I felt surge of excitement as I looked at the window when our plane was about to land in Keflavik. The landscape was literally covered with snow and ice. Little wonder why this country is called ICEland. When March is already spring in central Europe, in this part of the world March is still winter and snowing.
We landed Keflavik at 10.25am and were picked up by Fara Rental who drove us to their office, 5 minutes drive from the airport. Fara Representative gave us some orientation about driving in Iceland and remind us to always check weather forecast and road condition everyday before starting the trip.
Both drivers, Hubby and Rangga have watched video on driving in Iceland and I have bookmarked all the important websites. Weather today looks promising: 2 degree Celcius and sunny with no wind. Fara also gave us mobile wifi so we don’t need to purchase Iceland sim card. I couldn’t find a place who sell sim card at the airport so I’m glad Fara gave us the wifi as part of the car rental.
Our first stop is Bonus at Fitjar. We need to stock up on groceries and buy lots of snack for our trip members with bottomless pits. We had lunch at Subway, just next to Bonus. There is also ATM machine in the area but I don’t see the need to extract cash as you can pay everything in Iceland with Debit or Credit Card.
GOLDEN CIRCLE Route
Golden Circle is Iceland’s famous popular route between 3 of the most visited attractions. Starting in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik or Keflavik airport, you’ll drive into the southern uplands and back, visiting Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall.
If you take the tour they will start early because they will need to get you back to Reykjavik and the golden circle tour is usually combined with other activity such as visiting Kerid crater, lunch at Fredheimar Tomato Farm, thermal bath at Fontana, Secret Lagoon, Sky Lagoon or Blue Lagoon. And it is timed well so travellers can continue with Northern light tour also.
We have longer daylight in March so we have sufficient time to start our DIY Golden circle in the afternoon after lunch and we’re not going back to Reykjavik as we’re going to stat at accommodation close to Gulfoss.
Our first destination is Þingvellir national park. But beforewe get there we couldn’t resist to stop at a side road just to take our first picture with the snow. Not knowing we will see snow everyday throughout our trip in Iceland 🤣.
Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir national park is one of a few attraction in iceland where we are required to pay parking fee. Þingvellir is a historic site and national park in Iceland, east of Reykjavik. It is known for the Althing, the site of Iceland’s first parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries.
You can see an exhibition at the Hakið visitor center. While little remains of the AlÞingi’s meeting site at Þingvellir National Park, the Hakið visitor center has a remarkably good exhibition called “Heart of Iceland,” telling the history of the parliament and Iceland’s entire history, as well as covering Icelandic laws and the geology of the area. It’s made interactive with the use of VR goggles that place you in the parliament’s circle to listen to a debate and table-sized touch screens to show how rule over Iceland changed.
On the site are the Þingvellir church and the ruins of old stone shelters. The park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates, with rocky cliffs and fissures like the huge Almannagja fault. As you walk from the visitor’s center down into the valley or on your way to Öxarárfoss waterfall, you’ll be literally walking inside the rift. It’s quite awe-inspiring to realize those black stone cliffs are edges of continental plates.
You can even dive or snorkel with drysuit in Silfra fissure between two tectonic plates and it is one of the popular activities in this National Park. Since the plates have moved apart here, the space between them has become a river, with that clean lava-filtered water flowing into Lake Þingvallavatn. The drysuit will keep your body warm but your face is not covered and I shuddered imagining water as cold as ice on my face. I am an avid snorkeler but I shall skip doing this in winter 😌 You can book separate activity for this like here or combined snorkeling at Silfra with Golden Circle tour.
Strokkur Geysir is the most active geyser in Iceland and erupts naturally every 4-10 minutes. It felt longer to me as I felt my fingers are going numb waiting for the eruption to come. The eruption is usually 15-20 meters high but in history book it said to erupt up to 40 meters. Strokkur and Geysir are believed to be the same age but since Geysir was considered to be more magnificent, strokkur wasn’t mentioned in any written books until 1789 after an earthquake helped to unblock the conduit of the Geysir.
There was a restaurant and toilet facility in Geysir center, but we pressed thru to Gulfoss which was a 10 minutes drive as we wanted to reached there before the sun sets.
Gulfoss, translated to Golden Falls is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfall, found in the Hvita river canyon in South west island and is a part of attraction under Golden Circle route. Gulfoss is unique because we view the waterfall from above instead of below like you’d normally do when you see a waterfall.
It takes 10 minutes walk from the parking area into the waterfall which should be okay. But the temperature has dropped below zero degree by the time we came and the wind was unbelievably strong. That 10 minutes walk felt more like 30 minutes!!
The waterfall is half frozen and I feel we’re going to be frozen as well if we stay longer.
Gulfoss is our last destination for the day and we’re going to stay the night in Skalinn guesthouse not far from the area.
Where to Stay
If you are going to self drive around Iceland it is more efficient to stay in accommodation near the area. Fludir, Selfoss and Hella are also a good area to stay after you finish your golden circle route. We booked Skalinn Guesthouse, located few minutes away from Gulfoss as we don’t want to drive too far at dark. We happened to be their only guest so we have the big place for ourselves as the owner told us that she received many cancellation due to the pandemic. Skalinn Guesthouse has one private house for family and a dorm-style accommodation with full kitchen facility. They also have a horse farm so we had our chance to admire these beautiful Icelandic horses.
Another reason to stay at Skalinn Guesthouse is their location is away from light pollution and we hope to be able to see Northern light at night. However Hubbie and I overslept that night and only woke up around 2-3am. We have missed the chance of seeing Northern light. We went outside anyway to check (not knowing it was -16 Celcius) and we were immediately hit with a cold weather so sharp we felt like our face were numbed and our fingers felt they can be chopped off anytime. The forecast said there was a strong chance of Northern Light appearing that night but we have missed it due to jet lag.
Our Video Recap of today