Our last and final day in Iceland. *sad face* We hadn’t booked the Golden Circle trip until our third day in Iceland. We had a chat with the guy on the Fosshotel Reykjavik tour desk to see what they had on offer. He found us an excursion with spaces and we were all booked for the following day. The price was 9800 ISK which converts to £70 each. The tour operator was trips.is and it was for a full 8 hour day tour.
Our tour guide arrived at 8:30am and it was still pitch black and raining. We got onto the bus and drove to the next hotel to pick up the remaining 2 people. Lucky for us they didn’t turn up, so we had a private tour for the four of us around the golden circle! This was the best possible outcome ever as we wouldn’t be hanging around waiting or being hurried and rushed by others. Our tour guide, Hakon, was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic which kept us interested and awake! He would intermittently give us quizzes throughout the day to make sure we’d been listening!
Itinerary for the Golden Circle Tour
Our itinerary was as follows:
• Þingvellir National Park
• Gullfoss Waterfall
• Geysirs for lunch
and if we we were making good time we would visit:
• Farmhouse Efsti Dalur
• Faxi Waterfall
• Earthquake exhibition in Hveragerði
Þingvellir National Park
Stop one of the Golden Circle tour took us to the National Park. As we drove up to Þingvellir National Park the roads were winding, the snow had started and it was pitch black. Hakon dropped us off at the visitor centre, close to the view spot at Hakið. From here a footpath leads down into the great Almannagjá canyon caused by the drift of the North American and Eurasian plates. This follows to a car park where he would meet us – I was hoping we wouldn’t get lost in the Icelandic wilderness! It started snowing quite heavily and was still pretty dark! The view spot was amazing, and a great photo spot even before the daylight appeared the snow made everything visible.
Walking through the canyon is impressive. It makes you realise how powerful, wonderful and fragile the earth is. There are a couple of photo stops on the way which are all well worth stopping at for the amazing views.
We jumped in the bus at the other end and headed around to Þingvellir car park p5. Here we had a stunning view of the river. The water super clear and so clean, you can drink straight from it. This is where Hotel Valholl was situated, which unfortuately burned down in 2009.
Laugarvatn & Efsti Dalur Farmhouse
Next up we went on our way to the Efsti Dalur farmhouse but first we made a stop at Laugarvatn where Hakon showed us just how powerful the geothermal springs are! We stopped near the waters edge. The gravel was piled into mini mounds that look like mole hills which we thought was rather odd until Hakon told us these indicate where locals have placed something underneath to cook.
They often take advantage of the geothermal springs and bake bread this way. Moving some of the gravel made water form a puddle and start bubbling. Check out the video I took!
We got back into the bus and headed to the farm. I was super excited about this. I absolutely love farms and a farm with ice cream was always going to be a winner! This farm has been owned by the same family since 1850, making a living from cattle farming and horse breeding. The dairy produced from the cows is used to make ice cream on site. We arrived and Hakon told us to open up a little door on the side of the barn. In here were two baby calves laying peacefully and oh so cute! We said hello to them and stroked them before going in and choosing our ice cream.
The selection was vast but as Christmas was approaching I went for a cinnamon sugar spice in a waffle cone (also homemade on site). I gazed through the window in the restaurant to all the cows eating their food and thanked them for the lovely ice cream!
Next up was the famous Gulfoss Waterfall. Hakon said he would meet us at the middle viewing level carpark and sent us on our merry way! The walk to the top Gulfoss viewing was pretty lethal. Ice on top of snow on top of ice on top of more ice. (We’ve since purchased shoe grips for our next visit!) We reached the viewing bridge which was safe to stand on but Mr M and my pops wanted to venture closer to take some pictures. My momma decided to stay on the bridge (wise idea) and the three of us slid our way over to get close to the falls. Now, I visited Niagara Falls back in 2007. They will always hold a special place in my heart (walking behind those falls and hearing the roar and speed of the water rush overe the edge will stay with me forever) and lots of people compare these two waterfalls but they are so very different. Gulfoss comprises of two tiers which fall into a canyon. It’s pretty spectacular but I’m not sure it will compare to Niagara Falls for me. Maybe going back in the summer to see will change my mind. We slid and slipped our way down to the middle level and got back on the bus while Mr M and Poppa went and took some pictures.
I was super excited for our next stop! We stopped for lunch in the soup restaurant and then headed over to see Strokkur. Strokkur Geysir spouts water around 30 meters into the air every few minutes. The spontaneity of the Geysirs is a spectacle! Words won’t it any justice so here’s a video.
So there we have all three of the main tour points done, with plenty of time remaining Hakon took us on an adventure on the way back to Reykjavik.
Faxi Waterfall / Vatnsleysufoss
Our next stop was Faxi Waterfalls or it’s proper name – Vatnsleysufoss. We arrived and jumped out the bus. We were the only people there. This waterfall is just beautiful. The calm waters that dance simultaneously off the edge of the ridge. It was so nice to just stop with no one else around and just enjoy the waterfall. There’s something so mesmerising and calming about watching water flow. I could have stayed here for the rest of the day.
Earthquake exhibition in Hveragerði
The Icelandic people are so proud of their heritage, their country and history. They love to educate and they captivate you with their stories instantly. Hakon took us to the earthquake museum where we learnt about the earthquake that struck Iceland in 2008. An earthquake crack that was encountered at the building site in 2003 is visible in the floor. Another example of where you can see the split between the North American and Eurasian plates.
Kjot & Kunst
Last up was a drive past the Kjot & Kunst restaurant. This restaurant is unique as it utlises the power of the geothermal area in Hveragerði to cook and bake. The only known restaurant in the world to do so. The steam from this earth power is 170°C hot and the pressure is 14 kilo bar.
Hakon drove us back to Reykjavik and darkness was just approaching. What a day! We were so lucky to have had a private family tour of The Golden Circle with some extra bits thrown in, it was a genuine eye opening experience to the Icelandic culture.
Back in Reykjavik we were all exhausted, we had walked 5 miles and were in desperate need of some good food! I’d found an Italian restaurant called Rossopomodoro on TripAdvisor that was highly rated. We took refuge in here for our last meal then headed back to the hotel to sleep as we had an early 3am pick up!
You will leave Iceland a changed person, with a different outlook on life and wondering why. Each road you take leads you to a breathtaking destination, the scenery, the power of mother nature; it’s all so dramatic. The Golden Circle is a must for your first visit. You will leave a piece of yourself in Iceland and it will draw you back and you’ll have a longing to return. I’ve already mentally planned my next 2 trips to Iceland and can’t wait to return. There’s only a small list of places that I long to go back to and Iceland is now in my top 3.
If you’ve been thinking about going; go. It’s so enchanting and captivating. You definitely won’t regret it.
If this post has inspired you to go pop a comment below or tweet me @xxmissbirdyxx and let me know! I’d love to follow your Icelandic adventure!