There is an abundance of natural beauty in Iceland coupled with the lovely city of Reykjavik. We started off our trip from the airport rental car agency to tour the Golden Circle. There are three major sites on the tour with other additional recommendations to add along the way. Plan your day according to time available. Our day unfortunately began around noon, which left us cutting some corners and not dawdling. Due to our start time and the weather conditions, we stuck strictly to the major sites with little additions. After leaving the airport, we drove past Reykjavik off to the first stop on the Golden Circle. Prior to the trip, I purchased the Michelin map of Iceland on Amazon. You can find the exact map in my Iceland post. It is not difficult to navigate Iceland, but having the map was helpful especially when a phone GPS is not available. The Golden Circle is a route approximately 185 miles in length that does literally make a circle leaving and returning to Reykjavik.
1. Pingvellir National Park: Follow the signs and there is a large parking lot that you will come to first (P1). We found plenty of spaces available and went to the restroom and entered the interactive visitor center for an overview. At this stop, the wind was terrible and there was ice. The two combined made being outdoors rather unpleasant. Therefore, we did not make the walk to see the entire park. This park allows you to literally visualize the fissure formed between the American and European Tectonic Plates. It is beautiful, and I wish the weather would have allowed for a more pleasant visit. The ice was so aggressive it felt like it was cutting my face! There is a waterfall that is a bit of a walk and seen in several guide books. Next time, I would want to spend more time here and make the walk to the waterfall. I think if my clothing selection had been slightly better things might have been different. My coat could have been heavier. Also, I really needed a hat and waterproof gloves. This is where I needed to plan better ahead of time. With time, I have learned from these experiences that packing correctly for the elements can make a huge difference.
2. Geysir: The weather calmed down a little bit for us at this stop. You will see parking on your right if traveling from Pingvellir and the Geysir itself is across the street. Once you arrive, adjacent to the parking area, there is food, restrooms, and a large gift shop. Most of the food is quick “to go” bites. Make the short walk guided by the crowds to see Geysir. We watched it erupt three times. Everyone is perched with their cameras ready waiting for the right moment. I started record on my phone about twenty times trying to capture the right shot on video.
At this stop, you will also find Hotel Geysir. It was under construction when we were traveling in Iceland, but it looked fantastic despite not being completed. I checked out their website and found that they opened in August of 2019. The rooms and bathrooms are beautifully done. They are minimalistic in design and decor. Their website is hotelgeysir.is. There is a ton of great information on their website.
3. Gullfoss: I have to say this was my favorite stop on the Golden Circle. It is incredible! It is a short drive from Geysir, and you could visit it first because you have to turn around and continue back past Geysir to complete the Golden Circle trip. There are also bathrooms at this stop along with a gift shop and Gullfoss Cafe. Make sure you take the time to walk around and view the waterfall from all vantage points.
Another consideration for this area is staying the night at Hotel Gullfoss. It is not quite two miles from the waterfall in a more remote area. Check out their website at www.hotelgullfoss.is. The outside structure is not updated as compared to Hotel Geysir, but the rooms look beautiful.
This completed our Golden Circle trip, and we used our map to navigate to the ION city Adventure Hotel near Selfoss for our first night stay. If you have more time, you may want to consider stopping at the Secret Lagoon or Kerid Crater. Traveling south, you would come to the Secret Lagoon first. The Secret Lagoon has been considered a cheaper alternative to the Blue Lagoon with beautiful surroundings. If following the conventional Golden Circle route, you will drive right by. Finally, the Kerid Crater I mention in my next post. We stopped here the following morning prior to touring the South Coast due to time constraints. Ideally, I would have added Kerid Crater to my Golden Circle tour. If you tour the South Coast and are planning to drive back to Reykjavik, it makes for a very long day. Viewing Kerid Crater on day one (Golden Circle) would have helped simplify our day touring the South Coast.