The breathtaking scenery of Iceland keeps pulling me back. Just returned from my trip and yet I catch myself searching for the cheapest flight back to this spectacular destination with Icelandair.
It’s only a three-hour flight from Brussels to Reykjavik, but there are many inexpensive US/Canada connections to Iceland as well. (Here’s a cool insider tip: Return flights from London to Iceland are super cheap, so you may want to do a combo trip – Iceland and London together sound pretty awesome!)
Upon arrival at the airport, you can easily pick up a car you reserved beforehand with one of the many car rental companies. I would strongly recommend renting a 4×4 because this kind of vehicle will help you find the best hidden gems. We turned to SADcars – one of the cheapest out there with really friendly staff and great service – to rent our 4×4.
When it comes to exploring the Golden Circle, the famous route in southern Iceland, you can easily make Reykjavik your base by starting and ending your day there. You’ll always find good places to eat in the city, and can definitely take advantage of the many fun AirBnbs (it’s also a great way to support the locals).
Here’s how our exploration of the Golden Circle went down… I hope this helps you plan your next awesome adventure!
THE XXL GOLDEN CIRCLE
Prepare yourself for an intense day! We travelled through Iceland in May, so there was light outside as early as 4:30 am. If that’s the case, you can hit the road early in the morning and be at the hotspots before the tourists arrive. Along with help from GPS/Google Maps, don’t forget to take an old school map with you.
STOP ONE: THINGVELLIR
The National Park Thingvellir (or Þingvellir) was our first stop. Here’s the cool thing about this park – it actually lies in rift caused by the drift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. That’s why there’s a six meter wide and 40 kilometre long subsidence that grows by a centimeter or two each year (in fact, the valley has subsided by at least 4 meters since Iceland was settled).
Because of this unique tectonic activity, the park is prone to major earthquakes, but the unusual landscape has also created pockets that are great for diving and snorkeling. One such place is the very popular Silfra canyon.
Oh, and did I mention that this is Iceland’s first national park? Yup, pretty cool indeed.
STOP TWO: BRUARFOSS
Bruarfoss was our first major WOW moment. Getting there isn’t easy and requires some off-roading and hiking, but it’s so worth it. Due to the fact that it’s a bit harder to reach, there are almost no tourists there. We saw a few other travellers on the way to Bruarfoss, but when we got there, we were all by ourselves!
We found this spot using our trusty Google Maps.
STOP THREE: GEYSIR
Geysir is, by far, the most touristy spot we visited. It’s super easy to reach and you can park your car/campervan with utmost ease.
I must mention that we had some great fish stew there as we arrived just before lunch.
Oh, on the way from Bruarfoss to Geysir, there is apparently a very cool spot to eat. It’s called the Tomato Green House. A friend recommended it and said it’s the best tomato soup you’ll ever have, so take note!
STOP FOUR: GULLFOSS
One of the typical highlights of Iceland is, quite obviously, Gullfoss. Super easy to find and you only have to walk a bit to see this beautiful piece of nature. Must mention that it was very windy when we got there. A raincoat or windstopper and hiking shoes are not an overrated luxury in Iceland.
Gullfoss means ‘the golden falls’ and rightly so. It’s 32 meters deep and flows over two cascades into a deep canyon.
STOP FIVE: THE SECRET LAGOON
The Secret Lagoon isn’t as secret as you’d think. This natural hot spring boasts a temperature of 38°C to 40°C the whole year round. Although we found it to be a bit too touristy, it’s a nice stop to get warm. Getting there is easy, as is parking your car. Plus, they offer food and warm drinks, which is nice.
STOP SIX: HAIFOSS
THIS IS A MUST-VISIT DESTINATION!
Even though I kind of want to keep this perfect, raw, and hidden gem to myself a bit longer, I will share it with you (but shhhhh… don’t tell anyone!).
Haifoss, the fourth highest waterfall in Iceland and also called the Tall Falls, has a staggering 122 meter drop. For us, this was the best part of our road trip.
We only saw one small group of adventurers there, and it’s quite easy to explain why. It takes some serious off-roading skills to get there, along with a bit of hiking. You definitely need an adventurous streak to reach this place but it’s soooooo worth it!
STOP SEVEN: KERID
After an extremely packed day, we were ready for our last stop, Kerid – a volcanic crater with bright blue water surrounding it.
Kerid is easy to reach and the only place where you need to pay for the entrance. Over all, it’s a great stop to end your XXL Golden Circle road trip.
STOP EIGHT: REYKJAVIK
Once you’re back in the capital, rest up and then go out for a local dining experience. Reykjavik is a charming hipster city where you can enjoy local specialties such as fermented (read: rotten) shark and lamb.
Iceland, I’ll be back & see the Northern Lights!