I am not used to being able to explore places for free. We were able to park and check everything out and there was no parking attendant charging you $15 for entry.
  • Clearly marked hiking trails. It's so easy to explore. You just need a camera and some comfortable shoes and you can get all over the place to explore the land.
  • Variety of ways to explore. You can snowmobile, hike, scuba dive or just drive. It's got a method for everyone.
Things I Didn't Love:
  • Many, many people. Even though we went during "shoulder" season, there were lots of people everywhere we went in the Golden Circle.
  • Tour buses on the road everywhere.
  • That's really it, but I feel like I should say that I'm comparing it to the other places we explored in Iceland where there were way fewer people - so probably not fair.
I wouldn't want to explore this area via bus tour. Self drive is the way to go in my opinion. I'm not sure how the roads are in the winter, but we had no issues in May. We were able to stop as often as we wanted.

I wish I would have explored a few more places that were more off the beaten path. If you are planning a trip, make sure to read Unlocking Kiki to see all of the beautiful places she has explored in the area.

Make sure to fill up on gas and treats before you hit the road. And don't rush through everything. You have time - especially in the summer where it is light for at least 18 hours a day.


Don't mind me, I'll be dreaming about waterfalls the rest of my day today.

Do you have any questions? Which of the three is the most enticing for you?

5 comments:

  1. These pictures are unbelievable. Time to pout to myself at my desk...

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  2. It looks like you had a beautiful day! I personally am not a fan of the Golden Circle, the amount of tour buses and visitors that have increased in just the last few years alone is just crazy. I like the more unknown spots, but these are all must see spots for sure.

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  3. The pictures are truly amazing. I love that it's all free too.

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  4. Gorgeous pictures! Iceland is one place my husband and I have been dying to go for years. This makes me want to do it even more!!

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Thanks for reading my ramblings. It makes my heart happy.