Iceland’s farthest reaches are filled with natural wonders, but it can take a full week or longer to tour the Ring Road. Visitors on short stays in Reykjavik, however, are not limited in top attractions. The Golden Circle has emerged as a popular itinerary of top natural sights close to the Land of Fire and Ice’s capital city.
The first stop for many Golden Circle tours is Gullfoss, a massive waterfall just over 100 kilometres from Reykjavik. Geysir National Park is home to several natural hot springs and geysers including the famed Strokkur, which erupts 20 metres into the air several times every hour. Thingvellir National Park is quite expansive and could be explored for a full day on its own. Day-trippers, however, will be content with a peek into the abyss, as Thingvellir is the site of the crack between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates.
There are many tour companies based in Reykjavik that offer day trips of the Golden Circle. The largest of these is Reykjavik Excursions. There are also plenty of car rental options in Iceland for those who prefer to employ the do-it-yourself method and drive from site to site sans tour group.
One of Iceland’s most popular attractions, the Golden Circle owes much of its status to modern marketing rather than Icelandic history. The term first started appearing in the 20th century with the advent of Icelandic tourism. While the name Golden Circle isn’t an historic term in itself, Thingvellir National Park is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.