Great Things To See On Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik Iceland

Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

The Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik

On our visit to Reykjavik, the top thing on our list was the Golden Circle Tour from Reykjavik. We saw an amazing variety of natural Icelandic beauty on our travels around Iceland on our Nordic Country cruise with Oceania Cruises. But we really wanted to do this classic Iceland tour. And we were delighted when we visited the Thingvellir Lava Fields (Pingellir in Icelandic), Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Fields and Gullfoss Waterfall.

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The Golden Circle route covered about 300 kilometers over 8 hours. We headed out of Reykjavík into central Iceland and then back in on another road. The three sites we visited were on the first half of the loop. So we could have driven both ways on the same road. But when we completed the loop, we saw vast lava fields. And the Hveragerdi area of active geological and geothermal forces.

This “loop” was quite different from the “Ring Road” that went all around Iceland and took more than a week to complete. That is a trip we left for another visit!

Thingvellir Lava Fields – A Spot Between Two Continents

We saw lava fields when we toured in Northern Iceland from Akureyri. Our visit to Dimmuborgir showed us sharp rocky volcanic rock fields set into the base of an old lake.

On this tour, we visited the Thingvellir (or Pingellir) Lava Fields. Thingvellir National Park was a UNESCO site. It provided an interesting view into Iceland’s geological and historical heritage.

Iceland was divided by the Mid-Atlantic Rift. Parts of the country were on the North American tectonic plate. Other parts were on the Eurasian plate. This rift was above sea-level only in Iceland. And Thingvellir was the perfect spot to see both plates clearly.

The tectonic plates moved apart at approximately 2.5 centimetres a year and have done for millenniums. But in the summer of 2000, two severe earthquakes occurred in South Iceland. In most places, the plates slowly moved past each. But at Thingvellir, they broke apart and the land between them subsided. There was one spot where I stood with one foot on each plate!

Iceland Pingvellir Lava Fields.jpg

One of the major earthquakes caused a large rift to open up next to Lake Thingvallavatn. The Silfra fissure filled with meltwater from Langjökull glacier. This channel had the clearest fresh water in the world. And the underwater visibility exceeded 100 meters (328 feet). It was definitely a spot we would like to re-visit for scuba diving!

Walk Through The Thingvellir Lava Fields

Our first view was out over the vast lava fields of magma with Lake Thingvallavatn below. Thingvellir was the site of the oldest still standing parliament in the world. The Icelandic “Pingellir” translated to “the fields of parliament”. Along the river we saw the first Viking parliament or Althingi founded in 930 AD.

Iceland Pingvellir Lava Fields - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

Iceland Pingvellir Lava Fields - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

We following the path down and then walked along the rock face. It was fascinating to see the jagged rock faces that towered over us.

Iceland Pingvellir Lava Fields.jpg

Iceland Pingvellir Lava Fields.jpg

Iceland Pingvellir Lava Fields - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

We saw a small stream. Meltwater from the Langjökull glacier travelled underground through porous lava rock and entered ravines and springs. We stopped by the Drowning Pool. In the past, Iceland settled issues with public execution and corporal punishment. Drowning was usually reserved for women found guilty of “loose morals”. The memorial plaque commemorated the 18 women drowned at this spot.

Iceland Pingvellir Lava Fields.jpg

When we reached the bottom, we walked on the paths to the lower viewpoint. We saw a different perspective on the path we walked. And got a view back towards the lake.

Iceland Pingvellir Lava Fields - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

Our first stop at Thingvellir was an interesting view into Iceland’s geological and historical heritage on our Golden Circle Tour from Reykjavik.

Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Area

We saw a great geothermal area when we toured in Northern Iceland from Akureyri. Our visit to Namafjall showed us bubbling springs in multi-coloured fields. On our Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik, our second stop was at the Geysir geothermal area at Haukadalur with its multitude of hot springs.

As we entered the sight, we saw steam puffs in the fields in the distance. It reminded us of some of our first views of the geothermal activity at Yellowstone National Park.

Iceland Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Area.jpg

We passed the sign for the original Geysir that has not been active for years. The Strokkur geysir blew hot steam high in the air every 5 to 10 minutes. We found a spot up-wind of the bubbling pool and waited. It was not long before we were delighted by the eruption.

Strokkur Iceland Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Area.jpg

Strokkur Iceland Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Area - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

Strokkur Iceland Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Area - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

The path took us higher. There were other bubbling pools around the site. And we got a broader perspective from here when Strokkur erupted. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to climb the small hill to get a view out over the whole area.

Iceland Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Area.jpg

Iceland Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Area - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

Iceland Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Area.jpg

Iceland Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Area.jpg

We were happy we saw Strokkur active on our visit to the Haukadalur Geothermal Area. It was great that Strokkur erupted on a fairly predictable timing. Much like we found when we viewed the eruption of Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park.

