Iceland’s Golden Circle

Featuring quite a few of Iceland’s most iconic tourist destinations, the aptly named “Golden Circle” tourist route is one of the most popular excursions for anyone visiting the country.

The 300 kilometre route is a loop that takes you from the capital city of Reykjavik into the southern area of the country and then back again to the capital.

Usually completed as a day-trip, the Golden Circle is situated on a well-established route that can be visited year-round. The popularity of the route also means that tourists will have a variety of options when considering their itinerary and how they’ll get around.

The three primary stops along the Golden Circle are the Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss Waterfall, but there is so much more than you can see and do while making your way around the loop.

With this blog post, I will offer short introductions to some of the most popular attractions along the Golden Circle as well as provide links to the articles I’ve posted about each location.

I will also offer some travel tips and advice for getting around and making the most of your trip.

Route Map

The Golden Circle is an extremely easy route to follow - Once you get yourself outside of the capital city, its more or less a straight drive as you pass by the most important stops along the way.

There are of course other locations that you can check out, but it would be hard to argue that you’d get lost along the way. Most of the destinations are just a simple stop off the main highways.

If you are travelling by car, its likely that you’ll have access to a GPS either in the car or on your phone - Use of a GPS will ensure that you arrive at your destination and most importantly at the best parking space.

The entire route is about 300 kilometres in length, but once you get started you’ll find that each location is never more than an hour away from the previous one.

There are also many other scenic locations to stop along the way for some photos - especially the vast fields full of Icelandic horses!

Þingvellir National Park

Once you’ve left Reykjavík, the first place you’ll find yourself driving through is the historic Þingvellir National Park (Pronounced Thingvellir) which has a special place in the hearts of the Icelandic people.

The drive through the park is beautiful and there are several places where tourists can stop along the way to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The first major destination along the route is the beautiful Öxaráfoss Waterfall.

The waterfall admittedly isn’t as big as some of the others that you’ll see during your Icelandic travels, but it is a beauty and the area was featured as a shooting location for the Game of Thrones television series.

Visiting the waterfall is free of charge and is a short walk from the parking lot.

Click here for more about the waterfall.

The second major destination along the route is Geysir Geothermal Area.

The park, which is also free of charge is known for its somewhat dormant ‘Great Geysir’ as well as the very active Strokkur geyser which erupts every five to ten minutes.

When visiting, its a good idea to stick around to see a few of the geysers eruptions, check out some of the hot spring pools and possibly also taking a walk up the small mountain for some great views of the valley.

You won’t need a lot of time to visit this area, but it certainly is an enjoyable one - especially if you haven’t seen a live geyser erupt before!

Click here for more about the Geysir Geothermal Area.

Gullfoss Waterfall is probably the most important stop along the Golden Circle day route.

The giant waterfall is one of the most spectacular in the whole of Europe and is a must-stop destination for anyone visiting the country.

The waterfall, which is known in English as the “Golden Waterfall” has well-developed walking paths and allows for visitors to get very, very close - and of course, entry is free of charge!

Click here for more about Gullfoss.

Once you’ve visited the three most important of the Golden Circle’s destinations, depending on how much time you have, you’ll likely be able to visit a few more of the destinations along the route back home.

One location which I highly recommend is the relatively unpopular Faxifoss Waterfall.

The waterfall, which shares the same water source as Gullfoss is a beautiful set of falls where you are able to walk right up to the shore or to the top of the falls.

Click here for more about Faxifoss.

Skálholt Cathedral

Quite a few people will stop in the historic significant area of Skálholt to check out the Skálholt Cathedral and some of the archaeological sites nearby.

For eight centuries Skálholt was one of the most important political and religious areas in the country. 

The current cathedral is only a few decades old, but is built in Icelandic style and visitors are welcome to go inside to check it out.

A visit to the church is a nice break from enjoying all of the waterfalls and natural landscapes that you will have already seen during your tour.  

One of the final stops along the Golden Circle route before reaching the town of Selfoss is Crater Kerið.

The giant volcanic crater was formed by a huge volcanic explosion that forced the volcano to collapse.

Visitors are able to walk around the edge of the 55 meter deep and 170 meter wide crater’s edge before eventually descending down to water-level to check out the pristine water of the crater lake.

Click here for more about Crater Kerið

Getting around the Golden Circle

If you’re travelling through Iceland, the best thing you could do is rent a car in advance and pick it up directly at the airport.

Renting a car is your cheapest option for transportation as buses and taxi’s will end up costing considerably more than driving a car would.

