Roadtrip in Iceland – #2: the Golden Circle

After a few hours spent in Reykjavik, we picked up our rented car and started our roadtrip all around the island. During this first day on the road, we explored the “Golden Circle”…



The “Golden Circle” is a must-see when visiting Iceland. It is a group of three sites very typical of Iceland – a national park, a geyser and a waterfall – located about 40 kilometers only from Reykjavik, which explains why there are so many tourists! It was very natural to start our adventure with the visit of these three sites and it took us half a day.

Then we headed towards the city of Selfoss where we had booked a hostel and we made a stop on the way at the Kerid volcano.

We ended this first day by an extraordinary hike that led us to hot springs in Hveragerdi.

Our schedule that day:

Discovering the Gloden Circle: Thingvellir, Geysir, Gulfoss

 Walking around the Kerid volcano

 Swimming in the Hveragerdi hotsprings



In order to be able to freely explore the island, we decided to rent a 4×4. Secondary roads are usually made of gravel and holes and there might be rivers to cross… Also, some roads are forbidden for non 4×4 cars (F roads).

We arrived at the agency located in the center of Reykjavik at 8 o’clock to pick up our car, a KIA Sportage 4×4, that we had booked via internet. We were quickly attended to and the agent gave us a few safety instructions about driving in Iceland. He explained that one of the main incident tourists are confronted with is the door being blown away by the wind! He added that this was quite common! But that it was easy to avoid by holding on to the door while opening it or closing it. All this was not very reassuring! We were wondering on which planet we had just landed… And we promised to be careful!

Thirty minutes later, we were ready to hit the road, towards Thingvellir national park.


We rented a car from the Reykjavik Cars agency located on 5 Klapparstígur, in the center of Reykjavik.

We spent 1036€ to rent a KIA Sportage 4×4 for 10 days with gravel inssurance and extra driver. 

We also spent 220€ in gas.

If your hotel is too far away from the agency, they can pick you up for 20€.


 This huge national park located about 40 kilometers away from Reykjavik is one of a kind in terms geology. Iceland is located astride two tectonic plates – the European and North American plates – that drift appart by a few millimeters each year. The effects of this phenomenon are clearly visible at Thingvellir as we see how tectonic movements have created a fissure on the ground and we can walk by the rift.

Thingvellir also has some historical importance in the heart of Icelanders as this is where their first parliament was created in 930 and where their independance from Danmark from proclaimed in 1944 (this is when we realized that we didn’t know much about Iceland’s history…).

 Beyond the geolocical and historical importance of this site, Thingvellir is a beautiful place. With its huge lake, its snowy peaks and its strange landscapes, it could be the setting for a fairy tale. We couldn’t help thinking that some trolls ans elves were hiding somewhere…

 We arrived before 10 a.m. and started walking around the park. We were immediately captivated by the wild beauty of the landscape! We walked by the ridge, admired the beautiful waterfall and went by the little church.

We were quite surprised to see so many tourists! Thingvellir national park is so close to the capital that it is easily reachable for travellers who only stay one weekend in Iceland.


We had to pay 500 ISK (3,60€) to park our car. It is the only site where we had to pay to park.

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We spent about an hour in the park before hitting the road again, in the direction of another mus-see: Geysir.


In less than an hour, we reached a geothermic field made up of two geysers: the famous Geysir – which gave its name to his curious phenomenon and which is not very active anymore – and Strokkur which produced an euption every 5 to 10 minutes, projecting boiling water some 20 meters in the air!

As soon as we arrived, we noticed some boards warning us that the water temperature was between 80 to 100°C and that the closest hospital was some 60 kilometers away… Message well received, we won’t go too close!

The natural show playing in front of us was really surprising. A crowd of tourists was gathered around a little crater. There was water on the ground and it smelt like sulfur. And suddenly, a giant bubble formed on the ground and turnded into a giant column of water rasing several meters in the air as it exploded! The scene repeated itself every 5 minutes: we were captivated!

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The surrounding landscape was full of colors. It was really beautiful. We stayed about an hour there.

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We then continued our adventure towards the Golden Circle’s third and last site: the powerfull Gulfoss waterfall.

Iceland is a land of waterfalls! We saw hundreds of them during our stay and they were all different. This one was very impressive with its powerful flow and its strange triangular shape. The site was covered by a heavy mist.

We followed the hordes of tourists and walked down by the waterfall.

We walked around the site and were fascinated by the power of the waterfall and the impressive canyon that the water carved over thousands of years.


There is a restaurant just by the parking lot where we enjoyed a delicious lamb soup, one of Iceland’s specialities, for 1950 ISK (about 14€). We could have as much soup as we wanted and it was delicious! I recommend this place!

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Route 1 was a succession of fairy tale landscapes and we felt like taking pictures every 5 minutes! We loved this little purple flower that can be seen everywhere on the island.



On the way to our hostel, we made a stop at Kerid crater, located between Gulfoss and Selfoss. We had some difficulties finding it as it was not on your paper map! After checking at a gas station, we were on the right way, and we saw it a few minutes later right by the road. We discovered a lovely lake hidden in the crater within a beautiful and colorful landscape! Walking around the crater was very pleasant.


The entrance to the site costs 400 ISK per person (about 3€).

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We arrived at about 4 pm at our hostel and discovered a very small room. The bed was taking all the space and we had no private bathroom. The shared areas (kitchen and bathroom) however were very clean and the general atmosphere was cozy and quiet. We stayed two nights there.

As we could not wait to see more of Iceland on this first day – and as the sun more or less never sets – we decided to continue our adventure of the day and headed towards the Hveragerdi where we hiked about an hour towards an amazing hot spring.


The hostel was located on 28 Austurvegur (on route 1).

We spent 75€ by night. We were not disapointed but there might be better options for that price. 


We quickly arrived at Hveragerdi from Selfoss and started hiking. Within about an hour, we reached the hotspring. During one hour, we progressed in wirld nature, there was steam everywhere, we walked past waterfalls and rivers: the landscape was beautiful!

We then reached the place where it was possible to swim. We couldn’t have missed it: everything is very well organized as there is space to change. After the one-hour hike, the hot water was delicious!

This beautiful hike was one of the things we did we most liked during our stay in Iceland: I highly recommend it!


Upon arriving in the city of Hveragerdi, follow the signs in the direction of Reykjadalur to the place where the hike starts.

The access to the hotspring is free.

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After a first day rich in beautiful discoveries, we went south and explored some amazing waterfalls on the way…

#1 Reykjavik

#2 Golden Circle


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