No trip to Iceland is complete without exploring the Golden Circle, and today I was going to discover why. It was an exhilaration filled morning unveiling the fact that the Golden Circleroute takes you through some of the most amazing sights in central Iceland, with scenery ranging from natural sites to historic landscapes. I started on to this 300-kilometer (190 mi) loop making my first stop at the geothermal energy exhibition.
This place not only gives you an insight about the adventures that await you but all gives you a lot of information about the efforts put in by the Icelandars into conserving geo-thermal energy. This energy plant is owned by Reykjavík Energy and shows how geothermal energy is harnessed in a sustainable manner. Also one of the perks to make a pit stop here is the amazing restaurant only 50 metres from the Geothermal Park. This restaurant uses the geothermal heat for its outdoor kitchen and the breads here are a must try before embarking on the trip ahead.
Stirring towards the golden circle the next stop was at ‘the Earthquake Town’ or ‘the Hot Spring Town’ as named by the locals, due to the active geological and geothermal forces that define it. Yes, Hveragerdi is known as Iceland’s “Smoky Valley” having a beautiful river that is shrouded in a constant cover of steam clouds. This little town gives you a sneak peak into what awaits you ahead.
Then it was time to finally discover the very famous Geysirs of Iceland. There’s a little walking trail complex full of geysirs, the most consistent of which is Strokkur.
Walking up the steaming path leading to Strokkur, I had no idea what to expect. Was it just constantly spouting? Would I need to stand there for an hour twiddling my thumbs to get the perfect shot?
This famous Icelandic fountain geyser erupts every 6-10 minutes with a height typically around 15-20 meter, sometimes erupting up to 40 meters high.
After waiting through 2 eruptions we finally saw one that possibly was 40m.
These Icelandic hot geysers are about 80-100 degree in temperature, a natural wonder in itself. Even with the engulfing cold weather around, they have been around years producing the same amount of heat every single day. And to see them erupt at a height of almost 40m was just incredible.
There are many other dormant geyser and their beauty lies in thecolors, the formations, everything about it was just so beautiful!
But yes you have to be extra careful and walk only along the trailed path. There are signs warning visitors with sprouts of water ranging from 80-100°C (176-212 °F) in this open field.
Icelanders have always known to have a crush on waterfalls. This country has more than whole of Europe put together. And there is no waterfall so tiny it doesn’t have a name, because all of the waterfalls have history. And you believe in it whenwhen you hear the Gullfoss in its full glory!
It’s all about the pounding heart and the racing sound from a distance when you are arriving at the waterfall. Gullfoss is all about different tiers of flowing water. And in the month of March with most of the waterfall still covered in snow it was a unique blend of sight.
The windy was blustery but it did not stop me from exploring the edge of this waterfall. They have an admiring viewing deck, which was frozen with the most slippery pathway.
But being willful as ever I took the chance of slipping down a couple of times just to get the view from the top. The dramatic views of Gullfoss waterfall crashing over the cliffs into a relatively narrow crevice was a sight worth all the grit.
From this viewpoint you couldn’t even see where the water disappeared, and only see the plume of spray rising into the air.
Iceland is full of geological wonders, with the edges of the waterfall made from hard lava basalt. The actual falls themselves rest on soft sedimentary rock on which the river can carve a channel. Mother nature can really be impressive sometimes, especially as layers in these waterfalls date back to the mid-Ice Age.
Yes there were also some hidden spots we discovered on route the golden circle, like making an impromptu detour to the Faxi Waterwall.
Faxi turned out to be a little hidden gem that most people drive right by. We were literally the only ones there! And even though it was windy with a little hike down, it was still pretty to see!
There were also some surprise sights on our way to the main escapade of the day, or should I say cute little sights. While we did see Icelandic horses all around the island, we got a close glimpse at the ones in the Golden Circle.
Finally having arrived at Thingvellir National Park, northeast of Reykjavík, this moss-covered national park is impossible to miss.
You can actually drive through the most of it and arrive at the most impressive part of this park.
This is where the tectonic plates of Eurasian and North American content move apart at approximately 2.5 centimetres a year and have done for millenniums and seeing them drift apart, makes you realize nature’s tremendous power. The effects of this movement are very clear within the park. Never ending views of Lava fields fill the valley, a view you would get nowhere else!
Beholding the exhilaration as I neared the Silfra, yes the only place in the world where you can dive between the tectonic plates of Eurasian and North American continent. The Silfra Fissure, with its divergent tectonic boundary is one of the most incredible dive destinations on earth, and it had been on my bucket list, an absolute MUST when in Iceland.
So far the only diving experience I have had was in more tropical destinations so diving somewhere a bit chillier ( or say a lot lot more) in this Icelandic country in freezing cold temperatures was on my bucket list. However the quirkiest experience was to get prepped up for this dive rather than the dive itself.
Being prepared to have your face and hands freeze while in the water even with the dry suits on, was going to be a challenge. Getting into the drysuit, which I have never worn before was a task getting yourself into one, but once you do, you are all set to explore the beautiful world down below.
Having my heart in mouth I walked towards the dive only to explore the surreal beauty I had heard or seen pictures of. Diving between the tectonic plates of Eurasian and North America was an experience you can’t put into words.
With water so clear that you have a visibility of more than 100meters, you forget about the 2°C freezing cold water and the only thing that engulfs you is this beautiful silent and peaceful world below.
Having spent about an hour in the freezing Silfra dive which was a phenomenal experience, the trip to golden circle was finally being worth the wait.
It’s a fun story how the Silfra actually got created. Evidently the ice melted from a glacier outside of Þingvellir National Park, running with a river into Þingvallavatn Lake. Shortly after, nearby Skjaldbreidur Volcano erupted, causing a lava blockage in the river. Fire and ice united, and that’s how we have Silfra, a gorgeous fissure with visibility reaching over 100 meters.
Soaking up after the dive and getting all warmed up I rambled up to the Visitor Center’s Hakið viewpoint.
You can see rifts cut through the ground showcasing crystal waters and creating an otherworldly effect. I could even see where I snorkelled just few hours back. You can see exactly where the earth descends as the plates move apart — about two centimeters each year — and even walk through the Almannagjá Fault.
It is fascinating to sink in the fact that while walking in Almannagjá that one is walking in a rift between the two tectonic plates and can thus experience the unique geology of Iceland while standing on its own two feet.
The further you walk the sights kept getting prettier!
Not yet being ready to leave this magical place there was another waterfall just 5 minutes drive from Silfra. The Öxarárfoss situated within Þingvellir National Park flows out the river Öxará, cascading in two drops over the cliffs of Almannagjá gorge, which marks the eastern boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
By Icelandic standards, the twenty-meter tall waterfall is a small one in comparison to all of the others you are going to see on your trip.
Yes, Iceland is the only country that can surprises you each day .You can go from a complete snowy white-out to blue skies in just one hour along the drive. Being here in the month of March I experienced all four seasons in a day- nearly every day!
Golden circle was a day trip you cannot miss while in Iceland. Believe me, you will want to make a million stops, so give yourself enough time to enjoy it all!
- Witnessing the geysers sprout 40m high and their unique colors
- Exploring the many waterfalls on this route
- The scenic drive on the Golden Circle
- Diving in the freezing Silfra dive to touch the two tectonic plates