Thingvellir National Park — Anyone doing the Golden Circle tour is bound to end up here. It’s a beautiful national park only a short drive from Reykjavik, where the American and European continental plates meet. <– Check out that Thingvellir!
One of Iceland’s main attractions is Geysir – an awesome natural phenomenon, which erupts on a regular basis. You’ll see the steam coming off the ground before you reach the Geysir — and the surrounding area has a surreal landscape. Definitely check it out!
Gullfoss Waterfall — Another gem on the Golden Circle is the Gullfoss Waterfall, situated in a gorgeous canyon. It is especially dramatic in the winter! The below photos don’t do it justice — go see if for yourself!
Langhus Farm – Tolting on the beach! We booked a day ride with Icelandic ponies through the dramatic landscape until we reached the black volcanic beach. I think this technically makes us riding along the Arctic Ocean — it was a desolate and beautiful experience! The owners of the farm were super friendly and the lessons were first rate! The ponies have their own gate, tolting, which is a unique experience. There are several great places to book horse rides in Iceland– but I really suggest going for Langhus — it’s an incredible experience at the right price point.
Departing Langhus Farms in the evening, we drove to Akureyri, the capital of the north. The drive along the way was spectacular — weaving along rugged mountainsides on the sea, with ships sailing into various port towns with lights twinkling on the water. We drive thorough some pretty narrow, long tunnels, which just underscored the dramatic nature of the landscape in this region.
Akureyri is a great place to stage further travel and grab some delicious local food. We ate at Bautinn restaurant, a cozy spot downtown that offered a ‘Taste of Akureyri’ (whale, Guillemot sea bird, local sausage, pulled lamb, and Bacalao) — along with normal stuff like burgers, salmon, and lobster bisque. We stayed at the Kea Hotel, which required a labyrinthine hike up and down floors to get to our hotel room. Once there, the room was comfy, but had a somewhat unsettling massive photo of a lady staring at you while you sleep…
The next day we took an excursion out to Godafoss falls, an hour or so further east of Akureyri. They’re quite beautiful, but I found them to be more crowded than expected — but still worth a visit.
Pro tip: Watch out for police / speed cameras in this area (and in other touristy areas of Iceland). Perhaps for safety reasons, or perhaps because tourist dollars represent a main source of income, speed limits are rigidly enforced– and tickets are absurdly expensive. I got hit for $300 dollars for going 8 mph over the speed limit on an expansive, empty highway outside the Godafoss waterfalls.
Tickets aside, northern Iceland is gorgeous, and you’ll have to keep stopping your car every few minutes to snap photos of something. Enjoy!!