I don’t know why it’s called the “Golden Circle”, you see, it’s more of a straight line. Some people call it the “Golden Triangle”, which also doesn’t make sense…. but anyway…. whether circle, triangle, or line, it’s pretty awesome.
What is the Golden Circle?
The Golden Circle is one of Iceland’s most accessible, most famous and most crowded road trips. It consists of three of Iceland’s main natural attractions; Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss Waterfall. Þingvellir National Park is Iceland’s oldest national park and home to Iceland’s largest lake and a geological rift valley. Geysir is well… a geyser. It’s where the name geyser comes from. And lastly Gullfoss means Golden Waterfall. The waterfall isn’t golden but it sure is impressive with water rushing over two stages of waterfall. It’s not the biggest waterfall in Iceland, but it is the biggest within day tripping distance.
Where is the Golden Circle?
Driving time round trip: 3 Hours
Total driving distance: 228 km
Why visit the Golden Circle?
So why is the Golden Circle the most driven road trip in Iceland? Well, unlike other amazing Icelandic attractions, they are all located on main roads that are open all year round and are all relatively close to the capital of Reykjavik.
So if you only have limited time in Iceland, then this is a good option for you to see some sights outside of Reykjavik. Also, the Golden Circle is incredibly popular with tour companies, so if you do not have access to your own transport than this is also a good option for you.
The Golden Circle in detail
This national park is incredibly important to Icelandic people culturally, environmentally, and geologically. It is Iceland’s oldest national park and contains the countries largest lake. Þingvellir is also the location of Iceland’s first parliamentary proceedings in 930.
The region is also a rift valley and many of the rifts are filled with crystal clear water. The lake itself is also a main attraction and visitors can dive and snorkel in it.
It is best to visit the National Park in the summer. We had difficulty visiting certain areas of the park as we only had a 2wd and many of the minor roads require a 4wd during the winter months.
Geysir is the original geyser. It was the first geyser known to Europeans and therefore the first one ever recorded in print. Geysir is absolutely massive when it erupts, but those eruptions are becoming less and less frequent. Most people do not get to see an eruption these days but if you do it will be spectacular, apparently the boiling water can go as high as 70 m.
Don’t worry though, I don’t have you driving all the way out here to see an inactive geyser. The nearby geyser of Strokkur, only a few meters away erupts much more frequently, sometimes every 10 – 15 minutes. You shouldn’t have to wait too long to see Strokkur go off.
Gullfoss means Golden Waterfall, and perhaps that is where the Golden circle gets its name from. Gullfoss is really almost like two waterfalls. The second stage of the waterfall plunges into a crevice so deep that when approached from the right direction it almost appears like the river just disappears into the earth.
There are two viewing platforms from where you can view the waterfall, and you should definitely check them both out as each direction offers a very different perspective of the falls.