One of the most visited places in South Iceland: The Golden Circle.

Poetic, right? Calling an area of some of Iceland’s most famous sights the “Golden Circle” probably could be described as kind of poetic. However, if you start your Iceland trip at the Golden Circle you will definitely know that his trip is going to be a golden time.

The Golden Circle consists of some spots that are easy to reach, even from Reykjavik in a one-day trip. The spots you can visit on this trip are:

  • Þingvellir National Park

  • The Great Geysir

  • Gullfoss Waterfall

  • [Optional] Crater Lake Kerið

Woah, a lot to go for, but trust me – it is the perfect start for your trip

Þingvellir National Park

When coming from Reykjavik it is recommended to first visit Þingvellir National Park. Bad news first: You will have to pay for parking in the bigger parking lots near to the main sights in Þingvellir National Park. Good news: This is one of the rare situations you have to pay for parking on your whole Iceland trip. At Þingvellir National Park you will have to pay 500 ISK to park your private car, no matter if it is a caravan or a small car. Your ticket will be valid for all parking lots at Þingvellir National Park.
Ever walked through a place where tectonic plates collided and created an enormous crack in the surface? No? Do it in Þingvellir.  Directly next to the crater there is the Þingvallavatn. As you might now from THIS SECTION, “vatn” is Icelandic and stands for “lake”. There are tiny wooden paths that lead you across small ponds in which you can spot huge fish. Take your time and go for a walk on these wooden paths and visit the tiny and beautiful church you can see in the photos below and that looks like it’s taken directly out of a picture book. There also is a short walk of less than 2km to the waterfall Öxarárfoss which is the perfect “tiny” waterfall to start you Iceland experience with. Just walk through the crater of the tectonic plates and keep following the signs to Öxarárfoss. If you are not used to seeing waterfalls everywhere, this one will impress you a lot on the first day of your trip. Little but welcome Spoiler: Its one of the smallest waterfalls you will see.
Due to the proximity to Reykjavik Þingvellir is one of the more crowded places. However, it’s definitely worth to be visited by you since its a place that’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Great Geysir

A breathtaking natural spectacle – The Great Geysir erupts every five to ten minutes and reaches a height of 25 to 35 meters. It is located in a geothermal area where underground water flows are heated too far more than 100°C. You will quickly notice how impressive Icelandic nature can be. It is a landscape characterized by volcanos and glaciers. In this geothermal area, you can literally see the energy that is below your feet. When you walk in you will notice the heat coming from the ground, you will be able to see coming steam coming up from tiny cracks in the surface of the ground. Take a deep breath – but not too deep – and you will even be able to smell that things are different here. A sulfuric smell is omnipresent in geothermal areas. It’s a bad smell, but one that made us laugh every single time since it’s quite contrastive to be amused by the beauty of nature and at the same time disgusted by the smell of rotten eggs.
The water below the surface is more than 100°C hot. The thereby resulting pressure escapes towards small cracks in the surface. The pressure accelerates the mixture of water and steam and throws it up to 35m in the air. It is always a spectacle to see the different stages of the eruption as you can see in the photos under this section. In the first step, shortly before the eruption takes place, the water gets soaked into the crack in the surface. This is followed by a wonderful and bright blue bubble which then explodes. The outcome: an up to 35m high water fountain. The Great Geysir is accessible very easily. The tourism has led to a big parking area, the touristic “Geysir Center” with a restaurant and a gas station. Additionally, there is a camping site directly beneath the Great Geysir which is accessible in Summer, which means from April to September. We have been there in October thus it was closed and we drove down the road until we reached Camping Uthlid. Make sure to get to THIS SECTION to gather some information about camping in Iceland. Back to the Great Geysir: if you look up the Great Geysir on Google Images you will notice that there are plenty of people standing around this sight in a semicircle. This doesn’t really disturb photographers since people are just standing on one half of the circle thus you should be able to capture the Geysir with a background without people. Learn how to setup your camera there on the button below the images.

How to photograph the Great Geysir

Gullfoss

Only a 10 minutes drive away from the Great Geysir you can enjoy the first big waterfall on your Iceland trip. With two steps of 11 and 25 meters Gulfoss is not one of the highest, but one of the strongest of all waterfalls in Iceland with a width of 229 meters. This incredible amount of water leads to an erosion of the stones thus the waterfall goes back about 30cm per year. If you are lucky enough to enjoy some sunny moments you will experience a shining rainbow above the canyon that makes you feel like you are taking part in a beautiful fairytale. For me, this has been the moment in which I just realized what was happening. Finally, after planning and not really knowing if it would be worth the money and the efforts, I felt that I was exactly where I should be right in this moment.
There are different viewing platforms from where you can watch this enormous waterfall. One is directly next to the first step of this waterfall. If you go down there, make sure that you are going to wear a rainproof jacket. However, most likely you will get wet though since there are tiny drops all in the air. My recommendation: Do not care and go there! Do not care about getting wet and just enjoy this natural spectacle.
Another viewing platform is on the top of the waterfall, you can easily go there since the platforms are connected and not far away from each other. Up there it feels like you could just reach out for the rainbow with your hands.

Optional but worth it: Crater Lake Kerið

By a devious route, you can visit the Crater Lake Kerið between Þingvellir National Park and the Great Geysir. By the way: this strange letter ð is pronounced like the English “th“.
Arriving there you have to pay a little entrance fee of 400 ISK. Kerið was the only attraction we had to pay for during our whole stay in Iceland. We have been a little shocked after we had to pay for parking at Þingvellir and now for entrance at Kerið since these smaller amounts of money here and there would sum up pretty fast. Good News: As I said, you won’t have to pay for many things from now on.
Kerið is a lake inside of the crater of a volcano that erupted somewhen back in time. Due to its volcanic origin, it is characterized by the red volcanic stones. You can walk on the edge of this former volcano first and later go around the lake down in the crater. If you are lucky, you will be able to capture a beautiful light that lets the water shine blue and reflect the sky while the crater presents its red beauty, which is quite an interesting combination of contrastive natural colors. The walk itself is not too fascinating, but it is a nice to have one on your trip. Unfortunately, we arrived there at midday which is quite challenging for photographers. I didn’t get a good shot there. Try your luck, maybe you can do better!