My Iceland road trip – Reykjavík and the Golden Circle

In the middle of our road trip through Iceland we planned a two-night stop in Reykjavík with a day trip along the Golden Circle tourist route. This would allow to have the same accommodation over two nights – sparing ourselves the hassle of packing-unpacking every single day – as well as pick the best day, weather-wise, for the Golden Circle tour. In the end the weather in the Golden Circle area proved to be quite horrendous on both days, while in Reykjavík it was supposed to be bad on one day and okay on the other. So we just decided to make the most of the city on the okay day and take whatever came for the trip on the other.

Reykjavík Iceland
Street art in downtown Reykjavík

Around the streets of Reykjavík

I found Reykjavík to be really cute. I like the minimal feel that some nordic capitals have – Oslo and Helsinki in particular, as Stockholm and Copenhagen boast much more pompous architecture. Reykjavík gave me a lot of Oslo and Helsinki vibes. The streets in the centre are colourful, lined with small houses with a seaside feel, and the overall mood is relaxed, rarely crowded. The city looks like it’s expanding and fancier tall apartment buildings mark its waterfront. One gorgeous example of such architecture is the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre.

Reykjavík Iceland Harpa
Inside Harpa Concert Hall

A different kind of architecture is displayed by Reykjavík’s tallest church, Hallgrímskirkja. Its peculiar appearance makes it very similar to some natural rock formations found all over the island, like the basalt columns at Reynisfjara, in the South of the country. In front of the church stands the statue of Leif Erikson, the first European to set foot on North American soil.

Reykjavík Iceland Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja and the statue of Leif Erikson, discoverer of Vinland

The sky miraculously cleared up when we reached the waterfront and the other landmark Reykjavík is famous for: the Sun Voyager, the sculpture of a dream boat that looks just ready to sail away. Oh did I enjoy photographing it with my wide angle lens! To me this sculpture is something between a Viking longboat and a whale skeleton, although I know that it represents neither of those things. In my mind Vikings and whales are key features of Iceland, so I guess this is whow I made up this interpretation.

Reykjavík Iceland sun voyager
The Sun Voyager on the shore of Faxa Bay

Haukadalur, home of the geysers

On the day that we set off on our day trip following the Golden Circle route we did not have the same luck with the weather. In fact, due to the unstable weather we slimmed it to the thinnest, only stopping at the most notable landmarks. I had read that driving the Golden Circle can take up to 10 hours if stopping at every single location and taking proper time to take it all in. It took less for us, also counting that at some point we had to drive really slow through a snowstorm. That’s the beauty of Iceland in April. So our first stop was Haukadalur, the home of the geysers.

iceland golden circleWe saw the geyser Strokkur explode with all its bubbly might, although the strong wind often pushed the jet down, dimnishing its spectacular power. Other geysers and hot springs, including the famous Great Geysir, are dormant so we could only admire them as beautiful pools of blue in a sulphureous landscape.

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Gullfoss, a majestic waterfall

Then it was time to move on, and after having lunch in the car with a view on Strokkur we continued on to Gullfoss, Iceland’s most famous waterfall. If the wind had been a nightmare at the hot springs, once we reached the waterfall it got even worse. It was at this point that we found ourselves struggling to keep balance as the wind blew like crazy, some gusts reaching 150 Km/h. The wind carried along small hailstones, continously hitting our faces (and camera lenses, sigh). The inglorious combination of strong wind, cold and hail made it very challenging to properly enjoy the place – keep the eyes open, even! I guess that the quantity of ice and frost all around the waterfall can somehow give a clue of the cold.

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Þingvellir, where Europe meets America

Despite all this, the waterfall had a memorable roar which we enjoyed even keeping our eyes shut. At this point the weather deteriorated, but we still had one place to check out on the Golden Circle: Þingvellir. Þingvellir was proclaimed the first national park of Iceland and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural value. This is where the Icelandic parliament was established and held from 930 until 1789. Symbolically, when Iceland was proclaimed an independent Republic in 1944, the ceremony was held at Þingvellir.

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Öxarárfoss waterfall as it flows through the Almannagjá ridge

Þingvellir’s location is of geographical relevance, too, as it lays on the ridge where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet, thus making it a border between two continents. This was the quickest stop we made, snow had turned into pouring rain, and after admiring the ridge we ran back to the car, bound to Reykjavík again and dreaming of a hot meal.

27 Comments

    1. Eva April 28, 2017 at 19:10

      Thank you. It was a great adventure, indeed!

      Reply
  1. Pingback: My Iceland road trip - Snæfellsnes peninsula - Electric Blue Food

  2. Unta December 1, 2017 at 20:21

    Love this! Your photos are beautiful and location you visited stunning.

