It doesn’t really matter what part of Iceland you go to, you will be sure to encounter breathtaking sights and stunning natural sceneries that are unlike anything you have seen in other places around the world. Some of the country’s highlights have been connected via a tourist route that allows even visitors with little time to see some of Iceland’s most famous sights.
The Golden Circle is a scenic route that links three major attractions in Iceland’s southeastern corner. It begins and ends in Reykjavik and has a length of some 250 kilometers. The actual drive time will be somewhere between three and five hours, however as you will want to step out of the car and take in the attractions, plenty of extra time should be scheduled. There are a number of coach tours available that will take you on the Golden Circle tour, but you can also go on your own by rental car.
The attractions along the Golden Circle route include:
- Thingvellir National Park
Historically significant as the site where Iceland’s first parliament assembly took place in the year 930, the area has been marked by tectonic and volcanic activity. Various cracks and faults caused by the movements of the North American and Eurasian plates can be seen throughout the park, some having expanded to the size of canyons. Thingvellir National Park also features Iceland’s largest lake and has many trails for hiking.
- Geysir and Strokkur
These two geysers serve as examples for the strong volcanic activity underneath the surface that can be witnessed in many places in Iceland. Geysir was the first geyser ever discovered and serves as the namesake for all others around the globe. It was discovered in the 13th century but had already been active for many thousand years before that. If it erupts, it is capable of spouting hot water more than a hundred meters high, as it last did in the year 2000. Since then, it mostly reaches a height of around ten meters, but erupts only sporadically. However, only a few steps away, Strokkur reliably erupts every ten minutes, spouting water some 20 meters high.
Also along the Golden Circle route, the Gullfoss waterfalls can be reached. The Hvitá river falls down two stairs at this point, with the first fall being eleven meters high and the second one 21 meters. Below Gullfoss, the river has cut a deep canyon into the landscape. When the sun is out, there are often rainbows above the falls.