During our recent Celebrity Eclipse cruise, we were docked for over 24 hours in the beautiful port of Reykjavik. We spent our first day walking around the Downtown area and visiting the Blue Lagoon. For our second day in port, we had booked a tour to another one of the most popular attractions in Iceland, the Golden Circle, with a local tour company. Follow along as we visit the “Big Three” attractions of the Golden Circle in Reykjavik, Iceland on a Cruise.
Visiting the Golden Circle in Reykjavik, Iceland on a Cruise
After extensive cruise planning and research, we knew that we had to visit the Golden Circle on this trip. While Celebrity Cruises did offer an excursion to the Golden Circle, it was only offered the first day that we were in port. Having my heart set on visiting Blue Lagoon at night (although, that didn’t really end up mattering much since the sun doesn’t set until past 10 pm this time of year), we wanted to visit the Golden Circle on our second day in Reykjavik.
Although the timing in port would be close, we decided to book the tour with a local company, Iceland Guided Tours. This tour could also be booked as part of a combo package with an excursion in Akureyri. Perfect!
Up bright and early to get our day started, we were off the ship by 7 am to meet our tour group. Upon arriving early at the small mini-bus to check-in, we were surprised that we were actually among the last people on the bus. I guess everyone was eager to get this tour on the road. Departing the port area by 7:20 am we were off on our journey to explore the Golden Circle. Our driver was friendly and informative providing a little bit of history of the country itself and the attractions that we would be visiting along the drive.
Our first stop of the morning was in a greenhouse village of Hveragerdi around 8am mainly for a coffee and restroom break. There was also a small earthquake exhibition to peruse during the approximately 15 minute stop. Next, we were on to the Faxi waterfall, a small pitstop on the way to the main attractions. This smaller waterfall is still a sight to behold, so we were sure to capture several photos during our brief stop.
We arrived at our first major attraction around 9:30am, the Geysir Geothermal Fields. We would have an hour here to explore the grounds and the nearby shop/cafe area. There are designated paths around the hot springs area to keep visitors safe. As you set off, you will immediately see the steam and small, bubbling mud pots.
Geysir, the older of the 2 prominent geysirs, is now considered almost inactive. However, you can still witness the nearby Stokkur erupting every 5-10 minutes. It might take you by surprise the first time it spouts, but you will want to stick around to capture plenty of photos and videos of this momentous occasion. We did see some people trying to capture selfies, but you need to have impeccable timing for that, so we just settled for the photos sans us.
The next major landmark on this tour was the Gullfoss waterfall, located only 5 minutes away from the Geysir area. We were given 45 minutes here to explore this natural wonder. Translating to Golden Falls, Gullfoss is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland. You can walk the path towards the waterfall to watch the stunning falls cascade down two steps to the gorge below or opt to climb the stairs all the way to the top for some amazing aerial views. DB opted to walk all the way down the path to the waterfall, while I walked halfway then got a head start climbing the stairs.
There are several stairs, so the tour guide did offer to give visitors a quick photo op and return to the bus for a drive to the top. After admiring Gullfoss from all angles, it was time to head back to the bus and move on to the last of the 3 main sites on this tour, Thingvellir National Park, which was a 45-60 minute drive.
We arrived at Thingvellir National Park around 12:15pm, where we spent another hour between 3 stops throughout the area. Thingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most significant geological spots in all of Iceland. Here, you can actually witness the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and stand between two tectonic plates. See the separation of the Eurasian and North American plates and the many fissures that now exist.
Thingvellir is also of historical and cultural significance as it is where the first Viking Parliament was established. Sessions were held here from 930 AD until 1798 when the Parliament was moved to Reykjavik. This “Law Rock” is now marked by the Icelandic flag in the National Park.
Unfortunately, the time had now come for us to conclude our tour and make the approximately 40 minute drive back to the Skarfabakki Harbour. Despite the intermittent rain and chilly weather, this visit to the Golden Circle in Reykjavik, Iceland will hold lasting memories for us. We enjoyed our tour and would recommend the tour company to cruisers wishing to see the Golden Circle. The small bus size gave this tour a more personalized touch. IG Tours does offer excursions specifically for cruise ship passengers, so the tour may be modified based on your time in port to ensure you are back to your cruise ship in time.
Have you visited Reykjavik, Iceland on a cruise? If so, did you take a tour of the Golden Circle? Drop us an anchor below to share your experiences visiting these natural wonders.