Faxafoss Waterfall, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

After our exhilarating adventure in the lava tube cave,  we were again joined by our friends Paul and Carol for another day of Icelandic exploration. Less adventurous this time but just as astonishing is our Golden Circle experience. Golden Circle  is a 186-mile /300-km route dotted with amazing historical and natural sites that loops from Reykjavik to central Iceland and back.  It is considered Iceland’s most classic road trip and a sort of pilgrimage for every visitor in Iceland. 

We originally planned to do this road trip independently.  Although not a cheaper option, we later decided to sign up for a tour as we found the winter weather unpredictable and the driving condition very challenging.  And with very short winter days, we wanted to avoid the risk of getting lost and not waste precious daylight. Carol found a good company, Iceland Horizon, that caters to small group. We were satisfied with the trip – we were in a small van and not a big bus and had plenty of time to explore on our own in each stop,  and we didn’t get lost!


Faxafoss Waterfall, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

Our first stop was Faxafoss. It’s not a typical stop for the Golden Circle tour but was a bonus side trip for us.  We thought Faxafoss was a beautiful and grand waterfall, but in a country that boasts countless waterfalls this one is just considered a minor site. When we got to our next stop, we understood why. 

Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”)

Gullfoss Waterfall, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

A short drive from Faxafoss is the immense Gullfoss, Iceland’s most popular waterfall. Dramatically situated in a canyon of Hvita River, the sight, sound and size of this double tiered cascade is absolutely breathtaking.

Gullfoss Waterfall, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

The spectacular upper cascade of Gullfoss. 

Gullfoss Waterfall, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

Gullfoss as seen from the upper viewpoint.  See the people walking on the ridge on the upper left side to appreciate the immensity of this site. 

Can you imagine this wonder of nature being turned into a dam?

Gullfoss Waterfall, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

In the 1920’s a group of foreign investors wanted to dam the river and the fall for hydroelectric project. The landowner (Yes, Gullfoss was once owned by a farming family!) refused to sell to the investors but somehow got permission from the government to build the project.  In protest, the daughter of the owner walked barefoot to the parliament in Reykjavik and even threatened to jump into the waterfall.  

Fortunately, the investors were delinquent in paying the lease and that gave the government an excuse to cancel the agreement, thus, saving this great waterfall from destruction.  The family donated Gullfoss to the country in 1975 and has become a natural reserve.

The Icelandic Horses
The Golden Circle route is dotted with farmlands grazed by the beautiful and unique breed of Icelandic horses. Our driver asked if we wanted to stop and see the horses. But the horses were too far into the field to be seen. Our driver said, “Don’t worry they will come running to you.”

Horses of Iceland, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

And true enough, as soon as we we stood by the roadside the horses came running to us like excited children.  They were beautiful. 

Icelandic Horses, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

They love to pose! Most Icelandic horses have beautiful long mane. They are are short, more like ponies in size but are very stocky and hardy and are known for their speedy gaits. They are used in traditional farm work as well as racing and leisure rides. Horse meat dishes are  typical features in the restaurant menus in Iceland. 

Horses of Iceland, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

We learned that Icelandic horses are one of the oldest and purest  breed in the world. They were brought into Iceland by the Vikings in 9th century.  They descended from the race that is already extinct in other parts of Europe but still survive in Iceland without crossbreeding. Thanks to the very old law that strictly prohibit the import of other breeds of horses into Iceland and the return of Icelandic horses that left the country.

Haukadalur Geothermal Valley/ Geysir Area 

Blesi Hot Spring, Geyser Area, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

The geothermal valley of Haukadalur is home to pools of hot springs and the famous Great Geysir,  the giant hot water spout from which all the geysers in the world were named after. 

Gerysir, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

Sadly, the Great Geysir that used to gush water up to 80 m/260 ft into the air is no longer active.  It suddenly became dormant in 1916, showed some activities in the 1930’s and went to sleep again. 

Strokkur Geyser, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

However, just a few steps away from Great Geysir is the very active Strokkur (‘to churn”). To our delight, it spouted every 4 to 5 minutes during our visit. 

