Destination Europe

The Golden Circle: Navigating Iceland’s Iconic Natural Landmarks

Posted on
October 15, 2023

In Iceland, the land of fire and ice, nature’s grandeur unfolds in all its glory. If you’re planning a trip to this captivating island nation, there’s one journey you can’t miss—the Golden Circle. It’s a route that promises to take you on a whirlwind adventure through some of Iceland’s most iconic natural wonders. So, fasten your seatbelt (metaphorically, of course), and let’s go on a journey you’ll never forget.

What is Iceland’s Golden Circle?

Iceland, a remote gem in the North Atlantic, is known for its dramatic landscapes, rugged terrain, and a sense of raw, untamed beauty. It’s a land where glaciers and volcanoes coexist, where geysers burst forth, and where waterfalls cascade in breathtaking displays of power. And at its south, like a gleaming gem, lies the Golden Circle.

The Golden Circle isn’t your typical circle; it’s a 300-kilometer (186-mile) loop that starts and ends in Reykjavik, the capital city. What makes it golden? Well, it’s not made of precious metal, but the treasures you’ll discover along the way are just as valuable.

When planning a trip to Iceland, it’s worth exploring the enticing tours provided by Exoticca, a reputable travel company renowned for curating unforgettable journeys to picturesque destinations across the world. The Golden Circle is a highlight in all of Exoticca’s Iceland vacation deals. What’s even more convenient is that these comprehensive packages encompass not just your flights and accommodations but also some transfers and activities.


Thingvellir National Park

The journey typically kicks off with a visit to Thingvellir National Park, known locally as Þingvellir. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site that combines historical significance with geological wonder.

Why is it historically important? Þingvellir was the birthplace of Iceland’s first parliament, the Althing, established in 930 AD. Imagine standing on the very spot where Vikings gathered to make laws and settle disputes. It’s like a history book come to life.

But it’s not just history that makes Þingvellir special. This park sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a geological marvel where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart. The result? A giant rift valley with dramatic cliffs and crevices that seem to stretch endlessly. Walk along the Silfra Fissure, a crystal-clear rift filled with glacial water so pure you can see down for over 100 meters (328 feet). It’s as if you’re floating between continents.


Geysir Geothermal Area

Next stop: Geysir Geothermal Area. Geysers, if you haven’t met them before, are like Mother Nature’s fountains with a flair for the dramatic. They spout hot water and steam into the air, putting on a show that’s hard to forget.

Now, let’s meet Geysir, the geyser that gave its name to all others. While Geysir itself is a bit of a sleepyhead these days, its neighbor Strokkur is the life of the party. Strokkur doesn’t make you wait around like an impatient guest. No, it erupts every few minutes, sending plumes of hot water soaring high into the sky. It’s like watching a natural fireworks display, only with steam and water.

As you stroll through the Geysir Geothermal Area, you’ll notice the earth beneath your feet is warm and alive. Steam rises from vents in the ground, creating an otherworldly atmosphere that feels like you’ve stepped onto another planet. Just remember to stand back when Strokkur takes center stage – that steamy performance can reach dizzying heights.

Gullfoss Waterfall

Our Golden Circle adventure wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Gullfoss, the “Golden Waterfall.” Here, the Hvítá River takes a daring plunge down two tiers, creating a breathtaking spectacle. As you approach, you’ll hear the thundering roar of cascading water, and the mist in the air will tantalize your senses.

Why the name “Golden Waterfall,” you ask? Well, on a sunny day, when the sunlight dances upon the mist, it can appear as if the waters are adorned with a golden hue. It’s nature’s way of adding a touch of magic to an already enchanting scene.

Gullfoss is more than just a sight for sore eyes; it’s a reminder of the incredible power of water and the beauty it can carve into the earth over time. So, be sure to take a moment to drink in the beauty and majesty of Gullfoss before continuing your Golden Circle journey.

How to Explore the Golden Circle

Now that you’ve experienced the wonders of Þingvellir, the geothermal extravaganza of Geysir, and the powerful beauty of Gullfoss, you might wonder how to navigate the rest of the Golden Circle.

The adventure starts and ends in Reykjavik, Iceland’s vibrant capital city. From there, you can choose your mode of transport. Many travelers opt for guided tours, where experienced guides provide insights into the history, geology, and culture of the Golden Circle. Alternatively, if you’re feeling adventurous or want greater flexibility, you can rent a car and explore at your own pace. Just keep in mind that Iceland’s roads can be challenging, so make sure to be mindful of the road conditions and take appropriate precautions. Also always make sure to watch for sheep and other livestock, as they can sometimes be found wandering on or near the roads.

The Golden Circle is accessible year-round, but each season offers a unique experience. In summer, you’ll enjoy extended daylight hours and lush green landscapes. In winter, the landscape transforms into a winter wonderland, and you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.


The Golden Circle: A Testament to The Extraordinary Beauty of Iceland

The Golden Circle, particularly the historical significance of Þingvellir, the geothermal wonders of Geysir, and the awe-inspiring beauty of Gullfoss, offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of Iceland’s natural treasures. Regardless if you’re a history buff, a geology enthusiast, or simply a lover of breathtaking landscapes, the Golden Circle promises an unforgettable experience. It’s a journey that will leave you with memories to cherish and stories to tell, and it’s a testament to the extraordinary beauty of Iceland, the land of fire and ice. Don’t miss the chance to explore this golden route and uncover the magic that awaits around every bend.


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Are we nearly there yet? is a new online blog run by me, Kara Guppy, and is named as such thanks to my daughter Eliza who always asks that very question when we are less than 5 minutes up the road heading off on our adventures. You may know me from my other family blog