To truly experience Iceland, we knew we needed to get outside Reykjavik. We had two options: take an organized tour or rent a car. Wanting the freedom and luxury of stopping, going, staying as we please we rented a car from RAS rental cars for three days.
We headed out en route for the Golden Circle: Pingveller National Park, Fontana Thermal Pools, Laugarvatn Lake, Geysir, and the impressive Gullfoss waterfall.
Our RAS Rental car and Bryce at the wheel:
As mentioned in a previous post, the Icelandic language is extremely confusing. Purchasing a GPS from RAS rental car was a well-spent $10 a day investment. Can you read the sign below? Yeah, not us either.
Luckily, our handy GPS, brought us to our first stop on the Golden Circle, to a lesser-known viewpoint, that tour buses and most tourists drive right past. Hundreds of cairn rock piles marked the beginning of the Golden Circle route. We built our own cairn , took a few photos and hopped back in the car. The Golden Circle is easily done in one day but with stops, can take 8+ hours so we knew we had to get a move on.
Next stop was to Pingveller National Park, this is the place where the North American tectonic plate and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. As you enter the park you are situated on the North American plate, and you end up driving across the basin, literally driving over the fault lines to the Eurasian plate en route to continue on your adventure. We hopped out of our car and hiked up to the viewpoint to notice the rift and cutouts in the hills of the Eurasian plate caused by the plates colliding together over thousands and thousands of years. It was pretty impressive.
Next, we drove the Laugarvatn lake, it’s huge and heated by thermal hot springs. It is so cool to touch a lake the size of lakes back home and have it feel like a hot tub. At the base of the lake is Fontana Thermal Pools – an amazing and must stop, must take a dip – along the Golden Circle.
Read our full post on Fontana Thermal Pools – it deserved it’s own post.
Relaxed and rejuvenated, we drove 30-minutes to the “Geysir” Geyser. It’s super touristy but a must-see so we stopped, walked around and watched the geyser shoot up into the air every five minutes. Apparently, there is another (larger) geyser that erupts only three times a day – we missed that one. I might botch this stop but we read that this “Geysir” was the earliest “geyser” known to Europeans and gave rise to the actual word “geyser” which is why they are called “geysers”, whew!
It was getting late at this point and by late, I mean that we needed to get back to our hotel to enjoy the complimentary 5-6:30pm happy hour, so we hopped back in the car and drove no more than 15 minutes before reaching what we believed to be the most breathtaking stop of the Golden Circle, the golden waterfall, Gullfoss. We were privileged to have a rainbow appear over the falls. It was quintessential Iceland.