The Golden Circle is the popular tourist route that includes Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir, and Thingvellir National Park. They make an easy day trip from the capital or airport, so people on a short layover always visit this area. You can easily drive the whole ring in a day. Along the way, there are a few farms where you can stop and see Icelandic horses. Tehya re also all free to enjoy! The main sites are:
- Gullfoss – Fed by Langjökull, Iceland’s second biggest glacier, this is one of the most photographed waterfalls in the country. While not the biggest or most majestic, its V shape is unique and powerful to watch. Iceland’s most famous waterfall tumbles 105 feet into a steep-sided canyon, kicking up a wall of spray. On sunny days, the spray creates shimmering rainbows over the gorge. This is a truly amazing spectacle and a rewarding scene after a nice hike.
- Geysir – A famous hot spring in Haukadalur Valley. Geysir itself seldom erupts anymore, but nearby Strokkur spouts 15-20 meters of water about every 10 minutes. There are also numerous strikingly colored hot pools in the area along the path. If you want to hike up the mountains nearby (takes 20 minutes to get to the top), you’ll be rewarded with picturesque views of farmland.
- Thingvellir – This place is full of hiking trails and stunning camping grounds, but its big draw is that it’s the only place in the world where you can see two major tectonic plates drifting apart above sea level. Walking through the park takes a good 1-2 hours, but the landscape is so gorgeous (and it’s not a difficult walk). You can also go scuba diving between the plates and there are some good guided walks.
If you have a vehicle, take Highway 1 east from the city until you hit Route 35. Follow that north to Gullfoss. The journey will be just under 2 hours. On your way back to Reykjavik you can stop at Geysir and Thingvellir via Route 37/365. If you are not returning to Reykjavik, do Gullfoss last so you can continue on Highway 1 around the island.