The Golden Circle is one of the most popular areas for tourists to explore in Iceland. Most join one of the tours and see the sites on the schedule of the tour bus operator.
But since we rented a camper van we set the pace, and since we camped in the geothermal area our first evening in the country, we had the place to ourselves the next morning.
Strokkur, erupted every seven or eight minutes spraying 100° water more than 100 feet in the air. The geyser’s surrounded by mud pools, fumaroles and mineral deposits, and the boiling hot water churned up by the Earth produces that unpleasant sulphur odor, often associated with rotten eggs.
The original geyser, Geysir, hasn’t erupted in years, but on the day we were there, a couple dozen people gathered around the steaming Geysir and tried to coax it into action by playing drums and bells while chanting. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful.
Our second stop on the Golden Circle was the waterfall, Gullfoss. The wide and fast Hvitá River falls some 100 feet in a crevice producing a thick mist.
Again, we beat the crowds so we were alone on the pathways along the edge of Gullfoss. It’s always suggested that visitors wear a raincoat to avoid getting wet from the mist, but since the temperature was hovering around 40°, down jackets instead of raincoats were the dress of the day.
Thingvellir National Park was the final Golden Circle stop. This is the place where the American and Eurasian Tectonic plates come together. We passed on scuba diving or snorkeling between the plates something that requires multiple layers of wet and dry suits before entering the icy 35°F water.
Instead we walked the trails observing the plates as well as waterfalls and a distant snow covered volcano.
Thingvellir National Park is a World UNESCO site, not only for its unique geography, but for its historical value as well since Iceland’s first Parliament met at this location in 930 CE.
Some travelers suggest skipping the Golden Circle calling it too touristy. However, I disagree. The geysers, Gullfoss and Thingvellir National Park provide a snapshot into Iceland’s diverse landscape, and with a rental car and an early start, it’s easy to miss the crowds and tour buses so you can take in the country’s natural wonders.