Iceland Summertrip – Part I, the Golden Circle

An iceland summertrip: Wild, rainy but stunningly beautiful!

Back in 2014, before I met Bo, I did a trip to Iceland. In 9 days I went around the island, visiting many places along the way. Below you can find a map of the approximate route. POI’s are in red while hotels are yellow.

About Iceland:

The first thing you should know about Iceland is it is a wild and desolate country. Two third of the 300.000 inhabitants live in the capital of Reykjavik. The other third settled villages along the coast. This means that nobody, and I mean really nobody lives in the interior part of the island. For obvious reasons that is, as in winter (October-May) conditions are so harsh it is simply locked down. Even in summer you’ll need a very decent 4×4 to pass it’s rough roads. Luckily for us, tourists, many highlights are along the coastal (and only) highway. The last couple of years the island is flooded by tourists but there’s still many under the radar things to explore.

The trip:

The first nights I stayed in the ION adventure hotel near Þingvallavatn. This is a good base to visit the Golden Circle and Raufarsholshellir. In the Golden circle you can find Icelands well known attractions like Geysir, Gullfoss and Þingvellir National Park. I’m only going to write some short personal info on these subjects as all touristic info can be well found online.

The fancy ION Adventure hotel
The fancy ION Adventure hotel

The Golden Circle

Although there are some nice features to be seen, Geysir geothermal area was not my favourite attraction. Heaps of tourist wander around, waiting for Strokkur to blow. Yes, strokkur, as Mr. Geysir himself doesn’t feel like blowing anymore. Perhaps the next earthquake will reactivate the poor thing. A visit is of course a must do, but for me it doesn’t compare to the other features Iceland has to offer.

Geysir geothermal park
Geysir geothermal park
Geysir
Geysir
Strokkur
Strokkur

A bit further up the road is Gulfoss. Translated to English this means Golden Waterfall and oh is she (or he?) a beauty!  In two steps the water drops down 32 meters in a 70 meter deep canyon. The lush green environment (in summer) in combination with the falling water makes it a very spectacular view.

Gullfoss
Gullfoss
The Gullfoss ravine
The Gullfoss ravine

More to the East is Þingvellir National Park. It was here where the first Icelandic parliament, the AlÞing, gathered. It’s also the place where the Mid-Atlantic ridge is very visible. A large fissure seperates the North American and Eurasian continents. A visit is worthwile but do know there will be hundreds of tourists around you.

Standing between continents
Standing between continents

Raufarholshellir

South of all these touristic attractions is one of the hidden gems of Iceland. Raufarholshellir is an old underground lava tube. One can explore the area freely (and mostly all alone). As the tube goes on for 1.4Km and the roof is sometimes unstable it is recommended to take a helmet and a flashlight. A winter visit is also possible but you’ll need crampons as everything is covered in ice.
Update: I did some research and at the moment the tunnel is closed. It will re-open summer 2017 and an entrance fee of 6400ISK (€54) will be asked.

The lava tunnel entrance
The lava tunnel entrance
The lava tunnel
The lava tunnel

Kerið and a hotspring

I also visited the only attraction where you have to pay to visit: the Kerið crater, and a remote hotspring. Well it was remote back then, now it’s getting more known and crowded. That is also why I won’t share it’s location.

The Kerið crater
The Kerið crater
The hotspring location
The hotspring location
In the hotspring
In the hotspring
In the hotspring
In the hotspring

Gjaín

Later that day I went to Gjaín. It’s sometimes called the most beautiful place in Iceland. I get why. For me it’s a place where you don’t even have to try to see trolls and fairy’s running around. It’s also featured in Game of Thrones. This was a place of calm and quietness but unfortunately it’s also getting more known to the public.

Gjáin sign
Gjáin sign
Gjáin
Gjáin
Gjáin
Gjáin

In the next post I’ll be visiting the Southeast.

About Cedric Monbailliu

Hi, I'm cedric. Having visited over 25 countries all over the world, I like to share my experiences and thoughts. I can only hope to inspire you to go out and explore the world!

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