I know what you’re thinking, ‘The Golden Circle? Isn’t that what all the tourists do?’ Yes, indeed it is. However there is a very good reason for it – it’s amazing! It’s basically the Icelandic classic day trip that you can easily do from Reykjavik in a day at your own pace.
The are lots of good tour operators you can go with, however as with most things in Iceland, I think it is best when you drive yourself (if you can), as you can stay as long as you like at each place to make sure you see everything from every angle available and it also give you the ability to take in some of the other amazing places that otherwise you might drive right past (but more of those later).
There are three main destinations on The Golden Circle:
A National Park and UNESCO world Heritage site. It’s a big place that you spend all day driving around and exploring, but the main thing to see is the big gap between the tectonic plates of Europe and America that you can walk up a path between. There is a pretty spectacular view from the top of the path too. https://goo.gl/maps/xyu9nbNrFfw
The other thing to see a little further up the gap (to the North) is the waterfall Öxarárfoss. I like this one because you can see the water is really blue because it’s from a glacier. There is a great wooden viewing platform as well, so you can walk right up to it https://goo.gl/maps/UiRzg6pLMxy
Should you be into Scuba/Snorkling you can also swim (in wet/dry suits) between the tectonic plates into the lake at Silfra. The water is crystal clear because it is glacial. I haven’t done this myself, but it’s supposed to be pretty amazing. https://goo.gl/maps/5PKMysHjGJq
Everyone knows about this one! Goes off every couple of minutes and goes 30 foot into the air. My favourite game is to try an take a photo of the blue ‘dome’ of water just before it bursts and shoots the jet of water up in the air. There are lots of other bubbling pools of boiling water all over the place too. If the path is open, it’s worth a little walk up the hill to the sundial for a nice view of the whole area. https://goo.gl/maps/Ubm8XJfJNwS2
A truly epic Waterfall that drops down over two levels. You can walk right down to it if you want to (if the path is open), or go up around the side and around the back for a great view down into it. Worth grabbing some all you can eat lamb soup in the visitors centre too if you are feeling peckish and if you sit in the right place in the restaurant you can get a nice view of the hills and mountains. https://goo.gl/maps/sDgvAivgQyA2
As I mention it earlier – there are a few extra places that you can easily visit during the trip too that are well worth checking out:
The Secret Lagoon
A little geothermally heated lagoon. It’s pretty rustic, but people who find the blue lagoon a bit too commercial tend to prefer this place. https://goo.gl/maps/ePkvGmUgLbL2
A big massive big crater with blue water in the middle (or ice in winter). Make sure that you walk all the way around, the views looking back at the entrance from the far side at the highest point on the crater’s edge are stunning. I love this place, one of my favourite places in Iceland. There is a small charge to get in. https://goo.gl/maps/CZyP8XB4NfA2
Another spa, geothermal pool, sauna that is very health orientated. They also bake traditional Icelandic rye bread in the hot sand by the lake. https://goo.gl/maps/9iWYmzqhAWE2
Ice Cream Parlour, Cafe and Restaurant: I love this place. In the cafe downstairs you can get some delicious home made fresh ice cream and eat it next to the cows as they are being milked (that feels weirder now I have typed it). Well that’s nothing because upstairs there is a restaurant the specialises in homemade beef burgers! Don’t tell Daisy. Now I’m not sure about your taste when it comes to peanuts, but I had a PBJ (Peanut Butter and Jam/Jelly) beef burger that was one of the strangest and yet most delicious things I have ever had. https://goo.gl/maps/9LW9kDrgafo
A giant greenhouse tomato farm and cafe. I haven’t been there myself, but people seem to really like it and always go on about the tomato soup. And the tomato juice. And the tomato and apple pie. And the tomato Ice Cream. I think you get the picture. https://goo.gl/maps/Jh5yiJfoSqM2