Strokkur Gesyser, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

Strokkur sometimes gushes very shyly, sometimes modestly and sometimes very mightily.  It can spout hot water up to about 130 ft/40 m into the air. 

Little Geysir, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

The Little Geysir.

Thingvellir National Park
Our last stop was Thingvellir (“Parliament Field”),   a place of raw and dramatic landscape resulting from the shifting of tectonic plates.  It is also the most historic site in Iceland; it was where the Vikings established Alping, the world’s first democratic parliament in AD 930.  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site,

Tectonic, Plate, Thingvellir National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

The park is an immense rift valley caused by the shifting of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. 

Thingvellir National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

Snaking throughout the rift valley is Oxara River,  a tributary of Pingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest lake where fresh water from the nearby glacier flows through. The Vikings set up their booths and shelters on both banks of the river during the parliament sessions. Small ruins of the booths can still be seen on the site.

Thingvellir National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

Standing in the middle of the valley is one of the oldest churches in Iceland consecrated in the 11th century.  Next to it s a five-gabled farmhouse built in 1930 to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of Alping. It is now the official summer residence of country’s prime minister. 

Thingvellir National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland


Thingvellir National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

Paul and Carol walking through Almannagjá fissure, the most dramatic feature of Thingvellir, 

Thingvellir National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

Almannagjá Rift is about 4.8 m/7.7 km long and marks the eastern boundary of North American plate.

Thingvellir National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

 View of the fissure and the valley from the highest point of Almannagjá Rift. 

Despite the gloomy winter weather,  the unique beauty of the Golden Circle still shone through. We wish to return and see its glory in the summer time. 


Travel Notes:
  • Our friend Carol booked this trip for our group through Iceland Horizon. As mentioned, the company caters to small group. We were a group of 10 transported in a four-wheel van.  We liked that we were not herded in each site as a group. Our driver gave us the information about each site while we were driving to the site and we explored the sites on our own.
  • If you would like to see photos of the Golden Circle during summer time and for DYI tips, check this post from my friend Mary of The World is a Book. 


Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google +.


Linking to Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Discovery Ken Weakley’s Sweet Shot Tuesday, Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday and The Tablescaper.

Related posts:

About Marisol & Keith

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

75 responses to “Iceland: The Fall/Winter Glory of the Golden Circle

  1. Mike

    Is it possible for something to have a gloomy (weather-wise) beauty to it, Marisol? Your pictures are amazing. Those horses are gorgeous and look so resilient to the weather of which they obviously are. The Golfuss has that amazing power yet for me I could also see tranquility, ya know? The Geysir reminded me to a ‘T’ of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming of which I’ve seen many times. Great post! :)
    Mike recently posted..My Top 10 Favorite Movie Theme Songs Part IIMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Mike, yes in Iceland it certainly possible. We had a gloomy weather the whole time we were there but its beauty still shone through. True, Gulfoss is powerful but it evokes serenity at the same time.

  2. Freya

    We did this same tour with a rental car beginning November and loved it. Iceland is so beautiful.
    You’re photos are really amazing, stunning !
    Happy New Year
    Freya recently posted..Looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014My Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Freya, it truly is so beautiful. We wished we had a better weather like you did during our visit so we could have driven by ourselves. But as it was, we had a great experience.

  3. Incredible landscape photography, Marisol! and interesting story about the saving of the waterfall.
    Love the photo of the place where Vikings established Alping.
    memographer recently posted..Vietnam War Military History MuseumMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Thanks Alex! Such a nice compliment coming from you.

      • Esta regra dos 25 anos aplica-se a um candidato que já é presidente (portanto, redaadicnta-se)?Pergunto isto porque, pelo menos neste momento, não há ilegitimidade no facto de ser presidente sem ter os 25 anos de sócio.De resto, se for verdade o que é referido no Eterno, não há espanto.Vieira é alguém que gere o Clube com pouca clareza, onde a transparência parece ser proibida.Tem o comportamento típico dos políticos: acha-se o maior e por isso, pode tudo. Inclusivamente não prestar esclarecimentos a quem o alimenta.

