One of Iceland’s most famous tourist attractions, Geysir (gay-zeer, which literally means gusher) is the original hot-water spout after which all other geysers are named. Discovered in the Haukadalur geothermal region, The Great Geysir has been active for perhaps 800 years, and once gushed water up to 80m into the air.
Iceland’s most famous waterfall, Gullfoss (Golden Falls) is a spectacular double cascade. It drops 32m, kicking up tiered walls of spray before thundering away down a narrow ravine. On sunny days the mist creates shimmering rainbows, and it’s also magical in winter when the falls glitter with ice.
Skálholt & Laugarás
Skálholt is a very important religious centre; it was one of two bishoprics (the other was Hólar in the north) that ruled Iceland’s souls from the 11th to the 18th centuries. It rose to prominence under Gissur the White, the driving force behind the Christianisation of Iceland.
Laugarvatn (Hot Springs Lake) is fed not only by streams running from the misty fells behind it, but by the hot spring Vígðalaug, famous since medieval times. A village, also called Laugarvatn, sits on the lake’s western shore, and it is one of the better places to base yourself in the Golden Circle area.
As you approach the local hub, little agrarian Flúðir, interesting rock buttes crop up from the rolling green plains. Flúðir is known throughout Iceland for its geothermal greenhouses that grow the majority of the country’s mushrooms and it's also a popular weekend getaway for Reykjavikers with private cottages.
Stop in the tiny settlement of Árnes, near the junction of Rtes 30 and 32, where a large white building houses the informative Þjórsárstofa. It has an excellent free 10-minute surround-sound-style film about the river valley and what you will see further along, as well as multimedia displays and a good restaurant.
Around 15.5km north of Selfoss on Rte 35, Kerið is a 6500-year-old explosion crater with vivid red and sienna earth and an ethereal green lake. Björk once performed a concert from a floating raft in the middle. At the time of research, local property owners had (controversially) started charging for entrance to Kerið; this may change.