Before heading to Iceland for the first time, I was intrigued by all of the breathtaking photographs I had seen on the gorgeous Icelandic landscapes. Whether you are visiting Iceland in summer or winter, one thing is for sure, you are guaranteed to see amazing scenery unlike anywhere else in the world. Waterfalls, glacial landscapes, volcanoes and much more are all visible when you tour Iceland and we were both ready to get out and explore this beautiful country. The Golden Circle Tour is inevitably THE tour to take, especially if you are visiting Iceland for the first time.
Time Tours Iceland
Thanks to Time Tours Iceland, they made this happen for us and we both want to take this opportunity to publicly thank them for their awesome hospitality and service during our visit to Iceland. For anyone that hasn’t visited Iceland, the Golden Circle Tour is the so-called ‘cream of the crop’ as it offers opportunities to see a myriad of natural landscapes stereotypical of Iceland.
Time Tours Iceland offer a variety of day tours around Iceland and I would recommend checking out their website for details on which selection of tours meet your preferences.
Early Morning Start
Time Tours Iceland make the day trip to the Golden Circle simple, care-free and an extremely enjoyable experience. We waited outside our hotel in the heart of downtown Reykjavik and our tour guide Johan promptly picked us up at 8:30AM. After a couple of other hotel stops to pick up the remaining guests on the tour, we headed out on our adventure to tour the Golden Circle.
Our group was small but included a young Australian on her travels throughout Europe, a London based individual on a short vacation to Iceland and an inspirational group of three that included a 82 year old woman who was traveling in hope of seeing the Northern Lights for the first time. If this doesn’t give us all inspiration to continue traveling, nothing will!
One other aspect worth noting when visiting Iceland in winter is the distinct lack of daylight, as you can probably tell from our pictures. It is still dark at 11:00AM with daylight starting around 11:15AM and by 3:15PM it is already starting to go dark again. Make the most of the daylight hours you have is my recommendation!
Hveragerði Earthquake Exhibition
So our journey began as we headed out of Reykjavik and made our first stop in the small town of Hveragerði famous for an earthquake that struck in 2008 measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale. A brief 15 minute stop here allowed bathroom use and a wander around the small shopping mall and earthquake exhibition.
Hveragerði is also home to a geothermal park which is the prize possession in this town. Locals can be found here baking bread using the heat from the geothermal activity in the ground as an oven. It’s not every day that you find something like this in your back yard!
After our short break, we headed towards the start of the Golden Circle and our first main attraction which was the one I was most looking forward to – Gullfoss! A few minutes prior to reaching this iconic landmark, we stopped at a ‘smaller’ waterfall as quoted by Johan known as ‘Faxi’. Despite the foggy and overcast conditions, we were still able to make out this waterfall which both of us agreed was not particularly small and was impressive in its own way.
I can understand where Johan could deem Faxi as small when compared to the magnitude and beauty of Gullfoss where we reached shortly after. Gullfoss is in one word – STUNNING! Seeing Gullfoss in winter provides a completely different complexion than in summer as part of the waterfall is frozen while other parts are still flowing down the river.
Johan dropped us off at the bottom of Gullfoss giving us enough time to take pictures and then walk up the steps to the top providing different views overlooking the falls. I think the images of Gullfoss portray the natural beauty here without going into too much detail. In my opinion, this is a must-see attraction for everyone and thanks to Time Tours Iceland they made this a memorable moment for us.
After spending 45 minutes exploring Gullfoss, I didn’t think the tour could get any better but how wrong could I have been as we approach the geothermal park of Geysir. Although Geysir is no longer, or should I say currently, an active geyser, we were still in for a real treat exploring the park and of course seeing the active Strokkur geyser which erupts every 4-7 minutes.
As you walk around the geothermal ground and notice the pools and channels of hot water with steam billowing out from them, it really puts into perspective the vast differences in natural landscape from what we are used to everyday.
Strokkur was the highlight of this attraction without doubt, and we were fortunate to capture 4 or 5 eruptions during the time we spent wandering around. The difficult aspect when trying to take a video or capture that perfect picture at the point of eruption, is calculating when the next one is about to take place.
Geysir was also the designated spot for lunch and we sampled some amazing lamb stew soup, one of the stereotypical dishes of Icelandic cuisine.
Thingvellir National Park
Whether you are a history buff or geography geek, Thingvellir National Park is a must-see location on the Golden Circle tour. Home of the Icelandic parliament as an open-air assembly since the year 930 until the late 18th Century, Thingvellir was a central spot primarily utilized to settle disputes and set laws to aid the development of Iceland.
However, Thingvellir is also famous as being the location where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. This divergent boundary is shifting about 2.5cm every year meaning that Iceland is growing at that exact same rate. It’s a pretty cool experience walking along the ridge knowing that Europe is on one side and North America is on the other.
The views from on top of the ridge are stunning as you overlook a land that was once a spot where Icelandic politics took place. Nowadays, the natural beauty is what is left and in my opinion is a much better location as people visiting here can now truly appreciate how nature has taken effect here.
The Golden Circle tour in Iceland provided by Time Tours is a breathtaking and memorable experience that will long live with us. Johan was an exceptional guide and provided plenty of detailed information on both the history and geography behind all of the key locations we visited.
I have a huge soft spot for waterfalls so of course Gullfoss was my favorite spot, but after visiting Geysir and Thingvellir, this really made the tour an unforgettable and unmissable experience.
If you are interested in taking the Golden Circle tour with Time Tours, you can visit the following webpage and purchase tickets at a price of 9.900 Kr. which equates to around only $76 USD. Please believe me when I say this tour is well worthy of that price and for a full day’s experience, you would be hard pressed to find a better deal!
Please check out our photo album for many more pictures from our Golden Circle Tour 2014.
Disclaimer – We would like to thank Time Tours Iceland for providing us with complimentary tickets for the Golden Circle Tour. The content of this post are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.