A Final Stop At The Gullfoss Waterfall

We saw our first Icelandic waterfall when we toured in Northern Iceland from Akureyri. The Godafoss Waterfall certainly lived up to its name as the “Waterfall of the Gods”. On our Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik, our final stop was at the Gullfoss Waterfall.

There was a path on the top level that went to a point over the waterfall. But we wanted a closer view. So we took the stairs down and walked to the viewpoint out to the Gullfoss Waterfall. The waterfall had two tiers, one a drop of 11m and the lower one was 20m (a total of over 100’) . It was a great spot to get a panoramic view.

Iceland Gullfoss Waterfall - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

From here, there was a lower path that went to the upper waterfall. And provided a close up view of the water as it thundered over the lower waterfall.

Iceland Gullfoss Waterfall - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

Iceland Gullfoss Waterfall - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

Iceland Gullfoss Waterfall - Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik.jpg

When we returned to the parking area, we caught a view out over the fields to the Langjökull glacier. This was the glacier that fed Lake Thingvallavatn at the first stop on our Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik.

Langjökull Glacier Iceland Gullfoss Waterfall.jpg

Hot Springs And Earthquakes Around Hveragerdi

We continued our trip around the loop and completed the Golden Circle Tour. There were no more stops. But we kept our eyes peeled as the tour guide provided more insights on Iceland.

We drove through vast lava fields. Volcanic rubble areas were on both sides of the road. Rocks were covered with a fine layer of what looked like moss. In some areas we saw larger sharp rocky areas.

Hot Springs And Earthquakes Around Hveragerdi.jpg

Hot Springs And Earthquakes Around Hveragerdi.jpg

We reached the area around Hveragerdi. Hveragerdi translated to ‘the town of hot springs’ in Icelandic. This area was known for its greenhouses and as a major centre for Icelandic horticulture. Greenhouses were heated by hot water that flowed close to the surface and came out in hot springs.

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The Reykjadalur (or Hveragerdi) Hot Springs were a geothermal area of hot springs and fumaroles surrounded by untamed wilderness. The water was shallow and wonderfully warm. We considered this as an option to a visit to the Blue Lagoon on a return visit.

Hveragerdi was also known as ‘the Earthquake Town’. The surrounding area was part of the Hengill central volcano. This active volcanic zone crossed Iceland from south-west to north-east. Frequent tectonic movements caused earthquakes in this area. The most recent registered 6.3 on the Richter scale on May 29, 2008.

As we drove, we saw large pipes for steam that ran back to Reykjavik. We were fascinated to learn that nearly all Icelandic homes were heated with renewable energy.

Hot Springs And Earthquakes Around Hveragerdi.jpg

Great Sights On A Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik Iceland

We were glad we booked the Golden Circle Tour from Reykjavik. We got a great tease with our first view of the natural beauty of Iceland when we toured from Akureyri in Northern Iceland. But it was great to add in the iconic views of the Thingvellir Lava Fields, Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Fields and Gullfoss Waterfall.

We had three days in Reykjavik. We took some time and enjoyed the city. Our first day trip was this Golden Circle Tour. But we also headed out for another tour and enjoyed more of the amazing sights along the Reykjanes Peninsula.

There were so many stunning waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. And we did not see them all!

Did you do the Golden Circle Tour from Reykjavik? What other sights did you see along the way?

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About TravelAtWill 575 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

32 Comments

  1. It would be an interesting experience to see lava fields. I found it interesting about the tectonic plate’s constantly moving apart every year. The drowning pool? How morbid! I would be curious what was considered ‘lose morals’ back then. The Strokkur geysir hot steam’s would be amazing to see also. I can’t believe that they get that hot, 176 degrees to 194 degrees! I do like how the sign has to warn you not to test the water with your hands though! That is funny! The blue lagoon is always been on my bucket list. I hope to one day visit!

    • Kaitlin, The Golden Circle certainly offered many fascinating sights of natural beauty. We were glad we did it and learned more about the geology of Iceland. Well worth doing on a visit to Iceland. Hope you get there. Linda

  2. I am delighted that I read your guide because I am planning to go to Iceland. I will gladly take advantage of your advice and tips. I love waterfalls and hot springs. Lava fields are on my list too. I add to my list also Geysir geothermal area at Haukadalur with its multitude of hot springs. I want to take pictures of “Waterfall of the Gods” with long exposure.

