Most pictures of Iceland we had seen before, were shot here. No matter if it’s the huge Gulfoss waterfalls, the Geyser Strokkur or Þingvellir (pronounce like Thinkvellir). In the south and southwest of Iceland you’ll find some of the most important sites of the country.
Just as mentioned before, we hired a rental car and we didn’t have to pay any entry or parking fees. At least in winter. Hopefully, this doesn’t change in the future.
We were very lucky as regards the weather. But the Golden Circle is a quite busy place. Iceland appeared to us as very calm in low season (including Reykjavik). But at the Golden Circle, it seemed as if all tourists in Iceland were here at the same time. What a contrast to Snaefellsness.
All sights of the Golden Circle belong to the Haukadalur, a geothermal area.
Rental car or booking a tour
This is something you have to decide on your own. We’re fans of renting a car.
However, we saw a lot of tour providers in Reykjavik offering (half) day trips by bus. In this case, you’re making the tour with a guided group and it might be less stressful for you, but you’re less flexible. Stopping on the way to take pictures is just not possible this way.
The golden falls are mighty and beautiful. But the wind here was so damn cold, we couldn’t stand this for too long. You can see the waterfalls from different platforms (basically from upstairs and downstairs).
You should know, that in winter not all walkways are cleared perfectly (however, the roads are fantastic). Of course, the snow freezes after a while and everything becomes a slippery adventure. You HAVE to buy good shoes for Iceland in winter!
The name of the Geyser means ‘churn’ and except for the boring minutes when nothing happens, it’s really spectacular when it erupts. Especially the blue colour shortly before it breaks out. It goes as high as 35 meters.
In continental Europe, you’d have to pay quite an amount to see something like this!
Next to the Strokkur is the Great Geysir. Actually, the word Geyser comes from that particular one. Today it’s not really active anymore, though.
This place is a historically and geologically important national park.
Translated it means something like ‘Plain of the parliament’. Beginning in 930 AD, every year in June Icelanders were holding their legislative assembly called Alþing at this place. Therefore, it’s one of the oldest parliaments in the world and was held until 1798.
All important happenings took place here. For example when they adopted Christianity in the year 1000 or when they declared their indecency in 1944. For Icelanders, Þingvellir is the most important place of the country.
There is a platform offering a fantastic view over the landscape and the island’s largest lake Þingvallavatn. The Lögberg (Law Rock) was the place where the Alþing hold their speeches and made the laws.
For most non-Icelanders it’s probably more interesting for geological reasons. The Mid-Atlantic-Ridge goes through Þingvellir, which means you can see the Eurasian and North American Plate separating. Enormous canyons are proof of that. Every year the ridge becomes larger, something between 8mm and 2.5cm.
You should definitely put Þingvellir on your Iceland Bucket List!
Most operators offer the Golden Circle as a half day tour and we also saw everyting in a couple of hours. Perfect to combine Reykjanes Peninsula, especially if the weather is so amazing! From Þingvellir you reach the Peninsula in under an hour passing Reykjavik on your way.
Firstly you reach Krysuvik, a geothermal field. We ignored it, having enough of bubbles, steam and sulphur for more than a day. Crossing a sparse, yet astonishing moon landscape and some nice fishing hamlets at the wild seaside, we drove directly to one of the most famous sights in Iceland:
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon (Bláa Lonith) is a thermal swimming pool in the moon landscape. The water, rich with silica and minerals comes from the nearby geothermal power plant and is reused after creating electrical energy. Decent 42° Celsius invite you to relax.
BUT: Approaching the Blue Lagoon, we saw a huge crowded parking lot and many tour busses and in the entrance building, masses of guests waiting to go in. Furthermore, entrance fee would have been €45 per person (€40 if you pre-book online). We didn’t have to think too long to decide not to visit Blue Lagoon this day.
We strolled around the nearby lake for some time and took some photos. Even some hours later we still thought if it was the right decision. But it would definitely not have been relaxing due to the countless guests and ridiculously expensive. Maybe you should come in the morning of a weekday to enjoy and take lovely photos in the blue water. Next time, maybe!
Have you been to the Blue Lagoon yet? What do you think about it?