Guided Golden Circle tours from Reykjavik. Easy sightseeing tours for all ages, on Iceland's most popular route.
Golden Circle day tours from Reykjavik that include an activity.
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The Golden Circle is hardly a name which is unheard of. It is certainly one of Iceland’s most sought-after tourist destinations, the Golden circle harbors some of the most stunningly beautiful expanses of scenery on earth, vistas which render one totally speechless at their sheer grandeur.
The classic Golden Circle tour will take you to three of Iceland’s most popular sights: Gullfoss, Geysir and the National Park Thingvellir. The route covers approximately 300 kilometers (190 miles), and loops from the capital of Reykjavík to the center of the country and back.
Thingvellir is a national park is a site of much historical, natural and cultural importance in Iceland. The national park was founded in 1930, but the area itself has a far longer history than that, going back to the first settlers in Iceland. The Icelandic Parliament was established there in the year 930. Read more about Thingvellir here
The Geysir geothermal field is located at the northern edge of the southern lowlands in Iceland, at an altitude of 105-120 m above sea level. The hot springs are located to the east of a little mountain called Laugafell. The most famous one, Geysir, does not spout anymore, but the geyser Strokkur is alive and well, spouting every 5-10 minutes. Read more about the geyser area here.
Gullfoss is undoubtedly the most famous waterfall in Iceland. It falls in the river Hvítá. Its power is immense and one can stand very close to it and feel the mist of the glacial waterfall. The waterfall cascades down two huge steps that are 11 and 22 meters deep, into a deep gorge.
The beauty of this region is hallmarked by powerful waterfalls, remarkable geysers blasting scalding water to incredible heights, and landscapes that are embellished with astonishingly gorgeous greenery as crystal clear springs flow in between them.
The Golden Circle is, indeed, a precious gem to behold, the kind of rare geological features that cannot be seen elsewhere have ensured its position as one of the most popular tourist destinations. When these beauties are combined with the hospitality of the region’s residents and the exquisite traditional cuisine on offer, it is not surprising that the Golden Circle tops the list of must-visit natural wonders again and again.
The historic Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir is the Icelandic name, so you will see it written this way on some maps and signposts), the Great Geyser and the iconic Gullfoss waterfall make up the Golden Circle. Traveling between these places you will always be surrounded by lovely scenery. The sites are easily accessible from one another, the furthest being less than two-hour’s drive from the City of Reykjavík, the entire Golden Circle can be explored within a single day, including plenty of time to explore each site. Although, summer is the ideal time to visit the undulating vistas of the Golden Circle, it is certainly true to say these attractions offer a different kind of wonder during the winter time. A covering of snow blesses all three Golden Circle attractions with a very special kind of winter magic.
You can begin your majestic journey with the extensive moss-clad paths of Thingvellir National Park, which is known for far more than its scenic beauty, it is also very highly-regarded for its exceptional history, which, other with its geology, helped it to receive the honor of being one of the first national parks in Iceland.
The historic significance of the Þingvellir is recognized by UNESCO who have accorded the park World Heritage Site status - it is a fabulous honor to be a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. Þingvellir played an essential role in the political history of Iceland, this was the place where the first parliament meeting was held, settling rifts between differing parties and melding together a national government where all of the chieftains met.
The landscape of the National Park is characterized by remarkable and beautiful geographical features, the well-known ridge which separates the North American continent from the Eurasian continent, traces a clearly visible pathway through the valley.
Known as the Mid Atlantic Ridge, the cliff of the gorge crosses right through the national park creating a landscape which is truly imposing. It is here that one can see how the tectonic plates have been moving slowly apart, has over many centuries, effectively created a division, between which new land has risen. Walking the major pathway across Thingvellir, you really will experience nature’s marvelous workings at close-hand.
In fact, the monolithic cliff at the perimeter of the North American continent will rear up before you, the moment you enter Þingvellir. The perimeter of the Eurasian plate is, however, quite a distance away, but this too is easy to reach.
The endless expanses of hills and cliffs, embossed with flourishing green vegetation, give us a direct reminder that this area has been free from volcanic eruptions for the past 2000 years. Just two millennia ago, the rough lava of fresh eruptions would have dominated these landscapes. The remains of grandiose lava rocks, however, can clearly be seen, bearing testimony to the formerly active volcanoes, which manifested this lava thousands of years ago.
