Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Golden Circle

Let me start by saying Iceland is by far one of the most amazing places that I have ever been to and there is so much so see and do, there is no way that you will be able to see it all in a weekend or even 5 days, but if you get up early and squeeze lots into you day -  you will still get lots done.

The Golden Circle is definitely top of my list when it comes to recommendations too.  The whole route is full of stunningly beautiful scenery and you aren't bored for even a second.  In fact, it's so beautiful you wouldn't mind being stuck in a traffic jam.  However, there is no such thing in Iceland, the roads are perfectly empty most of the time and if you do happen to pass another car you probably won't see another for an hour or two once you are outside of the city and tourist areas.

The Golden Circle is in the South of Iceland around an hour from Reykjavik and includes Pinvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, the geothermally active valley Haukadalur where you can see the Geysers, The first founded Parliament, The tectonic plates and to top it off the gates to the Eyrie (which any GoT fans will understand).

Pinvellir National Park isn't just a great place to go in the day for spectacular views either, take a trip out of Reykjavik in the evening and you will see some spectacular views of the Northern lights.  In fact no matter which corner you turn in Iceland, there is always something new and beautiful waiting to welcome you.

Iceland is well known, as 'the land of fire and ice' and you can see why as you travel through the vast and expansive landscapes while you are there.

While the West of Iceland is a lot warmer, with a lot of red almost Autumnal tones around, the Golden circle is most definitely the land of Ice.  Our first stop was Pingvillir National Park.

When you arrive in the national park you will see a little visitors centre, which I would recommend popping into to grab a map and plan out your walk.  Once you are out of the visitors centre, you will see that there is a man made 'look out' for you to enjoy the view.  Take a moment to breathe it all in and then make you way down the slope to your left and explore the waterfalls and more of the epic landscape that lays ahead waiting for you.

Once you have made your way around and back up past a mini waterfall, you will see signs to turn either left or right.  At this point, you are going left again where you will see another more epic waterfall in front of you.  At this time of year tourism isn't at its highest either, so you should be able to get a beautiful picture that's tourist free here.

When you have finished marveling at what you have just seen in front of you, you will be able to make your way back down to the first settlement of any parliament in the world.  Which is marked by a church and a row of little wooden houses.

While making your way around you will notice the little lakes that are next to the parliament and church.  So instead of making your way back up to the car, take a left again just past the houses and you will find yourself walking down a very snow covered path.  Follow this along until you see another car park on your left and a small path on your right.  You may also start to spot a few people in their diving gear here and that's because you are right next to the meeting point of the tectonic plates, where it is popular for people to dive and experience the beauty of the crack from beneath the surface of the water.

As you can see from the pictures, I was one of those crazy people who actually paid to jump into freezing cold water, when the temperature (out of the water) was -7 degrees...  As you can imagine, I was pretty cold when we got out, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

Now if you are a game of thrones fan, this is the moment you have been waiting for.  Because as you make you way back towards the car, you will notice that there is a huge wall opposite you that looks familiar?

Making your way back to the car, not forgetting to grab another hot drink from the cafe, you will be excited for the next stop because just off of a small turning along the main road you will be able to go and view the Eyrie.  So to get there, turn out of the National park to your right and go along for maybe 10 mins, you will see a small turning and a car park on your right and a huge mound of rocks at the front of it.  If you pull in here and take the rather cobbled pathway down, you will be met with the entrance to the Eyrie and it is spectacular.

We were pretty cold at this point though as it was just after our dive and my hair was still dripping wet.  Plus the path way was very much covered in snow and we weren't too sure what was underfoot.  So please, make sure you are careful if you make your way along the entire pathway.  But I would 100% highly recommend this small detour.

The next part of the Golden Circle I wouldn't recommend doing straight after jumping into Silfra, as you have a fair drive ahead of you and it is pretty cold.  Now Sat Nav does have some trouble finding the Geysers but, if you make your way to Gullfoss Waterfall, you don't have much further to go until you find them too and the Geysers have a great visitors Centre for a snack or some lunch/dinner.

Again the pathways at Gullfoss are rather treacherous, as so many people go to visit what is a spectacular view that the snow is trodden down into compacted ice.  If you can, do what we did and walk in the more snow covered grass or you could be skating your way to the edge.

No view in Iceland is disappointing and when you are in Gullfoss there are a few different viewing points to take advantage of, however, in the colder months the platform nearest the waterfall is closed - presumably for safety reasons.

Once you have taken a good look around, you will pretty much be done for the day, if you weren't already by lunch time.  I would definitely still recommend trying to spot the Northern lights again on your way back though.

If you are smart (unlike us), you wont be making your way back though, you will be staying where you are and staying somewhere new.  The easiest way around this vast land is to have multiple stops and stay in each of the places. The Lonely Planet has some great recommended routes too, so always buy your guide before you do any booking.

There are a few more Iceland posts to come (as there are so many amazing places to explore there), but my next one is going to be a top tips for planning, so if you have any questions - pop them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them!

Anyone that comments below will automatically be entered into my competition to win a Dakine Mia Beanie too.  Just remember to add your email address (and a question), so that I can contact you if you win.  The competition will be running until February 6th 2016, so don't forget to share it with your friends too.

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