The Golden Circle Day Tour | With Horse Riding in a Geothermal Area
Roll two essential Icelandic experiences into one, on this incredible day tour; ride one of the nation's charming and sturdy horses, and marvel over the three famous sites of the Golden Circle.
You will be picked up from your Reykjavík accommodation from 08:00 am, and head straight to the farm of Vellir. Here, you will meet your horse-riding guide and your steed for the morning.
Icelandic horses are incredibly special animals. You’ll first notice that they are much smaller than most other breeds, but after a few minutes, you’ll see that that is the least interesting thing about them; they are also noticeably friendlier, smarter, and more curious than other horses. Riding them is an absolute delight, even for the novice rider.
For up to two hours, you will travel with your group through the beautiful, verdant countryside, with views over mountains and up to the ocean. The pace is nice and slow for beginners, but experts will have their opportunity to have a good gallop at one point, away from the rest of the group.
Following an invigorating ride, you will have lunch at Hotel Eldhestar, before setting out on the Golden Circle. Your first stop on this popular trail is the Geysir Geothermal Area. Here, you can see a geyser named Strokkur erupt every 10 minutes or so, to a height of up to 40 m (131 ft). The now largely inactive Geysir can also be seen, as can many other bubbling hot springs and steaming fumaroles.
The next stop will be the ‘golden waterfall’, otherwise known as Gullfoss. Here, the Hvíta river pours down two tiers into an ancient plunging valley. When the ground is not too icy, it is possible to reach a viewing platform right where the water starts to drop, allowing you marvel over its awe-inspiring power.
The final site of the Golden Circle is Þingvellir National Park, a place famed for its fascinating history and geology. The only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Icelandic mainland, Þingvellir was the original site of the world’s longest-running, ongoing representative parliament, formed in 930 AD and now based in Reykjavík.
Þingvellir is also located in the rift valley that runs all the way through Iceland, marking the boundaries of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. In no other part of the country are the edges of these continents so obvious, and their presence has led to some incredible geological features. Combined with the verdant forests, creeping moss and crystal clear rivers that cover the park, Þingvellir is home to some spectacular views.
Once you have made the most of the beautiful Golden Circle, you will return to Reykjavík in time to enjoy your evening.
Don’t miss your chance to ride the incredible Icelandic horse and to see the famous sites of the Golden Circle. Book your tour now. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Nov. - Sep.
- Duration: 10 hours
- Activities: Horse Riding, Sightseeing
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 7 years.
- Languages: English
- Highlights: Golden Circle,
The Golden Circle is a 300 km route to the 3 most popular natural attractions in Iceland. The Golden Circle consists of Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir.
See this for Golden circle tours.
Geysir is a geyser that gives its name to hot springs all over the world. But although Geysir itself is not active anymore the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur (spouting a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, regularly about 15-20 meters into the air), Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
The 'Golden Waterfall', is the second part of the Golden Circle, and one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland, plummeting 32 meters into the river gorge of the popular rafting river Hvita. It is Iocated about 10 km from Geysir.
Thingvellir national park
The largest attraction of the Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park. The Icelandic parliament was founded there in 930 and remained until the year 1798.
Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important places to visit in Iceland, not just for its historical and cultural values, but for also its magnificent landscape.
Thingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain and volcano range and is the site of a rift valley, where the tectonic plates meet, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic ridge.
Of particular note at Thingvellir are the magnificent Almannagja gorge, and the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland. The popular Gjabakkahellir lava cave is also in the area.
The fissure Silfra is located by Thingvallavatn, Iceland's largest lake, and is famous for its clear waters and popular for diving and snorkeling, as you can literally swim between continents.Geysir,
Geysir is a famous hot spring in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Part of the ‘Golden Circle', Geysir gives its name to hot springs all over the world.
Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur, which spouts a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, around 15-20 meters into the air, Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
North of Geysir are fumaroles, i.e. unlike the hot springs that emit hot water, only steam and gas emanate from these. You may be able to observe bright yellow stains at the fumaroles, this is native sulphur, which crystallizes from the steam. At the southern part of the geothermal area, called Thykkuhverir, you‘ll find various mud pots. Such mud pots are actually fumaroles that boil up through surface water/groundwater and may become steaming fumaroles during dry spells, rather than the usual boiling mud pots.
About 2 km from Geysir is an old preserved natural pool called Kúalaug. One can bathe in it and it has room for 3-5 people at a time, but care should be taken, as the area around the pool is very delicate. The temperature is 39-43°C, depending on how you are positioned in the pool. The water is slightly muddy, as the pool is built on soil, and the bottom is slippery due to algae, so caution is advised.