If you are adamant that you don’t want to drive a car, there are a variety of options to get you around the Golden Circle. You could arrange to hire a cab in Reykjavik that will transport you along the route. This will end up being quite expensive, but if you are travelling in a group or can find others willing to travel with you, you can save some cash.

The better option would be to sign up for one of the hundreds of tour options from one of the many tour groups in the capital. Reykjavik Excursions for example has quite a few options for tours along the Golden Circle. Prices there tend to vary between $60-100USD, which seem quite reasonable.

You may also want to consider Gray Line Tours, Arctic Adventures, Reykjavik Sightseeing or check out the Guide to Iceland website which has a lot of information about booking tours.

Tips for Travelling the Golden Circle

Are you driving? Driving yourself is probably the best way to get around the Golden Circle. There are a few things you’ll want to take into consideration before your trip though:  

  • Are you visiting during Summer? The roads are well-maintained and are easy to travel.

  • Are you visiting during Winter? If so, don’t rent the smallest car possible. You’re going to need a 4x4 to ensure your safety.

  • Don’t be fooled by the wide open roads. Speeding is going to cost you and there are speed traps all over the route.

  • There are roundabouts all over the country which are excellent ways to keep people from speeding especially when entering a town. If you are coming up to a roundabout, be sure to reduce your speed as much as possible. There are often speed traps nearby and if you get caught you won’t be happy with the results!

  • Make sure to have a GPS in your car or have Google Maps available on your phone so that you don’t get lost or randomly pass by one of your destinations. Oxrarfoss for example doesn’t have a lot of signage pointing in its direction. You could pass by without even noticing!

  • There are only a few gas stations along the route, so you’re going to want to make sure that you leave with a full tank of gas.

You’ll want to take into consideration the direction you’re going to start in - For example, if getting to Gullfoss early in the morning (when its least busy) is your top priority, you may want to start the route from the south. If you prefer a more leisurely drive, you’ll probably want to head directly to Þingvellir National Park.

There aren’t very many places to eat along the route, so it’d be a good idea to pack a lunch with snacks and beverages for the day. The few restaurants along the way are quite expensive. 

 Stopping along the side of the road to take photos of the beautiful scenery - and of course and Icelandic horses - is recommended but be sure to park somewhere safe that won’t impede traffic. There are many public car stops and camp grounds along the way for you to use!  

Save for an entrance fee at Crater Kerið (400ISK/pax) you won’t have to pay entrance or parking fees at any of the other stops along the way - Unless of course you decide to visit one of the hot spring resorts.

Traveling the Golden Circle is a very economic way to see some of the best scenery Iceland has to offer! 

Have some extra time? Why not turn the daytrip into a several day trip? To make the most of the Golden Circle, you could easily spend the night in one of the cabins or campsites along the way. Spending the night allows you to see and do more and in the summer allows you much more time to explore!  

There are several online guides on the web dedicated to helping people make the best of their Icelandic holiday. If you are looking for more help with tours, accomodations and food options for your trip, be sure to check out some of these excellent resources:  

  1. Guide to Iceland - How to Drive the Golden Circle

  2. Extreme Iceland - A Complete Guide to the Golden Circle

  3. Expert Vagabong - Ultimate Guide to Driving Iceland’s Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a landscape lovers paradise - There is so much to see and do while visiting small patch of heaven. Most people have a wonderful day trip while visiting the area but others spend several days enjoying the beauty of the natural landscape. Whatever you choose to do, you’re sure to have a great time! 

2018 in Review

It has become a bit of habit of mine that when I write one of these ‘Year in Review’ posts that I make an effort to look back at what I wrote in previous years. Reading through my post last year made 2017 seem like it was actually quite terrible, and maybe it was - The weird thing is though, I can’t even remember anything that happened in 2017 - And I’m pretty sure 2018 is the blame for that!

Like most people around the world, I’ve unfortunately been sucked into the the real-life soap opera taking place in Washington, D.C.

Similar to what happens on reality television, the audience has eagerly anticipated the next cliff hanger, the next shocking discovery and for the next person getting voted off the island.

And even though this real-life television show should scare us, most seem to enjoy the drama.

Here in Taiwan, we weren’t exactly shielded from the kind of drama happening in the US as the year was full of preparation for an election, referendums, interference from China and the spread of fake news.

A lot was at stake for Taiwan’s democracy in the November’s election - Every city and municipality elected or re-elected mayors and councillors in addition to referendums on such things as food imports from Japan, Olympic name changes and marriage equality.

