Iceland – The Golden Triangle

Iceland – The Golden Triangle

The ‘Golden circuit’, a triptych of Icelandic highlights in the Selfoss region that are on most travellers’ radar, and I can certainly confirm that it is a well-visited series of attractions for a very good reason.

Gullfoss is arguably Iceland’s best known waterfall, and certainly its most visited. Literally translating as ‘Golden Waterfall’, it’s a two-tiered fall that, when we visited, had a layer of ice perched upon the dramatic banks that alternated between grassy paths and parched, volcanic cliff faces. The twisting ribbons of water throw up plumes of dramatic spray, all witnessed from the two viewing points above.

It’s such an iconic sight today that it comes as a huge surprise that Gullfoss was threatened as recently as the early 20th century, when plans were made to use it to generate electricity. The story goes that the daughter of one of the waterfall’s then owners was so determined to preserve it that she threatened to throw herself in to it; she also, apparently, walked barefoot(!) all the way to Reykjavik to appeal against the motion. Whether this story is true or not, common sense thankfully prevailed, and the waterfall is now the property of the Icelandic people, ensuring it is a sight for all to enjoy for, hopefully, generations to come.

Next is the equally iconic Geysir, the geyser from which all others derive their name. The first of its kind known to Europeans, the Geysir erupts with plume of boiling water that stream some 70 metres in to the air, even higher than those found at Old Faithful in the USA.

Sadly, the eruptions have become scarcer in recent years, and can stop altogether for years at a time. Fortunately, the nearby Strokkur geyser is more reliable, and erupts at a more frequent rate of every 7-10 minutes, albeit with plumes that only scale up to about 20 metres in height, which still ain’t bad! Capturing the eruptions on camera is a tricky proposition, unless you are willing to stand and wait for lengthy spells of time between eruptions.

The last stop on the Golden Circuit is Thingvellir National Park, or more specifically the tectonic plates and that span the ‘Althing’, the National Parliament of Iceland from the 10th right through to the 19th century. With its steep, staggered, vertical rock faces hemming a fast-flowing river, the Vikings certainly couldn’t have picked much less of a dramatic spot!

The waterfall that splits the rock face, combined with the panoramic views of the landscape around and the dramatic splits caused by the tectonic movement, make this a truly beautiful spot. Little wonder, then, that they chose to film some of Game of Thrones here; and little wonder that this is not the only spot we visited on this trip that wasn’t some sort of filming location.


  • Sol Solntze

    April 24, 2017 at 9:19 pm Reply

    Oh cool! I did not know there is a geyser caller Gysir and that’s where the name came from at all! Excellent! Why isn’t it errupting as much – global warming?

    • Joe

      April 24, 2017 at 10:28 pm Reply

      It’s actually because there have been less earthquakes recently. Those instigate them apparently! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Jorge Bastos

    April 24, 2017 at 11:05 pm Reply

    Iceland is such an incredible place. It’s full of unbelievable natural wonders.
    Jorge Bastos recently posted…How to do a wicked Pad Thai? – Thai cooking classMy Profile

  • 33andfree

    April 24, 2017 at 11:45 pm Reply

    I would have never thought of searching out geysers in Iceland. What a beautiful area and site to see!

  • Danijela WorldGlimpses

    April 25, 2017 at 2:04 pm Reply

    The Gayser looks great, but I just love that Gullfoss! It really looks dramatic and powerful. Your photos are lovely!

    • Joe

      April 25, 2017 at 5:26 pm Reply

      Thank you 🙂

  • Cat

    April 26, 2017 at 5:07 am Reply

    Gullfoss is truly magnificent! Geysir is very iconic – I’d love to see it someday, but I’d be scared to stand in the front see it erupt!

    • Joe

      April 26, 2017 at 3:18 pm Reply

      Ah, you’re kept safely behind a barrier so you’ll be OK. I put my hand in a smaller one when I was in Iceland as a 10 year old boy…that’s something I definitely wouldn’t recommend!

  • Suze

    April 26, 2017 at 3:55 pm Reply

    Like you, we were lucky to visit Iceland’s Golden Triangle and this post brought back some great memories. Did you travel from Helsinki or did you stay nearby? We found it hard to capture Geysir on film, as it doesn’t erupt all that often. Gullfoss was my favourite out of all the attractions in the area
    Suze recently posted…Portrait of A City – An Exclusive London Private Walking TourMy Profile

    • Joe

      April 26, 2017 at 5:25 pm Reply

      Yeah, on balance, I would say that Gulfoss was probably my favourite in the area too. We were staying nearby – on a school trip that travelled around the south of the country and staying in various locations. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Reshma

    April 27, 2017 at 6:55 am Reply

    Iceland is such an incredible country. Glad to know that the waterfalls have been preserved for better!
    Reshma recently posted…A DIY Guide to the Valley of Flowers & Hemkund Sahib TreksMy Profile

  • Mike Cotton

    April 27, 2017 at 9:02 pm Reply

    Every time I see an Iceland post, it saddens me. In a good way. It’s just further inspiration to plan my own Iceland adventure one day.

  • Halef

    April 28, 2017 at 11:20 am Reply

    I still need to visit Iceland soon! Your photos set up a mood of the place – so thank you for sharing. I love geysers – I spent a few weeks in Yellowstone admiring them, and I imagine that I will do the same thing in Iceland.

    Travel safe and keep up the good work.

    the Round The World Guys

    • Joe

      April 29, 2017 at 6:43 pm Reply

      Thanks Halef. The geysers in Iceland really are something 🙂

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