Geysir © Visit South Iceland, www.south.is
The most touted tour in all Iceland is the ‘golden circle’, a well-trodden path from Reykjavik to the highlights of south Iceland, namely Thingvellir, the waterfall at Gullfoss, and the geysers of Geysir. The tour was likely invented around the same time as the motor car showed up in Iceland – it seems the perfect group of attractions to squeeze into a single day’s drive and make it back to the capital in time for dinner. If you’re on your own and without plans, it is quite simple to just show up at the bus station (BSI) in Reykjavik on any given morning and join one of the independent bus tours. Otherwise, tours can be arranged online or through your hotel or travel agent. Most organised packages offer transportation and guides and cost anywhere from US$75 to US$150 (depending on what’s being offered). The journey lasts from five to nine hours, half of which is driving time. With so many tour operators competing for the same tour, variations are frequent. Common add-ons include places like Skalholt or Hveragerdi, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is the number-one day trip outside Reykjavik and that everybody’s doing the same thing. While the golden circle is definitely a great introduction to Iceland’s natural wonders, it pays to question tradition. Driving the circle yourself allows you to break away from the crowds and buses and add your own variations (like Laugarvatn, Fludir, or anywhere else in the countryside). Plus two can do it on their own for less than going with an organised tour. There are plenty of different routes to choose. From Thingvellir, I suggest taking the unpaved overland Route 365 to Laugarvatn, or else drive the tour in reverse (take Route 1 past Selfoss, then turn off and follow Route 30 to Gullfoss, and track back on Route 35 via Geysir to Thingvellir).