The Golden Circle is without doubt the most popular tour in Iceland. Whether you choose to do it as an organised excursion with a tour company or go it alone in your rental car or motorhome rental in Iceland, you’ll be wowed more than once. Any easy trip from the country’s capital Reykjavik, the Golden Circle comprises three major attractions: Gullfoss waterfall, the geysers at Geysir and Þingvellir National Park, site of Iceland’s original Parliament.
The Golden Circle Tour Route
At the Geysir
Begin your adventure at Geysir. Here, water underneath the ground is super-heated until it is released as a jet of steam. Geysir, the original gusher, has long since been dormant, but show-off Strokkur performs every four to eight minutes with a reliable spurt of boiling water and steam that reaches up to thirty metres into the air. It’s a fantastic introduction to Iceland’s geothermal wonders, and something you’ll be talking about long after you return home.
A short drive from Geysir is the dramatic waterfall known as Gullfoss waterfalls. Translating as “Golden Falls”, this is one of the country’s must-see waterfalls. Here, the river Hvítá plunges into a gorge over thirty metres deep, creating plumes of spray that will give visitors a soaking if they dare to stand too close to the edge. Thrill seekers will be delighted with the rafting opportunities afforded by the river, with the chance of heading almost all the way to the waterfalls via the spectacular Brúðarhlöð canyon.
Þingvellir National Park
The highlight of the tour for many is Þingvellir National Park (or Thingvellir National Park in English). The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly edging apart leaving a raw landscape of moss covered rock, steep-sided gorges and panoramic views across the surrounding countryside. Situated by the river Öxara, the Alþing general assembly was established back in the year 930 and continued to meet there as late as 1798. A legislative assembly known as the Lögrétta convened to settle disputes and pass laws.
If that’s not adventurous enough for you, it’s possible to combine a Golden Circle tour with caving. After exploring the fault at Þingvellir, intrepid tourists can walk through the Almannagja canyon and into Gjábakkahellir cave, picking their way through the rugged lava field.