Inside: The ultimate guide to exploring the golden circle
A trip to Iceland would not be complete without exploring the Golden Circle. For those of you who are planning your own Iceland trips may be wondering what the heck I am talking about, so let’s get into it.
The Golden circle is a popular trail in Iceland that will bring you to three of the most famous sites: Geyser Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Thingvellir National Park. Plus a few other fun stops we found along the way…
We almost missed this part of our trip because the weather had been so bad, but I knew it would be worth the snowy drive. We loaded up our 4Wheel drive SUV with studded tires and made it happen!
It was so fun and I’m grateful we braved the roads to make it happen.
Exploring the Golden Circle
The day we were meant to explore the Golden Circle didn’t exactly have the smoothest start, but hey, that’s a family vacation for you! It’s all about how you roll with the punches. Our original tour that we had booked was canceled due to a storm. This didn’t stop us, so we set off on our own, braving the snow which ended up being so worth it.
So here is my Golden Circle Tour Experience!
First Stop Thingvellir National Park
The Thingvellir National Park is the only UNESCO world heritage site on the Icelandic mainland, so it is an absolute must see. The Golden Circle was perhaps one of my favorite things that I was able to experience with my family during our trip, so I wanted to share with you what it was like along with some tips for when you go.
The Continental Divide
At this stop we got to see the Continental Divide. And that was cool. It was amazing to be able to walk through the gorge and be able to touch the two different continents at once!
I will say, if you are planning on going make sure you’re wearing layers and oscillators. The temperature changes so quickly with the sun coming in and out, we went from freezing cold to boiling and unfortunately we got a little bit of heat stroke. This is not fun, so learn from our mistakes!
We took our time in the snow, resting and taking in the whole gorgeous area. We saw these beautiful churches, so that was really fun.
The next stop we had planned was the Gullfoss Waterfall. We set out, the road was completely blanketed in snow. Luckily we had rented a nice 4×4 that was able to handle it. We made our way towards the falls, listening to music and having a wonderful time enjoying the truly breathtaking scenery. The snow was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The white of the ground connected to the white of the sky in a way I never thought possible. It was like we were in a big snow globe.
Admittedly, the road was a bit sketchy but thankfully we made it. The falls were so powerful and brilliant, it was worth the drive. It was lots of fun to see and the location was surprisingly less crowed than I had thought it would be, most likely because we traveled to in Iceland in the spring, in the off season.
One thing that surprised me was how well everything was built. Every single stop you make on the Golden Circle has a cute gift shop, coffee, restaurant and a bathroom. They really anticipate your every need. Although this was super convenient, at times it made you feel like you weren’t as in nature as you may have originally imagined.
Haukadalur Hot Springs
We left there and traveled more north to hit the hot springs, which was probably one of the highlights of our trip. This is not something you can see in very many places.We got to see it ignite. It goes off pretty often too, if I remember correctly it was every 8 to 10 minutes.
This was something I was so excited for my kids to experience, nature in all of it’s unique forms. They loved it! Along with this, just the realization of where we were, in such a historic place, it gave me chills that weren’t from the cold.
Lunch At Freidheimar Tomatoes
We left there and went to the the most fun tomato greenhouse and restaurant for lunch.
It’s a sustainable farm and they serve everything tomato that you could possibly think of. They had tomato soup, which was so warm and inviting to have, along with this whole buffet set up with fresh baked breads, they even brew tomato beer!
It was a really fun experience to get to eat inside the greenhouse with tomatoes hanging literally above your head. They even had an educational demonstration set up for the kids.
I think I enjoyed the food more than the rest of my family. There are not a lot of options, so you’re going to want to make sure that either you’re very into tomatoes or you pack some snacks. This is a cute place!
It’s very, very close to the secret lagoon.
So after lunch, we went over and enjoyed an afternoon dip.
Exploring the Golden Circle: The Secret Lagoon
This secret lagoon is really different than the Blue Lagoon. It’s much more natural, and there was a lot of moss in it.
It felt a little bit less like a resort pool and a little bit more like a public pool.
But just being able to be in what is the oldest lagoon in Iceland, was really special. This is where many children would come and swim when growing up here, and it felt like we were getting such an authentic experience. They had fairy houses set up along the hills behind the lagoon. I was so happy to be able to try this out while Exploring the Golden Circle.
The Viking Restaurant
After our dip, we left and went down south for dinner at a fun themed Viking restaurant, which I had read all kinds of things about. If you want to go here you do need a reservation so make sure you schedule that ahead of time. There is nothing worse than spending a day working up an appetite just to have nothing to eat!
This was one of my favorite and most fun meals in Iceland because they had the Black Death drink that we had really wanted to try. They even serve it in a rams horn which was such a cool touch.
It’s a very traditional restaurant with an isolated deck for dinner. The food itself was traditional as well, and it was the perfect way to end our day of exploring the Golden Circle. The whole place just looks like a Viking place!
At this point you can drive back to the capital or stay nearby and head to the south rim road the next day – like we did!
Golden Nature At It’s Best
The Golden Circle is one of those things that you just have to experience when you are experiencing Iceland for the first time. I could not have been happier that my family and I got to spend the day experiencing the things we did. Iceland is even more beautiful than I ever imagined.
To summarize these tips and tricks: The golden circle is a nature filled tourist loop that connects 3 of the most popular attractions in Iceland along with many other smaller experiences as well. If you are going, make sure you layer up because the temperature shifts often. We went in March, so become familiar with the weather patterns around the time of the year that you are going.
Make sure you go to the tomato farm (if you are a tomato fan), and try some traditional foods at The Viking Restaurant. There are so many fun things just waiting for you to experience them in Iceland.