The small island nation of Iceland may have only one major “highway,” the 828-mile Route 1, better known as Ring Road because it navigates the entire perimeter of the country, but it can be difficult to traverse depending on weather conditions at particular times of the year. While a road trip around the island is a fantastic adventure that reveals unimaginably unique landscapes, it can be a considerable challenge for those self-identifying as anywhere from timid to even moderately adventurous in their travels. In these cases, a full-day Golden Circle tour is the perfect antidote to any FOMO experienced by foregoing the road trip.
The Golden Circle refers to a 190-mile loop around southern Iceland where many of the country’s most iconic wonders sit, and guided bus tours of the route are plentiful from the capital city of Reykjavik. On any Golden Circle tour, you’re sure to encounter Thingvellir, Gullfloss, and Haukadalur — three natural attractions you didn’t know you couldn’t live without experiencing.
Thingvellir is a national park that lies in the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, providing a chance to walk between two continents and exposing spectacular scenery. This is also home to the world’s oldest surviving parliament, Althing, established in 930.
Gullfloss, meaning “golden falls,” is a powerful waterfall in a canyon of the Hvítá River. It’s not tremendously deep, with a total height of 105 feet, but its overall scale is impressive and it is a top attraction in Iceland. It’s from Gullfloss that the Golden Circle gets it name.
Finally, no Golden Circle tour is complete without a visit to Haukadalur, the geothermal valley home to Geysir, the original geyser from which all others glean their name. Geysir erupts infrequently, remaining dormant for years on end, but nearby Strokkur erupts regularly, every five to 10 minutes, providing every visitor with a chance to witness the nearly 100-foot eruption of boiling water.
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For most of us, time in the car is “me time.” You can listen to that podcast you’re captivated by, blast that pop song and sing along at the top of your lungs or listen to the next chapter in that biography e-book you’re almost finished. A road trip only amplifies those opportunities. So, next time you’re traveling by road, take the wheel and take control. Opt for a rental car on your next vacation, rather than a rideshare, taxi or public transportation, and enjoy the open road on your own terms.