Yes the Golden Circle may be done under your own accord and in your own hire car but that however unfortunately does not come with a walking, talking encyclopedia who is rich in knowledge and experience and able to give you a real in-depth insight into the history of Iceland as well as it’s active dramatic landscape which is so unpredictable.
The Golden Circle is not just literally the 5 top attractions dotted along the loop but as well as everything in between. With so much history and such an amazing and contrasting landscape which is persistently changing, having someone so knowledgeable to take you through the different annual and geological cycles is very interesting. Having someone to answer our endless list of questions is also brilliant as we were able to finally get a feel for how the country came about to what it is today.
As such a diverse country with so much to see and with time not always on our side, it can be at times difficult to decide on what we should to see. Fortunately, Moonwalker Tours, a family owned tour operator provides the perfect solution providing a tailored tour allowing us to see exactly what we were after without having to make any sacrifices. "Why take a tour when you can take an adventure", proud of their slogan and so they should be as they really do push the boat out and give you that little bit extra above and beyond most others where Bessi (driver/owner) would take us off the beaten track to explore a number of gems only accessible in the customised trucks. Unlike a tour and most operators, our trip did also revolve around us rather than a schedule, a nice additional touch which gives you that sense of passion and an operator wanting to provide tours which goes beyond every expectation.
"Why take a tour when you can take an adventure"
A Geyser is basically an opening in the earth’s surface which periodically ejects a fountain of hot water and steam due to the boiling of water below the ground. With this spectacular phenomenon being due to unusual geothermal activity, they are only found at a number of locations across the globe.
As can be seen from the slightest of variations in spelling, the word Geyser is derived from Geysir which in itself is derived from the Icelandic term Geysa which means "to gush". Geysir, the oldest of the Geysers known to man, lies in the geothermal fields in Haukadalur Valley along with it’s much younger but active friend Strokkur. Despite being an irregular event, Strokkur does erupt very frequently, about every 4-5 minutes, reaching heights up to about 30m.
"Reaching heights up to about 30m"
2. Gulfoss waterfall
A spectacular waterfall which was nearly seen lost in the early 20th century when investors looked beyond its natural beauty and pushed to harness its ferocity and produce electricity. Considered as Iceland’s first environmentalist, Sigriður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of Tómas Tómasson who owned Gullfoss, made every sacrifice possible as well as going to the extremes of threating to throw herself into the waterfall in attempts to preserve Gullfoss. Despite her unsuccessful pleas in court, the lack of rent payments meant the project was dismissed.
Fortunately, Gullfoss is today protected as a nature reserve and is a phenomenal sight which can be enjoyed from a number of platforms depending how close and wet you might want to get!
3. Langjokull Glacier
Always in search of that additional sense of adventure and excitement, Bessie gave us the opportunity to go beyond the end of the road and venture out towards Langjokull Glacier. Icelandic for "long glacier" it is the second largest ice cap in the country at 50km long, 15-20km wide and with an area of 935km².
Faced with a late afternoon storm and a few days of heavy snow fall prior to our tour, getting onto the glacier proved to be difficult even with the big wheels due to the thick snow and steep inclines. Despite being unable to physically get onto the glacier, we were however able to plough around the base in the snow getting stuck a few times.
Able to experience the four seasons in one day, it is impossible for even the most of experienced drivers to predict the conditions and terrain for the day ahead. With this in mind no off-road adventures can be pre-determined but rather played out upon arrival. This however makes it the adventure that it is and venturing out not knowing what to expect and where you will end up. Moonwalker’s wealth of experience and its fully equipped vehicles with all the right equipment for the roughest and most brutal terrain and conditions, heading out into Iceland’s wild is both exciting and safe.
4. Kerid Volcano
What was once believed to be a stereotypical cone shaped volcano is now a beautiful volcanic caldera which homes a stunning dark blue crater lake. At 55m deep, 170m wide and 270m across, it resembles a huge ancient amphitheatre, however this Kerid Caldera is rich in a great spectrum of vivid colours which make it more than just a crater. Its rich red soil, large sporadic faces of varying colours of algae and partially frozen blues from the lake make it an impressive and rather photogenic stop before the journey back to Reykjavik.
5. Icelandic horses
Stopping by the side of the road to say hello to these cuties was a must. Small sized like a pony, these horses are happy to welcome you (more so if you have a treat for them!). Being one of the most bred animals in Iceland, you come across them field after field so don't worry about not bumping into them.
READ MORE: Snorkelling the Silfra Fissure with Dive.is