You may be thinking? What’s the Golden Circle? Is it a circle made of gold? Is it the sequel to the Kingsman movie? In different contexts…yes. In Iceland, no.
The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route in southern Iceland covering about 190 miles looping from Reykjavík into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. It is the area that contains most tours and travel-related activities in Iceland. You will see more tourists on this route, than anywhere else in Iceland. If you are there in peak season (Summer months) prepare to see even more.
Depending on what tour you do, or if you are doing it solo via a rental car you will see three main sites:
1. Thingvellir National Park
The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. To its south lies Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. Þingvellir is associated with the Althing, the national parliament of Iceland, which was established at the site in 930 AD. Sessions were held at the location until 1798.
Haukadalur is home to some of the most famous sights in Iceland: the geysers and other geothermal features which have developed on the Laugarfjall rhyolitic dome. The biggest geysers of Haukadalur are Strokkur and Geysir itself, which gave us the word ‘geyser’. Strokkur is very dependable and erupts every 5 to 10 minutes, whereas the bigger Geysir nowadays erupts very rarely. There are also more than 40 other smaller hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles nearby.
Gulfoss is a waterfall located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. It’s truly a wonder to behold. I was extremely lucky to capture a beautiful rainbow as the sun poked through on an otherwise overcast day.
After a long day of travel, our tour ended with a soak in the Secret Lagoon. Unlike the Blue Lagoon, which is man-made, this is a natural hot spring.
When you arrive you head to the locker rooms, take off your shoes, and head into the shower rooms (which are separated by male and female). There are free lockers for you to use to place your valuables in, and change. Fun fact: you have to shower before you get into the hot springs…naked. Yup, if you have read anything about that, it’s absolutely true. It really was not that awkward. Everyone kept to themselves, showered (including washing your hair) and changed into swim suits.
After an hour soak, I was warmed to my inner core and headed back to the locker room to shower, change and head back to Reykjavik.
My final opinion
I booked this day tour through Get Your Guide. It’s a great website to book all sorts of activities in places all around the globe. The tour company this was through was Sterna Travel. While I throughly enjoyed the destinations of this tour, I was not excited about our guide. He was very quiet, and really didn’t offer much in terms of history, stories, etc. If you would rather sit in quiet, then this is the trip for you. However, if you are like me and want to learn about all the places and their stories you may be disappointed.
- You can book this Golden Circle & Secret Lagoon Tour here.
- OR I found this one through Bus Travel Iceland, which takes you to the Secret Lagoon first and then to the Golden Circle. You should book this!
The Secret Lagoon is an absolute must in my opinion, so whichever tour or way you choose to get there it’s worth the stop!
We headed back to Reykjavik, warm, relaxed and ready for my romp around Reykjavik the next day.