Reykjavik & the Golden Circle
Almost everyone who visits Iceland experiences this popular duo, & for good reason. With IcelandAir’s offer of extremely cheap layover deals, its easy to visit Reykjavik & the nearby Golden Circle in a weekend. Iceland itself is NOT cheap though, so make sure you check exchange rates and get a good deal on your currency exchange.
Iceland’s rustic capital of Reykjavik is more like a metropolitan village than a city. You can walk the entire center in under 30 minutes, through the Nordic-style streets & around the harbor. There’s not a great deal to see in terms of sights so we just spent the day ambling around, stopping at the shops & cafes, & up through old town to Hallgrimur, Iceland’s largest church with an interesting design combining the country’s geography & history (…apparently… I just thought it looked cool!)
The Golden Circle is a full morning tour from Reykjavik. Most people see the sights with a tour group, but for a similar price, or even cheaper, you can rent a car from Reykjavik & do it on your own. I would highly recommend renting a car. It’s easy to navigate & much more comfortable than a big bus… & you can travel on your own schedule.
Once you leave Iceland’s Highway 1 ring-road onto Route 36, you head into Iceland’s rugged inland to Thingvellir National Park. The morning we visited, clouds had descended, seemingly on ALL of west Iceland, creating an eerie, mystical landscape. Thingvellir’s lake looked like something out of Lord of the Rings… it’s no wonder so many Icelanders believe in trolls!
As we continued east, further into Iceland’s interior, our next stop was the world famous, original Geysir. The Geysir is incredibly regular, jetting water 10s of meters into the air every few minutes, so you are guaranteed to see it unless you sprint around the area. The smell of sulphur is potent as the earth spews its innards into the atmosphere, & plumes of smoke appear left, right & center of you in this other-worldly place. Be ready with the camera though!… we spent about 20 minutes trying to count & capture the powerful spurt!!…& beware of standing downwind to the giant jet… you will get wet!
15 minutes further east, our final stop of the Golden Circle was Gulfoss. These powerful falls are really impressive, somehow graceful despite their vicious velocity. A quick walk along the river bank brings you up & close with Gulfoss where you can really feel its force.
The Golden Circle gives you a great glimpse into Iceland’s incredible geography in one swift circuit. Because of this, it is incredibly BUSY… hence why we found driving ourselves a better option, so you can at least escape the crowds in between the sights!