Most tourists and travellers alike, kick-start their trip to Iceland with the famed Golden Circle tour Iceland. The biggest advantage of the Golden Circle tour Iceland is its accessibility and ease of doing this tour. The tour begins in Reykjavik and takes only a day. So for tourists who were flying and transiting through Iceland it made an excellent choice. The Golden circle tour covers 3 main attractions.
So what is covered in Golden Circle Tour Iceland?
The Golden Circle is a tourist route in Southern Iceland, covering about 300 kilometres looping from Reykjavík into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. It is the area that contains most tours and travel-related activities in Iceland.
There are 3 main stops on this route:
- Pingvellir National Park
- Gullfoss waterfall (Foss means waterfall in Icelandic)
- Geothermal area in Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur
Options for the Golden circle tour Iceland
The best way to do this tour is to self-drive. But if for some reason, you cant do it then the next best option would be to book a tour through a travel agency. Most agencies generally will provide pick-up and drop services from your hotel/hostel.
One of the cheapest options I could find on the internet with good reviews was booking through Klook. If you have read my other articles, you know that I have booked a lot of tours through Klook both in Asia & Europe and always had a great experience with them.
You can book Golden Circle Tour Iceland from the Klook portal – Book Golden Circle Tour Iceland.
Since, we had decided to do Snorkeling at Silfra, we left our guesthouse really early around 7 AM I guess. Enroute Silfra we had our first stop at a random turn on the road to witness a beautiful sunrise & moonset. Yup, it was pretty common to see both sun and moon in the sky at the same time in Iceland.
Silfra – Pingvellir National Park
Silfra is the only place in the world where you can dive and touch 2 continents at the same time. Its the meeting point between the American and Eurasian continental plates. Another great advantage of diving at Silfra is the clarity of the water and the visibility. As per the guide, in Silfra you can get visibility upto 100m. Thats staggering.
We had booked a snorkelling session since to dive you need to have:
- PADI Open Diver Water or equivalent certification.
- Proof of dry suit dive certification or 10 logged dry suit dives within two years of tour date.
On the other hand, snorkelling has no such requirements. Do keep in mind though that the water would be very cold, around 0-3°C. The dry suits however are completely waterproof and if worn properly will keep you warm throughout the session. Also, the dry suits are very buoyant and will keep you floating even if you don’t know swimming.
Note – Although swimming (skill) is not mandatory for snorkeling, most dive companies will require you know swimming due to the extreme environment of Silfra. But if you insist, they will allow you to do it. I was an OK swimmer at that time and took the risk, but if you are someone who panics easily in water, I would not recommend it.
Tour Booking and Agency
- Agency – www.dive.is
- Tour booked – Silfra Snorkeling Day Tour
- Tour cost – ISK 11,490 (Extra 3000 ISK for the photos)
- Cost will increase if you add their pickup and drop service.
We had an amazing experience with them. Their changing vans/rooms are located right next to the Silfra. They also have heated vans for changing clothes. The instructor/guide/coach was super helpful and fun and we overall had a great time.
Bonus – They provide you Hot chocolate and cookies after the snorkeling session. Trust me you will need it.
Note – Please don’t skip your breakfast if you are planning to snorkel in the morning. The water and environment is really cold and you will regret not eating that breakfast.
Pingvellir National Park is huge and you would se plenty of park rangers around the park. It’s also prohibited to step anywhere except the road. We weren’t aware of this and after parking the car started roaming around the surroundings.
Luckily, the park ranger who saw us doing that was a very nice and jovial fellow. He explained us the delicate nature of the moss and the vegetation in the National park and let us go with a warning. A huge sigh of relief. The fines in Iceland are crazy. Our tour guide was fined 80,000 INR on his last trip for speeding.
Gullfoss waterfall was the 2nd stop on the Golden circle tour Iceland. The challenge of visiting this waterfall starts right from the parking. There are a couple of galleries/watch stations to watch the waterfall from. All these galleries are a good 5-10 mins walking distance from the car park and if this is your first or second day in Iceland, you will feel every single of those seconds.
