The Golden Circle is perhaps the most popular tourist route in Iceland. The route starts from Reykjavik and the main popular stops are Þingvellir National Park, Gulfoss and Haukadalur.
Most people would hire a car and do the Golden Circle themselves, particularly in the summer. A self-drive tour gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace and make extra stops along the way.
We chose to take a guide tour because we were visiting in November and the weather is a lot more unpredictable. The last thing we want is to get lost or get stuck in the snow in the dark!
We got picked up at our hotel at 9am and we were taken to the Gray Line bus station where we checked in. We then joined a larger coach and we hit the road at around 9:30am.
Þingvellir National Park
First stop was the Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir National Park is an UNESCO world heritage site packed with history, culture and fascinating geology. It is also where the North America tectonic plate and the Eurasia plate split. As the two tectonic plates drift apart, it leaves behind stunning landmarks.
This Golden Circle tour takes you from Reykjavik city to Þingvellir National Park, arguably the most important site in Iceland in terms of history, culture, and geology.
When we got off the bus, we headed straight to the viewing platform where we enjoyed a sweeping view across the park. Being very naïve, we thought that was it… We were wondering why we were given 50 minutes to spend there.
Then we discovered the footpath down to the park from the viewing platform and we understood immediately why! Going along the path, we discovered that there is so much more to this park. We will let the photos do the talking.
Gullfoss is the most iconic waterfall in Iceland. The waterfall is around 70 meters deep, split into 2 stages.
There are a few different viewpoints to see this waterfall. Some of the paths were closed when we were there because the glacial water had frozen to ice.
After you have finished admiring the waterfall, you will have some time to visit the Gullfoss Café. Be sure to try their meat soup! It’s perfect for the winter. You also get a discount at the café if you tell them you are travelling with Gray Line.
The word Geysir means ‘to gush’, a very appropriate name for the hot bubbling pools at the Haukadalur valley which was the last stop of the day.
When we got off the bus, we wasted no time and headed straight to the Strokkur hot spring. This geyser erupts every 5 to 7 minutes and it can blast out water up to 20 metres into the air. We set up a tripod and a remote to try and capture these moments. That 5 to 7 minutes can feel like a lifetime and you will always be caught by surprise!
The Haukadalur geothermal area is generally a great place to wonder around. The mist makes it a very mystical place but beware of the smell. It does smell heavily of rotten eggs due to the sulphur.
What we liked:
- We liked that we didn’t have to hire out a car and drive ourselves around to do the Golden Circle. It was nice that both of us were able to nap on the coach! – There was wifi on the bus and we were able to keep them Instastories up to date.
- This tour is exactly what it says on the tin! We weren’t in Iceland for long and we only had one day to do the Golden Circle. This tour offered exactly that.
- Everything just felt very simple and straight forward. From booking to the actual tour, the organisation was seamless.
- They are very good at keeping to time which means if you have a Northern Light tour booked that evening, you will be able to make it on time
- The coach itself was very comfortable and roomy.
- They gave us appropriate coffee, lunch and toilet breaks. You would know how important toilet breaks are if you read our other post….!
What we didn’t like:
- Because it is a tour, we were given strict times to return to the coach. Sometimes it felt a little rushed. However, this is understandable! If we were left to our own devices, we might have spent all day at the first stop and miss the rest of the Golden Circle!
- Bring your own lunch and snacks (as long as it is cold food and resealable drinks). It is much cheaper to bring food instead of buying food at the petrol stations. We bought food from home and we managed to save a lot of money!
- Eat your lunch on the bus so you can maximise the time you get to enjoy the sites.
- You can leave things on the coach that you don’t need, so don’t be afraid to bring that extra jacket with you.
- Be on time…! We were the last to return to the bus on one occasion and it was embarrassing…
- Take lots of pictures and enjoy!
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**Disclaimer: We were guests of Gray Line and the tour was complementary for the purpose of this review. However, all photos and opinions are our own**