Earlier in 2017 Taiwan’s Supreme Court ruled that excluding same-sex couples from marriage was unconstitutional and gave the government a year to introduction legislation on the matter. The government however did nothing and religious groups and pro-same sex marriage groups decided instead to take the vote to the people in the form of a referendum.

Iceland’s Dettifoss

The referendum unfortunately brought out the ‘best’ and the ‘worst’ in society and unfortunately the latter won the day with a majority of people voting against redefining the definition of marriage.

In the weeks and days leading up to the election terribly ignorant things were reported in the media and online that permeated almost every aspect of daily life.

Most of what was said was the kind of thing you would have heard half a century ago - Yet it was being repeated in Taiwan in 2018 and was enough to sway public opinion that opened up a massive divide in the populace.

It’s often thought that Taiwan is one of the most progressive countries in Asia but 2018 certainly gave the world a reality check on that one.

It goes without saying that Taiwan is full of awesome people - Its just unfortunate that the referendums ended up bringing out such extreme divisions in the country which in turn gave the nation a bit of a black eye on the international stage.

But hey, not everything that happened in 2018 sucked. Lots of great things happened and there is a lot to look forward to as the world fights back against all the negativity of the past few years!

Taipei City at night.

Personally my year was a busy one with lots of travel, lots of work and unfortunately a bit of downtime.

On the very first day of the year I boarded a flight from Taiwan to France, then to Ireland, England and Italy spending an amazing month in Europe.

Arriving back in Taiwan just in time for the Lunar New Year holidays I spent most of my time travelling around the country and enjoying some of the cool cultural stuff going on.

Then in June I hopped on a flight from Taiwan to London, then to Iceland, Scotland and back to England for another month of travelling and photography!

When I arrived back to Taiwan this time I had thousands of photos from my trips as well as two different magazine assignments to work on but my computer decided instead to die on me.

I was faced with the question of repairing it or just getting a new one but I figured I’d wait until the Apple Event at the end of October to make a decision on getting a new one. Unfortunately Apple didn’t release new iMac’s, so I took my giant iMac into town and got it repaired so I could get back to work.

The Quiraing on Scotland’s Isle of Skye.

In the two months that I didn’t have a computer, I mostly spent my time working out, hiking, taking photos, writing blogs, reading and hanging out with friends.

I thought I’d go crazy without having my computer around but to tell the truth it was a bit refreshing to be able to come home and not have anything to do but read books, listen to music and play with my dog.

Unplugging once in a while I found isn’t such a bad thing.

One thing I noted in my 2017 review was that my usage of social media was declining and that is something that I definitely kept up in 2018 - Decreased time on social media meant that I wasted less time engaging with people who just want to argue for the sake of arguing. It also meant that I could focus more on work and positive aspects of life.

You’d be surprised how liberating is to open up Facebook to a curated feed of posts from exceptional people promoting positivity and doing good for the world!

Anyway, enough of that.

 As we’re already a few days into the new year I will continue what I normally do posting blogs on a weekly basis and sharing photos through my social media.

I have some personal projects planned for this year and will continue sharing a mixture of posts from Taiwan as well as Europe - and of course any of the trips I take this year.

I’m also planning to do a redesign of the site over the Lunar New Year to try to get the load times to be a bit more agreeable for viewers as well as adding more non-blog related content!    

Favourite Photos

I ended up taking far more photos this year than I usually do, so it wasn’t easy to choose a few to share here. The photos I’ve decided to share below may not be the ‘best’ photos I took in 2018, but they happen to be some of my personal favourites.

1.  Trevi Fountain in the Rain

Trevi Fountain in the heart of Rome is one of the most beautiful fountains in the world and is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture and design. Luckily during my stay in Rome I got to walk past it a few times during the day and night and was able to get some beautiful photos of it without a billion tourists in the frame. This photo was taken on my first night in Rome when there was a light rain.

2. The Roman Colosseum After Dark

The Colosseum - What can you say? Of all the places in the world that one could visit, the Roman Colosseum is likely to be at the top of every travellers bucket list - and for good reason. Its a testament to human engineering and the power of the historic Roman Empire. A visit to the Colosseum is a humbling experience and is also one that creates lifelong memories for those lucky enough to visit. I have lots of photos of the interior and exterior of the building but this photo taken at night as I was passing by was one of my favourites thanks to the beautiful colour of the light.

