An Experience Worth its Weight in Gold – Review of Iceland’s Golden Circle
I have just returned from Iceland and just couldn’t wait to write about my experiences over there. In the week we spent there we did many activities, however for me the main highlight was the Golden Circle tour. The Golden Circle itself is a popular tourist route of 300km in the South of Iceland which takes you through many of the country’s natural wonders.
The Iceland Story
We were picked up from our hotel in Reykjavik at 8:30 am. Once everyone was safely on-board, our driver Omar took us through a quick safety briefing before we headed out into the farming districts of the south. Ever since I arrived in Iceland I had been eyeing up the snow topped mountains and was so pleased that our tour took us up through them. As we drove through the mountains it began to snow, which made it feel really magical.
Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about Iceland and throughout the tour gave us so many facts and trinkets of information. I liked in particular how he gave his own opinion on things; Icelandic people are great believers in stories and tales, and it was nice to hear another side to the Iceland story. He went into detail about the how the first settlers came to the island, about Iceland’s nature and in particular the horses that became a striking part of Icelandic history. I was also astounded to learn that there are over 600 types of moss on the island which the locals love to make into tea! I was particularly interested in Omar’s information about how Iceland and Reykjavik came to have their names.
Gullfoss – the Golden Waterfall
After sucking up all the knowledge we could about Iceland we made our way to Gullfoss – the Golden Waterfall. I can honestly say that nothing prepared me for how beautiful and fiercely powerful this sight would be. It was great to learn that there had been much campaigning from the locals to prevent this beautiful landmark from being turned into a natural power supply plant.
It was snowing whilst we were at the waterfall, and whilst I could barely move my hands to take a photo I am so glad I got some lovely shots as it was such an awe-inspiring place. In the distance we could see glaciers, and were surrounded by snow-capped mountains. I couldn’t take my eyes of the beautiful scenery; these photos don’t do justice to the colour, beauty and sheer size of this incredible landmark.
The Geothermal Hot Springs
After Gullfoss we took a short drive to the geothermal valley of Haukadalur, on the slopes of Laugarfjall hill. It was here that we got to see the incredible force of the geothermal activity in the region. We watched in awe as the most active hot spring, Strokkur, spouted steam up in the air 20 metres high! This spectacle happened like clockwork every 5-7 minutes. We had enough time here to walk up the mountainous slopes of Laugarfjall hill and catch 360º panoramas of the spectacular landscape.
Thingvellir National Park
Following a lunch break at a nearby cafe we drove on to Thingvellir National Park, which included the Rift valley and the Rock of Law, which was the site of the first open-air Viking parliament! This beautiful National Park is on the UNESCO World heritage list and is set on two continental tectonic plates.
The last stop of the tour ended with a photo stop at the viewpoint above the Almannagja and the historic ‘Rock of Law’ before heading back to Reykjavik alongside the great lake with its unique arctic and volcanic landscape.
All in all I couldn’t have asked for a better day. We managed to see so much in that time and saw sights which I will never forget.
I would recommend to anyone thinking of doing the Golden Circle to book it with a tour company rather than hiring a car and doing it yourself. The knowledge and information which the drivers have is incomparable and something which you would never be able to experience by yourself.
AttractionTix offer a range of tours where you can visit the Golden Circle – See our Reykjavik Tours for more information.
About the author
Emma Drury is a Manchester based blogger over at beenthereeatenthat.co.uk, a food and lifestyle blog exploring the world one restaurant and experience at a time.