Golden Circle and Brewery Visit
Visit Iceland's most known treasures on this Golden Circle tour including Þingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir Geothermal area. Complete the day by enjoying the entertaining beer-tasting tour at Ölgerðin brewery in Reykjavík.
Starting the tour from Reykjavik we head to Þingvellir National Park (pronounced Thingvellir), a historical sight with its dramatic landscape. There the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia split and drift apart and Iceland’s largest natural lake, Þingvallavatn, spreads out into a beautiful scenery.
From Þingvellir the tour continues to Gullfoss, the powerfull waterfall of Hvítá river, cascading into Hvítárgljúfur canyon. Stand on top of the waterfall to take in the grand scenery or walk the path up close to the waterfall and feel the mist on your face.
Continue towards Geysir Geothermal area where the walking paths steer you around multiple steam vents and sulphurous mud pots, leading you up close to the erupting geyser named Strokkur.
Heading back to Reykjavík the final stop will be at Ölgerðin brewery where you can soak up the local drinking culture and absorb it‘s history, taste different types of beverages from Ölgerðin’s main brewery along with a selection of ambitious beers from their award-winning craft brewery.
- Available: All year
- Duration: 9 hours
- Activities: Sightseeing
- Difficulty: Easy
- Languages: English
Hvita is a glacier river in Arnessysla in South Iceland. It is one of the most popular rivers in Iceland for rafting, good salmon fishing can also be made there and it is home to Iceland's most famous waterfall.
The river has its source in Hvitarvatn, near Blafell, by the roots of Langjokull. A few other rivers join it on its course. Furthermore, Iceland's most famous waterfall, the beautiful Gullfoss, is in Hvita and falls down thunderously 32 meters into the Hvitargljufur river gorge. Hvita goes on to join the river Sogid near the town Selfoss and together the rivers form Olfusa which then flows to the ocean.
The base camp for tours on the river, about 10 km away, is called Drumbsoddssstadir or more commonly 'Drumbo' and from there both rafting and canoing tours are operated daily from April 15th to October 1st. This is a cozy boathouse in the countryside which along with changing rooms, showers and saunas, features an excellent camp restaurant.
Rafting through Hvita is an exhilirating experience. You'll have amazing scenery around you as you make your way through the crashing waves and surging rapids of the river.
The beautiful Bruarhlod river canyon holds a particular attraction. The canyon is covered in scrubs and made up of breccia, (a type of tuff mixed with small square basalt stones) and features various spectacular rock formations and potholes. Here it is very popular to dive from a cliff into the river and swim a bit in it.
Also of note are the two peculiar breccia rock pillars in the river, called Karl and Kerling ('Man' and 'Woman'), which, according to folklore, are petrified trolls.
Geysir is a famous hot spring in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Part of the ‘Golden Circle', Geysir gives its name to hot springs all over the world.
Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur, which spouts a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, around 15-20 meters into the air, Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
North of Geysir are fumaroles, i.e. unlike the hot springs that emit hot water, only steam and gas emanate from these. You may be able to observe bright yellow stains at the fumaroles, this is native sulphur, which crystallizes from the steam. At the southern part of the geothermal area, called Thykkuhverir, you‘ll find various mud pots. Such mud pots are actually fumaroles that boil up through surface water/groundwater and may become steaming fumaroles during dry spells, rather than the usual boiling mud pots.
About 2 km from Geysir is an old preserved natural pool called Kúalaug. One can bathe in it and it has room for 3-5 people at a time, but care should be taken, as the area around the pool is very delicate. The temperature is 39-43°C, depending on how you are positioned in the pool. The water is slightly muddy, as the pool is built on soil, and the bottom is slippery due to algae, so caution is advised.
In Haukadalur there has also been tree planting in recent times and today the forest Haukadalsskógur is one of the largest in South Iceland. Aspen, various types of pine, and other plants have been tried out there and experiments and research continue. We also recommend visiting the tree museum, built in the memory of forester Gunnar Freysteinsson. There are good paths and roads in the forest and the wood is specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Haukadalur has been a church site since ancient time. The current wooden church was last rebuilt in 1938 but the variety and appearance of the church dates back to 1842, making it one of the oldest of its kind in Iceland.
Haukadalur is indeed a historical place. It was settled during the age of settlement and scholar Ari “The Wise“ Thorgilsson grew up there. The first pastoral school in Iceland was also built there.
