Friday, September 22, 2017

9 Days Iceland Summer Road Trip Itinerary: Day 2 - The Golden Circle

Day 2 of our road trip brings us around the famous Golden Circle before heading to Selfoss for the night. If you have not heard of the Golden Circle, it is actually a popular route that tourists take for a day's trip. The total distance is approximately 300km (about 3.5 hours drive) and the loop starts and ends at Reykjavik. Major attractions include the Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gulfoss.

Renting a car
There are organised tours to the Golden Circle, well you can, but there's nothing like a self-drive tour which allows you the freedom to stop whenever and wherever you want. For this purpose, Lady M and I (well, mostly me) did a hell lot of research about car rentals, because there are a lot of horror stories about excessive charges about minor damages to the car etc, and for one, we definitely do not want that to happen to us. One of my friends recommended Lotus Car Rental, and we were impressed with the variety and competitive prices (I'm not paid nor sponsored to say this).

We rented an automatic Volkswagen Polo, a non-4WD which is comfortable for the both of us. It has a boot space for one large luggage, but you can always put your other bags on the backseats. Their standard package comes with basic insurance (Collision Damage Waiver, Super Collision Damage Waiver, and Theft Protection), but we got the Gravel and Sand & Ash Protection nevertheless. We had some troubles with starting the car at the start but a kind stranger stopped to aid us. Apparently, you have to step on the brake and twist the key to start up the car.

More information will be shared in a separate post.

Back to the Golden Circle
Before heading to Iceland, I did my research and some sites state that if you do not have time to do the Ring Road, no worries, all the attractions of Iceland are summarised in the Golden Circle. After doing the entire Ring Road, I beg to differ. The Golden Circle is nothing like the Ring Road, it does, however, acts as an appetiser for what's to come. If you are having a short stopover in Iceland, you may explore the Golden Circle (better than nothing). Here's a classic route on how the Golden Circle can be explored.



Here comes the question: Where do I stop along the Golden Circle? Well, basically anywhere you want to (if you are self-driving). The first stop that you would pass is...

Þingvellir National Park (Point B)

Or pronounced as "Thingvellir" National Park (for this purpose, I will stick to "th").

One of the unfortunate things that happened on the first day of our road trip was an unexpected heavy downpour and most of the time we had to stay in the car. 

The only picture we took, all thanks to the rain.

Thingveiller was named the national park in Iceland since 1930, and was listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 2004. Its natural-formed beauty will be like nothing you have seen in the capital. Thousands of acres including tectonic and volcanic environments cover the land. Are there things to do? Yeah, but only if it is not raining heavily which happened to us. Tourists love to explore the Thingvellir Rift Valley where the tectonic plates between North America and Europe are pulled apart approximately 2cm per year. There are also diving and snorkelling sites for the adventurers who love being cold and wet.

Here is a picture that gives this place better justice.


Fees: Free, however, a whole day parking fee of 500 ISK applies if you're parking at major parking lots.

Next stop: Geysir (Point C)

Do you know that the origin of the word "geyser" comes from Geysir - the first ever geyser recorded in written history? Although Geysir is not as active as it was a thousand years ago, the most active geyser, Strokkur's spectacular 30 meter SPLOOOSHH (or otherwise known as spout) is still a favourite attraction for many - where it spouts every 6-10 minutes. Here's how it looked like:



Thank God the rain subsided when we were at Geysir, yet the cold wind blew and Lady M was freezing even when we are standing beside geothermal pits of 120C. There's a restaurant where you can get some hot soup to warm up yourself and a souvenir store too.
Caution: Bubbling mud pots and strong "rotten egg" smell

Here's a tip, especially if there are strong winds, bring waterproof clothing or an umbrella, or risk being this guy who happened to stand just in front of us. 
Drenched.

Fees: Free, including parking.

Save the best for the last. The final stop of the Golden Circle brings you to:

Gullfoss - the Golden Waterfall (Point D)

Living in Singapore, a country with no natural mountains and waterfalls, Gullfoss was a huge eye-opener. If the sun was out and the skies were clear, I'm pretty sure that you can get to see rainbows. Yet, it was still drizzling and cold at that time, and it was after some persuasion that I got the lady out of the car.


There was a pathway that leads you closer to the waterfall but we didn't bother because it was freezing. Even without going down, the beauty of Gullfoss is beyond spectacular. It's a two-tier waterfall where water falls at great speed before hitting the gorge below.
Here you can see the pathway

One of the must try, as you may have seen in other Iceland guides, is their home-brand yoghurt named Skyr. Packed with 17 grams of protein, this baby could be better than any protein shake out there. Not that we exercise there besides the walking, but Skyr makes a great road trip snack. We would always have two of these with us, eat them during the road trip and restock at the next town.

At the end of the road trip, we spent the night at Selfoss, which is actually less than an hour drive from Reykjavik. We booked this guesthouse via Airbnb named TJARNARBAKKI and had a great experience. The host was not at home, but we had a great talk with two other French tourists who had visited the whole Ring Road and Selfoss was their last stop. The place was clean and the kitchen was well-stock with utensils and condiments.








Up next: Day 3 - 4: South Iceland - Waterfalls, Black Sand and Diamond Beaches