The temperatures were ok, but it was the wind that was killing us. Some of us literally drowned 2 neat pegs of Jack Daniels just to get out of the car and walk 100 meters. Some of the smart folks simply packed a small bottle in their jackets and sipped throughout the 10 mins walk.
The challenge doesn’t end when you reach close, in fact it just multiplies:
- The icicles from the waterfalls.
- Due to the outside temperature, the small water particles that get sprayed in the air turn into icicles. So please don’t take off your glasses if heading really close to the falls.
- The sleet near the waterfalls.
- The sleet formed makes it really slippery to walk and if not careful chances are you will take a tumble. Hell, we all were careful yet fell at some point of the visit.
- When we visited the path to the 2nd gallery was so filled with ice and sleet and we saw only people with crampons trying to attempt the climb. We sensibly aborted and enjoyed the views from the lower gallery/watch station.
But was the view worth it? DEFINITELY…that’s why Gullfoss is a part of the most popular tourist route in Iceland – The Golden Circle Tour Iceland.
Geothermal area in Haukadalur
Our third stop and the actual last stop on the Golden Circle tour. We parked our cars and had a quick lunch of some soups and desserts at the restaurant in the tourist center, followed by ice-cream.
Thereafter we went around the place and visited the highly active Geysir Hot Spring Area with boiling mud pits, exploding geysers and the lively Strokkur which spouts water 30 metres (100 ft) into the air every few minutes. Iceland is blessed with Geothermal activity and some spa’s have made an excellent use of it. Read about one such spa, Blue Lagoon Spa here.
This, actually brings the Golden Circle Tour Iceland to an end and thereafter the tour company will drop you back at the hotel. We on the other hand were heading to our next stop – The famous DC plane crash area.
Sólheimasandur plane crash
One of the rare attractions in Iceland, with no natural beauty as such. Its basically the fuselage/remains of a DC plane that crashed on the black sandy beach in Sólheimasandur.
It’s become an overnight sensation after featuring in one of Justin Bieber’s songs and back home in India, the song Gerua has been responsible for its popularity (and some other Icelandic attractions as well).
Getting to the attraction though is a task in itself. It’s a good 2 km’s walk from the parking lot to the actual plane crash site. And this would be the longest walk of your life. When we started we literally felt shivers down our spines due to the wind chill. It was already evening, so temperatures were dropping and the winds picking up.
Nevertheless, once you start walking, the body heat generated should keep you warm and cozy. After an arduous walk of around 25 mins I finally reached the plane wreck. Its hauntingly beautiful and the black sand backdrop makes it stunning.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking. As per the tour guide, last 2 years both the batches had returned from halfway as it was raining pretty heavily both those times and we were lucky to at least have clear weather.
After spending a good hour clicking photos & waiting for the sunset, we left for our Seljavellir guesthouse.
We made a brief 5 mins stop at Jökulsárlón, but it was so dark that we could just see some ice blocks. It was only when we visited the next day, the enormity of the glacier dawned on us. I’ll talk more about this place in Day 3’s post.
Oh, by the way we saw an amazing display of Aurora Borealis when we were driving from Jökulsárlón towards our guesthouse.
In Iceland, I don’t think the nature and the location of the hotels/guesthouses will ever disappoint you. This guesthouse had a backdrop of towering black sand mountains on one side and the glacial mountains on the other.
We arrived and checked-in our rooms around 9-9:30 PM and went to the kitchen and cooked some ready to eat food brought from back home. This used to be the pattern in Iceland – breakfast at the guesthouse/hostel, lunch at some restaurant on the way and ready to eat packets for dinner.
This marks the end of the longest day of the tour in terms of driving, distance covered and sightseeing.
Expenses for the Day
|Expense Description||Expense Amount|
|Lunch & Ice-cream at Geysir||Around 1200 INR|
|Seljavellir guesthouse accommodation||Around 5500 INR for a room (2 people)|
|Activity Expenses||14,500 ISK / 7800 INR (Silfra Snorkeling)|