The Golden Circle takes in three popular attractions all within 100km of the capital: Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss. The Golden Circle offers the opportunity to see a meeting-point of the continental plates and site of the ancient Icelandic parliament (Thingvellir), a spouting hot fount (Geysir) and a roaring waterfall (Gullfoss).
Since the public transport is lacking on Iceland, there are two options to explore the Golden Circle: one is by joining an organized group tour and other is by renting a car. The first one is cheaper, however if you choose to rent a car you will have all the time in the world to enjoy the stunning views and take some great shots.
Located about 45 minutes ride from Reykjavik,the road to the Thingvellir National Park is marveled at rolling farms, friendly horses, and churches.Thingvelliris the location of Iceland’s first Parliament, started back in 930 AD, however nothing remains of the world’s first parliament (it was conducted over one of the ridges rather than in a building). At the Lögberg people could step forward and give speeches about important matters. An assembly of 48 headmen gathered here to discuss laws & engage in court proceedings.
Thingvellir National Park
This is also where the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly splitting apart from each other, creating deep rifts in the ground. One of these, called Silfra, is full of icy glacier water where some people go snorkeling or scuba diving.
Haukadalur is a geothermal area about 60km away from Thingvellir National Park. There are two famous geysers here called Geysir and Strokkur. In fact the general term “geyser” was named after this particular one in Iceland.
The original Geysir no longer erupts: there are two stories, one is that an earthquake shut it down, the other one in the 1950’s tourist splugged Geysir by throwing soap into it in an attempt to set it off, and it hasn’t erupted the same since. But a second one called Strokkur constantly explodes with boiling water shooting 100 feet into the air every 10 minutes or so. Haukadalur has a gift shop & restaurant where you can warm up and have a square meal.
The powerful Hvítá river suddenly disappears into a gorge at a spectacular waterfall called Gulfloss, the next major high light on Iceland’s Golden Circle. This wide & fast moving river turns a corner and falls 100 feet into a rift in the earth, producing densehaze& frequent rainbows.
Downward a long staircase from the parking lot, a concrete pathway allows visitors to walk along the edge and look down into the roaring cascade of water. The dramatic scenery at Gullfoss makes it one of Iceland’s most popular attractions.