Iceland: Golden Circle Part I

The Golden Circle is a short looped drive that includes many of the top tourist attractions in Iceland. It’s close to both the capital city of Reykjavik and the airport, so even those that are only in Iceland for 24 hours often do this route. You can hit all of the main sights in a matter of hours, but we decided to split our time there into two days and stayed along the route. Here’s what we did on our first day of the Golden Circle.

Fridheimar Greenhouse:

We were a bit tired on our first day, so we allowed ourselves to rest some that morning, then headed to Fridheimar Greenhouse, which is a greenhouse that grows primarily tomatoes. Several years ago, the owners decided to add a restaurant directly inside one of their greenhouses, complete with a tomato-based menu. They’re quite famous for the incredible food, and we tried both the classic tomato soup with homemade bread, the mozzarella and tomato tortilla “pizza”, and the ravioli. Everything was delicious and it was cool to eat surrounded by the tomato plants!

Geysir:

After we had filled our stomachs with fantastic food, we headed towards Geysir. As the name indicates, this is a geothermal area with several geysers. The prominent geyser, which gives this attraction its name, no longer goes off, but there is a smaller geyser (Strokkur) that goes off about every 5-10 minutes. Behind the geysers there were several lupine-covered hills. My parents, who have been to Yellowstone National Park in the US, weren’t all that impressed with Strokkur, but the area was undeniably pretty either way.

Gullfoss:

From Geysir, we headed to Gullfoss Waterfall. This waterfall is the most impressive of the waterfalls we saw in Iceland in my opinion. It is a powerful waterfall, with two separate steps over which the water flows. The photos really don’t compare to seeing it in person. It is simply stunning. We walked along both the upper and lower paths, which affords you two different views of the falls.

Efsti-Dalur:

After Gullfoss, we still had a couple of hours before we needed to be at the Secret Lagoon, so we decided to drive in the opposite direction to Efsti-dalur, a farm that also has a restaurant and homemade ice-cream! I had read that the ice-cream was fantastic there, and it didn’t disappoint! The ice-cream is made right there on the farm, and there are windows from the ice-cream parlor directly into the barn where the cows are.

Secret Lagoon (Gamla Laugin):

We ended our day at Secret Lagoon, a natural hot pool along the Golden Circle. We had decided to skip the Blue Lagoon, one of the top attractions in Iceland, because we dislike crowds and went here instead. My luggage hadn’t arrived with me, so I ended up having to rent a swimsuit, which is something I usually wouldn’t do, but it was fine. We really enjoyed our time here, just relaxing in the hot water. It was the perfect end to a busy (and fairly cold) day!

Notes:

Where we stayed: Duo Bungalow in Selfoss (Airbnb)

Costs: Our meals at Fridheimar were around $20 USD/person; Ice-cream at Efsti-dalur was about $8 USD for two big scoops of ice-cream; the Secret Lagoon was about $26 USD/person.

Tips:

  • We really enjoyed each of the stops on this day! Our favorites were Fridheimar, Gullfoss, and Secret Lagoon.
  • At Gullfoss, make sure you do both paths. Also wear rain gear, as there’s a fair amount of mist.
  • You should reserve a table in advance for Fridheimar, and you also need to book in advance for the Secret Lagoon.

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