GEYSERS, GOLDEN FALLS & A RIFT IN THE EARTH
Today, you’ll be visiting the three striking sights that make up the much-touted GOLDEN CIRCLE. Their close proximity to each other (and to Reykjavík) means that, in summer at least, you’ll be sharing them with plenty of other tourists, but that’s unlikely to detract too much from the experience.
From the South Coast, carry on following the Ring Road back towards Reykjavík before heading north to Flúðir on Route 30. From there, pick up Route 359 and then Route 35 (around 125km in total) to the first stop: GEYSIR, an alien landscape of steaming vents and spewing hot springs. Amongst all the bubbling hot pools and mud pots, Geysir itself (after which all geysers are named) is actually a little disappointing, only erupting very occasionally. STROKKUR, on the other hand, is reliably fantastic, exploding in a 30m fountain of whooshing water every few minutes to a chorus of “ooh”s and “aah”s from the ring of expectant onlookers.
Just ten minutes further east, GULLFOSS (Golden Falls) is worth the short journey even if your kids have had their fill of waterfalls by now. The Hvítá drops in two stages down a wide canyon, the spray from the falls covering anyone who ventures out onto the rocky promontory that overlooks the river.
From Gullfoss, you’ll need to backtrack west, heading past the small spa town of Laugarvatn and then, on Route 36, through the overgrown lava fields that mark Þingvellir National Park. Ignore the first (yellow and black) sign on your left to Þingvellir, and instead take the second turning (marked with a white and red sign). ÞINGVELLIR (pronounced “Thingvellir”) is the most important historical site in Iceland – tribal leaders established the country’s first parliament on this spot in 930 AD and Iceland’s independence from Denmark was declared here in 1944 – but it’s the dramatic setting that will grab your family’s attention. The North American and Eurasian continental plates are very noticeably ripping apart from each other at Þingvellir. Soak up the views of the widening rift from the visitor centre’s lookout, then descend into the ALMANNAGJÁ, a snaking canyon that marks the jagged edge of the North American plate, to the natural platform from which Iceland’s early laws were read out over a thousand years ago.
From Þingvellir, head a few kilometres back along Route 36 to pick up Route 52, by the Þingvellir National Park Tourist Information Centre; this connects with Route 50 and then Route 518 to HÚSAFELL, your location for the next two nights (around 110km, or 1 hour and 45 minutes’ drive, in total).
TOP TIP Unless you’re in a 4x4, don’t be tempted by the slightly shorter Route 550 (also known as the Kaldidalur), which leads directly north to Húsafell off Route 52, as most car-rental companies will forbid you from driving a 2WD on this road. Note, too, that Route 52 is closed in winter (generally from mid-October until May), when instead you’ll need to head west from Þingvellir to Route 48 and then Route 47, which skirts the eastern end of the Hvalfjörður before joining Route 520 and then Route 50 and Route 518 to Húsafell.
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From historic cottages to contemporary hotels on the edge of the Interior – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in Iceland
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of Iceland’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety and how to get around
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