When visiting Iceland and the capital city of Reykjavik in particular we found it best to mix our time with day trips outside of the city as well as a few days in the city exploring. When planning for a long weekend trip to this region we suggest that you plan your days wisely to maximize time and get the most out of your visit; there is a lot to see, and even the simplest of activities are worth it.
The hands-down best site seeing day trip from Reykjavik is the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a commonly traveled route that spans around 200 miles, covering a driving loop from Reykjavik to the nearby southern Icelandic mountains and back. The great thing about the route is you will experience the natural beauty and power of the Icelandic terrain, which will no doubt inspire you like you've never imagined!
Lex and I decided to go with a tour company for convenience, and booked a day or two in advance at one of the local tour offices in the city. We opted for a smaller tour (eight people in total, including us) to maximize time at the various stops and get an opportunity to learn as much as possible from our guide.
The first stop was Pingvellir National Park. Here you can take in the incredible landscape and feel like you are literally witnessing the North American and Euroasian tectonic plates colliding in a jagged explosion of rock. You can walk along the demarcation of the plates hopping back and forth between Europe and the Americas – pretty astounding in and of itself. We spent an hour walking the weaving pathway and spilling into what reminded us of an Icelandic prairie. If you have time you can visit the Thingvalla Kirkja Church, we needn't give you directions as it's the only structure in this area for as far as the eye can see, a small white Church nestled in the fields, surrounded by the vast landscape and snow capped mountain views.
The next stop on the route is Gullfoss waterfall. We visited on a wintery afternoon in late October, and winding down the long trail to the waterfall was bitter cold but worth every step - that said, cannot emphasize enough importance of a good pair of hiking shoes, a warm pair of socks, and lots of winter accessories!
Gullfoss is a magnificent site to behold, and weather permitting you will enjoy one of the many hiking trails, all providing different vantage points to take in the views. A truly incredible site to behold, though the cold winds and snow on our afternoon kept us moving quickly and after a few awe-inspiring shots we were quickly headed back to our car to head on to the next wonder.
The last of the major stopping points we want to touch on in Geysir. The original geyser was one of our absolute favorite stops of the day. This area of the park consists of two notable geysers and countless geothermal pools. The original geyser – Geysir – erupts so infrequently at this point that it is presently almost considered inactive. The second geyser erupts about every five minutes and is a little easier to catch a glimpse of. Incredible in its own right, the Strokkur emerges from the earth like a swamp creature emerging from a bog. One enormous bubble erupts into an explosion of water and steam reaching heights of up to 100 feet. Incredible to feel the heat and drops of water falling from the sky as it settles - not to be missed. This will conclude your perfect Golden Circle day trip - not bad for a day's work!
PS check out Lex's packing list for Iceland, here!