January 12, 2015

Sights to See: Golden Circle; Reykjavik, Iceland

Golden Circle  This day trip is short in distance from Reykjavik but long on sights—it takes in a trio of the most iconic wonders in Iceland.  And in between, you’ll see moss-covered lava fields as well as tiny birch trees that are the only indigenous trees on this island (early Viking settlers brought all their wood for house and boat building as do residents import it today).   

where North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet in Iceland in Thingvellir National Park
North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet

Silfra crack in Thingvellir National Park in Iceland
Silfra crack
Thingvellir National Park  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is where representatives of all Iceland tribes met in 930 at Lake Thingvillaten, establishing the world’s first parliament.  In 1000, the group officially adopted Christianity, and they continued meeting here annually until 1798.  In 1944, when Iceland became independent from Denmark, the nation assembled here to celebrate.  Also, the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet here, and visitors can walk through the separation caused by them slowly drifting apart (it was seen in Season 4 of "Game of Thrones").  Since  most tectonic plate boundaries are underwater, this is an unusual and scenic opportunity.  Snorkeling is permitted in the clear water of the Silfra (the crack between the plates), where they can also touch both plates at the same time.

This park is also home to a loo with an amazing view. More loos with a view.

 ●Gullfoss/Golden Falls  Nearby, one of the most impressive waterfalls in Europe roars at an L-shaped bend in the Hvitá River.  It falls into the river in two wide stages, and rainbows form in the mist on sunny days.  A path leads along the falls to a spectacular viewing area.

Geysir Hot Springs  In Haukadalur.  This geothermal area is sprinkled with steaming water and bubbling mud pools.  Geysir is the original geyser and the first one described in print and is the one after which all others are named.  At about 10,000 years old, it no longer erupts.

But every 10 to 15 minutes the Strokkur geyser sends up a spectacular plume of hot water and steam about 100 feet into the air.  A bubbling up is seen just before it explodes.  Be careful with your camera, because the steam can cause problems.

More non-erupting, colorful sulphur pools are in the immediate area, and the Litli Geysir gurgles and hisses beside the path from the visitor center.  An unusual activity that is sometimes arranged here is making Geysir bread, or “hot spring bread.”  Participants assist a chef in digging up rye bread that has been ‘baking’ underground for 24 hours and also boil eggs in a hot spring.

Fridheimar Greenhouses  On some tours, a stop here is included, allowing you to see how delicious organic tomatoes are grown indoors year-round with help from bright lights to mimic the sun, bees to fertilize, and technology and computers to monitor things.

Fridheimar Greenhouse in Iceland

cafe at Fridheimar Greenhouse in Iceland
This site’s owner says, “We make every day perfect for the tomato, and they turn into a perfect tomato for us.”  You’ll want to sample some of the tasty tomatoes and also the small cafe’s specialty tomato soup.

blonde Iceland horse at Fridheimar Greenhouse in Iceland
An adjacent stables is home to Icelandic horses, and horse shows are scheduled. 

Lindin Bistro  In Laugarten.  If you’re on your own, plan to stop at this Michelin-starred restaurant for lunch.  You’ll get to sample the premium local produce made into seasonal specialties.  The bread is baked in the ground by hot springs (as described above), and I hear the  lobster bisque is divine.

More things to do in Iceland.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.  

images and videos ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers



  1. Everything I see about Iceland makes it an attractive destination - but my husband has a severe reaction to the cold... Can't imagine him agreeing to go to a place called ICEland!!!

  2. Thanks to your posts, Iceland keeps moving up our list of places to go and the UNESCO WHS of Thingvillir National Park has an amazing history as well as some gorgeous scenery!

  3. Iceland just keeps calling but it'll be awhile. Love your Loos with a view. There's a wonderful ladies bathroom on the top floor of the La Jolla Hotel that could give you Vertigo!

    1. re. loo, do you mean the Hotel La Jolla or a different hotel?

  4. Every time we see a story about Iceland it just makes us want to go more. We have to fix that by getting there sometime.

  5. Such craggy, rugged scenery. Love the bushy pony.

  6. Now I'm even more excited about going to Iceland this fall! The Golden Circle is a must!

  7. Hi Carole,
    National Parks everywhere are the places to go, aren't they? Always good stuff, as you prove, including the loo with a view. Love it!
    Wishing you happy and safe travels,

  8. I think Iceland is calling me name. Love the drama of the cliffs in the historic spot where all the tribes met so many years ago. Was the tomato as good as one from the field in the height of summer?

    1. Delicious enough that I ate two. But nothing beats picking it yourself right off the vine when it is ripe and eating then and there. :)

  9. Thanks for this. I opted out of the Golden Circle tour when we were in Reykjavik last summer. Now I regret it!