The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is made up of three primary places- Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. Although these areas tend to be over-toured and crazy crowded, they should be seen at least once. If you are spending time in Iceland and want to do more than a day trip through the Golden Circle, you should really consider going during shoulder season. Tour buses galore run through the Circle from Reykjavik in addition to all the tourists doing a 1-2 day layover on IcelandAir.
My favorite part? Þingvellir National Park. It’s only about 45 minutes from Reykjavik and is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is the area where the Mid Atlantic Ridge is most visible- although the Ridge runs through Iceland, it’s the most dramatic here. The Ridge is formed from the rift valley between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, which are still separating about an inch each year. The water that runs between the rift is absolutely clear and some of the wildest snorkeling in the world is found here in the Silfra Ravine. You can dive here as well (but only if you’re qualified). If you’re not into snorkeling, take the boardwalk to Öxarárfoss waterfall and enjoy the amazing views. As you walk, imagine the first Icelandic people meeting together to form their own parliament here. It’s here that many of their laws and regulations were decided on, and the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the Golden Circle.
Your next stop will be at Geysir, home to the oldest documented geyser in Europe. You probably won’t see that geyser erupt while you’re there, but you will see Strokkur, as it erupts every 10 minutes or so. It’s fairly magnificent and the surrounding area is full of boiling creeks and small hot pots of water scattered everywhere. You can hike up the hill behind Strokkur and Geysir for a beautiful view of the surrounding area.
Just a few minutes down the road is Gullfoss. It.is.spectacular. The parking lot here fills up fast so come early. There are quite a few steps down the hill leading to the walkway that skirts the falls, so be careful. As with every stop on the Golden Circle, there is no admission fee.