Relaxation with the Hot Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is the most popular tour in Iceland and every touring company has their own variation of this tour, which features Iceland’s most important tourist attractions. Gateway to Iceland offers this tour in combination with a visit to the Secret Lagoon, a reasonably undiscovered natural hot bath. It looked like it would be great weather for this tour, so I was very excited to go.
The tour guide today was Jakob. The bus was already full when I was picked up and we had a full group today with 19 people joining the tour, which is the maximum capacity for one bus with Gateway to Iceland. They were a lovely group of people; everyone was very kind and they showed they were happy to be on the tour.
While we were driving up to the first stop, at Thingvellir National Park, Jakob started the day off by telling us stories about the landscape we were driving through. As we got closer to Thingvellir, we could see the lake Thingvallavatn coming up ahead of us, and with the sunny weather, this was quite a beautiful sight. Thus Jakob pulled over to give us some time to take pictures. Once we got out of the bus, we noticed that despite the sunny weather it was quite cold outside, so we took our photos and then rushed back on the coach.
After this short stop, we went straight to Thingvellir. Once we got there, Jakob told us to go to the information center first: there he would explain the landscape to us, with the help of a model of the area. He gave a great description of the landscape, its geology, and how it had become the way it is now. After he was done he took us to the lookout next to the information center. It was quite busy here, however, Jakob had soon found a spot where the whole group would still have a great view and everyone would be able to hear him. The view of the ridge between the North American and the Eurasian plate from this point was amazing.
When Jakob was done with his story he asked us if we would like to take a walk through the National Park and, with the gorgeous weather, no-one could say no. He told us which path to take and that he would be waiting at the parking lot at the end of that path. It was wonderful to walk between the ridge, and later on right by the place where the assemblies of the Althing were held, from 930 until 1798. When we met with Jakob at the parking lot he told us more about these assemblies and their importance in Icelandic history.
While driving away, Jakob simply continued his stories, adding more folklore to them. We were on our way to the next stop and Jakob let us decide which it would be. Either we would stop at a restaurant along the way to have lunch or we would go to the Gullfoss waterfall and have lunch at the restaurant there. We chose the latter and continued our way while Jakob filled the whole bus with his stories. While driving along, we came across another beautiful spot to take pictures so Jakob pulled over and let us off the bus again. When we continued, Jakob continued his stories, teaching us even how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull correctly.
When we arrived at the Gullfoss, the waterfall itself could not be seen yet. Jakob advised us to have lunch first, and then climb down the stairs towards the waterfall, where he would pick us up at another parking lot again. So, after lunch, he left to drive the bus to the next meeting point and I climbed down to the impressive view of the immense Gullfoss. What a beautiful sight to behold! When I reached the lowest step and walked towards the edge of the viewing point Jakob walked over to me, and some of the others on the tour, to point out the sign in memory of Sigriður Tómasdóttir, a woman who had saved this waterfall from foreign investors, wanting to use this waterfall for the production of electricity.
After this wonderful view, we continued to the Geysir, or as Jakob called him the godfather of all Geysers, for giving them their names, since the Geysir, was in fact, the earliest geyser known to Europeans. Now Geysir does not erupt regularly anymore, however, the nearby geyser Strokkur still erupts every few minutes, which offers a great sight. When we arrived I first went to take a look at Geysir and it looked quite impressive. After that I joined the people standing around Strokkur, waiting for him to erupt. It was great to see that geyser spout its hot water up in the air and leaving an enormous white cloud with every eruption. So I stayed to watch him erupt three times.
I continued the path, leaving Strokkur behind, to walk towards the next meeting point. Along the paths, the geothermal activity below the ground offered a spectacular variety to the landscape at this site.
After leaving Geysir, we would only have one stop left – the Secret Lagoon. However, Jakob provided a pleasant surprise. Just a short while after we had left Geysir, he told us we were going to visit some friends, but that we would need to persuade those friends to come close to us. As he said this he pulled out a big bag of bread and gestured towards a group of Icelandic horses. As soon as they noticed us they came running towards us, allowing us to pet, take pictures and most importantly, to feed them.
After saying goodbye to our new friends, we continued to the Secret Lagoon. As soon as we arrived its name became very clear. There were barely any people there, which provided us with all the space we could want. Throughout the day the temperatures had been quite cold, therefore it was even more satisfying to get in the hot pool, which was around 40° Celsius that day. When we had completely warmed up again, everyone went back inside and, as soon as everyone was ready to go, we left for Reykjavik.
Just a small part of the Secret Lagoon
Having finally done this tour today, I can tell why it is so popular. It combines some of the most beautiful and most historic parts of Iceland with complete relaxation. Jakob was a wonderful guide, it’s clear why he is one of the best guides with the company. All the way, throughout the tour, he was able to keep talking the whole time, and every bit of every story seemed like the most interesting thing I had ever heard.