7 Dec 2016

Gullfoss and Geysir | Iceland's Golden Circle

On the penultimate day of our trip, we embarked upon a tour of the eminent Golden Circle, including a much-anticipated glacier escapade. We were picked up from our hotel in the morning after an amazing breakfast at the Hilton and ventured towards the southern uplands. For once, the skies were clear and we watched a beautiful sunrise out the window over the expanse of rural landscape that encompass the capital. Even the views en route to the tourist hot-spots are postcard-worthy so make sure you bring a camera. 

Gulfoss Waterfall

The first stop-off (it varies depending on your tour) was the Gulfoss (Golden Falls); Iceland's most famous waterfall and for good reason. You're met by the sound of the water thundering as you approach the falls, and as you stand closer to the edge, the spray from the water hits your face. As a result, the breeze can be absolutely freezing (a lot of the grass had turned to icicles; hat/scarves/gloves are essential), but it is beautiful and a must-see for the natural spectacle alone. The surrounding land is relatively flat and the mountainous horizon (not something you can get away from in Reykjavik) makes it a beautiful area to visit whatever way you turn. Even better, if you can get up early enough, catching the waterfall at sunrise would be especially memorable. 

Snowmobiling on Langjökull Glacier

Undoubtedly the most surreal part of our time in Iceland, snowmobiling on a glacier was unlike anything I'd done before and probably not something I will get to experience again. At midday, the jeep took us high up the glacier to a wood-cabin full of overalls, helmets and gloves (all the gear, no idea springs to mind for non-adrenaline junkies like myself) to get set for the next hour. After a five-minute demo on how to use the snowmobile without breaking your leg, we set off for about an hour which felt like no time at all. Snowmobiles aren't exactly smooth-cruising, being slightly jolty and I had that looming fear of it falling on top of us for the first ten minutes, but but views were breath-taking and clear-visibility made the experience so special. Once the nerve-wracking sensation goes and you realise you're not reaching speeds over 25mph (!), it is the most enjoyable experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. 


After a pit-stop to re-fuel on Icelandic specialties, we arrived at the renowned Geysir hot springs. A natural phenomenon that is an integral part of any Golden Circle trip and you can see the hot steam in the air as you approach the site. One of the geysirs (known as Strokkur) is extremely active and errupts about every five minutes up to 30ft into the air, whilst there is no real activity from the others. The surrounding area is really interesting to walk around and there are trails to take you round the site. It's not everyday that you get to see boiling water exploding from the ground as you drive past, and if you can tolerate the pungent odour of sulphur that's everywhere in Iceland, it's quite mesmerizing (you forget that you are standing on a kind of boiling cauldron, if you will) and you can stand watching for longer than you realise.

Þingvellir National Park

The last stop before the sun went down was Þingvellir National Park. The area is part of the fissure zone where the European and North American tectonic plates are separating, meaning you can have one foot on each continent. You can even go snorkelling between them if you're brave enough. The view, again, is like a postcard and has unbeatable, authentic rural beauty. There's a short climb up to the viewpoint and you can carry on further around the canyon if you have time. 

The tour that we were on was The Pearl Tour from Mountaineers of Iceland, booked through Iceland Travel; both companies I would highly recommend and book with again. Not one to be famed on my geographical knowledge, I learnt a lot in just one day from this trip and there is so much to take in. 

Check out my previous posts on Reykjavik and The Blue Lagoon.

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