Iceland: A trip around the Golden Circle

One of the places I knew I had to visit when heading to Iceland was the Golden Circle. I say one of the places, the Golden Circle is actually a route near Reykjavik where there are many different natural sights to pull off the road and explore.

Which brings you to your first decision – do you hire a car to explore at your own pace, or do you join one of the many coach tours that depart from Reykjavik and take it at your tour guide’s pace? After much deliberation – determined by reading one too many horror stories about Iceland’s ferocious weather causing damage to rental cars, like doors been ripped off by the wind or flying gravel severely damaging cars resulting in tourists been hit with hefty repair bills – we plumped for the coach option. After much research, I booked Bus Travel Iceland’s Grand Golden Circle Tour, which cost about £42 each.

This tour had extra stops that other tours did not include, and the reviews were all very favourable which swayed me (I booked on TripAdvisor) – after now having experienced the tour, I can highly recommend it, and it was my favourite tour of the holiday. We were looked after by Julia, our tour guide, and “moustache man”, our driver, and they made the tour a joy. Between stops Julia expertly kept us entertained and informed about the scenery we passed and the stops we were about to visit.

Our first stop off was at Hveragerði (Hveragerdi), which wasn’t a stop, more of a “comfort break” and a slightly pointless one as it’s close to both Reykjavik and the first proper stop on the tour: Kerið (Kerid). The only great thing about the stop at Hveragerdi was it started snowing as we arrived there, and this snow continued on and off for most of our day which made exploring the Golden Circle oh-so-magical as it was nice snow and not a full-on blizzard.

Kerid is a great stop if you want to feel like you've visited the moon (see above). In less snowier conditions the moon-like appearance changes and apparently what you see is red lava rock surrounding deep blue water  but we had to take other people's descriptions on that one. After Kerid we headed to Faxi, a small waterfall full of salmon. There’s something quite majestic about nature – and Iceland represents nature at its very best – but Faxi paled in comparison to our next stop on the tour: Gullfoss.

Gullfoss, which translates as "golden waterfall" – above, and top photo – is a pretty dramatic waterfall, and it's also quite beautiful  even more so for us as the snow swirled and danced around above the gushing river of water. Look out for the tribute to Sigríður Tómasdóttir who is seen to be the saviour of Gullfoss when a businessman tried to buy the land where the waterfall was to utilise its energy for a hydroelectric plant. She’s, rightly, seen as Iceland’s first environmentalist, and is very much the reason we can all enjoy Gullfoss's beauty today.

From Gullfoss we headed to Geysir, via a quick bonus stop off to say hello to some Icelandic horses (never call them ponies). Geysir is also where we paused for lunch, though of course this is not the main attraction. (Lunch here is typical fast food fare and cost us £18, in total, for fish and chips and a burger and chips.) The bubbling beautiful hot springs, mud pots and eruptions should be where your focus lies – don't worry about missing the eruptions from Strokkur though (Geysir is inactive at the moment) as they happen every five to ten minutes.

Our final stop was the Thingvellir (Þingvellir) national park, which is famous for two reasons. The first reason because it was the home to the oldest parliament in the world  from 930 to 1799 the country was run from there, until the Danes took over and ruled Iceland. In 1844, when the Danes stopped ruling Iceland, parliament moved to Reykjavik, where it is still run from today.

The second reason the national park is famous is because it is where the Eurasian tectonic plate meets the North American plate – the reason why Iceland is the land of fire and ice because of how it sits above these two plates. If you're visiting Thingvellir, take a walk in no-man's land between the plates, aka the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Iceland is certainly a country of extremes and visiting the Golden Circle affords you the perfect opportunity to explore and experience for yourself the very best of the country's natural phenomena.

Have you explored the Golden Circle, or is it a place that's on your bucket list?

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