The Golden Circle is a “must-do” for anyone going to Iceland. It’s an hour out of Reykjavik and a nice balance for those pub crawls that most people indulge in when they visit this cold and lively city on a volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.
So, what is it? The Golden Circle has three different geographical wonders to enjoy. The word Golden comes from the famous and spectacular water fall—Gullfoss—which means Golden Waters.
There are lots of ways to do the Golden Circle—rent a car and do your own adventure, take a tour on a big bus or charter a smaller more personal trip which is what I did. I booked SuperJeeps and had a wonderful day.
The drive out of Reykjavik was spectacular. As we left the city, the rolling hills an mountains in the distance were lightly snow covered and stunning. I could have stopped and spent the day shooting. I loved the churches, simple and clean lined. I was told some people call them IKEA churches because they look like they could be flat pack. Funny.
There are about 350 churches in Iceland which seems like a lot for a population of 320,000. Charming structures.
Didn’t get to stop because were on our way to Thingvellier National Park to see the site of the original Parliament in Iceland and actually the first Parliament in Europe. The site was selected by the Vikings in the 800s because of the proximity to lakes with fish for food, a moving stream for waste removal and the natural setting for gathering.
Thingvellier National Park
I enjoyed walking to the area where the Vikings met every other year to hammer out the issues of ruling their settlement and enjoy a bit of festivity.
Here are some photos of the area and a couple of drawings showing what it might have looked like in the 800’s.
I’m also including an image that made me smile. A group of young people recording their walk along the historic site. I’m wondering if they saw anything of the natural wonders and who they will share their version with.
This is the area where the tectonic plates meet far underground. One side is Europe and the other North America. High potential for earthquakes I imagine. The other is that this national park is free. With tourism in Iceland growing at 20% year I am wondering how long this will last and what will happen to the area if overrun with tourists. it’s a concern.
If you are thinking of going, I’d suggest going soon.
Geysir Geothermal area
Our second stop on the Golden Circle was the geyser. Yup. Hot water shooting into the air. The English word geyser stems from the name of this hot spring. I enjoyed the geyser that went “off” every ten minutes or so. It was fun trying to capture the bubbling that occurs just before she blows. Here’s my effort.
And then we went to the Golden Waterfall. Gorgeous and stunning and really fun to see and meander around. I learned that many years ago, there was an effort to damn this up for electric power, but a single woman took charge of a protest and prevented it from happening. I’m impressed with her energy and foresight.
Those three stops make up the typical Golden Circle tour but my SuperJeep tour took me on another stop that I’l always remember—the Langjokull Glacier. Our guide/driver let some air out of the tires so we could bump along over lava rocks, over very rough and steep terrain. It was a bit out of my comfort zone but I figured, “you only live once and I’m here and this is now.”
Wow. Was it fun and I loved walking on the glacier. It was a bit nerve racking as I made my way towards a crevice to shoot photos and my guide held me back, telling me that it wasn’t clear where the crevice ended and I might be walking on a thin snow and ice shelf.
If I did, down I’d go. Probably gone forever.
I noticed he kept the jeep on tire tracks from other glacier adventurers. No meandering off.
It’s really a spectacular experience and I’m glad I got to go.