After our first night in the capital city of Reykjavik, our next road adventure was the Golden Circle Day trip. These are some of the most famous sights in Iceland given their nearby location, ease of accessibility, and historic significance. Heading out of the city, there was snow on ground even in early October.
The first stop was Þingvellir National park. Here, you can walk through the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This is the only place where the rift is visible above sea level.
It isn’t just geography that makes Þingvellir unique. There is a rich history of the area (and several car parks).
This is the site of Iceland’s first parliament of the Norse settlers around 930 AD. Now it is packed with tour groups. This site is where many historic events of Icelandic history occurred throughout the centuries. In more recent history, this is where Iceland declared their independence from Denmark in 1944.
There is little left of the ancient settlements in the valley.
Winding our way through the park, we followed the water to find…
A waterfall at the end of the path! Öxaráfoss provided a beautiful photo opportunity.
Here are more shots of the Þingvellir landscape. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore here and even diving in the clear, deep ravines (we opted to skip this).
The next stop on the Golden Circle tour is the Geyser Geothermal area. Did you know that the geysers here are what inspired the word geyser? It comes from an old Norse word.
From little bubbling geysers to THE Geyser that all geysers were named after, this park was really spectacular.
Some erupt with more regularity than others, but it is not hard to see why people have been coming here for a thousand years to behold this rare phenomenon.
The next stop on our mini-road trip was one of my favorite on the trip. If you guessed a Floss…you are right! The Gulfoss is a massive, multi-tiered waterfall. There are two walking trails along the Hvita River, the lower once was mostly ice covered so we took the upper, easier route. You can see the lower route in the picture below…while we might have gotten closer it wasn’t worth the risk of slipping on the ice.
Here is my picture of the falls, I loved it so much I have it framed at home! The power of the melting glacier water is an awe-inspiring.
All of that sight seeing worked up an appetite! On our way back to Reykjavik we stopped at the Olverk Pizza and Brewery.
In addition to food fired pizzas, they also brew their own beer onsite…using geothermal power! I, of course, had to try a flight of their very tasty beers.
Having seen the highlights of the Ring Road, we headed back to Reykjavik. That night, we went to the Blue Lagoon for a little geothermal bathing. I highly recommend getting at least the second tier admission that lets you skip to the front of the line (it also comes with flip flops, a robe, and an extra mud mask). We booked after dark because that was the only time that would work with our schedule. It was less picturesque in the dark, but it was still totally worth going for the experience if you have time. There is a swim up bar (your first drink is included in admission), grottoes, bridges, the water is warm and relaxing. The mud masks were also fun. Overall, it is incredibly touristy and not cheap, but the experience was so wonderful that I didn’t mind!