In short, the Golden Circle is the collection of three of South Iceland’s most important and spectacular landmarks: the Thingvellir National Park, Gulfoss waterfall and the geyser, Strokkur. Visitors flock to the Golden Circle to enjoy spending a day to see these must-see natural features as part of their Iceland holiday. There are many ways to see and experience the Golden Circle by bus, car, as part of a riding or hiking holiday, with an Icelandic guide or on your own.
The Golden Circle area of South Iceland has a great deal more to offer for those wishing to enjoy artisan food and craft, nature and geothermal bathing and for slow travellers, for much more than one day. It’s also an area to explore at any time of the year from the shortest winter days to late evening walks in midsummer when the sun hardly sets. Throughout the seasons, the ice and snow give way to new green shoots, the awakening of the countryside, birds, bees and summer flowers. Autumn brings stunning colours, berries and early frosts as the rivers begin to ice over and Iceland prepares for winter once again.
Located within the Thingvellir National Park area are the main highlights of the ancient parliament fields or “Althingi” and the geological rift area between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The significance of the Thingvellir as a shrine to Icelanders, led to its designation as a National Park in 1928, and later as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2004. Visitors are treated to stunning views of the volcanic landscape, the rift and huge clearwater lake Thingvallavatn, with walking trails and many superb photographic opportunities. The park’s visitor centre is excellent for learning about the area and houses an information centre and exhibition.
At Gulfoss Waterfall you’ve reached the furthest point of the Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik, with views across to the Langjökull glacier. It’s the scale and power together with the accessibility of this waterfall that make it such an important place to visit. The large double fall cascade is stunning to see at any time of year and can be viewed from two points for great views and photo opportunities. The gorge, formed during a massive glacial flood is a classic landform over 30 meters deep, carries the raging Hvítá river, that further downstream is the perfect spot for rafting. Like so many places in Iceland, the waterfall has an important story to tell. This is particularly significant now due to the actions of Sigridur, the early 20th century eco-warrior who saved the falls from development.
When considering a holiday in Iceland, don’t let the weather put you off! It’s a reason to go for hiking and walking, photography and all winter sports. With good preparation, having the correct kit is the key to seeing and enjoying all the great landscapes and features that Iceland has to offer. And don’t forget that everything indoors in Iceland is cosy and warm. The trio of highlights of the Golden Circle is completed by a visit to the bubbling geothermal area that includes Iceland’s most famous geyser, Strokkur. Obligingly erupting a high temperature steam plume up towards the sky at intervals of about 7 minutes, it’s an exciting and unforgettable event to experience. Seeing it just once is almost impossible, you’ll be sure to want to wait to capture that perfect photograph or film sequence.