The Golden Circle in Iceland is a popular tourist route that includes three major attractions: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. We recently dicovered the Golden Circle and found it to be a magical experience to see these incredible natural wonders covered in snow and ice.
The Golden Circle in Iceland covers approximately 300 kilometers of scenic landscapes, geysers, waterfalls, and historical landmarks. The three main stops along the Golden Circle route are the Geysir geothermal area, the Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. Here are the highlights of each attraction.
Geysir geothermal area
The Geysir Geothermal Area is a popular tourist attraction located in the Haukadalur Valley, approximately 100 kilometers east of Reykjavik. The geothermal area is home to a variety of hot springs, geysers, and mud pots that are formed by underground volcanic activity.
The most famous geyser in the area is called Geysir, which gave its name to all other geysers in the world. Geysir used to erupt regularly, reaching heights of up to 80 meters, but its activity has decreased significantly in recent years. However, the nearby Strokkur geyser still erupts every few minutes, shooting a column of hot water up to 30 meters into the air.
Visitors can walk around the geothermal area on a series of boardwalks, which allow for up-close views of the geysers and other geological features. The area also has a visitor center with exhibits on the geology and history of the region, as well as a restaurant and gift shop.
The Geysir Geothermal Area is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist destinations, attracting thousands of visitors every year who come to witness the natural wonders of this unique landscape.
The powerful Gullfoss waterfall is one of the most iconic natural attractions in Iceland. The waterfall cascades down two tiers, dropping a total of 32 meters (105 feet), into a narrow canyon below. On sunny days the mist from the falls often creates rainbows adding to the beauty of the already stunning view. While it was freezing cold and raining during our visit, the site was still amazing.
You can view the waterfall from several different angles, including a viewing platform offering panoramic views of the falls, and a trail that leads down to the river below.
The waterfall is open to visitors year-round, although access may be limited during the winter months due to ice and snow. If you plan to visit, be sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather, as the area can be very windy and chilly (even in the summer months).
Thingvellir National Park
Located in southwestern Iceland, approximately 40 kilometers northeast of Reykjavik, Thingvellir National Park, is known for its historical and geological significance, as well as its stunning natural beauty.
Thingvellir is an important site in Icelandic history, as it was the location where Iceland’s national parliament, the Althing, was founded in 930 AD. You can explore the historic site, including the remains of the parliament buildings and the Law Rock, where laws were announced and disputes settled.
The park is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The Almannagjá rift valley marks the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. You can walk along a path that runs through the rift valley, with towering cliffs on either side, and view the dramatic rock formations and crystal-clear water of the Silfra fissure, a popular spot for scuba diving and snorkeling.
From the park you also get stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the largest lake in Iceland, Thingvallavatn. Covering an area of 84 square kilometres (32 square miles), Thingvallavatn is the largest natural lake in Iceland with its greatest depth measuring at 114 metres (374 feet).
Other must-sees along the Golden Circle
Other notable stops along the Golden Circle include the Kerid volcanic crater which is located in a stunning natural amphitheater and is filled with bright blue water. Another must visit is the Fridheimar tomato farm. This working tomato farm is open to visitors and offers a unique dining experience where guests can enjoy a meal surrounded by tomato plants. Finally the historic Skálholt Cathedral was once the seat of the Icelandic bishops and is considered one of the most important historical and cultural sites in Iceland.
Driving along the Golden Circle in Iceland is an unforgettable experience and a must-see for anyone visiting Iceland during winter. The highlights of Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall are not to be missed. Just make sure to be well-prepared, stay safe, and enjoy the beauty of Iceland’s winter wonderland.