01 Mar 4 DAYS IN REYKJAVIK PART 3 | Waterfalls, Volcanos & Geysers
For such a small city (& country overall), we covered a lot on our trip to Reykjavik. However, the absolute highlight had to be the Golden Circle Tour which brought us out of the city and through the Icelandic countryside covering all the scenic bases. It’s an extremely popular tourist route in Iceland.
If you’re thinking of going to Iceland then you really need to do one of these tours because you’ll see the sights that you just don’t get in the city. A fuller sense of the country and what it’s about.
Of course, if you’re feeling particularly brave you could always rent out a car and do your own Golden Circle tour but you’re taking the risk of getting yourself lost out in a strange, desolate land that is prone to snow and exceedingly cold and wet weather. I imagine it’s probably pretty difficult to get lost in the Icelandic countryside as it is just one road from what I can see BUT STILL. It would be pretty cool going out on your own exploration of deeper Iceland, I’m glad we went with tour guide who knew the place like the back of his hand (we booked through Viator).
We got up at about 6am to embark on our Golden Circle adventure & needless to say that was pretty difficult after attempting to make our way through ALL the bars on Appy Hour the night before. However, we mustered up the energy and boarded the mini-bus (which very handily picked us up from the hotel) on the freezing cold, pitch black Reykjavik morning (it doesn’t get light over there until 10.30am in winter!)
The mini-bus brought us to the outskirts of the city where it stopped at a convenience store along a motorway for us to swap on to the actual tour bus which was more spacious and comfy AND had wifi, GOOD wifi.
Then the journey out of Reykjavik began. Shops and housing got sparser and sparser until we were surrounded on either side by large icey hills which later upgraded to lonely, eerie snow-topped mountains (& volcanos!). We were really eager for it hurry up and get light outside so we could get a proper look at this strange land.
It was heartening that you make a short drive out of the capital city of a country that is such a popular tourist destination and end up in seemingly endless countryside that has remained largely untouched by commercialism such as touristy shops and restaurants. It felt as though you were getting a real sense of Iceland.
When it finally started to get light and we could see outside a bit better I realised it looked like (brace yourself, geeky reference impending) the land you would traverse in Skyrim. Sorry but it SO did.
Our first stop on the tour was at Kerið, a large Volcanic crater lake. It’s one thing to see these sights in a photo but seeing them in real life is pretty mindblowing. And although the Golden Circle is the most popular tour in Iceland it still felt as though we were out in the absolute wilderness. There were about two other tour groups there, nothing significant. It didn’t feel very touristy at all.
This imposing, slightly creepy looking mountain was behind us when we stopped to look at the crater.
The further into the countryside we delved the more desolate and more like a horror movie it became. The horror enthusiast in me was thinking with glee of multiple terrifying storylines that could be set in Iceland’s desolate rural landscape. That’s just how I roll.
Our next stop was pretty close. Faxi Waterfall. And WE could get precariously close to it for a photo.
It was so peaceful at this stop. A little waterfall tucked away in Iceland’s countryside. Although it was ABSOLUTELY FREEZING, it would have be nice to stop here for a quiet little picnic if you went to Iceland in summer.
As we made our way to the next stop, a much larger waterfall called Gullfoss, we passed a volcano called Hekla which our tour guide explained is referred to colloquially as “the gateway to hell.” This alarming nickname comes from the fact that Hekla is Iceland’s most active volcano, having erupted as recently as 2000(!)
I was intrigued and did a bit of research and apparently you can actually climb Hekla but that half way up the trail stops. I’d say that would be pretty hardcore but definitely very interesting/unsettling!
Gullfoss Waterfall was by far the coldest part of the tour for some reason. We had to walk a good bit to get to the waterfall and descend lots of treacherous wooden stairs and I think it was so out in the open and high up that the winds were particularly bitter and cold here. If you need to warm yourself up after this there’s a little cafe and souvenir shop in the car park luckily.
Although my face was almost ripped off by the cold, I think Gullfoss was my favourite sight on the tour closely followed by Strokkur Geyser which was the next stop.
It was getting close to lunch and the geyser area is right across from a food court/large, extremely overpriced souvenir shop. There’s also a hotel across the road from the geysers so if you want a really geyser/Iceland countryside focused trip you should look into staying there.
Right throughout our stay in Iceland we would occasionally get the scent of eggs just walking the streets. And as it turns out it all roots back to this Geyser area as they give off this smell for some reason. It was really very strong when we got off the bus.
The sun had just started to come out when we got to this stop and it made for some wonderful photos with all the warm mist in this area.
Now, this was a tourist heavy area. There was a large crowd gathered around Strokkur geyser (you know, the one that explodes every 6 minutes or so) and we were all waiting for it to go off.
Even though you know it’s coming, having such a rapid burst of water FROM THE GROUND will never NOT be alarming and there were screams every time it went off.
While Stokkur was obviously the centrepiece, I’d say there were about four other smaller geysers spread out a small distance between each other. While I might not completely understand the science behind the existence of geysers, they were keeping us nice and warm and it was very much needed.
After lunch we went on to our final stop of the tour, Þingvellir National Park (it has been Anglicised to Thingvellir which I find funny. Sounds like whoever Anglicised it decided “yeah, lets just stick “thing” at the start of it, that’ll be easiest.”)
Anyway, alongside being, LIKE EVERYWHERE, full of extremely beautiful sights, Þingvellir has a lot history behind it. “Þingvellir” translates to “parliament plains” and this park is where the Icelandic parliament got together to discuss parliament stuff.
The “Alþing” or general assembly, met in Þingvellir since the establishment of the general assembly in roughly 930 and continued to meet there until 1798. So yes, plenty of history behind it.
We even got a little rendition of Iceland’s national anthem by our eccentric tour guide to bring a little bit of the history behind Þingvellir to life.
Jenny at Wanderlista wrote on one of her Iceland Instagram photos that you could just take a camera and point it anywhere when you’re in Iceland and you’ll get a beautiful photo no matter what. I have to agree with that. The wild, rough wilderness waiting outside Reykjavik is astoundingly sublime to experience.
Have you been on the Golden Circle Tour? What were your highlights?