Holidays in Iceland are an unforgettable experience. Stunning landscapes, ancient culture and majestic views are all waiting to be discovered. The only question is: "Where should I start?"
With so much to see and do, it's not an easy question to answer. One of the most popular tours on the island taking in many of the main sights and attractions is the famous Golden Circle. After landing at Keflavik airport, visitors travel by bus to the capital Reykjavik. Here the journey begins.
Good to know
Hotels and other accommodation providers are used to early/late arrival times, so it makes sense to stay at least one night and then set out to explore the Golden Circle.
Adventure holidays in Iceland
Discover the Golden Circle
Once you have acclimatised, it is time to head out and discover the Iceland with its unique landscape characterized by lava fields and glaciers.
The Golden Circle tour takes visitors into the heart of the country yet can be completed in just one day starting from Reykjavik. It takes in the three most impressive sights on the island:
the ancient former parliament building Þingvellir
the geothermal area with
the great geyser
the "strokkur" ("butter churn")
the "blesi" thermal spring
the golden waterfall of Gullfoss
Many coach tours from Reykjavik also stop at the crater of the Kerið volcano, which provides a unique photo motif thanks to its stunning deep blue water. Another popular place to stop off en route is the former diocesan town of Skálholt with its ancient buildings.
The roots of Iceland
Historic moments along the Golden Circle
The Þingvellir is probably the most historically important building in Iceland. Located on the edge of an impressive chasm where the American and Eurasian continental plates meet, it was here that one of the first parliaments in Europe was founded during a period when much of the island was being seized by Norwegian Vikings.
Around 930 BC the area around the Þingvellir (Þing = people's assembly, vellir = plateau) was chosen as the location for Iceland's parliament. It was here that the representatives of the people met twice a year all the way through until 1798 when the Danes dissolved the parliament. Representatives served not only as lawmakers but also as judges.
The power of the Earth
Towering geysers and bubbling hot springs
The intersection between the European and Eurasian continental plates next to the Þingvellir is a quiet but powerful sign of the power lurking below the surface in Iceland. Things change, however, at the next stop on the Golden Circle: Haukadalur.
This geothermal area is home to the great geyser – the towering jet of hot spring water which gives its name to all geysers on Planet Earth. Today, eruptions of this geyser are rare. The adjacent strokkur geyser, which is somewhat smaller, erupts up to 35 feet in the air every 5-10 minutes.
Origin of the word
The term "geyser" comes from the Icelandic word "gjosa" meaning "to bubble up".
Still water, rushing streams
Final stop on the Golden Circle Tour
After marvelling at the mighty geysers, travellers continue their journey past the Blesi hot springs. These water in these pools is rich in minerals and therefore has a shimmering blue colour.
The final stop on the Golden Circle Tour is the Gullfoss (golden waterfall).
Tumbling down two sections (11 and 21 metres), the Hvítá river reaches a volume of 109 m³/s as it flows into the 2.5km valley below. The air is cooled by a heavy mist as the water rushes over the two steps, which are at an almost 90° angle to each other. The perfect way to complete a memorable Golden Circle Tour – and the ideal welcome to the island of Iceland.