The Golden Circle- Iceland’s Top Excursion

In planning for my two month trip to Europe in 1998, I looked at many airline options and was pleasantly surprised to find Icelandair not only competitively priced but offering an optional three day stopover in Reyjavik at no added cost. I had been fascinated with Iceland since reading a book about the country back in the 5th Grade.

 I decided to take two of the three days in Reykjavik, but for the third day, I book Reykjavik Excursion’s Golden Circle Tour, the most popular one-day tour in Iceland.  

The first stop was a greenhouse in Hveragerði, a town of a little over 2,000 inhabitants. The town has many greenhouses, which use heated water from geothermal activity just below the earth’s surface to heat provide the proper environment for growing many items, including flowers, fruit & vegetables, which are impossible to grow in the natural environment’s during any of Iceland’s seasons. 

The second stop was at the Cathedral of Skálholt, a sight of religious and cultural importance in Iceland since 1056 AD, when it was the sight of the country’s first school. Through the years, the site has seen the transition from Catholicism to Lutheranism and today hosts many cultural events and concerts. 

The next stop was at the Gullfoss waterfall, formed at the place where the Hvítá River plunges dramatically (and noisily) into a deep canyon. 

The Strokkur Geyser

We traveled onward to the Haukadalur geothermal area, which contains the Strokkur and Geysir, the first two geysers discovered in the world, with the recorded history dating back to the 13th Century. The modern word geyser originates from this spot, which translated from the Icelandic means “to gush”. 

The most significant site of the day, Þingvellir National Park, was our next destination. Þingvellir was the site of Iceland’s first Parliament, or Alþingi, back in 930 AD, and it remained there until the late part of the 19th century. The site is also significant for being located where the North American & European tectonic plates come together. It is awe-inspiring to stand on that rift and overlook the historical site, founded over 500 years before North American was discovered by Europeans and more than 700 years before the United States cam into existence. 

Our final stop before heading back to Reykjavik was the Kerið crater. The crater is one of the most famous, both for being formed by the volcanic activity in the area, but also for being one of the youngest of the area’s crater’s, therefore still maintaining it’s original shape and depth. 

It was more than 13 years ago, but I enjoyed my trip with Reykjavik Excursions, but there are at least two more companies that offer a similar trip. 

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