In Haukadalur there has also been tree planting in recent times and today the forest Haukadalsskógur is one of the largest in South Iceland. Aspen, various types of pine, and other plants have been tried out there and experiments and research continue. We also recommend visiting the tree museum, built in the memory of forester Gunnar Freysteinsson. There are good paths and roads in the forest and the wood is specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Haukadalur has been a church site since ancient time. The current wooden church was last rebuilt in 1938 but the variety and appearance of the church dates back to 1842, making it one of the oldest of its kind in Iceland.
Haukadalur is indeed a historical place. It was settled during the age of settlement and scholar Ari “The Wise“ Thorgilsson grew up there. The first pastoral school in Iceland was also built there.
For accommodation, Hotel Gullfoss is about 7 km from the Geysir area, and closer still is the Hotel Geysir.Gullfoss,
Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found on the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, finally cascading 32m down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power.
Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate waterfalls. The first, shorter stage of the waterfall is 11m, whilst the second stage is 21m. The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70m, descending into the 2.5km long Gullfossgjúfur canyon (geologists indicate that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.)
In the summer, approximately 140 cubic metres of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic metres. With such energy, visitor’s should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray-off.
In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the centre of much controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman known only as Howells sought to utilise the waterfall’s energy and harboured ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.
At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howells the land, inadvertently beginning the first chapter of Icelandic environmentalism.
It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm, she sought to get the lease contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer. The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík if only to keep the trial moving. Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.
Thankfully, in 1929, the waterfall fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Today, Sigríður is recognised for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.
Restaurant / Cafe
Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalise everyone’s taste buds; hot soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors’ can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.Þingvellir,
Þingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Þingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries. Þingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range and is the site of a rift valley, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic range. Today it is a natural park, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and considered a vital part of the ‘Golden triangle’ (with Geysir and Gullfoss). Of particular note is the magnificent gorge Almannagjá, which marks the eastern boundary of the North American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Öxarárfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, Þingvallakirkja Church and Gjábakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.Strokkur,
Strokkur (Icelandic for "churn") is one of the most famous hot springs in Iceland and belongs to the famous Golden Circle.
Strokkur is a fountain geyser in the Geysir geothermal area in the southwest part of the country, east of Reykjavik. Strokkur is a powerful hot spring and an impressive sight. It erupts about every 4–8 minutes and spouts water to a height of 15 – 20 m, sometimes up to 40 m.Hveragerði,
Hveragerði is a town and municipality in the southwest of Iceland, around 45 km from the capital Reykjavik. Around 2300 people live in Hveragerði. The river Varmá runs through it. The town is well known for its greenhouses and strong geothermal activity, in particular the nearby Reykjadalur valley.
In the scenic Reykjadalur ('Steam Valley') you have the hot water stream falling down the slopes of the valley. The mountain range is ideal for relaxing and the valley offers a rich variety of hot pools and geothermal springs. It is also possible to have a dip in the river.
There are nice botanical areas and parks in the town, many recreational activities are available, excellent hiking trails as well as nice hotels and a camping ground. A number of museums can be found, such as the Árnesingar art museum. The town hosts an annual culture and family festival in August.Haukadalur
Haukadalur is a geothermal valley in South Iceland on the popular Golden Circle route.
Lying to the north of Lake Laugarvatn, it is home to hot springs, fumaroles, mud pots and geysers, including the famous Great Geysir and the active Strokkur. The area is noted for the vivid colouration of its surrounding hills, caused by elements deep in the earth being brought to the surface by the geothermal activity.
History of Haukadalur
Haukadalur has been mentioned in historic writings as far back as 1294, in which its geysers were described following an earthquake that activated them. Since the 18th Century, it has been drawing visitors to this island, most notably being a favourite destination of Danish royals.
Throughout the 20th Century, images of the Great Geysir erupting at Haukadular began to symbolise Iceland. It’s activity, however, was unreliable, so unnatural efforts were made to stimulate it more regularly, such as lowering the water table in 1935 and pumping soap into it 1981.
These, however, limited the geyser’s long-term activity, so that it rarely goes off today, although, in the early 2000s, it did have a period where it was spouting water over 140 metres (459 ft) high. Even so, the geyser Strokkur is still very active, erupting to heights of 30 metres (98 ft) every five to ten minutes.
Today, most of the near-two million visitors to Iceland will see Haukadalur Valley on their travels.
Surroundings of Haukadalur
Haukadalur Valley is located about an hour and a half’s drive inland from Reykjavík, thus making many sites of the South and West easily accessible. The most notable of these are the other points on the Golden Circle: Gullfoss Waterfall (about five minutes away) and Þingvellir National Park (about forty minutes away).
Pickup time : 08:00
1.5 - 2 hours on horseback
Pick up and drop off
What to bring:
Good to know:
This tour is suited both for beginners and experienced riders, horses are selected according to riding experience. Guiding in other languages on request.