Iceland’s Golden Circle is a famous tourist trail that takes in the amazingly spectacular sites of Strokkur Geyser, Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. After spending our first day in Iceland with Arni from Viking Trips exploring Iceland’s South Coast we spent our second day with him on a private tour exploring the Golden Circle, our Golden Circle Tour left at 7 am and we were back on board by 2 pm.
By booking a private tour we were able to create our own itinerary and see exactly what we wanted. Having Arni as our local tour guide also meant he had insider knowledge and knew the best times to visit each site.
Arni was also able to show us places that were only known to locals! Private tours can be a little dearer than a regular bus tour but they give you the opportunity to customise your every move, I think they are worth every cent!
Located just under two hours from Reykjavik on the Golden Circle trail is Gullfoss Waterfall, which is possibly Iceland’s most famous and dare I say impressive waterfall. The sheer size, power and noise of the rushing water is simply spectacular to see and left us in awe of what mother nature has created.
As a tourist, you will find that you can get quite close to the action. There is a narrow path with lots of steps that leads all the way down to a viewing platform where you will get some great pics up close.
You will get wet from the spray of the water, so make sure you wear your wet weather gear and suitable footwear as the path can get a little slippery. As you walk back along the track up towards the car park you will also be able to get some greats pics of the waterfall in its entirety – it’s ginormous!
The onsite visitor center has a café (with delicious hot chocolate) and a souvenir shop which is open from 10 am – 6.30 pm. The outside balcony acts as a great viewing platform for Gullfoss Waterfall especially in the winter when the snow may be covering the pathway.
You can visit Gulfoss all year round, we visited in August and the outlook was beautiful but I can just imagine how stunning the falls would look when covered in winter snow
Cost: There is no fee to visit Gullfoss Waterfall
Travel Time From Reykjavik: Approximately 1 hour & 40 minute drive
Another unforgettable stop on Iceland’s Golden Circle trail is the Strokkur Geyser. This is one of Iceland’s most famous Geysers and is a bubbling pool of water just waiting to erupt when you are least expecting it to!
As as you walk up to the main attraction you will see small pools of steaming water which are very very hot so be sure to take note of the warning signs. Strokkur will erupt as high as 15-20 meters every 5-10 minutes and let me tell you even though you know it’s going to happen you wait with anticipation and boom it scares the daylights out of you each and every time!
The Geyser is fascinating to see, the ground is literally bubbling before your eyes. Make sure you take some slow-motion footage of the Geyser erupting, it makes for a great video clip.
Across the road from the Strokkur Geyser is the Geyser Centre which has souvenirs along with places to eat and stay. We found the shop to have some fun Icelandic traditional sweaters and blankets which are made out of Icelandic sheep wool.
The wool is very different from the soft Australian sheep wool, it feels coarse and wiry which helps the sheep survive the harsh Icelandic weather conditions. Needless to say, this wool will keep you very warm so I just had to buy one of the Geysir blankets!
This is also a great stop to pick up some traditional Icelandic chocolate licorice. We bought the Lakkris brand and it was so delicious that at the next stop we bought more and then at the next stop we bought even more!
Cost: There is no fee to visit Strokkur Geysir
Travel Time From Reykjavik: Approximately 1 ½ hour drive
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site and it defiantly deserves this title. Not only has it been the site of Iceland’s parliament between the 10th and 18th century it is also where the American and European tectonic plates are slowly drifting apart. Don’t worry you won’t fall in as they only move about 2cm every year. This really is amazing to see and for an even better experience, you can walk down into the rift valley and see how this has re-shaped the landscape.
As you walk through the park you will also see the Öxarárfoss waterfall which is another stunning waterfall that is approximately 13-meters high. It’s very rocky and the ground is uneven so wear your comfy shoes and watch your step! You may see the Icelandic flag flying and if you do you will be looking at the famous “Law Rock” which is where the very first parliament session was held – pretty impressive right!
The Icelandic horse has become an iconic figure of Iceland and for anyone visiting Iceland. I am totally in love with the Icelandic horse, they are so cute and full of personality. I think what makes them so special and interesting is that they are all bred in Iceland. Icelandic law doesn’t allow horses to be imported into the country.
We stopped at a place where we were able to take some pics and feed the horses their very own “Horse Candy” for a small fee. One cheeky horse ate all of the food we had and wouldn’t let his friends have any! There are plenty of opportunities to stop by the side of the road and take pictures of these beautiful horses all around Iceland.
Good To Know
Month Visited: Late August (we didn’t get to see the Northern lights)
Sunrise: Approximately 5.50 am
Sunset: Approximately 9.00 pm
Average Daytime Temperature: 11°C
Currency: Icelandic Krona
Language: The official language of Iceland is Icelandic but English is widely spoken
Recommended: Book a private Tour of Iceland’s South Coast and Blue Lagoon – you won’t be disappointed!
Tour Companies: Viking Trips – Arni and Iceland Go Tours – Bjorn
We completed a 14-night Iceland and Ireland cruise with Celebrity Cruises and chose this particular cruise as it had a two-day stop in Reykjavik which allowed us to see the South Coast including the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle highlights. Celebrity offers different cruise options for Iceland so be sure to check out the Celebrity Cruise website for all of the different itinerary options!
Wanting to know more about Iceland?
Iceland’s South Coast and Blue Lagoon
Thoughts, opinions and photos shared here about Exploring Iceland’s Golden Circle are entirely my own.