Places to Visit in the Golden Circle - Iceland
Laugarvatn, Iceland
lodging
Golden Circle Apartments
The Golden Circle is a popular route that covers some of Iceland’s most prominent landmarks. The 300km drive from Reykjavik and back takes you to the three main sights – Gullfoss, Þingvellir National Park, and Geysir. In addition, you can also find a number of other attractions on this route. We took a day trip on the Golden Circle and share the known and not-so-known places to visit.
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Iceland, IS
outdoors
Gullfoss Falls
The name Gullfoss translates to Golden Falls and is also why the route is named Golden Circle. The powerful waterfall gets its name from the golden shine when the sun hits the waterfall. Fuelled by the second largest glacier, Langjökull, it is one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfall. It is free to enter and you can admire the cascading waterfall from the well-formed trails with multiple viewpoints. This waterfall commemorates Sigríður Tómasdóttir, one of Iceland’s famous figures. The waterfall almost fell into the hands of an Englishman in the 20th century for the purpose of a hydroelectricity plant if not for Sigríður Tómasdóttir’s perseverance in preserving Iceland’s nature. There is a cafe where you can shop memorabilia or get some hot beverages and food. Unfortunately, to use the bathroom, you will have to pay a fee and they do accept card payments. Recommended time: 1.5 – 2 hours
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Iceland, IS
outdoors
Thingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site and holds great significance for historical, cultural and geological reasons. It was once the site of Alþingi; the world’s first Commonwealth parliament, back in 930 AD. It was also the site where Icelanders declared independence from Denmark and confirmed their first president. Þingvellir sits on the Mid-Atlantic rift and it is where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. You can see the continental plates drift apart (at a very gradual rate of 2cm per year) at the Hakið viewing point or even dive between the plates on the Silfra fissure in the clear Glacier waters. While the tectonic plates are a fascinating sight at Þingvellir, there are also other attractions like the stunning Öxarárfoss waterfall and the Almannagjá ravine where you can admire Iceland’s geology. Recommended time: half a day
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Selfoss, Iceland
outdoors
Geysir
The Geysir geothermal area is located in Haukadalur Valley in South Iceland and is part of the Golden Circle. It is made up of hot springs, mud pools, and furamoles – all of which are fascinating phenomena created by geothermal activities. Did you know that the term geyser is derived from the Icelandic “geysa” which means “to gush”? Although the famous Geysir has stopped erupting altogether with its last activity dating back to 2009, you can still observe boiling water and steam being sprouted into the air every five minutes or so with the active Strokkur geyser. It is said that Strokkur can sprout up to 40m and thus it is wise to keep a safe distance to prevent yourself from being burnt! Recommended time: 1 hour
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Iceland, IS
destination • experience
Kerid Crater
The Kerið crater is a beautiful volcanic caldera that was formed from the collapse of its magma chamber at the end of a volcanic eruption, forming a sight to behold with a striking turquoise coloured lake that filled up the crater’s centre. The lake’s colour is due to its mineral-rich content which is contributed by the red volcanic rocks surrounding it. The crater is 55m deep with the lake’s depth at about 7m. There is a trail around the crater so you can do a full walk around it to admire its unearthly beauty from all angles. You’ll also find steps leading down to the lake. There is an entrance fee of 400isk per person that goes toward the maintenance of this attraction. Recommended time: 1 hour
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Iceland, IS
destination • experience
Skálholt Cathedral
This significant cultural and historical site was once the wealthiest and most populated places in Iceland. Skálholt was one of the two episcopal seats in Iceland and was the centre of ecclesiastic power in Iceland for almost 8 centuries. Today, you can visit to see the new cathedral, the sarcophagus of bishop Páll Jónsson, the museum, and the collection of ancient books in the tower. These will interest those fascinated with history, religion, archaeology, and culture. The cathedral is open every day from 9 am – 6 pm Recommended time: 30 min – 1 hour
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Reykholt, Iceland
restaurants
Friðheimar
A family ran greenhouse and horse farm, Friðheimar grows tomatoes and cucumbers all year round using artificial lighting in their greenhouses. It is particularly successful as they are able to produce a crop even in the long and dark winters in Iceland. They also breed horses and put on a horse show in the summer months. You can have a glimpse of the greenhouse as well as savor the freshly harvested crop at their restaurant inside one of the greenhouses. The menu offers tomato-based dishes with freshly-baked bread and interesting tomato inspired drinks. We definitely recommend booking in advance to avoid waiting too long to get a table. If you’d like a personal tour of the greenhouse or to see the horse show, you would have to book in advance. Restaurant opens 12 pm – 4 pm You can make reservations by phone: (+354) 486 8894 or email: [email protected] Recommended time: 1.5 hours – 2 hours
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Laugarvatn, Iceland
lodging
Efstidalur II
Efstidalur II is a family run farm with an ice cream shop that sells a range of ice cream flavours made with the milk from their own cows. You could sit in the shop and look through a glass window at the cows that produce the milk while you enjoy your ice cream. Efstidalur also offers a warm and homely accommodation at their farm hotel. If you’d like to experience local Icelandic farm life while staying in comfortable accommodation, this might just be something for you. Recommended time: 30 min – 1 hour
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Flúðir, Iceland
destination
Flúðir
The Secret Lagoon is perhaps more of an open secret amongst locals and tourists alike than a well-kept one. Unlike Blue Lagoon, it offers a more traditional style of enjoying a hot spring from surrounding natural resources. It is the oldest pool in Iceland and while it is also a popular spot, it does not get as crowded as The Blue Lagoon. at 3000 ISK per adult, the entry fees are slightly less than at the Blue Lagoon. You can find out more about their opening hours and make a booking on their website. Recommended time: half to a full day
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Laugarvatn, Iceland
experience
Laugarvatn Fontana
Fontana is located in the town of Laugarvatn between Þingvellir and Geysir. You can find natural steam baths built on top of natural hot springs, Finnish saunas, and relaxing pools. There is direct access for you to walk into Lake Laugarvatn to enjoy a cool diff for a refreshing temperature shift from the sauna. You can experience tasting traditional Icelandic rye bread baked using geothermal energy at their geothermal bakery. There is a walking tour that runs at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm every day. After enjoying the baths and pools at Fontana, you can enjoy both lunch and dinner buffets in the restaurant. Recommended time: half to a full day to experience the bakery, baths, and dinner.
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