We actually started our Ring Road adventure off the Ring Road. Like most visitors, our first excursion outside of Reykjavik was the Golden Circle. Once you leave the city, you immediately notice the changing natural beauty. As the snow slowly melts in late spring, subtle hues of green, yellow and red start to spread across the landscape.
To be completely honest, we didn't intend on staying in the area too long. The Golden Circle is without a doubt the most heavily trafficked tourist destination in Iceland. It's home to many of the country's most famous natural landmarks all within a short drive from Reykjavik. Even during the off season, we were greeted by rows of large tour buses at every single stop. However, don't let that stop you from visiting the Golden Circle. If you're short on time, it's the perfect way to get a glimpse of Iceland's natural beauty.
A few noteworthy destinations along the Golden Circle include:
- Þingvellir: This natural park holds great natural and historic significance in Iceland. It lies in a rift valley that sits atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The park is also recognized as the first assembly place for Iceland's national parliament.
- Geysir & Stokkur: The Golden Circle is home to two of Iceland's most famous and active geysers. While the Great Geysir isn't nearly as active, Stokkur erupts every few minutes, so you're bound to catch a few eruptions during your visit.
- Gullfoss: You can get up close an personal to experience the power of this iconic waterfall. Gullfoss can be viewed from multiple angles and elevations, so take your time exploring every pathway. Be sure to stop at the visitor center for some surprisingly delicious lamb stew.
- Gamla Laugin ("Secret Lagoon"): After visiting so many attractions, you're going to need a break. A short drive south of Gullfoss is the Secret Lagoon. At 2800 ISK, entrance isn't cheap. However, you gain access to beautiful natural hot springs and, more importantly, a much needed respite from the crowds.