    • Agnes, I am glad you have Iceland on your travel plans. We have a few more posts coming up to tease you too! There are so many amazing spots for photographers. Linda

  3. Iceland is just an amazing destination and I was lucky enough to travel to this country 2 years ago.This post brought back some beautiful memories as we did the Golden circle tour when we were there. My personal faVourite was the Gullfoss Waterfall without a doubt . The shear scale of this natural beauty is just breathtaking. Would have loved to travel more and discover more but we had limited time so maybe a reason to return. Haukadalur Geysir are spectacular as well and a magic of nature. Thanks for refreshing the memories

    • Amar, I am glad that this post brought back great memories of Iceland. We would love to go back to see more of the waterfalls. We did two and that was not enough. Linda

  4. I’m so glad to find this guide. I live in Denmark so our summer holiday will be in either Iceland, Germany or Norway. If we don’t choose Iceland for the summer, we want to visit this winter. The waterfalls alone look so stunning!

  5. Iceland is one my greatest dream destinations! I always watch videos and read blogs about this beautiful place, and this is one of the best articles I read about Iceland. It makes me really want to visit Iceland soon! The views in the picture are totally breathtaking. Whoa!!!

  6. I have been to all these places and I agree they are awesome. I specifically loved the last waterfalls. I saw double rainbows when I visited there and it was so magical. I have had an awesome time doing the Golden circle.

  7. I was to actually plan for Iceland this year before pandemic hit us. I have heard so much about Golden Circle Tour. This place is really considered to have some amazing hot springs and waterfalls.Blue Lagoon sounds like a great option. Hveragerdi seems like an interesting place to witness some great Volcanic activity .

    • Debjani, We certainly were glad we got to Iceland last year. The Golden Circle Tour was high on our list. And we were not disappointed. Hope you get Iceland back on your travel plans. Linda

  8. Iceland is the nest place to visit on our list! the Thingvellir lakes and lava fields look incredible! we really want to do the dive between two continents! gullfoss waterfall is suppose to be amazing any your photos proved that! this has made me even more excited for when we are able to visit!

  9. Ive stumbled across the term Golden Circle Tour in Iceland for quite some time, but this is the first time, i stumbled across legit blog with pictures, covering the entire journey. Never been to Iceland till now, but this experience is something that I definitely want to tick off my list in the near future.

    • Arnav, I am glad that our blog post showed you the whole journey. We did not expect to see as much as we did no the tour. As we too saw blog posts that mostly were Instagram shots of the key sights. Hope you get to visit Iceland. It was a great part of our travels last year. Linda

  10. Oh wow, I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland, but didn’t even know that the lava fields should be on my radar! I can’t even believe how much you get to see on this tour though from the lava fields to the geysirs to the insane rock formations! Plus that sad, but important history of the Drowning Pool.

  11. I’ve been to Yellowstone and really enjoyed the geyser experience and the colorful pools. That’s why i have never been that interested in Iceland. Plus, it’s so expensive to travel there from where I live! But the photos look gorgeous, and the lava fields, and glaciers would be a unique experience, I guess

  12. The Golden Circle is something that I have to do someday! Exploring the lava fields would be so cool. The waterfalls on the tour are so stunning! I love exploring all types of waterfalls and have heard so much about those in Iceland. The Godafoss and Gullfoss waterfalls are beautiful, I can only imagine standing in front of them! I think one of the main reasons I am so drawn to this area is all the unique nature attractions. I am a huge nature lover and these things definitely catch my attention.

  13. A tour which has all three amazing sites – Thingvellir Lava Fields (Pingellir in Icelandic), Haukadalur Geysir Geothermal Fields and Gullfoss Waterfall would be really enchanting and truly beautiful. Your visit to Namafjall with bubbling springs in multi-coloured fields must be interesting. Also Hveragerdi which is also the Earthquake Town looks worth visiting. Apart from famous sites, you have covered many offbeat natural springs and volcanic sites too in this Golden circle tour.

    • Yukti, We were excited with the variety of beautiful sights we found on the Golden Circle Tour from Reykjavik in Iceland. It is definitely a tour to do if you visit. Linda

  14. i was wondering why it is called Golden Circle and now I know why. The trip looks fabulous with such wonderful exposure to the volcanoe and waterfalls.The bubbling fountain is such a great sight. The walk reminded me of one of ours when we were heading to Mt.Vesuvius in Italy, but the sight of the volcano there is very limited and you really can’t go down to it but the walk was a little tough but very enjoyable amidst the clouds.

  15. Gullfoss Waterfall has been high on the Iceland list, though honestly, after reading this post, I think I am all for the Lava fields and the geothermal springs. It is good that these hot springs erupt frequently. I would hate missing out on that huge splash – which you have captured so beautifully. Sigh! Dunno when I will get there.

    • Ami, I was happy to show some of the other sights that you get on some of these famous tours. We loved the variety and colours. Hope you get to Iceland one day. Linda

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