We chose to fly Iceland Air this summer because they offer a program that allows you to layover up to 7 days in Iceland without incurring an extra charge on the cost of your flight. We spent a weekend there on our way home and one day of that traveling Iceland's famed Golden Circle, taking in some of the country's most spectacular natural attractions. There are tour companies that offer guided bus tours of the Circle but we wanted to go at our own pace so we rented a car for the day.
The first stop is Pingvellir National Park, the site of Iceland's first Parliament dating to AD 930 and in continual use until 1798. It is also the point where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and are slowly pulling apart at a rate of 1 to 18mm per year, creating rifts and fissures in the landscape.
I had read several recommendations for Lindin, an adorable little restaurant right on the lake in Laugarvatn. The food was delicious and Jack enjoyed trying a reindeer burger. The highlight of the meal though was the house-baked bread which was served with fresh butter. I think we all could have happily made a meal out of this bread alone. We would have liked to try the geothermal pool next door at Fontana but were short on time and so put it on the list for next time.
The next site to see is the geothermic area at Haukadalur, which features the geyser Strokkur. The most famous geyser here, Geysir, which gave it's name to all geysers, is now dormant. Strokkur erupts every 4-10 minutes shooting hot water 100 feet into the air. As you explore the area, there are bubbling pots and steaming vents all across the terrain. Signs warn not to step in any puddles or flowing water as it may be scalding hot. There is also a large cafeteria and gift shop here, along with a small museum on the formation and history of the geysers.
The final stop for us before heading back to Reykjavik was the waterfall Gullfoss. It was my favorite of the three sights and was the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen. You could walk out closer but as we were with the kids we elected to stay back and enjoy the view from afar. There is a small gift shop and restaurant here and the organic lamb stew comes highly recommended. We were still full from lunch so we had to pass but it smelled delicious!
The whole trip took us about 8 hours and along the way there is beautiful scenery with lots of sheep and Icelandic horses. In the summer the sun doesn't set until 11:00 p.m. or later, so need to worry if you decide to linger and take your time.