What is the Golden Circle?
If you Google “Things to do in Iceland,” the Golden Circle will likely be one of your top hits. The Golden Circle is a trio of sites that can be seen in one day as you drive around in a circle. The three attractions along the Golden Circle are Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and the Gullfoss Waterfalls. The drive takes about 3 hours from Reykjavik!
When we sat down to plan our trip around the Golden Circle, we decided to include a few more stops, that tend to be lesser known. Our route included a stop at the Kerid Crater, Faxi Falls and Friðheimar, which is a tomato greenhouse that also has a restaurant inside! If we were going to drive all day, we wanted to get the most bang for our buck! We also had Bruarfoss Waterfalls on our agenda, but the entrance was closed when we got there. Our total driving time was 3 hours and 23 minutes!
The Kerid Crater was our first stop and probably the most aesthetically pleasing. The red rock contrasted with the turquoise water in an unreal way! The crater was formed from a volcanic eruption 3000 years ago. The water in the lake is pretty shallow, ranging from 7 to 14 meters! At the crater, you can take a walk around the top, then hike down to the bottom! There is an entrance fee of $3.
We still had a bit of time before our lunch reservations so we drove over to Faxi Falls. These falls are lesser known, as evidenced by being the only car in the parking lot. There was a $5 entrance, but they do take credit card. The fall is connected to Tungufljót river and is about 80 meters wide and 7 meters tall. If you have the time, I would check it out!
Finally, lunch time! I had been to Friðheimar during my last visit to Iceland with my family and remembered it being delicious. It did not disappoint! Friðheimar is a tomato greenhouse where can you also eat. Greenhouses are common in Iceland, as their weather isn’t very conducive to farming. Here, you can eat their famous tomato soup with fresh baked bread. They also offer tomato adult drinks and desserts, if you dare! The tomato soup buffet was about $20, and included unlimited tomato soup, bread and garnishes (sour cream, fresh basil you clip at the table, cucumber salsa and butter). If you don’t want to spend that much or if you know you only want one bowl, you can also order a single bowl for about $10. After lunch, you can take a stroll around and see the tomato plants they grow!
Next stop is the Geysers! The area has quite a few geysers! Many are dormant but one does go off every 5-10 minutes! In all honesty, this was one of the least exciting stops of the day but it’s still worth a visit! There is a large cafe and gift shop as well if you need a refreshment!
Next stop – Gullfoss! Gullfoss means “Golden Falls” and is one of the most iconic waterfalls in Iceland. The water from the falls comes from the glacier Langjökull. There are several viewing points at this stop. You can take the stairs up and see the view from above or you can walk along the path towards the fall! Be prepared to get pretty wet!
This wasn’t an attraction per se but as we were driving, we saw some cars parked along the side of the road and curiosity made us pull over to see what was happening! Turns out we were driving over the Tungufljót river! This river is full of salmon and trout, and very important to Icelanders for that reason.
All over Iceland are these beautiful purple flowers. At the river, they were abundant as well! These are actually Alaskan lupine and were brought over to Iceland in 1945 to add nitrogen to the soil!
Our last stop of the day was Thingavellir Park. To be honest, we were pretty drained by then and didn’t want to continue to walk around so we stopped for a minute to see what it was about and got back in the car to head home. Here is the one photo of the park I got!
Thingavellir Park is a UNESCO site for it’s nature and because it is the site of the oldest parliament in the world! Iceland’s parliament existed here from the 10th to the 18th century!
Overall, we had an amazing day. It’s bonkers to think that in just a few hours, you can see so many gorgeous sites! After exploring for the day, here are a few tips I would share:
- Call ahead and make reservations for Friðheimar! I was lucky enough to be able to make reservations the night before but I know they can get packed!
- Start early – you’ll want to take advantage of as many sites as you can! Keep in mind that some places have opening hours and some don’t so plan accordingly.
- Be prepared for a foggy drive! If you need to, slow down while driving. The fog was unlike anything I had ever seen.
- Use the restroom when you can! Gullfoss and Faxi did not have restrooms available.
- Bring waterproof shoes to Gullfoss – you don’t want to have to sit in wet shoes for hours after!
Biggest tip though, is to go do the Golden Circle! It will not disappoint!