The Golden Circle is a popular day trip for visitors and includes Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Haukadalur Geothermal area with the Strokkur Geyser. This circuit can be easily done on your own but I chose to join a tour out of Reykjavik which also included a stop at the Secret Lagoon.
First stop was Thingvellir National Park about 40 km northeast of Reykjavik. This is the location of Iceland’s first Parliament back in 930 AD where 48 chieftains gathered here to discuss laws and affairs on behalf of the country’s people. This is also the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are moving apart and creating deep fissures in the ground. Silfra is one such rift where people can go scuba diving in the clear icy waters between continental plates.
The second stop was to Geysir and Strokkur, two famous geysers in the geothermal area called Haukadalur. Geysir is no longer active, but Strokkur still constantly erupts every 6-10 minutes. The eruptions are usually 15-20 meters high but can sometimes reach 40 meters high. We spent quite a while waiting for the eruptions as each time is different. There is also a decent cafeteria here where we grabbed a simple soup and sandwich.
After a quick lunch at the geysers, we continued on to Gullfoss Waterfall, en route visiting some Icelandic Horses. They are small horses sometimes only pony size and are descendants of an ancient breed originally from Norway now extinct outside of Iceland.
Gullfoss which translates to Golden Waterfall, is an iconic waterfall in southwest Iceland. It is so called because on a sunny day, the water has a golden brown hue from the sediments from the river. The Hvitá River flows down into a wide curved three-step staircase and then plunges in two tiers down into a crevice 105 feet deep. The roaring waterfall is strong being the largest volume fall in Europe especially in the summer with so much mist you can barely see the edge of the fall.
Last stop was the Secret Lagoon originally built in 1891 and was Iceland’s first swimming pool. It became abandoned when modern swimming pools appeared. In 2005, its present day owner used it as his own private heated pool and that’s how the name “Secret Lagoon” came about. A natural hot spring feeds this lagoon with 39°C water. In 2014 the lagoon officially opened to the public complete with showers, changing rooms, and a coffee shop. Locals prefer coming here than going to the more touristy and more expensive Blue Lagoon.
The following day, we embark on our unforgettable two-day drive along the south coast of Iceland. Stay tuned!
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