I wrote and published earlier two photo stories from my trip to Iceland in 2021. Still, they were only about Fagradalsfjall volcano, and I have so much more to share from that travel. I regret that I didn’t review and process my photos right away when the memories were fresh. Nevertheless, the second-best time is now!
When I browse the photographs for this photo story, it is still hard to grasp that I will only cover just one day of my Iceland travel.
In only one day, we’ve seen vast landscapes, mountains with snow-covered peaks, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, lakes, historical buildings, steaming hot springs, sunset and more!
It was a very ambitious timeline, I have to admit, starting very early in the day and finishing long after midnight!
The Golden Circle tour
For the first couple of days, we stayed just outside Reykjavík and our first destinations we planned along the so-called “Golden Circle”.
The Golden Circle is a famous scenic route west of Reykjavík, visiting some beautiful and spectacular attractions: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss Waterfall.
We departed early, aiming at Thingvellir National Park as the first stop on the way. But there were so many exciting views and places along the way, and I couldn’t resist stopping at every parking spot to admire and soak up the views.
The scenery was so different from anywhere else I’ve been. Sometimes just some rough rocks, covered here and there with skimpy sheets of grass and lichen.
But then, half-hour later, the road was leading to the side of a calm, blue lake.
Thingvellir National Park
Þingvellir (Icelandic name) is a site where the parliament of Iceland held sessions up until the end of the XVIII century. The area is a national park not only because of its historical significance but also because of its geological features.
The park lies in a rift valley, marking the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It features stunning views of a rift valley created by the rift of the plates.
Due to its proximity to Reykjavík, it is a popular place among tourists.
Nevertheless, it was still a delightful experience to walk some of the paths and recognise small, humble buildings used by the government.
Geysir Geothermal Area
We drive further east from the park, following Roads 36, 37 and 37 towards the next destination, passing along some beautiful views with brown hills and mountains painted with occasional splashes of green.
The next step on the Golden Circle is a visit to Geysir Geothermal Area. The area is named after Geysir, one of the biggest geysers in the world, which actually gave the name for this natural phenomenon.
For a long time, Geysir remains calm and dormant. We saw the nearby Strokkur geyser that erupts every 5–8 minutes to a height of around 30 metres.
The whole area is geothermally active, and you can most definitely smell it before you even see it. The sulphur fumes are noticeable in the air. You can also observe boiling water in the ponds, and the small streams along the path are steaming hot!
The area is covered with multiple small hot springs and active steam vents.
Observing live Strokkur erupting is definitely a thrilling experience!
Departing from the geothermal area of Geysir, following Road 35, only a couple kilometres further is the Gullfoss waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river. The name can be translated as “Golden Falls”,
This waterfall is huge, with water cascading multiple levels to finally fall into a narrow, transverse, 30m deep crevice, thundering loudly and covering everything around with mist.
After visiting the waterfall, the “Golden Circle” route guide points you back towards Reykjavik, suggesting a couple of other stops along the way, like the Kerid crater, which I’ll cover in the next part.
However… we still had some time left, and there was one interesting place that we could possibly visit.
Road F35 to Hveravellir nature reserve
Hveravellir was some kind of hidden gem but also a notable highlight of that day. It is a small nature reserve and a tourist centre located at the Kjölur mountain route between the Hofsjökull and Langjökull glaciers, Central Iceland.
It took almost 2,5 hours of driving via rough, gravel F35 road. And I have to admit, I was driving fast!
Side note: Hveravellir is only accessible only via F35 Kjölur Highland Road, connecting the north and south Iceland by intersecting the highlands. F-roads can only be used during the summer, and 4x4 vehicles are required.
There were magnificent views on both sides and some glaciers visible far, far away.
The drive was definitely worth it. We arrived before sunset (around 9PM) only to be rewarded by the beautiful spectacle of golden sun rays reflecting in bubbling water holes, splashes of water and mist.
Hveravellir hot springs
The area has nice wooden pathways across the fields covered with hot springs, tiny geysers, fumaroles, solfatara, boiling pits and others.
Everything was flooded with golden light, creating this glittering, dream-like atmosphere.
I would love to use the word heavenly to describe it however, the dominant momentarily quite strong sulphur smell was suggesting something quite the opposite ;-)
Towards the end
Unfortunately, we knew we had to leave the place as it was still a long journey ahead to reach back to our Airbnb. Fortunately, the sunset was progressing slowly. We were going on lower grounds, so there was still a quite bright. We continued north along F35 to merge with Ring Road and follow it to Reykjavik back to our place.
I think that evening I managed to see the sunset at least three times, if not more!
This was a very memorable trip! Although I remember returning* dead* tired in the deep night, but it was still well worth the effort! This was just one day! Stay tuned for more highlights.