For accommodation, Hotel Gullfoss is about 7 km from the Geysir area, and closer still is the Hotel Geysir.
Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found on the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, finally cascading 32m down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power.
Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate waterfalls. The first, shorter stage of the waterfall is 11m, whilst the second stage is 21m. The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70m, descending into the 2.5km long Gullfossgjúfur canyon (geologists indicate that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.)
In the summer, approximately 140 cubic metres of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic metres. With such energy, visitor’s should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray-off.
In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the centre of much controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman known only as Howells sought to utilise the waterfall’s energy and harboured ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.
At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howells the land, inadvertently beginning the first chapter of Icelandic environmentalism.
It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm, she sought to get the lease contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer. The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík if only to keep the trial moving. Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.
Thankfully, in 1929, the waterfall fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Today, Sigríður is recognised for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.
Restaurant / Cafe
Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalise everyone’s taste buds; hot soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors’ can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.
Thingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Thingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries.Thingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range and is the site of a rift valley, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic range. Today it is a natural park, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and considered a vital part of the ‘Golden triangle’ (with Geysir and Gullfoss). Of particular note is the magnificent gorge Almannagja, which marks the eastern boundary of the north American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Oxararfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, and Gjabakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.
Strokkur (Icelandic for "churn") is one of the most famous hot springs in Iceland and belongs to the famous Golden Circle.
Strokkur is a fountain geyser in the Geysir geothermal area in the southwest part of the country, east of Reykjavik. Strokkur is a powerful hot spring and an impressive sight. It erupts about every 4–8 minutes and spouts water to a height of 15 – 20 m, sometimes up to 40 m.
Þingvallavatn (anglicised as Thingvallavatn, “Lake of the Parliament”) is a rift valley lake located roughly forty minutes drive from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik.
Features of Þingvallavatn.
Þingvallavatn is partially within the boundaries of Þingvellir National Park, Iceland’s largest national park and only one with UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Covering an area of 84 km², Þingvallavatn is the largest natural lake in Iceland with its greatest depth measuring at 114 m. Þingvallavatn is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Rift, on a part of the ridge known as the Reykjanes Ridge. The lake has only one outflow, the river Sog.
Of particular note to biologists and fishermen are the four morphs of Arctic Char that inhabit the lake. The lake’s char are an excellent example of species evolving to fit and adapt to a secluded environment; over ten thousand years, one species of Char has transformed into four different-sub branches. Other fish in the lake include the the Brown Trout and the Three-Spine Stickleback.
History and Geology
Þingvallavatn takes its name from the historical founding of the Althingi, which occurred in 930 AD at what is now known as Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir literally translates to “Fields of Parliament.” The Althingi was the first democratically elected parliament in world history; Icelanders used to travel by foot or horseback simply to congregate at Þingvellir where they would hear the latest laws and judgements of the island.
Þingvellir National Park is also notable for its geology. Given its position on the Mid Atlantic Ridge, the park is one of the only places on the planet where visitors can see both the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates standing exposed from the earth. Footpaths allow you to get up close and personal to the plates, standing right where the ancient settlers once did. In between the tectonic plates lies fields of dried volcanic rock, blanketed with a thick, yet fragile layer of Icelandic moss.
Scuba Diving at Silfra / David's Crack
Scuba diving around Þingvallavatn revolves around two sites, Silfra Fissure and David’s Crack, the former being one of the most popular spots on the planet for snorkelling and underwater exploration. Silfra Fissure is situated between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and is filled with crystal-clear glacial water originating from the Langjokull ice cap. The water measures at between 2-3 degrees Celsius all year round, a slight current preventing the fissure from ever freezing over.
David’s Crack is found within Þingvallavatn and is often considered the darker and more dramatic cousin of Silfra Fissure, resembling the gorge formation so prevalent across the Mid Atlantic Rift. Only certain tour operators provide David’s Crack, so make sure to do some research beforehand if you are looking to access this dive site during your time in Iceland.
Header Photo: Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Credit: Axel Kristinsson.
Starting time : 08:00
Complimentary pick up and drop off for most hotels and guest houses in Reykjavik
Round trip transportation
Professional tour guide
A beer taste visit to Ölgerðin Brewery
What to bring:
Good to know:
Remember to dress warmly and according to weather conditions
The legal drinking age in Iceland is 20