Iceland: Exploring the Glorious Golden Circle

I think everyone who goes to Iceland does some version of the famous Golden Circle, the tourist loop that is a collection of some of the country’s greatest hits. I, of course, was no exception. Not feeling up to driving myself around a foreign country, I joined a tour group for a jam-packed day of beautiful scenery in Iceland.

Our first stop was Orka Náttúrunnar, Iceland’s largest geothermal power plant. I will admit that visiting a power plant wasn’t exactly my biggest sightseeing dream (though many people in my group seemed quite fascinated). Still, I know renewable energy is important, and it was cool to see how Iceland uses the environment to generate its power in a sustainable way. Even if the science-y part of the plant wasn’t really my cup of tea, I still appreciated what they’re doing there.

Our next stop was Keri∂, a volcanic crater lake. This stop was exactly what I pictured the Golden Circle would be: breathtaking. I made a loop around the edge of the crater, taking it all in. I couldn’t get over the color of the water; it was seriously stunning!

We made our way next to Skálholt Cathedral, a little church dotting the countryside. Inside, the church had some pretty stained glass, but my favorite part of this stop was just looking out at the surrounding countryside (which was, of course, gorgeous). Behind the cathedral was a little building covered in grass, which reminded me of a Hobbit house. Cute!

Next up was the Faxi Waterfall. This was relatively small (at least compared to the one we would see later in the day), but still cool. It also featured a salmon run along the side of it!

Around lunchtime, we made our way to the Geysir Hotspring Area. I grabbed lunch in the cafeteria, then headed out to see the geyser. I wound up wishing I did it the other way around, because I didn’t leave myself much time to see the geyser erupt and – wouldn’t you know – you can’t make a geyser erupt on command! There was a good eruption as I was walking over to the area, but I wished I had been closer when it happened. Alas, you can’t have it all.

Next up was the mighty Gullfoss, which was massive and impressive. The name “Gullfoss” literally means “gold waterfall,” and our guide told us that, whenever Icelanders really like something, they add “gold” to its name. I can see why they did it here! As I walked around the waterfall, I caught the slightest hint of a rainbow – and I can’t imagine anything more magical than that. Can you spot it below?

On our way from Gullfoss to our next stop, we pulled off the road into a fairly nondescript parking lot. But, the parking lot was next to a pasture, and the pasture had … Icelandic horses! Iceland’s horses have the most fabulous manes and are just all around adorable. Next time I go to Iceland, I really want to do a riding excursion so I can get more quality time with these guys.

After reluctantly tearing ourselves away from the horses, we made our way to Efstidalur Farm. We poked around, paying a visit to all the cows, but our goal here was ice cream. I chose two of my mainstay flavors, salted caramel and mint chocolate chip, of course. It was super tasty!

We ended our day at Thingvellir National Park, the spot where the North American and European tectonic plates collide (fun fact!). The scenery here was just gorgeous! We hiked uphill to a lookout point with breathtaking views of the surrounding areas. I was completely in awe of all the blues and greens. Nature really is something, huh?

What a day! We packed in nine different stops, not to mention all the gorgeous scenery I saw out the window along the way. As we made our loop through the Golden Circle, I couldn’t stop marveling over how damn impressive Iceland is. No place I’ve visited has had more natural beauty, except maybe Norway’s fjords. It was a real treat.

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