Five Ways of Doing the Golden Circle
The famous Golden Circle mainly consists of the three sites; Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss. What these places have in common is a great historical and geological importance for Iceland, but what is maybe the most important fact is that that they are extremely beautiful and magnificent. Tour provider Reykjavik Excursions offers good guidance through the sites and the region, as well as excellent options for experiencing these must-sees of Iceland.
Reykjavík Excursions is one of the largest and most experienced tour operators in Iceland. They offer a great selection of exciting options for those who want to see the best of Iceland. They operate an extensive list of day tours from Reykjavík all year around, including: ‘South Shore Adventure’, ‘Take a Walk on the Ice Side’ and ‘A Sense of Reykjavik’ in addition to the five varieties of the Golden Circle. The tours are guided by professional guides in English, German, French, Spanish or Scandinavian.
The Golden Circle is the name given to a 240 km circular route which encompasses many of Iceland’s most famous landmarks. During the tour you can walk around the world-famous Geysir geothermal area, the historic site of Þingvellir National Park and be inspired by the queen of Icelandic waterfalls, Gullfoss.
The standard tour lasts from 9 am to 5 pm, which gives you enough time for thorough guidance on all the sites as well as plenty of time for your own enjoyment. If you want to sleep in, you also have the option of taking the slightly shorter tour Gullfoss-Geysir Direct, starting at noon. It still goes to all three sites and provides thorough and informative guidance. If you want to see these places in a different light, the evening sun can be spectacular in Iceland; another Gullfoss-Geysir Direct departs from the capital at 5pm. Besides these options, you can also combine the Golden Circle with some snorkelling in the crystal clear Silfra in Þingvellir or a snow-mobile tour at Langjökull glacier.
Þingvellir – A Magnificent Site with Historic Value
Þingvellir (pronounced ‘Thingvellir’) derives its importance largely from the parliament having been founded there in 930, where it remained until 1789, when it moved to Reykjavík. Þingvellir has played a central role in the history of the country, being the original site of the oldest existing parliament in the world, the Althing. Þingvellir National Park was founded in 1930 to protect the remains of the parliament site and was later expanded to protect the natural phenomena in the surrounding area, many of which are of great geological interest.
The Þingvellir region was chosen for the parliament mainly because of its accessibility from the most populous regions of the North, South and West. The first parliamentary proceedings in the summer of 930 unquestionably laid the foundation for the common cultural heritage and national identity of the Icelandic nation.
Þingvellir used to be the centre of Icelandic culture and an important social centre, at least in the time of the Icelandic Commonwealth (before being subject to Norwegian and then Danish rule). Every year, people would flock to Þingvellir from all over the country, sometimes numbering in the thousands. Over a period of two weeks an assembly was held, news was exchanged, business arranged and marriages decided.
These first centuries of a new society laid the foundation for a distinctive language and literature, playing a large role in the identity of the Icelandic nation.
In addition to the cultural and historic importance, the special tectonic and volcanic environment of Þingvellir is a magnificent sight. Walking down Almannagjá canyon is amazing, as you are walking down a fissure caused by the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates. Þingvellir, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated on the northern site of Iceland’s biggest lake, Þingvallavatn. Some of the rifts there are full of surprisingly clear water, especially one called Silfra, which is a popular diving and snorkelling spot. By taking the Gullfoss-Geysir Direct at noon you can snorkel at one of the clearest diving spots in the world.
Gullfoss and Geysir
Icelanders always refer to these two remarkable sites together, as they are good neighbours and nearly always visited together.
The English word ‘geyser’ derives its meaning from the one and only Geysir. Geysir has unfortunately been somewhat shy in recent decades, but always becomes more active after big earthquakes. But when Geysir does perform, once or twice a year, it lives up to its name, spewing a jet of steaming water 60 meters skyward. Far more reliable is the nearby Strokkur, which spouts an 18-30 meters jet about once every five minutes. The geyser area is also rich in walking paths that lead past steaming vents and colourful, mineral-rich mud formations. Around thirty much smaller geysers are also located in this geothermal area, including Little Geysir.
During the classical nine-to-five Golden Circle tour, Reykjavik Excursions’ customers also visit the Geyser Multimedia Show Museum, which gives a visual presentation of the geology, history and nature of Iceland. Gullfoss is an aesthetical experience of its own, hard to put into words but always referred to as Iceland’s most beautiful waterfall. It is located in the Hvítá glacial river which rushes southward, forming the waterfall in two stages, which fall into a deep crevice. As one first approaches the falls, the crevice is obscured from view, so it appears that the mighty river simply vanishes into the earth. A wondrous sight forms on sunlit days, as the mist clouds surrounding the falls are filled with dozens of rainbows, providing a unique spectacle of colour and motion. In winter, ice around the edges of the falls freezes to form magical shapes of ice and snow.
If you want some extra excitement during your Golden Circle tour, one hour on a snow mobile on the neighbouring Langjökull glacier is an ideal addition. It does mean a long day of sightseeing and activities, but driving a snowmobile over a phenomenal glacier will, without doubt, give you an extra energy boost.
Good Guidance with Reykjavik Excursions
It is also worthwhile mentioning an interesting new tour, which Reykjavik Excursions offers for the first time this summer. ‘A Sense of Reykjavik’ is a nice addition to the fine Reykjavik tours the company provides its customers; this one concentrating on the downtown area and westwards towards Seltjarnarnes peninsula. It is a three hour evening tour lasting from 6pm to 9pm, four evenings per week. Many interesting sites are visited: the beautiful lighthouse at Grótta at the tip of the Seltjarnarnes peninsula, the coast of Ægisíða, the university area and various sights in the downtown area. Three gourmet stops are also included, where people get the chance to taste real, fine, Icelandic ingredients.
Travelling with Reykjavik Excursions is a good way to see many of the wonderful sites to be seen in Iceland. With its vast experience, the company offers you professional guidance to some of Iceland’s most important places – like the three magnificent experiences of the Golden Circle.
Further information is available on www.re.is
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