Beautiful Views on the Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

By Paul S Bryers, August 2015.

After two days of exploring Reykjavik city, it was time to head out for some lakes, rivers and waterfalls. The Golden Circle tour is one of the most popular day excursions from the city. The tour takes you to Geysir to see small, bubbling thermal pools and, well, geysers, and then to Gullfoss too see tremendous waterfalls, and finally to Pingvellir for some in-your-face geological education. There are many companies which offer the Circle tour. We used Iceland Horizon and had Gerta as our very knowledgable and talkative guide.

Our first stop was not on the classical tour – why not I don’t know as it was spectacular – the Tungufljot waterfall. It was a beauty! Make sure you view from both the upper and lower car parks.      

Next stop was Geysir. This was a bit disappointing in comparison to Yellowstone, as most of the geysers don’t shoot off that often. However, there was one which went off every 4 – 5 mins and it was pretty spectacular. View the water spout both from beside the thermal pool and from the red rock hilltop about 100 m above the pool. If you want to eat, get the delicious lamb soup from The Cantina.     


Then we were on our way to Gullfoss. However, as we approached the entrance to the waterfalls, our guide whipped us straight past to view the barren landscape of the Highlands and a distant glacier. It was worth it, more or less. 

Gullfoss is an incredible sight – OMG amounts of water per second fall from one cascade to another until finally plunging into a volcanic rift. Make sure to view from both the top and lower pathways. On the latter pathway you will get a wee bit wet, but it’s worth it. And watch out for the lovely Icelandic horses in the vicinity – small and cute, but also hardy.    


Our final stop was Pingvellir, site of the Icelandic Parliament from 930 until 1798. Pingvellir National Park is located in an active volcanic area (OK, so is most of Iceland) and covers approx. 24,000 ha, of which about 9,000 ha constitute the World Heritage property. If you have heard about continental drift and wondered “what does that actually look like?”, then this is the place to come. Its best-defined feature is a major rift, which has produced dramatic fissures and cliffs demonstrating inter-continental drifting between North America and Europe in a spectacular and easily understandable way. It did not come as any surprise that some scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed here – those naughty Lannisters! The National Park is enclosed by mountains on three sides, featuring grass-covered lava fields, and Lake Pingvallavatn lies at the southern end of the park.     


After Pingvellir, it was a short ride back to Reykjavik. So, that was the Golden Circle!