Edit: June 8th, 2020 The Golden Circle in Southwest Iceland has for years been one of the more famous routes to go sightseeing in Iceland. The circle includes Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall or Golden Waterfall but that is where the name comes from. However, the Golden Circle has now got…
The Golden Circle is one of Iceland’s most famous sightseeing routes. It is easily accessible from Reykjavík and in its simplest form it includes Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and Geysir Geothermal Area. The circle usually takes about half a day to a whole day, but when renting a camper, you can make it as long as you want. If you are on a tight schedule, you might want to stick to only the major attractions, but we highly recommend you check out these lesser-known sightseeing spots in the Golden Circle area.
The canyon Brúarhlöð lies between the Geysir geothermal area and the small town Flúðir. Hvítá river has dugs its way through the agglomerate and has left in its wake beautiful rock formations. There are two free-standing pillars of rock there that have been named Man and Woman. Hvítá is also the river that is in Gullfoss and runs through the town of Selfoss.
Not far away from Brúarhlöð is the cathedral at Skálholt. It was one of two episcopal sees in Iceland, the other one being in Hólar. There has been a church there since the early 11th century and the first Icelandic school was founded at the same time to educate clergy. The school, in a different form, exists still to this day and is now called Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík or Reykjavík Gymnasium and is in one of Reykjavík’s oldest houses.
The Catholic bishop lived there until 1550 when the last Catholic bishop of Iceland, Jón Arason, was executed along with his two songs as part of the reformation to Lutheranism.
Between Þingvellir and Geysir is the town of Laugarvatn. The name means Hotspring Lake, and it is famous for its bread that is baked in hot springs, smoked trout, swimming pool, and Fontana spa. If you arrive at 11:30 AM or 2:30 PM, you can take a walk with the staff of Fontana and witness the staff dig up a pot they use to bake their rye bread in and then have a taste with real Icelandic butter. It is ideal to go to the spa afterward for a welcome soak. The spa has three geothermal pools, a sauna, a steam bath that uses steam directly from the hot springs below, hot tubs and you can also take a dip in Laugarvatn lake itself.
The Secret Lagoon is in the small town of Flúðir. The hot spring has been there for ages, but the pool was made in 1891 and is one of the oldest pools in Iceland. It was recently renovated, but the whole area has been kept as natural as possible, and the water stays at 38-40° C all year round.
Just outside Þingvellir is Nesjavellir geothermal power station. It is Iceland’s second-largest geothermal power station and was opened, and even though we have been boring boreholes there since 1947, the power station was not built until 1990.
The “Nesjavallaleið” from Þingvellir to Reykjavík (or from Reykjavík to Þingvellir) is one of the more spectacular routes near Reykjavík. It is often impassable or closed during the winter months, but during the summer months, it is great.
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