Gullfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir are the three attractions along the Golden Circle. It is recommended as a day trip from Reykjavík for those who have little time and want to experience Iceland in a nutshell. As you can probably guess, it’s touristy as fuck.
So here are my top 5 reasons why the Golden Circle is overrated:
- Tourists and Reykjavík Excursions everywhere. The tour buses carry loads of tourists on a tight schedule around the GC. Every time we saw one of the buses in front of us, we knew the next stop would be a fight for the best view point. Especially at Geysir and Strokkur it was hard to actually see the geyser through all the umbrellas and tablets.
- It’s not the best of Iceland. If you have seen a geothermal area (like Hverir in the north of Iceland), a geyser or a big waterfall before, there is no need to drive all the way to Gullfoss or the Geysir area.
- It affects the environment. If you expected to see a geyser that erupts every 5 minutes, you’re in for a long wait. When people started throwing things into Geysir and Strokkur, they got (partly) blocked and now erupt less frequently and less high than before.
- Visitor Centers. The only way to get food in this remote area are Visitor Centers, and the next one will always be more expensive than the previous one. So you better pack your lunch and snacks before you leave for that trip.
- You feel like you have to do it. Like with every iconic monument in any country, you feel like you haven’t seen the “real” Iceland without following the beaten Golden Circle. And even when you’re freezing cold and tired, there’s no way you’re going to turn around half way.
I’m not saying that I don’t like going to touristy spots, I mean those places have to have some cultural value if the country decides to advertise them internationally. So here’s some basic information that shows that the area is still worth a visit:
Gulfoss, the golden waterfall, is fed by Iceland’s second biggest glacier Langjökull. On sunny days you can see a shining rainbow over the cliffs that are about 32 m high. In the early 20th century the waterfall was supposed to be taken under construction to produce electricity, but the Icelanders fought (under the threat of suicide by jumping down the waterfall) to keep the piece of land and to preserve their waterfall.
Geysir is now an inactive geyser, so it’s basically only a very hot and steaming pond. However, right next to it there is Strokkur, which erupts rather frequently but doesn’t exceed the height of more than 50 m established by its neighbour.
Thingvellir is where the Althing parliamentary assembly was established around 930 and it stayed there until 1798. It is also the place where the Eurasian and the American continental plate drift apart, which is indicated by deep rifts in the ground. I personally loved the place since it bears huge cultural value and because I’ve wanted to see a continental rift valley since learning about it in high school :’D