      • Coronê você é o máximo, essa imagem vale o meu sono tranquilo, e que podemos esperar que esse País ainda tem jeito, grande abraço a todos os Coturneiros.

      • Hej Ã…se mitt snabbmat tips är tonfiskröra , 1 burk tonfisk , 2 ägg, 1 halv lök, salt o peppar och majonäs Helst hemmagjord, blandas ihop och är jätte och man stÃ¥r sig länge pÃ¥ röran, ha det bra, mvh Carina

  4. What an amazing landscape. It would be interesting to see it in Summer and compare the two. I do like lots of photos here like the falls from above, but I do like all the different facets in the last photograph.
    budget jan recently posted..Fantastic Friday – Turkey – The little thingsMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Thanks Jan! I just added the link to Mary’s post so people can see how it is in summertime. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

      • Deena

        Got it! Thanks a lot again for henlpig me out!

      • Hi, i believe that i saw you visited my weblog so i came to “return the choose”.I’m trying to to find things to enhance my web site!I suppose its ok to use some of your concepts!!

  5. Briona

    What absolutely stunning photos! I particularly like the second Gullfoss one and the ones of the windblown horses.
    Briona recently posted..Postcards from… Mai ChâuMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Rajesh, it truly is a beautiful place.

    • Marisol

      Hi Maria, we went late November/early December. It was pretty gloomy pretty much the whole time we were there but it was still spectacular.

  6. I am constantly in awe at how picturesque Iceland is. It truly blows my mind! And your photos are just spectacular… I really felt like I was there with you (though, thankfully, much warmer!).
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Mosque Ado About NothingMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Lili, it truly is beautiful.

      • Cassie

        This is an informative and elegantly written iniucdrotton to a fascinating country. And the photos are stunning. Everyone who reads this website will aspire to visit Bhutan. I look forward to reading about your journey.

      • 19.10.2012 at 19:58 · As I web-site possessor I believe the content matter here is rattling great , appreciate it for your hard work. You should keep it up forever! Best of luck.

  7. ladyfi

    How magnificent and spectacular!

    • Marisol

      Thanks Molly. I hope you get to there someday.

  8. Ruth

    Iceland is amazing. What an adventure! How I would love to travel to these gorgeous places. Your photos are outstanding. Love them.
    Ruth recently posted..Monday Mellow Yellows ChihulyMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Oh thanks, Ruth. Iceland is really an amazing place and I hope with all my heart that you get to visit someday.

  9. Wow gorgeous photos! Iceland is probably one of the most photogenic countries I’ve seen on blogs, everyone has beautiful pictures even with the cloudiness and dreary sky. Love those horses, such a beauty!
    Samantha @mytanfeet recently posted..New Year’s Celebrations in Costa RicaMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Thank you, Sammi! Iceland is truly photogenic rain or shine.

  10. amazing shots from Iceland. I´ll be travelling there in may and looks forward ton it.

    • Marisol

      Thanks! Great to hear that you heading to Iceland soon! With a better in May, I’m sure you will enjoy it much more.

    • Kaylan

      With all these silly websstei, such a great page keeps my internet hope alive.

    • Wow. And you wonder why you’re called a racist….possibly simply because you might be. And a hypocrite and a Liar..basically everything you stupidly accuse Obama of getting.

  11. I’m so glad you had a great Golden Circle Tour despite the winter. Thank you for the link and shout-out! Everything is still gorgeous and stunning. It’s such a contrast with our summer visit. Your adopted sis will be so jealous that Ate Marisol got to see her favorite horses up close when I show her these photos. :) Those are some beautiful waterfall shots! Great job! Hope you’re both staying warm and indoors.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..Treasure Hunting at Victoria & Albert Museum LondonMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Mary, thanks! I know it such a big contrast to your photos but I think Iceland is stunning in all seasons. I hope my little sis will get to have an upclose and personal encouter with the horses when you return.

    • Marisol

      Hi Jan, those horses wold really steal your heart:)

    • Marisol

      Hi Jackie, thank you! I’m pleased you enjoyed the photos. Iceland seems to be photogenic in all season that it’s hard not to have good shots.

