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Tuesday, August 2 update: Our Golden Circle tour with kids

Today we decided to test out our Golden Circle Itinerary. We’ve been to all of these places before, but this was the day to see how the touring plan would work in practice! We covered a lot, so let’s get started.

1. Raufarholshellir lava cave

1 Raufarholshellir lava cave

If you’re going to explore most lava caves, we recommend you go with a guide. (See our lava cave tour.) But, as long as you are extremely careful, you can explore the first part of Raufarholshellir on your own. There are some openings in the ceiling of the cave past the entrance, which let in enough light to let you walk through the first 50 meters or so. But be very careful– it’s very easy to twist an ankle or hit your head. For more pictures, see our first visit to Raufarholshellir here.

2. Hveragerði earthquake museum

2 Hvergardi earthquake museum

Let’s call this the most skippable stop on today’s journey. But it’s free, and it’s in a shopping mall with a Bonus grocery store, if you need some food for lunch or snacks. An earthquake of magnitude 6.3 struck Hveragerði in 2008, and this small museum tells that story.

Later today, we’ll get to Þingvellir National Park, which is famous for being on the border between two continental plates. But this fault line runs up and down most of the country; apparently, it also splits this shopping mall:

2 Hvergardi earthquake museum fault

You also have the option to pay 300 krona per person to try out their earthquake simulator. You go inside a house thing, and someone turns on the shaking for maybe 10 seconds. It’s not much fun, and I doubt the violent shaking back and forth is really what an earthquake feels like.

2 Hvergardi earthquake simulator

 

2 1/2. We didn’t stop here today, but you will pass right by Fákasel, The Icelandic Horse Park, next. If the timing works out, you could check out their enjoyable horse shows. But the earliest show is at 1:00, which may not work if you’re heading the same direction (counterclockwise, starting in the south) as we were.

fakasel afternoon show

Picture from our visit in May

Here is our full review of Fakasel.

3. Snacks at Þrastalundur.

3 Þrastalundur bread cheese 5 dollars

I don’t always mention everywhere we stop for food. But you’ll be passing right by here; it’s a restaurant and mini market. We bought a long baguette and a package of sliced cheese for a total of around $5. An excellent deal. Watch out for it on your left; it’s tough to see until you’re almost past it.

4. Ljósafoss Power Station Visitor’s Center.

4 Ljósafoss Power Station empty

You can make your first stop of the day at another power plant museum– Hellisheiði Power Plant. But it’s not free, and we don’t like it as much as Ljósafoss. You are going about 20 minutes out of your way (roundtrip) to get to this one, though.

Ljósafoss is free, and they also give you free hot chocolate, coffee, and / or orange juice.

4 Ljósafoss Power Station drinks

This is a hydropower station, not geothermal. So it’s right on a river, and you can see some of the original equipment, still running since it was installed in 1934.

(If you’re having trouble finding this on Google Maps or another mapping program, the GPS coordinates are: 64.094309, -21.004797.)

5. Kerið Crater

5 kerid crater

The landowners recently started charging 400 krona for adults (13+) visiting the crater. That’s a little frustrating since it was free until recently, but it’s a stunning place to see. You can hike around the top of the crater, or the bottom around the lake, or both.

6. A random little farm stand outside of someone’s house.

6 cute farm stand

Okay, you won’t find this on anyone else’s Golden Circle tour. And you won’t find it at all, unless you use these GPS coordinates. It’s under 5 minutes from our next stop, and a decent sized loaf of homemade banana bread will only cost you 400 krona, or just over $3.

6 1/2. Engi. Engi is a farm stand that also offers a fun hedge maze and a barefoot garden. But it’s only open on weekends, so we had to skip it today. You’ll pass it on your way to the little farmstand.

Picture from our visit in June

Picture from our visit in June

7. Slakki, the petting zoo.

7 slakki empty

It was raining when we got to Slakki; you may want to skip it if the weather isn’t nice. Our last visit, when it was sunny, was more enjoyable. A lot of the animals were hanging out in their houses today, to stay dry. On the right, though, you have the kitten house, where up to 6 people at a time can go and hang out with the kittens. And there are indoor areas, offering miniature golf, and lots of other animals to see:

7 slakki rabbits chickens

Yes, that’s a chicken hanging out with the rabbits!

See more in our last visit to Slakki.

8. Friðheimar- the tomato greenhouse

8 fridheimar

You’d better like tomatoes if you stop here– everything on the menu has them as an ingredient. Even the ice cream. The unlimited tomato soup with bread and butter is a good deal for kids, if they like the soup. See more in our previous Friðheimar visit.

9. Faxi waterfall

9 faxi

This is a nice stop that is just a minute off of the main road on the way to Geysir. I really like the waterfall (which translates to “horse’s mane”), as well as the fish ladder next to it:

9 faxi fish ladder

Faxi is tough to find– you need to turn when you see this sign for the small cafe next to the waterfall:

9 faxi sign

10. Geysir geothermal area

10 geysir geothermal

If you’ve read this far, you may be wondering when we would actually get to the Golden Circle. There are three primary Golden Circle attractions; up until this point in the day, we have seen zero of them. You could drive in the other direction and see them first, but this way you save the best for last.

Above you can see the cool geothermal landscape of Geysir, but the main attraction is Strokkur, the geysir that erupts in a spectacular fashion every 4-10 minutes. Stay to watch a few; each one is different.

10 strokkur 1 10 strokkur 2

Across the street from the geothermal area, you have a lot of food choices. There are three restaurants in the visitor’s center, an you can also opt for the very fancy restaurant in Hotel Geysir. Here are the menus for the 3 restaurants:

10 strokkur big restaurant 10 strokkur kantina drykur 10 strokkur supa

11. Gullfoss waterfall

11 gullfoss

If you park at the visitor’s center, you’ll need to walk down a long flight of stairs (down a hillside) to get to the falls. If you don’t need food or bathrooms, ignore this sign:

11 gullfoss sign

And take the road to the right when it tells you to go left. You’ll get to the small lower parking lot that is much closer to Gullfoss.

12. Þingvellir National Park

Once again, I recommend not parking by the Visitor’s Center, which is on top of the cliff. Instead, park in parking lot P5. Here’s a map of the parking options. From here, you can walk up the path to the Visitor’s Center, but you are also closer to what I think are the two best attractions in the park.

First, Þingvellir is famous for the Alþingi, the national parliament of Iceland. Alþingi met here for something like 800 years; the laws of the land were recited at the Law Rock. Here’s the assumed position of the Law Rock:

12 thingvellir law rock

There’s an information board or two on the platform, and the kids had fun pretending to recite laws out over the vista. It’s easy to imagine thousands of people gathering to listen:

12 thingvellir law rock vista

The other thing to see is the continental divide. You’re pretty much looking at it right now– remember, you can see it in a shopping mall too. But the most famous spot to see the continental divide in Þingvellir (and probably in Iceland) is Silfra, where you can snorkel or scuba dive in the rift between the continents.

12 thingvellir silfra

This area may be crowded with divers during the day, but our evening visit was peaceful. Go ahead and take a drink of the water!

We skipped the waterfall Öxarárfoss; you can hike to it from above or below. We were content to just see it from a distance and head back to Reykjavik.

12 thingvellir oxarafoss

 

You probably shouldn’t do everything we did in one day. We had already been to almost all of these places, and so we spent less time at some of them. But if you pick and choose from the attractions here, and don’t skip the last 3, we think you and your kids will have a great day touring the Golden Circle.


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Tuesday, August 2 update: Our Golden Circle tour with kids was last modified: November 29th, 2016 by Eric