Experience The Golden Circle Of Iceland In Winter
You’ve probably heard all the wonderful things about Iceland and why it’s such a popular tourist attraction so you’re planning to go see for yourself this winter.
If this is true, we can boldly assure you you’re on the right course.
Iceland is often a destination of dreams and there’s little to no reason not to see why. The nation is blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, making it one of the top locations for tourists.
Yearly, tourists troupe in, in their many numbers to experience some of the country’s wonders. One of such wonders is the infamous Golden circle.
Visiting the Golden circle, especially during winter is often regarded as an otherworldly experience.
This famous attraction plays host to three other special attractions namely:
- Thingvellir National Park.
- Kerið crater
- Secret Lagoon geothermal hot spring
- Fontana geothermal hot spring
This area, usually well-packed with tourists, puts together; Iceland’s rich and famous history, spectacularly outrageous scenery, pleasing to the eyes and the opportunity to witness geothermal activity closely.
Although, the area is usually heavily packed, visiting during the winter season ensures you avoid the large army of tourists almost always there and you get to see the naturally beautiful wonder in even more splendor as the snow caps gives out an extra layer of gorgeousness to the already terrific landscapes.
Here’s a breakdown of what we’re going to be looking at:
- Quick tour
- More stops and activities
- Is there food?
- Time to complete the tour
- Should I drive on my own?
- Best cars to drive?
- Quick tour
Let’s take a tour of these three sites, shall we?
Thingvellir National Park
Being your first stop on the Golden Circle tour, it’s only natural we begin from here.
Ever wondered what would happen when two tectonic plates meet? Well, they pretty much separate afterward. Ding! Ding! Ding!
Central to the Thingvellir National Park is a valley so rift and broad and it’s a result of the separation of the North American tectonic plate from that of the Eurasian.
Both continental plates keep pulling apart slowly at a speed approximately believed to be 1cm and the more they do, the wider the rift becomes (cool right? We’re just getting started). Imagine strolling confidently between the two tectonic plates? In case you’re wondering what tectonic plates mean (it’s some science stuff regarding the outer shells of mother Earth. We’d stop here).
Iceland’s history is so fascinating and one such history is the Viking legend.
Moving along the park, keep an eye out for a place of history where Viking congresses were supposedly held for centuries.
Iceland’s initial settlers lacked a centralized government. They were held together under the leadership of chieftains who had local assemblies as a means of laying out justice.
As is usually the case, the presence of constant growth meant that these local assemblies were no longer going to be efficient, hence the need for a more centralized government.
For this need, Thingvellir, meaning parliament fields and formerly known as Blaskogur became the chosen location.
This place played a very pivotal role in Iceland’s rich history as it started to function sometime around 930 AD. Hence, it was assigned to be a World Heritage Site.
This might feel creepy so be ready; there’s a small waterfall where women who committed crimes were supposedly punished by being drowned (we warned you).
When visiting this park, you don’t have to worry about payments as it’s free. But you’d have to
pay to park (keep your wallet close by).
Gather round, gather round. We have a story to tell you.
Once upon a time, Geysir used to erupt. So beautiful were its eruptions that it left tourists in awe.
But sadly, the days of those magnificent eruptions seem to have come to an end.
Regardless though, visitors can still be treated to the glorious eruptions by visiting its smaller neighbor, Strokkur (a geyser in a geothermal area close to the Hvita river).
Unlike its neighbor, Strokkur still makes its eruptions often within intervals of minutes. Visitors can also enjoy its pool in relative closeness.
The water movement is also a thing of sheer beauty to witness. Watching it get launched into thin air is a thing of pure fascination.
The waters of Geysir have previously be measured to reach incredibly great heights so whenever you get to witness its eventual eruption, it’s usually worth the wait.
Geysir boasts of other geothermal wonders like its pools which are hot and other geysers of smaller magnitude and you can see them by following the paths that have been marked out.
The Belsi pool, another former beauty until it was damaged by tourists who engage in unruly activities like throwing coins inside it.
Regardless, this area turns out to be quite warmer than you have the average temperature due to the geothermal activity that goes on.
The best is yet to come though. What’s a good tour without food?
The Geysir visitor center situated at the other end of the street offer some of the best delicacies the beautiful nation Iceland has to boast of. It has a soup counter amongst others.
Touring the Geysir is free despite it being private property. So you can enjoy all the goodness above for little close to nothing.
Tourists can park their cars at the Geysir center which can be seen at the other end of the street.
We recommend you go witness some of these wonders yourself and share your own experience (nothing like word of mouth).
It’s a rather decent fifty minutes from Pingvellir National park.
While touring, we suggest you look out for (you really can’t miss it anyway) the simply majestic waterfall which storms down in all its might as it enters a canyon.
Gullfoss has an extremely large parking space, probably the most catchy thing about this place.
Being the final destination within the Golden Circle, it’s easy to feel like you’ve seen it all in your two previous stops until…
Whoosh… that’s the waterfall making its rather tame roar, luring you to a cliff edge. This cliff offers a vast view of the Golden Circle’s third natural wonder.