The park also contains deep ravines which were formed by the continued separation of the tectonic plates, they move apart almost 2.5 cm (1”) each year, creating a widening chasm. Silfra fissure is within this chasm, it has filled up with clear glacial meltwater from Langjökull glacier. The water in Silfra is, undeniably, the clearest water imaginable, free from any impurities or sediment. Hence, those who dive or snorkel in Silfra will experience unrivalled underwater sights, and visibility of over 100 meters. This gives a fabulous opportunity for adventurers to dive down into the wonders of the earth, which are just waiting to be discovered beneath the calm waters of the Thingvellir Lake, known as Þingvallvatn.
Silfra is the most famous of these ravines, enjoying a world-wide reputation among the diving community. It is even possible to spread your arms wide and touch both sides of the rock, how special is that? The cold waters of Silfra, just 2 to 4 degrees Celsius, may seem on first thought to be hostile environment which could even challenge your survival! The reality could not be more different - wearing a good quality drysuit you will be perfectly comfortable and very safe. Silfra is considered to be one of the top 10 diving sites in the world, it offers divers the chance to explore the sights, where the earth has literally been rent apart by the forces of nature.
If, however, you are one of those people who prefer to watch the majestic works of nature from above, you can easily do so on foot, walking along the Almannagjá gorge you will have a grandstand view of this geological spectacle in all its glory.
Located in the Haukadalur valley, around a fifty-minute drive from the National Park, Iceland´s magnificent geysers will reveal more of the Golden Circle’s incredibly striking beauty. Here you will not only see an erupting geyser hot spring, but numerous hot pools, springs and oozing, steaming and colorful mud.
You will experience one of the rarest manifestations of underground volcanic activity, an erupting geyser, this sight is sure to compel you to be filled with nothing but awe and wonder. Venturing more deeply into the valley, you will feel the intensity of your excitement rising as jets of scalding water are propelled high in the air, the sight of this geyser erupting can actually be viewed a good distance away.
Walking the footpaths, you will see the changing colors of the earth, courtesy of the rich minerals which are present in the earth here, adding to the exquisiteness of the extraordinary nature in this place. You will get the chance to visit the world´s one and only Great Geysir, the erupting geyser which bequeathed the name ‘geyser’ to the English-speaking world, when this became the name given to this kind of very rare erupting hot spring. Nowadays, this grandiose phenomenon of nature is seemingly a shy one, Great Geysir has erupted very few times in the last century or so. We do, though, know that the Great Geysir has been with us for around 10,000 years, in 2000 it erupted quite spectacularly, sending its explosive, scalding jet 122 meters into the air, a truly majestic sight.
However, we are very lucky, we have the opportunity to marvel at the beauty of its neighbor, Strokkur, this hot spring is known to erupt very reliably. Every five to ten minutes you will witness Strokkur exploding water and steam to a height of up to 40 meters, leaving the surrounding air moist with soft steam.
The Geysir Geothermal Area offers visitors great and fabulous volcanic landscapes, and, also, the delights of the Geysir Center. This Center gives tourists the chance to shop for some totally unique and originally made goods, many of them manufactured by local people. There is also the opportunity to taste the luscious local cuisine, on offer in a few restaurants, where themes from Icelandic culture add greatly to the atmosphere.
All three Golden Circle attractions are stunning, but we have surely saved the best for last, a visit to Gullfoss Waterfall will culminate your Golden Circle trip with visions of true celestial splendor. Gullfoss means the ‘Golden Falls’, and this name is well deserved, on a fine day the gold-toned vapor around the waterfall, really does create a vision of celestial glory! Usually, on bright days, you will also see delicate and colorful rainbows around the crashing flow, as the water cascades through a drop of 32 meters in two stages. The volume of this stupendous flow is enormous, never more so than in summer when meltwater from Langjokull Glacier swells the Hvítá River. So, the mighty Gullfoss torrent, and the water filling Silfra fissure at Þingvellir, originate from the same source, Langjökull, the second biggest glacier in Iceland.
Standing at one of the great vantage points at Gullfoss, one can witness the grandeur of the canyon, together with the striking landscapes which unfold surrealistically into the distance, as the spray from the waterfall falls softly on your face. This really is a very precious moment to enjoy and remember with your loved ones.
Although, Gullfoss is less voluminous in the winter than in the summer, it is no less enticing in the winter, when you can marvel at the stunning beauty of snow forming on the partially frozen falls - sheer winter magic!
Want to know more? Read our complete guide to the Golden Circle in Iceland