The Golden Circle is one of the ‘must see’ trips in Iceland. Ideally you should do Iceland’s ring road which goes the whole way around the country but if you don’t have a week and a camper van then the Golden Circle is a great option and what most people do. There are a multitude of tours but I suggest driving it if you can.
The roads on the Golden Circle are serviced and ploughed so they are safe but if the weather is terrible there can be a light blanket of snow later in the day. From the centre of Reykjavik it takes about 45minutes to drive to Thingvellir National Park. There’s a visitor centre and another five minutes up the road there’s an information centre which has a little cafe and some very helpful staff. The park is beautiful but we didn’t walk too much of it because it was absolutely freezing, snowing, and the paths were very sludgy (is that a word?). We spent about 45 minutes to an hour there but you could easily stay longer in the Summer.
Another hour up the road are the geysers at Haukadalur. There are two famous geysers there called Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir does not erupt anymore but Strokkur frequently does every five to ten minutes. There are also plenty of little hot springs to look at but you ca n’t touch them as the water is 80 to 100 degrees C. There’s one or two where you can touch the very edge of the water which is warm but we didn’t do it until we saw someone else do it and not scald himself. It’s nice for wander around for about half an hour before retreating to the restaurant across the road for tea. The steam also provides some warmth which is nice though it smells like rotten eggs.
Ten minutes on and you come to Gullfoss Waterfall which is genuinely spectacular, especially in the snow. This was a big highlight of the trip for me and photos just don’t do it justice. During the Summer you can walk down closer to them but the paths are closed off in snowy weather.
Practical Stuff: Aside from the cost of fuel (we spent about 30-40 euro over the whole trip) the Golden Circle attractions are free. The cafes are pricey so bring a packed lunch if you’re on a tight budget. The roads aren’t busy and it’s mostly driving straight along the same one so it’s not particularly difficult and it’s unlikely that you’ll lost. There’s about three hours of driving involved and then depending how long you spend in each place, another couple of hours to sightsee. We spent about six hours in total but we probably would have spent a little longer if it wasn’t so cold and snowy. There’s extra things you can see too but we didn’t want to have to drive back in the dark. I found a really good blog here that helped us plan our trip and get an idea of what to expect.
Thanks for reading