Iceland: Watch out World’s own ‘Golden Circle’ Self-drive trip.

We hadn’t specifically intended on visiting Iceland but with how the flights worked out to Greenland VIA Keflavik we ended up choosing to have a one night/two day stop over in Iceland to explore the country a bit. We booked a cute little Airbnb in Keflavik and booked a hire car through Procar before arriving. This meant Pata could set about planning a driving route around the South of Iceland. As we’d land in the morning on the Friday and leave on the evening of the Saturday it gave us almost two full days to fit in as much as we could!

As soon as you start researching Iceland you discover the ‘Golden Circle’, a famous route that takes you to the three main attractions in South Iceland;

  • Kerid – A volcanic crater Lake 
  • Gullfoss- Icelands most famous waterfall
  • The Geysers/Geysir

I set about researching to try to discover lesser known places we could go to extend the ‘Golden Circle’. Devising a route with 7 stops along the way that had a total driving time of 4 hours and 10 minutes and 299km (without stops), taking us from the hire car pickup in Keflavik and ending in the centre of Keflavik at the end of the day.

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Day 1-

We arrived in Keflavik a little late as our flight was delayed but after a look around we found the Procar rep and he took us in a minibus to the car rental building with no trouble. We recommend the car hire company- one tip- GET A SATNAV!!

1.  Kerid – 1Hour 20Min//106km drive-  

A beautiful volcanic crater lake. We both enjoyed walking around the top of the crater, and then around the lake, it was an interesting place to see and a nice place to have as our first stop.

    [[Parking was free but there was a cost of 400ISK per person- this seemed reasonable]]

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Kerid

2.  Skàlholt Cathedral & Þorláksbúð  – 20min//23.5km drive-

Found pictures of the cathedral which made me curious to see it. It is the tenth Cathedral to stand there. An Interesting place with interesting history. The country’s first bishop made Skálholt the episcopal see of the whole of Iceland, making it a place of pilgrimage in medieval times. With interesting archaeological history to be found in the museum.

[[Free to Park and Free to look around]]

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Skàlholt Cathedral & Þorláksbúð

3. Fludir/ Secret lagoon – 20min/21km drive-  

Having read about the Blue Lagoon Spa it felt to commercialised for us so when I found the ‘secret’ lagoon we thought it worth a try. Being honest we stopped here and had a look and while we were tempted we decided not to go in. It was a charming little place but it was small and a coach was pulling up as we were making our decision. It is perhaps ‘secret’ in comparison to the blue lagoon and at half the price is more inviting, however it wasn’t for us. We decided we’d have to visit again in winter and go in the snow. We had a good fish and chips in the car park though!! If you want a natural spa surrounded by small geysir’s as part of your trip this looked good!

[[Free to park. can be booked online in high season or turn up in low season 2800ISK each]]

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4.  Faxafoss – 13min/14km- 

Another less known waterfall but still impressive and without the crowds! (actually my favourite stop on our trip) Very beautiful and with the moody grey sky made for some gorgeous photos! Its much smaller but still mighty, and you can get right down next to it (and get wet!) There was a cafe/restaurant here but it was closed…. but could be a possible food stop?

[[Free Parking]]

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Faxafoss

5. Haukadalur/Geysers- 11min/11.5km-

Geothermal field with an active geyser that goes off every 6-8minutes and some inactive geysers, along with bubbling mud pots, and steaming streams. An interesting place to really feel how unsettled earth can be. Of course this was very crowded, and while we were there they geyser was being relatively quiet. Still impressive to see!

[[Free Parking- surprisingly! A donation is suggested theres a box at the entrance- good touristy gift shop/can get food her]]

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Haukadalur/Geysers

6.  Gullfoss Falls- 10min/10km-

Spectacular waterfall! What can we say!? Absolutely breathtaking…. The force and power and the beauty. What a place! Again be prepared for it to be busy busy! As expected of such a stunning place. It really makes you stop and just take breath! As you approach on foot it gives the illusion that the river just disappears. Go here! Never seen anything like it.

