The Golden Circle roadtrip is a full day circular tour that starts from Reykjavík. The trip features some of Iceland’s best-known natural phenomena: ancient volcanoes, tumbling waterfalls and spouting geysers.
|Reykjavík (Harpa Car Park)||Reykjadalur Car Park||49.8||45|
|Reykjadalur Car Park||Kerið Car Park||27.3||25|
|Kerið Car Park||Faxafoss Car Park||35.4||26|
|Faxafoss Car Park||Gullfoss Car Park||18.7||23|
|Gullfoss Car Park||Haukadalur Car Park||9.7||9|
|Haukadalur Car Park||Þingvellir Car Park||53.9||45|
|Þingvellir Car Park||Reykjavík (Harpa Car Park)||54.2||50|
Valley of Reykjadalur [Valley of Steam] is a geothermal region of an extinct volcano. It can be reached by a 3-kilometer hike on a gravel path leading uphill from the car park of the town of Hveragerði. The trail leads among hot springs, mud pools and small waterfalls. The most popular attraction in the valley is the hot spring where visitors can bathe. A truly unique experience. There are also guided riding tours to the Reykjadalur Valley on Icelandic horses of the same breed that were brought to Iceland by the Norse settlers.
Kerið is a volcanic crater lake located at the northern end of the series of craters known as Tjarnarhólar. The water in the lake appears opaque bluish due to the minerals from the soil. The caldera offers different eye-catching look from different perspectives. There is a path around the edge of the caldera and access to the lake at the bottom.
In preparation for the famous Gullfoss, visitors can make a quick stop at the waterfall on River Tungufljót, Faxafoss [Waterfall of Faxi]. It is 80 meters wide and 7 meters high. It is possible to approach the waterfall and feel the drizzle from the water.
One of most iconic waterfalls in Iceland, Gullfoss [Golden Falls] is a magnificent waterfall in the canyon of the River Hvítá. The waterfall was named after the golden hue that often shines in its meltwater hailing from the Langjökull Glacier. The intense force of the water plummeting through two separate falls (11 and 21 meters) is stunning. It is worth visiting all the lookouts to enjoy every aspect of this dramatic display of nature’s raw power – from close-up to panoramic.
Gullfoss might not look like this today if it had not been for Sigríður Tómasdóttir (1871-1957). At that time, the waterfall belonged to her family’s farm. When foreign investors rented the area, she prevented them from harnessing the power of Gullfoss to generate electricity. For her struggle, she is considered to be the first environmentalist in Iceland.
Haukadalur geothermal area is most renowned for its geysers: Geysir and Strokkur. In this area, deep in the ground, the magma heats the meltwater of the Langjökull Glacier, which then bursts to the surface through vents. Geysir, which gave the world the term geyser, is the largest in the area, but it can take years between eruptions. It is currently in a dormant state. When it does erupt, the water can shoot up to 70 meters into the air. Strokkur is the most active in the area, blasting scalding water up to 30 meters into the air every five to ten minutes. As a ‘warning’, the eruption is preceded by the formation of a huge bubble.
Þingvellir National Park is a site of geological, historical and cultural significance. The park lies in a rift valley that marks the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The ridge between these tectonic plates is called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and most of it is located at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. However, there are a few places in Iceland, such as this park, where the Ridge is above sea level. The plates are slowly moving apart at a rate of a few centimeters a year, creating fissures in the lava fields. Among divers, the most famous fissure is Silfra. Due to its crystal clear water and geological wonders, Silfra is often chosen as one of the top five dive sites in the world. Although the water is very cold all year round. The water of the park’s huge lake, Þingvallavatn, comes from the Langjökull Glacier and is filtered through the intervening porous lava fields. It takes 20-30 years for the water to reach the lake from the glacier.
Many crucial events in the history of Iceland took place in this remarkable natural environment, such as the founding of the Alþingi [National Parliament of Iceland] in 930 AD (about sixty years after the first settlers arrived on the island), the acceptance of Christianity around 1000 AD, and the founding of the modern republic of Iceland in 1944. The Alþingi is considered to be the oldest parliament in the world. Every summer, the parliament assembled here during the Old Commonwealth (930 – 1262). Lögberg [Law Rock] was the center of the old Alþingi, which held legislative and judicial power. People from all over the country also flocked to Þingvellir – chieftains held meetings, peddlers, sword-sharpeners, tanners and ale-brewers sold their goods and services, and clowns performed for the gathered visitors. After the dissolution of the Old Commonwealth, Þingvellir’s importance declined and eventually became a simple court of law. Over the centuries, the sinking of the rift valley has caused flooding of the gathering place and the formation of new fissures. The site was abandoned in 1798. The Alþingi itself was abolished by a decree of the Danish crown in 1800 and then reconvened in Reykjavík in 1845. Due to its symbolic place in the Icelandic consciousness, the significance of Þingvellir was restored as a venue for national ceremonies in the 20th century. The millennial celebrations of the Settlement in 1874 and the founding of the Alþingi in 1930 were held here.