  12. I can’t believe the magnificence of Gullfoss and the scenery in Iceland…including those cute horses! It’s one country I can see I am going to have to add to my wish list! Your photos are very inspiring!
    jenny@atasteoftravel recently posted..Travel Inspirations for 2014My Profile

    • Marisol

      Thanks Jenny. Iceland is worth to be on everyone’s top list. Its nature is really magnificent and I don’t know anyone who didn’t fall in love with it.

  13. Marcia

    Beautiful photos, Marisol & Keith! I love, love, love waterfalls. They’re just so stunning!
    Great story of that family and the dam. It’s incredible to think the government wanted to go ahead. I’m glad those investors were delinquent. Not everything should be sold.
    Marcia recently posted..Thanks for the Spam!My Profile

    • Marisol

      Thanks Marcia! I agree. How can anyone even imagine ruining this great waterfall is beyond me.

  14. Leigh

    I have to say that I am a tad jealous – even if your weather wasn’t ideal. I have had Iceland in my sights for well over a decade and every time I see photos it calls me. I have seen it from the air but I sure look forward to following in your footsteps on the ground.
    Love the ponies and an interesting shot with the waterfall showing the scale with people.
    Leigh recently posted..A Visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home – Taliesin West in ScottsdaleMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Leigh, what are you waiting for? I hope you pack your backpack and head there soon. There so many beautiful hiking opportunities, especially in the summer, which I’m sure you will enjoy.

    • Marisol

      HI Noel, I’m so pleased you loved the images. Such a compliment coming from you. You’ll find an endless photo opportunities when you visit. It is indeed a photorapher’s paradise.

    • Marisol

      Thank you, Jo! Yes, those horses a scene stealers:)

  15. Wow! I had no idea that Iceland was such a beautiful place to visit. You have done a wonderful job showing us the
    beauty of this country.

    • Marisol

      Thank you, Susan. I’m glad we’re able to show you the beauty of Iceland.

    • Marisol

      Hi Agness, Mother Nature is so powerful indeed. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying our destinations. I hope you will enjoy the next one as well.

    • Marisol

      Hi Nancie, it really is so gorgeous that it’s hard to give justice to it. Yes, we’re also glad that Gulfoss has remained as it is.

  16. Excellent photos, the waterfalls are stunning, the horses are a beauty and the landscape and hot springs are spectacular.
    Rachel M recently posted..Blankets and Wine @ 50 part 2My Profile

  17. Bama

    This morning I read a rather disturbing news about a government plan to build dams and reverse the status of some natural reserves so they can build things on them. I can’t think of Iceland without those mighty waterfalls and geysers as you beautifully captured in your photos.

  18. hi! , I enjoy a person’s producing and so a lot! portion many of us connect much more somewhere around your article for AOL? I personally require a expert in this particular space for you to solve this difficulty. Probably which is you! Looking ahead to look at you.

  19. I am sure this piece of writing has touched all the
    internet visitors, its really really nice piece of writing on building up new weblog.
    Latosha recently posted..LatoshaMy Profile

    • Corinne, we were not encouraged to feed the horses.

  20. ニース読み取ります。その上でいくつかの研究を| 実行やっ私はちょうどしたバディにこれを渡されました。 特定さ見つかりましたそれは彼のために、私は以来、彼はちょうど私に昼食を買いました!したがって、私は言い換えてみましょう:ありがとう昼食のために!

  21. は私がそんなに理解した上で物事を読みたいと正確に理由を実現する機会を与えてくれます。それは本当に、その周りの素晴らしい作者は知識豊富な情報にウィットを置くまだそこにいることを知っているのは素晴らしいです。私はあなたの貢献と私たちとあなたの考えを共有するための意欲のためにあなたに感謝しています。

    • Sonny

      Great – I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your web site. I had no trouble navigating through all tabs as well as related information ended up being truly easy to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Reasonably unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, website theme . a tones way for your customer to coumtnicame. Nice task.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge