It’s the last day of our week-long trip to South Iceland. Can you believe it? After exploring the wonders of the South Coast such as Seljalandsfoss, Vík, Jökulsárlón, and Vatnajökull, we made our way back to Reykjavik. Yesterday saw a visit to Iceland famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. Taking a day trip from Reykjavik to the Golden Circle is the perfect way to end your 7-day South Iceland itinerary.
Today it’s time to finish it off with a trip around the Golden Circle route. This is one of the cooler sightseeing circuits in Iceland, and you’re sure to enjoy it. From the mighty Gullfoss waterfall to the churning, bubbling, heated geysers at Strokkur and Geysir to the historically and geologically significant Thingvellir National Park, some of the country’s finest natural wonders are on full display. The 190-mile (300-km) route loops around from Reykjavik close to the southwestern part of the Highlands.
Day 1: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Sólheimasandur
Day 2: Vík, Reynisfjara, and Dyrhólaey
Day 3: Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach
Day 4: Vatnajökull National Park and its Glaciers
Day 5: Reykjavik City and Nightlife
Day 6: The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa
Final day! 7: The Golden Circle
Clockwise of counterclockwise?
You can actually go either clockwise or counterclockwise around the Golden Circle. There are also other stops along the way besides just “The Big Three”. Some other attractions along the Golden Circle route include Thingvallakirkja church, the Secret Lagoon, Efstidalur farm, Sólheimar Eco Village, Langjökull glacier, Slakki zoo, the Kerið volcanic crater, the Drumbó river, the Skálholt cathedral, and many more. Let’s travel clockwise around the route.
First Golden Circle Stop: Thingvellir National Park
This national park is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a major part of the country’s Viking past and political present. It was here that the world’s first parliament, Iceland’s Althing, congregated over a thousand years ago in 930 AD. Back when the island was ruled by clans, the most powerful chieftains and tribesmen gathered here to make decisions using this early form of government. It continues to this day, and Iceland’s Parliament is now based in Reykjavik.
Another must-see in Thingvellir National Park is the Silfra Fissure. Iceland has the unique distinction of sitting right on top of the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Not only does this make the island a volcanic hotspot, but it also means you can see a split in the Earth’s crust if you come here.
Iceland is literally breaking into two halves, and you can see tectonic movement at Thingvellir. Parts of the gash in the Earth have even split so wide open that you can scuba dive in the frigid, turquoise waters that fill the fissure.
Second Golden Circle Stop: Geysir and Strokkur Geysers in the Haukadalur Geothermal Area
Iceland is known as the Land of Fire and Ice. Due to the previously mentioned location above two tectonic plates, the island was formed thanks to massive amounts of geological and volcanic activity. In fact, the island of Surtsey just off Iceland’s coast was formed in 1967. All these rumblings beneath the ground and the ocean floor eventually bubble their way up to the surface. One spectacular result is natural wonders like geothermal hot springs and exploding geysers.
The Haukadalur geothermal area is home to not one, but two massive geysers. The bigger and more impressive one is called Geysir. We actually get the English word “geyser” from this natural wonder. Unfortunately, the high-reaching column of water seems to have gone dormant as of late. Eruptions of “The Great Geysir” are few and far between, sometimes only happening a few times a year.
If you’re looking for a guaranteed show, head to Strokkur geyser. It’s a much more reliable spout than Geysir and shoots water in the air every 10 minutes or so. When it erupts, it climbs to spectacular heights of up to 100 feet (30 meters). It’s truly a spectacular sight to see. Just be careful to keep your distance. The water is boiling hot and can scald you.
Third Golden Circle Stop: Gullfoss Waterfall
Last but not least is the gorgeous Gullfoss or “golden” waterfall. You’ll find this waterfall and its double drop flowing into the waters of the Hvítá canyon and river. The falls received their name because on sunny days, they take on a special golden hue. During the summer, the lush green setting around Gullfoss is complemented by rainbows caused by the water’s spray. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Iceland during the winter, you can also see it half frozen! Witnessing Gullfoss in suspended animation is quite the sight to behold.
While visiting, be sure to stop by their cafe and restaurant to try their famous traditional meat soup. It will power you on your way or the return trip to Reykjavik.
Other Stops on The Golden Circle Route
While the three primary stops on the Golden Circle route are outlined above, they’re not the whole story. It will actually take several hours to drive the full circuit, so why not make an entire day out of it and add in some extra stops? The Kerið volcanic crater and crater lake are a wonderful stop-off for those who don’t have the time to visit Askja and its caldera.
The town of Hveragerði is the hot spring capital of the world, and the town of Skálholt features a beautiful white and grey Church of Iceland cathedral. Langjokull glacier near the top of the circle has snowmobile excursions. The Secret Lagoon, Sólheimar Eco Village, and Slakki zoo also make interesting stop off points.
7-Day South Iceland Itinerary | The Golden Circle
You did it! You’ve made your way around Iceland’s Golden Circle. Hopefully, every day on your 7-day Iceland itinerary was better than the last. You’re ready to fly back home tomorrow and who knows? Maybe you’ll start craving more of this small, Nordic island as soon you land. Time to start planning your next trip to Iceland.
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