[[Parking was free again!? We’d read that there were charges everywhere! Good shop/Cafe here]]

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Gullfoss Falls

7. Þingvellir National Park- 1hour/70km back towards Keflavik-

The national park lies within a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Significant because this marks the boundary between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic Plate.

There are many places to stop within the park and lots of free car parks line the road. If you follow signs to the main information point keep going past this car park and the next one on the left (1-2km further on) is the start of a pretty walk where you walk between the tectonic plates and end up at a sweet little waterfall. There are lots of sign posted walks within the park but we didn’t have enough time to explore further. Another worthwhile stop.

[[Free Parking but no services]]

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Þingvellir National Park

That was the final stop! From the park we headed back to our Airbnb in Keflavik. Look out for Þingvallavatn lake if you are driving south as you drive right past it- the largest natural lake in Iceland- very pretty!

The whole day took from 10am when we picked up the car with no problems to 7pm when we arrived at our Airbnb. It was a busy day but it was doable and very enjoyable.

That evening we had a walk about Keflavik and found a very nice restaurant- EAT HERE! Right next to the harbour.

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Keflavik harbour

Kaffi Duus (Duusgata 10, 230 Keflavík, Iceland) very expensive (as is everything in Iceland), but gorgeous fresh fish perfectly cooked! In fact we went back on our way home again too!

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We did see the Northern lights briefly that night, but the light pollution was too strong for us to see much, and we had a drink with dinner so couldn’t drive out of town. We weren’t to bothered by this as we knew we had Greenland to come!

Day 2- 

Reynisfjara black beach- is somewhere I saw online years ago and have wanted to see since! Although it is nearly a 3 hour drive to get there from Keflavik, we decided we’d try to fit it in even though the weather on day 2 was awful! There were a couple of waterfalls we wanted to see on the way that would break up the journey a bit too.

Seljalandsfoss- was the first waterfall on the way. After a bleak 2 hour drive that wasn’t particularly enjoyable due to wind and rain we saw it from the road and had to stop! it cost 700ISK to park. This we didn’t mind having expected the previous day to be far more expensive! A good waterfall that impressed us. You can walk right behind it. Amazing to feel the force around you (we did get quite wet!). Worth the stop even in dreary weather!

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Seljalandsfoss

Skògafoss- 30Min drive from Seljalandsfoss 

The second waterfall and one Pato very much wanted to see having seen it online before the trip.

This was another worthy stop. A ‘real’ waterfall that falls a long way. You can walk all the way to the top up lots of stairs for a different view. Another good waterfall!!

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Skògafoss

From this point the scenery got more interesting with lots and lots of waterfalls to look at along the drive, with the wind blowing some of them up in the wrong direction- quite beautiful. Sadly the weather was so bad by now that we decided not to go on to Reynisfjara. Time was tight and we decided to save it for next time. However from Skògafoss it is only 30min/35km further on so, do go. It wont disappoint!

We decided to head back as we had to get the hire car park and check in for our flight to Greenland!!

A little hungry I found a cafe called Hendur í Höfn on a different route back that was gluten free friendly. So to give us new interesting more costal scenery for the journey back and to fill our tummies we headed there. It was a funny little pottery/glass workshop with a cafe attached. Located in a small town called Þorlákshöfn. There was a group of locals making glass plates while we ate, and the owners were very welcoming. Having been around lots of tourists the day before it was nice to be somewhere with just locals. I had the tastiest gluten free toastie!

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Tips for Iceland- 

  • Cold tap water is drinkable and very nice!
  • The cheapest supermarket by far is Bonus??
  • Be prepared to pay a lot for EVERYTHING…. I spent the equivalent of £7 on a packet of gluten free biscuits! (Ouch)
  • You do not have to tip in Iceland it is not expected at all (this was explained to us by a friendly taxi driver!)

6 thoughts on “Iceland: Watch out World’s own ‘Golden Circle’ Self-drive trip.

  1. I love this post and your photos. It makes me feel (just a tiny little bit), I am right there. But more importantly I now want to visit all these amazing waterfalls. Thanks for sharing the route you took.

    Like

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