    Reply
    1. Eva December 1, 2017 at 22:52

      Thank you! Iceland has such landscapes as I’ve never seen before, I am so grateful I managed to visit and see such beauty with my own eyes!

      Reply
  3. Kate - Travel for Difference December 1, 2017 at 20:56

    I also drove around the ring road! From Reykjavik to Akureyri – It was such an incredible adventure! I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself XX

    Reply
    1. Eva December 1, 2017 at 22:51

      Iceland is so surreal, as a photographer I felt so spoiled. Everywhere we drove I was awestruck, everything is beautiful there!

      Reply
  4. Dany December 1, 2017 at 22:45

    Iceland has always been on my bucket list and this guide reminded me how much I’m missing! I’m saving this for later use, hopefully in 2018!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 1, 2017 at 22:49

      Please have a look at my other Iceland posts, too, as this one is the one that features the least spectacular pictures. I visited Iceland obsessed with the idea of seeing Jokulsarlon – and I loved it – and I came back even more obsessed with the Snæfellsnes peninsula. That country is full of majestic beauty and I really wish you to get to explore it soon because you’ll bring back memories of spectacularly unique landscapes.

      Reply
  5. Pascale December 2, 2017 at 06:43

    Iceland is trending right now, and if you read about your trip and look at your pictures, it is easy to see why. The experience must be overwhelming.

    Reply
    1. Eva December 2, 2017 at 09:41

      It really is, at the end of the day you have your eyes full of stunning landscapes and it takes some time to really believe what you’ve seen. It’s truly a beautiful island!

      Reply
  6. Zoe December 2, 2017 at 12:02

    Love reading blogs about Iceland, its high on my list to visit once I’ve saved up enough money for it!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 2, 2017 at 20:10

      Thanks, I hope you’ll save enough soon! My biggest tip is: bring food so you can save on that. It was the easiest part to cut from the budget!

      Reply
    1. Eva December 2, 2017 at 20:09

      Thank you! Iceland is really a place worth visiting, and Reykjavik is an unmissable stop!

      Reply
  7. Lily December 2, 2017 at 18:27

    I LOVEEEE Reyka and Iceland so much. It’s such an inspiring country filled with so much natural beauty. We just came back from Strasbourg’s Christmas markets, and Iceland was the “invited” country, and we were excited to have their famous hot dogs again! Did you get to try them in the city?

    Reply
    1. Eva December 2, 2017 at 19:40

      I actually didn’t! But I wasn’t too surprised, the rest of Northern Europe really rolls on hot dogs. I mean, I understand they’re pretty big in Iceland but I had the feeling that living in Sweden this was something I could miss. Whet I didn’t want to try but ended up sampling was the fermented shark! No other country in northern Europe has that 😀

      Reply
  8. Kylie N December 2, 2017 at 19:22

    The architecture in Iceland is CRAZY! The geysers are definitely worth a stop, so cool!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 2, 2017 at 19:38

      I found the architecture in Reykjavik really captivating, especially the more modern buildings!

      Reply
  9. Taylor Fuller December 3, 2017 at 02:46

    its so amazing to me that iceland has all of that natural beauty and a city that is so modern! I love it and I must go soon!

    Reply
    1. Eva December 3, 2017 at 19:20

      That’s really true, the city provides such an interesting contrast, yet still blending in so gracefully!

      Reply
  10. Madhu December 3, 2017 at 04:34

    Wow I am so fascinated by Iceland and the pictures that you have shared are simply amazing. I think I should plan Iceland trip soon

    Reply
    1. Eva December 3, 2017 at 19:21

      Iceland is really beautiful, in any weather circumstances!

      Reply
  11. Kristen Tcherneshoff December 3, 2017 at 09:03

    That geysir is just gorgeous! I never knew of the street art in Reykjavik, no one ever posts photos of that! Looks like you had an amazing trip.

    Reply
    1. Eva December 3, 2017 at 19:23

      It’s sad the colourful streets of Reykjavik are not so popular in pictures, but I can understand that after seeing the total beauty of the rest of the country, its capital city may seem the least exciting place for photos. It’s really not!

      Reply
  12. LovingLifeOnTheGo December 4, 2017 at 12:08

    Great post Eva. We toured the Golden Circle and southern Iceland in January and it was fabulous. I suggest to your readers they go for at least a week to ensure enough good weather. And northern Iceland is too treacherous in winter for the average traveller.

    Reply
    1. Eva December 4, 2017 at 12:27

      Well that’s what we did, too. I mean staying a week. I have a series of posts from that trip and you can see I was fortunate enough with a wide spectrum of weather conditions! 😀 Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

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