The Golden Circle is an area of Iceland that is on most people’s must do lists when visiting Iceland. My first trip there I missed it. My second trip however I succeeded in heading out there. I would however love to see it in the summer as well.
According to Wikipidea: “The Golden Circle (Icelandic: Gullni hringurinn) is a popular tourist route in southern Iceland, covering about 300 kilometres (190 mi) looping from Reykjavík into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. It is the area that contains most tours and travel-related activities in Iceland. The three primary stops on the route are the Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Though Geysir has been mostly dormant for many years, Strokkur, on the other hand, continues to erupt every 5–10 minutes. Other stops include the Kerið volcanic crater, the town of Hveragerði, Skálholt cathedral, and the Nesjavellir and Hellisheiðarvirkjun geothermal power plant.”
On my trip I visited Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, the geysers Geysir and Strokkur, and Hellisheiðarvirkjun geothermal power plant.
I got talking with a girl that was staying at the hostel and we decided we would rent a car and drive the Golden Circle ourselves. That morning a new girl in the hostel also agreed to come along about 5 minutes after meeting us. We split the cost of the car three ways and including gas it worked out to about 30 USD a piece due to the discount we got from the hostel and from the discount gas card that the car rental gave us.
We started out at about 11 in the morning and stopped at the supermarket for snacks. From there we made our way to the power plant which will be it’s own separate blog post. From there we hit Geysir and Strokkur, Gullfoss waterfall, and Þingvellir National Park. It was February when we went and so we didn’t spend a lot of time at the waterfall or at the park. So we were able to be back in Reykjavik by about 6 PM. If you have the option I would suggest doing The Golden Circle in the summer.
We got to Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir is the original geysir and what all other geysir’s are named after. Geysir has been inactive for quite some time as of writing (2016) however Strokkur just a couple minutes walk away is very active and erupts every 5 – 10 minutes or so. There are ropes around the geysirs and other areas by the geysirs and please heed the call to stay behind the ropes and the written warning signs. They are for your protection. It may have been cold in February but that water gets extremely hot and you can easily burn yourself. This will sound contradictory but there are areas by the geysir in February that are frozen and thus slippery. If you have crampons, I’d suggest bringing them along.
From there it is a short drive up to Gullfoss waterfall. It is massive. Again, please heed the signs and ropes. It is slippery and you could fall off the side of the cliff to get a super close up view of the waterfall. However, you probably wouldn’t live to tell anyone about it. And you probably wouldn’t enjoy it as your life very well may be flashing before you instead. I would have loved to have gotten closer to the waterfall, but I didn’t go passed the ropes. I may break some rules, but when my life is at stake, that can be a different story. There were a good 20 people that I could see that had passed under the rope and got close. Good for them if they lived. The risk was not worth it to me. Against, perhaps go in the summer. The waterfall was mostly frozen and that was an interesting sight to see however.
We didn’t spend long at the waterfall due to the icy winds blowing us about. (Another reason why I didn’t want to take the icy patch passed the rope… too cold.. too windy.. to icey.)
So we made our way onward to Þingvellir National Park. According to Wiki Travel: “The Þingvellir area forms part of the volcanic fissure zone running right through Iceland, In turn, this zone is part of the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which extend the length of the Atlantic from north to south. The Þingvellir plains are the westernmost part of a rift valley stretching from the mountains in the northeast and down towards lake Þingvallavatn. The horsts delimiting the valley are the cliffs of Almannagjá fault to the west and the Heiðargjá fault to the east. Over the past 10,000 years the valley’s appearance has been shaped by the spreading and sinking of the Earth’s crust. The tectonic plates west of Almannagjá and east of Heiðargjá are gradually moving apart by an average of 3 mm per year. Measurements suggest that the graben (the floor of the valley) has widened 70 meters in the space of 10,000 years, and sunk by 40 meters at the same time – the difference between the top of Almannagjá and the plains below. As well as moving gradually, the land displaces at intervals of several hundred years. In 1789 Þingvellir was struck by a wave of earthquakes lasting ten days. The valley floor between Almannagjá and Heiðargjá sank by almost 2 meters then, mostly in the middle, and spread considerably too.”
Again, due to the weather we didn’t stay long at the park. If it were the summer I could have spent hours there. And luckily in the summer there’s almost no night time so you very possibly could spend hours there!
After the park we journeyed our way back home feeling accomplished and cold. I know I said it was cold more than once and that you should go in the summer more than once. Burt if you are only ever going to have one opportunity to go, and it happens to be in the winter I’d say still go! It is worth seeing!