Along with the Blue Lagoon, the Golden Circle is one of the top things you have to see in Iceland at least on the Southern Coast). Located near Reykjavik, You can easily see the Golden Circle in a day, or even half a day, if you are speedy about it. The three main stops on the circle are Þingvellir (pronounce Thingvellir), Gulfoss (means Golden Falls), and Geysir (simply a big geyser).
If you can’t take the time to road trip around the entire country on the Ring Road, you should definitely take the time to rent a car and do the Golden Circle.
We travelled the Golden Circle opposite the usual direction, hoping to avoid the massive tour buses following the typical route.
That means we started with Gulfoss. Gulfoss means “Golden Falls” in Icelandic. Ginormous Gulfoss was once planned to be used to create energy, but it now is a protected site by Iceland. You can first view Gulsfoss from a distance and take the waterfall in with all of its glory. From the angle of approach, it looks as if the fall is disappearing into the earth. It isn’t until you climb down by the waterfall where you can see the deep trench the water falls into. There is also a platform built out by the “staircase” section of the falls, where you can get a great view from all angles.
Side-note: bring a rain jacket, even if it isn’t raining. The mist from the falls is extreme and you will get fairly wet.
Our next stop on the circle was Geysir. We probably spent maybe ten or fifteen minutes here, just to see Geysir erupt a couple of times. The whole area reeks of sulfur. The smell is extreme. As a warning, don’t stand downwind while waiting for Geysir to erupt. We saw a couple of people make that poor decision and had a cloud of the hot sulfur-smelling gas from the geyser blown right into them. They let out a shocked “ah!” and ran from the geyser gas, but didn’t make it. They were fine, of course, but I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant. It was kind of funny to watch though.
The third and final stop on the Golden Circle was Þingvellir. Þingvellir was probably my favorite sight on the Golden Circle for its beauty, and history. First the history: Þingvellir was the site of the first Icelandic parliament, and the first parliament in the world. As Iceland’s population grew with new Nordic and Celtic settlers, there was a need for a formal system of government, so Þingvellir was picked for both its beauty and convenience in location – no chieftain had to travel more than 17 days to arrive at Þingvellir. The first parliament assembly commenced in 930, and was held in Þingvellir every year until 1798. Each year the parliament would set new laws and help settle disputes. There was also the troubling trials of suspected “witches.” Those who were sentenced would be tied in a bag and thrown into a pond. We even saw the pond where this assumedly happened.
As for the beauty, Þingvellir is one in a million. Þingvellir sits on the fissure between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. This has created obvious natural beauty.
After seeing the three main sites, we took the “scenic route” back to Reykjavik. We first stopped at Efsti Dalur, a farm with an attached inn and restaurant. They have a waffle bar, coffee and homemade ice cream. The best part, however, was watching the cows through the windows in the restaurant. I was obsessed.
Our final stop was the Kerið volcanic crater. This crater was formed 3,000 years ago, when the molten core of the volcano cooled, and collapsed in on itself, forming the crater. Due to minerals in the soil, the earth is very reddish in color and the shallow lake is a vivid aquamarine.