Close by, there’s a stairway that will lead you down to to a much lower area to get a different view.
To get a view of the falls in reverse, walk on the pathway which follows the top of the canyon. P.S be careful, this place can be slippery.
Gullfoss isn’t far from Geysir. More precisely, it takes just as little as 10 minutes and is always open.
More stops and activities
Laugarvatn Fontana Wellness Center – Iceland boasts geothermal energy in abundance and you can enjoy more of it at this Wellness Center. The center gained huge popularity within the last year because of its hot springs amongst others.
Silfra Snorkeling and Diving – Regarded as one of (if not the) best sites for diving worldwide. This is due to its clear waters. Divers! Get in here.
Horse Riding – Who doesn’t horse riding? The people of Iceland obviously do. It’s quite popular amongst its natives. You can try this out as well while you’re there.
Dive in the volcano – In actual sense, you’re not exactly diving so you can relax. But… you’re going to be suspended deep within a dormant volcano. Free tip: Ensure you’re pure of heart so you don’t awaken it.
Snowmobile tour – If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you’d thank us for this. Regarded as one of the popular activities people love to engage in during their Golden Circle trips, you should add this to that to-do list as well.
The secret lagoon – Iceland is all sorts of cool (we’d take credit for puns) and here’s another reason why. The Secret Lagoon is the oldest pool made by man in Iceland in which you can take a bath in. We recommend you add this to your list (Go find out why it’s a secret).
The Blue Lagoon – We’ve heard great things about this Lagoon. You can check it out.
Is there food?
We can’t do all these and leave the best part out. That’d be cruel.
The Golden Circle is Golden not just for all its wonders of nature but also for its food.
The trip promises a wide variety of delicacies and places to get these delicacies.
Examples of such places include:
Matktain – One of the new eateries, you can enjoy their delicious open faced sandwich amongst other hot delicacies.
Mika – Believed to hold some of Iceland’s best, the restaurant is famous with great reviews.
Geysir – If you’re more into snacks, you might end up spending more time and honestly more money here. Enjoy.
Secret Lagoon’s fish and chips – Fish and chips never go wrong. It’s one of the best combos known to man.
Gullfoss café – Do you love meat? We do. Imagine a soup made almost purely of meat.
Olverk – A cold beer never goes wrong, regardless of the season. Throw in Olverk’s pizza (not just any pizza, wood fire) and we bet you’d have a good treat.
It’s important to know we haven’t tried some of these tummy treats but like always, we only bring you the best so please, enjoy.
Time to complete the tour
Depending on the amount of stops you make and the time spent on each stop, you can complete a full drive between 4 to 5 hours.
Needless to say, that is not even close to enough time to experience the full goodness of this gift of nature.
During the winter season touring it takes relatively longer time than during summer for reasons we’re sure you’d understand.
Therefore in approximately 9 hours and with other activities like hiking thrown in, you are guaranteed to have more than an eye fill.
Should I drive on my own?
As regards this, opinions often tend to differ. Some daring hearts would tell you to go for it while some lesser (puny gods) would highly suggest otherwise.
We’d say this though; except you’re an expert in driving around through the often thick snow, we advice you employ the service of tour guides.
The roads are usually well packed and well maintained anyway so you don’t have to ever be worried about you being out on your own should something ever go south.
Best cars to drive here?
So you’ve chosen to enjoy this pleasure on your own? That’s fine.
We would remind you though it’s the winter season. We would also remind you that winter means lots and lots of snow (you know snow, those chilling things that fall from the sky?).
In this light, we’d highly advise you refrain, stay as far away from small cars as you can. Simply put, small cars and snow don’t just go well.
Although the roads are usually serviced regularly, it’s still more advisable to go for a bigger car.
Also, be wary of the company you rent your car from. This means checking to ensure that your car is in superb condition and ready to hit the road.
You don’t want to be kicking yourself in any case of your car ever breaking down in the middle of nowhere.
By every right, the Golden Circle earned its place in the book of wonders (don’t bother checking this out). It can be enjoyed at any time of the year but more preferably during winter for all the many reasons listed above.
We’re sure we don’t have to tell you this but please don’t forget your camera (why talk when you can just show).
The famous “fire and ice” is quite literal in this trip. You’d be going from the extremely cold temperatures of the Thingvellir park to the very warm feeling of the Geysir so go prepared. Clothes that are warm and have layers upon layers are your best bet.
Do not forget to check out Reykjavik Outventure Golden Circle tour here. In Reykjavik Outventure Golden Circle tour, they make stops at Kerid volcanic crater, Thingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall, stop to see Icelandic horse if they are by the side of the road, erupting Geyser or Geysir and stop for lunch and food tasting at Efstidalur farm. There the guests get to taste traditional Icelandic food from the times of Vikings. This is the food which the Vikings lived on. So this is as authentic Icelandic food as it gets.