The Golden Circle, An Iceland Sampler

Reykjavik, Icleand

I found myself looking at my options of what to do with a free afternoon in Reykjavik. As I miscalculated my itinerary and ended up with only got half a day, which was a bummer. I was looking forward to seeing Landmannalaugar, but that trip requires an early start.

So here were the options I was faced with:

Option #1 – I could take it easy and recover from jet lag before taking off to Paris the next day.
Option #2 – Jet lag? What jet lag? Stop being a wuss and get on an afternoon tour of the Golden Circle. So what if you just spent 15 hours on a trans-atlantic flight.

When I first started researching Iceland, I thought the Golden Circle was the ring road that circles the whole island. Naturally I was flabbergasted. Wow – it only takes 4 hours to drive the whole of Iceland? It is a lot smaller than I thought.

Turned out that Golden Circle is well, a much tinier circle than the ring road. It’s the marketing name for a route that takes you through places around Reykjavik in a convenient afternoon.

I’d like to think of the Golden Circle as a sampler of what Iceland has to offer. Unfortunately, because I’m not as immune to jet lag as I used to be, I saw the whole tour through a jet-lagged goggle, drooling against the window between stops.

Despite that, I finished the tour thinking that

1. I just ADORE Icelandic accent. Especially that of Yonna’s, our tour guide.

2. Iceland is weird. If Hawaii and Alaska had a baby, it would be tiny Iceland.

See, it has both very hot and very cold elements. It’s volcanic: it steams, sputters, and bubbles.

Thermal pool in Geysir

It sits on top of the meeting of two tectonic plates, the consequence of which is the rift valley that can be seen in Þingvellir National Park.

Þingvellir National park

Some of these rifts are filled with ridiculously clear water (and super cold).

Clear water in Þingvellir National Park

But it also has glaciers and ice caves. It has cold summer (hey, just like San Francicso – maybe thats why it felt like home). It has tundras and grass fields that’s commonly found in northern parts of the world. No big trees here.

Here’s the common landscape often seen through our window on the Golden Circle.

Iceland landscape

View from  Þingvellir

It has mountains and beaches and lakes.

Thingvallavatn, biggest lake in Iceland

It has geysirs. Strokkur Geysir graces us with its presence every 5-10 minutes.

Strokkur geysir, Iceland

And it has waterfalls – Gulfoss

Gulfoss, one of the many waterfalls in Iceland

Even though I dozed on and off throughout the trip, I managed to capture some trivia tidbits about this country on the 66th parallel.

Like the fact that the first gay couple who got married after gay marriage was legalized in Iceland was their own prime minister and her partner.

And that 99% of the houses in Reykjavik were heated by geothermal power – thanks to Reykjavik’s underground volcanic activity (the big pipe criss-crossing the landscape is not carrying oil, but heated water).

2 facts of very different nature that I admire so much about Iceland.

Anyway, the afternoon passed in a pattern of: stop to gawk at some sceneries, get back on the bus, me falling asleep, repeat.

On our way home home in the middle of one of these narratives, I noticed that Yonna’s melodious voice with the singsongy accent that I loved so much has gotten deep, and well, not quite as melodious. Yonna – what’s wrong?

I craned my neck to see up front and was surprised to see that Yonna has transformed into a middle aged balding guy. And what do you know – my van has warped into a much bigger one. What the heck happened?

Apparently on our last stop, those who were heading towards some hostels were moved onto a different, bigger van, complete with a different driver to speed up the drop off process. An experience that completely escaped my addled brain.

Naturally I wondered, OMG – WHAT ELSE DID I MISS?

Lesson learned: jet lag does funny things to you.

I’ll be spending the next month in mainland Europe, before coming back for a 8 day road trip around Iceland.

The Golden Circle was just an itty bitty taste of what Iceland has to offer and based of what I’ve seen, I have a feeling I’m going to love the rest.

Golden Circle Tour


If you ever find yourself with a free afternoon, Sterna offers a Full Golden Circle tour starting at 1:30pm for 9000 ISK.

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4 Replies to “The Golden Circle, An Iceland Sampler”

  1. First off, permission to laugh a little.. Haha! Ok, done. I just love your sense of humor, Jill!!
    I recently spent a week in Iceland and went on a road trip along the south coast. It was unbelievably stunning and such a memorable experience. Haven’t written about it as yet though (Jet-lag maybe

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