3. Trinity College Library

During my short visit to Dublin, my lovely girlfriend presented me with a choice - A tour of the historic Guinness Brewery or a visit to the Trinity College Library to view the Book of Kells and the library. I can’t say that it was an easy decision to make, but it was one that I will never regret. My visit to the Trinity College Library was a great experience and if you are in Dublin, is one of those things that you absolutely must do.

4. Iceland’s Reynisfjara Beach

Reynisfjara Beach, otherwise known as Iceland’s ‘Black Sand Beach’ is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. The beach is picturesque and is steeped in Icelandic folklore and history. This photo was taken with a long-exposure late in the afternoon on a cloudy day with the tide coming in.

5. Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Iceland is a country of immense natural beauty, but nothing could have really prepared us for the sight of the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon which was jaw-dropping in its beauty. The frigid lagoon which is flanked by a giant glacier sits silently frozen in time with a beauty that is hard to compare to anything else I’ve ever seen. The icebergs reflect beautifully off of the still water making the lake extremely picturesque.

Top Instagram Posts of 2017


I usually forget about this stuff but around the last week of the year people on Instagram start posting their ‘best nine’ photo. This year I imagined my best nine photos would look great - Possibly some photos from Iceland, maybe the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain - You know, nice photos of international locations.

When I typed my user name into the website to generate the photo though I almost spit out my tea all over the computer screen.

Pretty much all of the photos were of Taipei 101!

I was unimpressed to say the least.

Top Five Blogs

With the help of Google Analytics I’ve tracked the five most popular blog posts that I posted in 2018. Tracking posts this way helps me to understand what kind of blogs my audience prefers and helps me to plan what I’m going to focus on in the future - This year it seems like people most appreciated the outdoors!

1. Sacred Mother Trail (聖母山莊)

The “Sacred Mother Trail” is a popular hiking trail on Taiwan’s East Coast which became even more popular in 2018 thanks to Instagram. The hiking trail is famous for its beautiful rolling hills covered in grass and its views of the east coast from the top.

2. Stegosaurus Ridge (劍龍嶺)

Stegosaurus Ridge is somewhat of a dangerous hike on the North East Coast of Taiwan near Teapot Mountain (茶壺山). The hike gets its name from the ridge that you climb up that looks like the back of a stegosaurus.

Like the post above, the hike became popular thanks to Instagram but is also one where unprepared hikers may experience quite a bit of difficulty.

3. Thousand-Island Lake (千島湖)

Taipei’s ‘Thousand-Island Lake’ is a picturesque environment that was formed when the Feicui Reservoir (翡翠水庫) was constructed a few decades ago. The area which was once extremely home to valuable tea plantations was flooded which in turn made the mountains in the area look like ‘thousands’ of small islands rising up out of the river.

4. Beitou Thermal Valley (北投地熱谷)

Beitou District in New Taipei City has been famous for its hot spring resorts since the days of the Japanese Colonial Era. The area is highly regarded for its geothermal springs and at the Beitou Thermal Valley you can see the hot springs up close and personal.

You won’t want to go for a swim though as you’ll be burnt to death in the extremely hot water!

5. Taipei Railway Workshop (台北機廠)

My final post of 2018 turned out to be a popular one as it is a location that has generated quite a bit of interest in the past few months. The former Taipei Railway Workshop is now open to the public on a limited basis for tours and I was lucky enough to be invited to go to get some photos. Taking into consideration that there isn’t a lot of information available about the workshop in English (apart from this great article by fellow blogger Tom Rook), it was shared quite a bit by people on Facebook and elsewhere.

Special Mention: Khao Luang Caves

One of the most uplifting stories of human survival, bravery and ingenuity in 2018 came from the ordeal of a team of young soccer players in Thailand who were trapped in a flooded cave. The entire world watched and hoped for the news that the boys and their coach would be saved.

Thankfully there was a happy ending - No thanks to Elon Musk.

The weird thing however is that the whole ordeal generated hundreds of thousands of hits to my blog.

I don’t necessarily mind the traffic but the cave that I blogged about was named “Tham Khao Luang Cave” while the cave where the boys were trapped was “Tham Luang Cave.”

Someone in the media linked to my blog post about the cave (as my blog post is one of the few available in English) and it got shared all over the place.

The cave I blogged about though was south of Bangkok while the cave where the boys were trapped was in the northern area of the country near Chiang-Mai.

I suppose you could say my website fell victim to #FakeNews - or possibly just lazy reporting.

As always, I hope that despite all the weird stuff that happened this year that you had a great year and I sincerely hope that this new one is a better one for all of us.

Happy New Year everyone!