the iconic golden circle
Updated: Aug 18
If you've ever thought about visiting Iceland, you'll have likely heard all about the golden circle: the three most iconic sites that are easily visited in a loop from the capital. With literally hundreds of tours catering to weekend city breaks or week long holidays - there's no reason you shouldn't visit!
PINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
A girl I knew from school had been to Iceland maybe a couple of months before me, and seeing her instagram post of her walking between FRICKIN TECTONIC PLATES had me putting this place on my bucket list faster than I could write.
I'm not gonna lie, I wasn't too bothered about the actual national park itself, but since you can't do the tectonic fissure without the national park, I started searching for tours.
One thing that's on my bucket list is to snorkel/scuba dive between the plates, but since this trip was a christmas present to my mam, I didn't think she'd be best pleased if I made her go snorkelling in the dead of winter, so that was off the cards for this trip. BUT, as part of our four day tour, the golden circle was included- so I was pretty happy.
The tour of the golden circle was pretty damn snappy, meaning we got around 20 minutes at the NP, which anyone who has ever been to a national park knows this is nowhere near enough time to even get a proper look around.
So after a literal run through the walkway leading to the park, a few rushed photos, and not a bloody clue where the fissure and lake even were, it's fair to say I'll be needing to go back to this place to get a proper look.
GEYSIR GEOTHERMAL AREA
Now this was an area I was super looking forward to, having seen countless pictures and videos online of the geysirs erupting. With a bit more time of roughly 40 minutes to explore, we headed up to the path leading around the geysirs.
It's worth noting that because of all the sulphur, it really bloody stinks. I'm talking rotten, putrefied egg, but after a few gagging mouthfuls you soon get used to the smell.
I honestly found the whole area to be really pretty. All the winter colours: the greys, the yellows, the blues and greens and everything in-between made the whole site a photographer's haven. It reminded me a lot of the geothermal parks I've seen pictures of in New Zealand.
Contrary to what I thought, there is actually more than one Geysir, but the main Geysir is very inactive with unpredictable eruptions. Hence, its neighbour Strokkur is the most popular Geysir in the park and erupts around every ten minutes.
The crowds pile around waiting for it to go off, as there is very little warning and it lasts only a few seconds, but those few seconds are very awe-inspiring, and definitely worth waiting around for!
This stop was only a short jaunt down the road from Geysir, and was also something I couldn't wait to see: the bloody giant waterfall everyone harks on about when they visit Iceland. Originally I thought it was just going to be another 'oh wow' and that's it kind of scenario, but Gullfoss is a whole different kettle of fish.
When we visited, it was snowing/raining and the wind was strong enough to nearly knock me over several times, so the image in my mind of Gullfoss wasn't as it appeared on the day.
It's fair to say that this is an absolute mammoth of a waterfall. A giant, multi-tiered, living monster. The sound of the water crashing down to each level alone is enough to make you rethink getting close to the edge of the path for those amazing shots.
Amazing in summer, breathtaking in winter. It's literally like you're at the end of the world, that's what Gullfoss reminds me of. Incredible, but still a little bloody scary.
THE ADDED EXTRA: A RIDE ON A DEATH MACHINE
Alrighty so snowmobiles aren't actually death machines but Christ I've never known such terror in my life.
First of all, we got put in a literal decommissioned army transport vehicle meant for transporting MISSILES, which honestly was absolutely wicked and I felt like some bad ass MI6 agent in the field, but then shit got scary.
We were snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier, but in the middle of winter the trek up to the glacier is pretty damn terrifying. I'm talking totally frozen up windows, rocking back and forth, the lot.
Luckily, once we got onto the glacier and to the snowmobile centre I'd calmed down a bit. So we were suited and booted with thicker gear, helmeted up, and lead out to where a whole host of snowmobiles were waiting.
We were put two to a snowmobile, and given a run down of how to operate the machines, and then just like that we were off, following the guides in a single line. Of course, me being me, was very apprehensive and honestly a little terrified about having my vision obscured (something that really, really makes me uncomfortable), and the fact that there was so much snow that you couldn't tell where the sky met the ground, it was all a plain white sheet.
So we were took off our mobile and places onto the backs of the guides. Of course, my mam got given the lovely older guide who could tell she was scared and rode at the back of the pack. Me? I got the professional snow mobile racer... of course.
So I'm in the middle of the pack, holding on to the rails at the side of the mobile for dear fucking LIFE as the guide bipped and bopped and scared the life out of me. Honestly, the whole time had me repeating a mantra of 'it's okay, calm down and enjoy it Rhiann. it's a once in a lifetime opportunity' and I'd start to slightly enjoy it.
Then of course someone would tip their sled over and we'd come racing to the rescue, all the while my guide shouting 'it's okay it's okay I race professionally!!' as I scream at his back to 'FUCKING STOP STOP STOP SLOW DOWN'. Not my best moments.
Having said all of the above, I drove our initial abandoned snowmobile back to the base and actually really bloody loved it. I think not getting chance to actually drive the mobiles a bit before we set out had me on edge. Or that's what I'm telling myself
All in all, I really enjoyed the Golden Circle, but I'd probably recommend going with a smaller tour than we did as it's so much rushing around that you barely get chance to actually enjoy the experience.