The golden circle is one of the most popular sightseeing routes in Iceland. With it being so close to Reykjavik it only takes one day to complete. One smooth tarmac road hits most of the spectacular features in the South West: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss waterfall.
Þingvellir, or Thingvellir National Park is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on Iceland’s mainland. This first stop of the Golden Circle is an incredible valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Here you can join a morning snorkel with Dive.is in the most unique body of water in the world. Diving or snorkelling in between a crack in the earth is breath-taking & can be done nowhere else on earth. Water from the melting Langjokull glacier travels underground between porous volcanic rock until it enters Silfra. This decade long purification process results in crystal-clear water.
As the water in Silfra remains between 2-4 degrees throughout the year, all scuba diving and snorkelling are carried out in Dry-suits. As the name suggests the suit keeps your body completely dry whilst you are in the water. To be able to scuba dive at this site you need to have your PADI Dry Suit qualification. There is an option to complete the course in Iceland however it is much more expensive than completing in England. As you will find Iceland is also a very barren place, with strong winds swirling from every direction. Once finishing the dive it can be extremely hard to warm back up. Therefore, unless you are a freak of nature who loves the cold, I wouldn’t recommend spending three days completing the course in Iceland.
Efstidalur II family farm
On route to the Geysirs there is an option to turn left off the main road and stop at Efstidalur II family farm in Laugarvatn. The barn-like building is quite small and cosy, fitted with immaculate toilets. Downstairs is an Ice Cream parlour complete with views of the indoor cow feeding barn which have been used to produce the irresistible Ice Cream. Upstairs hosts an “amazing” café/restaurant upstairs but unfortunately it was out of our price range ☹ . If you are going to eat out anywhere during your golden circle tour, eat here! Whilst tucking into a scrumptious Ice Cream or juicy burger it really feels like you are supporting local Icelandic business. As the Ice-cream as well as the restaurant food is sourced from their own farm.
Say Hi to Iceland’s furry friends
Whilst driving Icelandic horses can gather right next to the road. ONLY when safe to do so you can pullover and get up close and personal with the very friendly horses.
Stop number 4 is home to explosive geysers. The ‘Great Geysir’ is now virtually dormant, luckily its neighbour Strokkur is still active. Strokkur erupts every five minutes or so, to heights of twenty meters. Walking towards the geyser hot gas seeps out of the cracked earth & small boiling streams run along the surface.
A short ten minute drive takes you to Gullfoss, the best-known waterfall in Iceland. Surging with enormous power down two tiers into an ancient valley carved out in the last Ice Age. Those lucky enough to visit on a sunny day will witness rainbows slicing through the mist.
Staying overnight in the Golden Circle
If you would like to extend your Golden Circle experience you can either stay over night in Laugarvatn or Selfoss. Laugarvatn. is situated 93km along the main golden circle road east of Reykjavik. Compared to the blue lagoon, Fontana spa is a smaller, more affordable geothermal pool situated in Laugarvatn. Due to finical limitations we decided to stay in Selfoss as it was cheaper than Laugarvatn.
Spirt Farm is the only building in sight making it a perfect location to spot the Northern Lights. When booking remember other factors such as clear winter nights are also required to spot the Northern Lights. There is Free WIFI, a shared lounge, bathroom and kitchen which has various cooking facilities including an access to seasonings, oven, hobs and fridge. Getting to Spirt Fram from Gullfoss, Þingvellir or Reykjavik is easy if you have access to a 4×4 car. During your trip in Iceland I would strongly recommend staying here for a couple of nights. An added bonus of this hostel – a 5-10minute drive takes you to Kerid. An inactive volcano crater.
The volcano is now inactive which means in the winter the water on top forms an Ice lake. Costing only ISK 400, Kerid is one of the Cheaper Icelandic Activities to add to your trip. As you will find once visiting Iceland ISK 400, isn’t that much and it is worth paying the entrance fee to witness the exploding variety of colours this volcanic crater has to offer. You can walk around the top of the crater & it is possible to walk down to the lake itself. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of us down by the lake as my phone couldn’t handle the crisp cold winter air.
Top tip: There are plenty of guided tours, however, I would strongly recommend renting a car and experiencing the sites at your own pace. Sometimes the stunning drives are just as jaw dropping as the sites you are going to visit. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the images here. If you do decide to rent a car, make sure you take extremely detailed photos of the car & have sufficient insurance (eg RAC international insurance) to cover you in case of any damage.
Top Tip: If you decide to rent a car, be prepared to skid! This happened to us a couple of times and its pretty scary so make sure you are confident and know what to do.
Top Tip: Eating out in Iceland is expensive and even more expensive the further into the wilderness you go, I would recommend taking flasks full of hot pasta to keep you fuelled throughout the day
Top Tip: Weather conditions are always changing in Iceland! ALWAYS check the weather forecast or speak to locals before leaving to go on an unguided trip to ensure it is safe to do so.