Iceland Part II: Golden Circle

Iceland Part II: Golden Circle

Iceland’s Golden Circle

With limited days coupled with the fact that we were visiting during the winter season, we wanted to be intentional with our time and the sights we visted.  We also knew we wanted to do an adventurous excursion. Thanks, Instagrammers, for spearheading my research on this front.  Extreme Iceland tours checked all of our must-sees and had the bonus of a glacier hike and northern lights tour!

The Golden Circle  is the perfect area to explore if Reykjavik is your home base.  Our guide was incredible. He was actually from Spain and visited Iceland five years prior and decided not to leave. Can’t blame him, we considered it ourselves.

We chose the “Sensational Iceland and Northern Lights Bonus” package which included the following sights:

  • Skógafoss Waterfall
  • Reynisfjara – Black Sand Beach
  • Glacier walk on Sólheimajökull
  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
  • Northern Lights Tour

This checked the boxes on our list except for Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon). I’m sure there are so many more things to do, but for a first timer to Iceland, I was slightly naive thinking we could “tackle” all of Iceland in a mere four days.

As soon as we were outside the city limits, gone were the colorful homes of Reykjavik. What lay before us was the rugged, unspoiled land of the Vikings.

Skógafoss Waterfall

The word ‘foss’ in Icelandic means waterfall. Skógafoss was my first Icelandic waterfall…so WOW. Believe it or not, waterfalls are fairly common throughout Iceland; we saw so many on our trip.  Even though it was swarming with tourists, it didn’t depreciate the experience (but it didn’t help the photo ops!).  The weather was fantastic, so we were able to catch the gorgeous rainbow that hangs out right in front of the waterfall if the sun is just right.

Even the scenery surrounding the waterfall is enough to leave your jaw hanging. From the river, to the snow capped glaciers in the distance, I couldn’t describe the moment well enough even if I tried. There is a trail that leads you to a higher vantage point of the waterfall. If you can, and like to hike, I’d suggest spending more time here and continuing past the waterfall to enjoy the scenery and the village of Skogar. We stopped short of the waterfall because of time constraints (a downfall of excursions).  There is also a fun legend behind the waterfall that includes a viking hiding a chest of gold beneath the waterfall.  If you find it, let me know!

When we go back (because we certainly will), we will opt for a self-drive tour of the Circle.  Every bend in the road led us to another picturesque landscape, and there was still so much that we missed along the way to the next destination: Black Sand beach and Reynisfajara.


Reynisfjara – Black Sand Beach

While the black sand beach is definitely something to see, it was crawling with tourists. I think sunrise would be your best bet for hitting this spot up on your trip.

We witnessed countless waves crash into distracted pictured takers as they tried to capture the perfect shot of the basalt columns.  As much as that instagram post is worth it, I promise the freezing temps of the sea is not.  Jutting out of the sea, are the impressive rock formations that make up Reynsidragnar.  We walked along the beach, marveling at the ferocious waves, and appreciating the black pebbles and sand that stood out among the white froth the waves left in their wake.

There is a small cafe that is a short walk away from the beach, and this is where we grabbed lunch. Despite the limited menu, the cold cut sandwiches and cookies were enough to fuel us for the final stint of this full day excursion.

If we went back, I’d like to add the village of Vík to the list of places to visit. If you’ve been, I’d love to hear what you thought about this area, and any tips for our next trip!

Glacier walk on Sólheimajökull

When we were booking our excursion and saw the bonus of hiking a glacier, how could we say no? I had never really thought about adding “glacier walk” to my ever growing bucket list, but adding items retrospectively is a thing, right? It was definitely one of the coolest activities we’ve done to date. Our guide equipped us with a pick, helmet, and crumpets (spikes that hook to the bottom of your boots) and off we went.

This glacier, in particular, is actually shrinking/melting at an alarming rate! I was alarmed to find the glacier to be about 50 shades of blue.  According to Extreme Iceland site, “the ice eventually gets so compressed that most of the air is forced out of it. This is what causes glacial ice to appear blue.”  Volcanic ash striped the glacier as we made our way across. It’s incredible seeing so many natural wonders in one area.

My favorite part was probably the ice cave we ventured into. Gus and I led the way as we squeezed into the cave. We went as far as we could until the moment I stuck my pick in the ground and didn’t feel it hit the bottom! Our guide pointed out several areas throughout the glacier that, if not careful, you wouldn’t realize was a never ending hole that you could easily fall through!

Note: The trek to and from the glacier is not a fun or a pretty walk. Prepare yourself and push through, it is worth the destination and experience.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Our last stop was Seljalandsfoss. We had seen the fall from the road and were so excited to get up close and personal. You’re actually able to walk behind the waterfall here which is such a treat!  The mist from the falls soaked us, so if you happen to have packed a raincoat in that carry on, now is the time to use it.  It is such a unique perspective to gaze out from behind the waterfall.  We had been told we wouldn’t be able to walk the path as it is often to slick in the winter months, but because of the nice day, we had no issues walking behind.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any amazing photos of this fall as it was getting dark and my camera would have been soaked! Another reason that waterproof camera or phone cover would have been a bonus on this trip!

Northern Lights

Unfortunately with the rain and clouds settling in, we were unable to catch the Northern Lights (all three nights we were there!). However, if you ever find yourself in Iceland during the winter, use this link to see if the Lights will make an appearance during your stay!  Green areas indicate that it is cloudy and the white let’s you know the skies are clear.

Stay tuned for the final part of our trip to Iceland as we try to defy the winter conditions by driving ourselves around the Snæfellaness Peninsula!  See more Iceland pictures in my gallery!



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Haley Milan

Consumed by wanderlust, fueled by coffee, determined to live a minimalist lifestyle and collect moments, not things. Join me on my travels and an every day life of simplicity!

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  • Catching the morning flight to NYC! It won’t be cobblestone streets in old European cities, but it’ll be a concrete jungle so we’re good. Cheers to an adventure-filled weekend, friends!
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Just a couple months ago I went on my first solo trip to Europe.  Traveling has quite literally breathed new life into me, and I absolutely love seeing this world with my husband by my side. But what did I learn when I had to go it alone for the first time?
I learned that my gut IS always right. I learned the best way to step out of your comfort zone is when there is no safety net. I learned that there is tremendously more “good” in people than “bad.” And, I learned that my own company...well, it actually is pretty darn great!
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