Round and round the golden circle like a tourist here. That seems to rhymes quite well instead of the Garden and the Teddy Bear in a particular nursery song LOL. Anyhow, the Golden Circle is Iceland’s famed sightseeing route starting from Reykjavik which covers a distance of about 300km. The not-that-circular route takes the visitors to some popular natural attractions before making a loop back to Reykjavik. It showcases three major stops such as Þingvellir National Park (or Thingvellir in English), Haukadalur Geothermal Field and Gullfoss waterfall. Gullfoss which means Golden Falls in Icelandic was probably how the route has gotten its name.
There are plenty of tour packages where their buses will be doing the Golden Circle loop daily. Hence, I saw way more vehicles along this route than anywhere else in Iceland. My first stop was Þingvellir National Park which is the nearest to Reykjavik of the three.
Þingvellir/ Thingvellir National Park
There are two main reasons to be here and one being the only place on Earth where a mid-ocean ridge can be seen above ground. The crack which seemingly split the area in half is the result of Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates drifting apart from each other. It’s estimated that the plates are moving slowly but surely at around 2-3 cm each year. The movement created large cracks such as the Almannagjá gorge and it’s amazing to be walking alongside the plates. Another crack like Silfra Fissure is an enormous gorge filled with crystal clear spring water that offers visitors the opportunity to snorkel or scuba in it.
The second reason to be here is that Þingvellir was where Iceland’s parliament meeting used to take place in the past. It continues to be the site for judicial hearings and passing of laws until 1798. This UNESCO world heritage site holds an important piece of Icelandic history.
Not far away from Logberg is Drekkingarhylur aka the drowning pool with a dark history. Eighteen female convicts were being drowned here for the sentences of adultery or incest…
I followed the footpath to both Pingvallakirkja and Peningagja before taking a long stroll towards Oxararfoss. Pingvallakirkja is one of the first churches to be built in Iceland and Peningagja is a wishing pond. The coins can be seen under the crystal-clear water. Lastly, the Oxararfoss waterfall is quite a ‘small’ one based on Iceland’s standards.
Haukadalur Geothermal Field
The next stop was Haukadalur Geothermal Field and it took me an hour’s drive from Þingvellir. The landscape along the way is just so beautiful that I found myself stopping by the road’s sides rather frequently, and safely of course. I received a ‘warm welcome’ by the sight of smoke and the unmistakable stench of Sulfur upon nearing the public carpark. Thank you (Gey)Sir!
It’s wise to adhere to the rules and keep within the walking path as the grounds here are boiling.
I got to watch Strokkur in action and it’s indeed very active. It did not take very long between each interval for the enormous boiling bubble to spout steaming water up in the air.
The other famous Geysir is said to be fairly dormant nowadays hence no luck for me. So, I spent the majority of my time admiring at Strokkur and the work of nature instead. In which, I probably overstayed and left me a little short on time for Gullfoss waterfall.
It was already late evening by the time I reached Gullfoss waterfall. The good thing was that most tour groups would have probably left, making it easier to admire the sheer power of the gushing waterfall. However, it was insanely windy that day and I had a hard time trying to take pictures with my lightweight tripod. The footpath was mostly covered with ice and very slippery so I kept a good safe distance from the majestic waterfall.
STAY: Bitra Guesthouse
The lovely Bitra Guesthouse is around an hour drive from Gullfoss waterfall. It’s a nice homely house located just off the Suðurlandsvegur road. The welcoming and friendly owners made my stay a very pleasant one. The comfortable bedroom was nice and clean. I was told that it’s possible to see the Northern Lights from where the guesthouse is located – it didn’t happen that night though. The breakfast spread was simple but good enough for me.