Planning your first trip to Iceland can be daunting. When you think of Iceland, your mind immediately goes to the Northern Lights, the Blue Lagoon, and, of course, ice. But the options for day trips from Reykjavik are plentiful. So you book your super cheap WOW Air flight and think “Hell yeah! I’m going to the Blue Lagoon and see the Aurora Borealis”, because you suddenly become a pretentious traveler the moment that flight is booked. But then you actually start to do research and you realize there’s a lot more to Iceland than the cliché tourist spots. There’s glacier hikes, waterfall hikes, scuba diving and snorkeling (yes, really!), dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice cave exploring, horseback riding, and the list goes on and on.
Since we only had a few days in Reykjavik, we decided to do the Golden Circle tour with a stop at geothermal baths. It was totally a last minute decision after another activity fell through, but let me tell you, it was definitely a blessing in disguise. This was by far my favorite part of my first trip to Iceland.
Golden Circle Day Tour
First we visited a fissure in a natural park, the famous, or maybe infamous, Geysir, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the Fontana geothermal baths. The fissure was a surprise stop because, quite frankly, none of us paid enough attention to the booking.
It was in Þingvellir National Park and had a beautiful rocky landscape and little waterfalls flowing through it.
The second stop was at the Geysir and was definitely the most touristy part of the tour. This is where we stopped for a lunch of chicken nuggets and french fries, but not before getting videos of one of the geysers erupting. As we pulled into the parking lot, our tour guide told us the first geyser erupts about every 5-10 minutes, so we went straight to it. Everyone waited with bated breath for about seven minutes, until a mini eruption happened.
At that moment, all of the tourists jumped into action: cheering, clapping, gasping, trying to get their cameras to work, and then beginning to walk away as another, much larger, eruption happened. It was quite the scene.
We watched Strokkur erupt a few more times before walking further up the hill to “The Great Geysir”….where we waited for about 30 minutes before realizing this geyser is dormant. A little tip – actually listen to your tour guide before getting off the bus. Though I will say, there was a huge crowd of tourists all around the Great Geysir, so we didn’t want to miss out!
We then went to the Gullfoss waterfall next, which was even more breathtaking than any photo you will ever see. By the time we got there, it was pouring down rain, starting to hail, and the wind was blowing so hard you almost couldn’t even walk. Despite the horrible weather conditions, it was absolutely gorgeous. To see the rushing, ice blue water below and the thick wall of ice on the other side, it was completely serene.
I would love to come back here, not for a chance of better weather, but just because it was so beautiful.
The final stop was at the Fontana Geothermal Baths, which featured a taste of rye bread (lol). We hopped off the bus and was shown how they use the heat of the baths to dig a hole in the ground and cook the bread underneath the earth. It was really fascinating to hear how the locals use the natural heat to heat their water, their homes, and even cook their food!
Other than the bread, which we are always up for, we were so most excited for the baths.
There were four different baths, all at different temperatures. The most amazing part was that these baths were right on the edge of a lake with icy mountains in the background. Talk about picturesque. I’m happy to report that all of us took the plunge, literally, and dipped into the freezing cold lake (not once, but twice – because the gopro wasn’t recording the first time) before hopping into the baths. We spent a luxurious afternoon soaking in the geothermal warmth and nutrients before heading back the Reykjavik.
Other than the obvious focal points of the tour, I also really loved our tour guide. We did the tour through Reykjavik Excursions, and it was so worth it. There was about an hour between each of these stops, so the tour guide is an important part of your day. Our guide was attentive and so informative. He told us about Icelandic history and the scenery we were passing on our way to the next location. It was one of those tours where every moment was worthwhile. If you’re next stop is in Reykjavik, you need to check this tour out!