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Iceland's Golden Circle tour

Home > Reykjavik > Photography | Outdoor | Nature | Fun Things To Do | Adventure
Published May 30th 2021
Three of Iceland's best tourist attractions in a single day
The Golden Circle includes three of Iceland's most spectacular natural wonders.

Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and the famous Icelandic geysers are all located in the south-west corner of the island. You can visit them separately if you want, but they're normally done together as a day trip from Reykjavik.

The nice thing about this tour is that you can see a wide range of landscapes in a single day. You'll find several operators offering coach tours, but you could easily hire a car and go at your own pace. The total driving distance is about 155 miles (250 km).

Gullfoss

We started at Gullfoss. It's an amazing set of waterfalls, where the river Hvita drops 32 metres into a deep rift in the ground.

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Gullfoss waterfall


Our guide told us that anyone visiting Gullfoss comes away happier and more energised.

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Gullfoss means 'golden waterfall', because the water often looks golden-brown when the sun shines on it


It was certainly exhilarating to walk right up to the edge of the rocks and stand in the spray of the waterfall.



Geysir

After leaving Gullfoss, a 10 minute drive brought us to the Geysir geothermal area.

It's a very strange place, filled with hot springs and bubbling mud pools. One of these springs is called Geysir, and this is where the word geyser comes from.

Despite its fame, the geyser of Geysir is currently dormant and isn't especially impressive these days. It very rarely erupts, although it does surprise people sometimes. In 2000 a sudden eruption sent water well over 100 metres high, and it also went off in 2016.

Perhaps a future earthquake will trigger Geysir again. For now, though, the main attraction here is another geyser called Strokkur.

Strokkur is one of the most active geysers in the world, reliably erupting every 5 to 10 minutes.

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Fairly small eruption at Strokkur


Every eruption is different. Sometimes there's just a small squirt of water, but quite often the spring erupts anywhere between 20 and 40 metres into the air.

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More spectacular eruption at the same place


It seemed to be roughly 50/50 whether you see a small or large eruption, although I wasn't there long enough to be sure. Feel free to correct me in the comments!

Before carrying on with the tour, have a look round the shops and restaurants at the Geysir Center. Of the three destinations, Geysir is the best place to stop for lunch.

Thingvellir National Park

Our final stop was Thingvellir National Park, which is the point where the North American and Eurasian continental plates meet.

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Gap between two continents


This is the only place in the world where you can stand in the rift between two continents. The plates continue to move apart from each other, and apparently, the whole of Iceland was created by magma welling up between them.

The other interesting thing about Thingvellir is that the world's first ever parliament was founded here. It was created by Viking settlers in the year 930, and they began meeting here every year to settle their disputes.

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The Icelandic Parliament has since moved to Reykjavik, but is still the oldest ongoing Parliament worldwide


Thingvellir became a National Park in 1930, to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the original parliament.

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Another beautiful view


It's the heart of the country, and the perfect place to finish the tour.
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Why? One of Iceland's most popular and spectacular tours
When: Open all year
Where: Reykjavik area, south-west Iceland
Cost: Free, apart from coach or car hire costs
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