Tour the Golden Circle of Iceland
I can say without hesitation that Iceland has some of the most spectacular natural scenery I’ve ever laid my eyes on. When visiting, there are definitely a few things you should plan into your itinerary. A tour of the Golden Circle takes you to some of these natural wonders and allows you to experience what I like to call, some of the world’s most stunningly-beautiful areas. From bubbling geysers to magnificent rainbow-filled waterfalls, here is what you can expect to find if you and your family opt to take a Golden Circle tour with Reykjavik Excursions.
Why Take a Golden Circle Group Tour
While I’m usually not a huge fan of large, coach bus tours, I have to say that having someone else do all the driving, especially in unfamiliar territory, is a huge relief when it comes to traveling with kids. I find that when someone else is in charge of navigating and getting my family to all of the “must see” locations, it allows for a lot of unoccupied time to connect with “my people” through meaningful conversation and silly little fun-filled games.
Plus, I actually think it makes me a more relaxed and patient adult, as I don’t feel any of the unnecessary stress that often goes hand-in-hand with trying to figure out if I just missed a turn, or that we are suddenly lost. I mean, if truth be told, I am somewhat of a directionally-impaired driver and have an easier time getting lost than I do getting to my desired location. The bus also picks up and drops off right at the front door to your hotel… and that, my friends, is golden to me!
Golden Circle Stop 1: Friðheimar Greenhouse Cultivation Center
After boarding the bus from Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, our tour began with a visit to the Friðheimar greenhouse cultivation center. We learned about all the magic behind growing delicious, pesticide-free tomatoes and cucumbers through the aid of the geothermal heat, which Iceland has in abundance. We were also provided with a delicious and homemade gazpacho and freshly baked warm bread, which was incredibly yummy.
For an additional price my husband and I also splurged a bit and enjoyed a fantastic Bloody Mary made from their fresh, plump and vine-ripened tomatoes…magnificent! In addition to the fresher-than-fresh nibble, there were also plenty of interesting things to see here, like rows and rows of hydroponically-grown vegetables and see-through beehives. The up-close and personal look at these worker bees in action really kept the kids entertained. All in all, our stop at this location was about 30 minutes, and, in my opinion, very nice.
Golden Circle Stop 2: Geysir
Our next stop on the tour took us to the Geysir geothermal area. In addition to several small bubbling little geysers, this is also where the big Strokkur geyser shoots a column of water up to 98 feet into the air every 4 to 8 minutes. If you’ve never witnessed this type of display I can tell you that it really is a thrilling force of nature.
We also found a small hiking trail that allowed us to go up a very large rock formation and get a better vantage point of the sights. Although I’m really not too sure that the raised view offered anything more impressive than witnessing the geysers at ground level, it did offer an opportunity for us to really stretch our legs and get our hearts pumping! While here, we also visited the gift store which was full of interesting souvenirs and offered a clean restroom and a little area to grab a bite to eat too. Winning!
Golden Circle Stop 3: Gulfoss (Golden Falls)
The next stop took us to one of the most beautifully-magical natural wonders I have ever experienced in my entire life, and hands down my favorite part of the tour: Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall. This more-than-spectacular waterfall is created by the river Hvítá, which tumbles and plunges into a crevice about 105-feet deep.
Something about the way its great mists enter the airspace above creates the most amazing rainbow I’ve ever seen. It was incredible and all-encompassing. Seriously, all I could think was, this is what heaven must look like. It was just so overwhelming and relaxing all the same time. Part of me wanted to get on my knees and pray, and the other part wanted to spread out a big comfy blanket to have a picnic, followed by a nap that would surely inspire enchanted dreams. It was breathtaking and stunning all rolled into one!
Golden Circle Stop 4: Laugarvatn Fontana
Because we opted for the Golden Circle tour that included the Fontana Wellness option, our next detour took us to Laugarvatn Fontana’s natural steam baths. We were told that the original sauna was built in the 1920s and was little more than a shack with two compartments, built above the extremely hot spring that bubbles and gurgles below the ground. Today, they have constructed a modern complex with various hot tubs and steam baths, naturally heated by the geothermal Icelandic hot springs.
When we first arrived, we went outside to watch as a strapping young gent dig up a buried pot wrapped in copious amounts of cellophane. What was in the pot was unbelievable. It was warm and delicious Icelandic rye bread, which tasted more like a pumpkin bread to us, that had been slow-baked underground in the hot earth. Totally awesome! After our bellies were full, we suited up and enjoyed the geothermally-heated steam baths and then “detoxified” our impurities in the crazily steamy saunas…super relaxing.
Golden Circle Stop 5: Thingvellir National Park
The final location on our Golden Circle tour was the historical and geological wonder known as Thingvellir National Park. This spot is where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimeters per year.
Although we didn’t have too much time left to spend at this location, we were able to go for a short stroll down a winding path that had you surrounded by the gigantic rock formations on all sides. We all agreed that the views were incredible and provided a fabulous and memorable location to end the tour.
After a long, fun-filled and eventful day, we all piled back into the coach with slightly droopy and tired eyes. Once comfortably settled in our soft and roomy seats, we let our happy exhaustion settle in. The bonus to this ending is that we all got to take a quick nap during our cool and quiet, 30-minute ride back to the hotel…just perfect. And we all lived happily ever after.
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Know Before You Go
- An Icelandic hotdog is known as a Pylsa.
- For some of the best views, you should pay a visit to the Hallgrimskirkja. The cathedral is one of the tallest buildings in Iceland and can be seen from all around the city.
- The Golden Circle Tour is one of the most popular guides in Europe. It includes stops at the volcanic crater of Kerio, Geysir, Thingvellir, and the Gullfoss Waterfall.