Iceland has some of the most surreal and epic landscapes I have ever seen.
And, I’ve only seen a tiny fraction of it.
I’m already planning my next trip to the island to experience more of its myths, magic, and beauty.
During my short visit in October, my travel companions and I rented a car from SADcars to explore as much of Iceland as we could. Robert Benjamin Sputnik, our trusty little red car, already brought us hundreds of kilometers along the South Coast all the way to Jokulsarlon Lagoon. Now, it was time to hit the Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle is a popular 300-kilometer route that hits all of the major landmarks from Reykjavik into central Iceland and back. There are multiple day tours that you can take, but we opted for our own self-drive tour as we were going to snorkel the Silfra in Þingvellir National Park and relax in the Secret Lagoon on the way back to Reykjavik so we could eat puffin. Yes, we really did eat puffin.
Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park is more than just a national park. It’s where Europe and North America meet. But Iceland is an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? Yes, I know.
Iceland is where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. Actually, both plates are pulling apart from each other at a rate of 2 cm a year. The fissure runs from the northern coast down to the southern coast with Þingvellir National Park home to the best views.
In fact, the fissure is growing every year. Both plates are pulling apart from each other at a rate of 2 cm a year. The fissure runs from the northern coast down to the southern coast with Þingvellir National Park home to the best views.
If you’re adventurous like me, you can hop into a dry suit to either snorkel or dive the Silfra. It is an incredible experience to float between two continents in some of the world’s clearest water. Definitely add it to your Iceland bucketlist!
Outside of Þingvellir National Park’s unique geology, Þingvellir National Park was once the original parliament of Iceland beginning in 930. For centuries the various Viking tribes would all meet in Þingvellir to create new laws and hold court.
Make sure you bring your camera so you can tell your friends that you stood between Europe and North America!
Strokkur Geyser is one of the most famous geysers in Iceland. If you’ve never seen a geyser before, Strokkur Geyser is worth the stop. If you’ve been to Yellowstone National Park and seen Old Faithful erupt then Strokkur Geyser is not that impressive. At least, in my honest opinion. I also might be slightly bias.
Located near the Hvítá River, Strokkur Geyser erupts every 8-10 minutes at heights reaching 15-20 meters. There are other geothermal and mud pools around the area and a rest stop to grab some local food and warm up a bit if you’re in Iceland during the colder months.
Iceland is the land of epic waterfalls. I don’t think you could drive down the road without seeing a waterfall of some sort every few kilometers. While the South Coast is home to some impressive waterfalls, Gullfoss Waterfall is perhaps the most iconic in Iceland.
Gullfoss is fed from glacier water from Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull. Water falls in two stages over 32 meters. During sunny days you’ll see multiple rainbows and during the winter don’t be surprised to see the waterfall frozen!
The Secret Lagoon
Iceland is famous for its hot springs. Many natural, some not so much. I’m talking about you, Blue Lagoon! Iceland is notoriously expensive. If you’re interested in saving money and skipping the long lines, head to the Secret Lagoon instead of the Blue Lagoon. Located not too far off the Golden Circle in Flúôir, the Secret Lagoon is a natural hot spring popular with the locals.
For half the price of the Blue Lagoon, you’ll be able to relax in the thermal waters of Iceland without the crazy crowds. After a long day in the car, it’s totally worth the stop!
The Golden Circle in Iceland is not to be missed. It’s an easy day trip from Reykjavik either on a tour bus or on your own. Of course, I would recommend doing it on your own so that you have more time to spend at the spots that interest you. Or, so you can relax at the Secret Lagoon.
But, shhh… it’s a secret! Don’t tell the locals that I told you about it!