To be quite honest, I had never even heard of the Golden Circle until about a year ago. Before I started planning my trip to Iceland, I pretty much just thought that there were puffins and the Blue Lagoon and hopefully some museums. I mean, just those things alone seemed like enough of a reason to visit. However, the more that I researched for my first trip to Iceland, the more that I heard about the Golden Circle.
It seemed as though absolutely everyone that had visited Iceland toured this popular route. The Golden Circle sets off from Reykjavik and is about 300 kilometers long, or about 186 miles for my fellow Americans that are reading this. You could finish driving the route within a few hours, but most people make this a full day trip since there are quite a few spectacular sights along the way. I figured that if this tour was so popular, then it must be worth exploring.
I started googling to try and find wheelchair accessible tour companies. This can be an arduous process sometimes, but Iceland Unlimited popped up almost immediately and I sent them an email. Within a couple days, a wheelchair accessible private Golden Circle tour was confirmed and the countdown to the big day began. I found that I was looking forward to this more than anything else while in Iceland. This was funny, seeing as how just a year ago I didn’t even know what the Golden Circle was.
On a cloudy Monday morning, our tour guide from Iceland Unlimited picked us up at our lobby of the Kvosin Downtown Hotel in Reykjavik. He had a wheelchair accessible high-top van and it had a long ramp that folded out the back. I just wheeled right in and my chair was secured into place with the tie-downs. This accessible van worked like a charm and soon, we were off on an adventure of the Golden Circle.
Stop #1: Thingvellir National Park
After about 45 minutes to an hour of driving from Reykjavik, we arrived at Thingvellir National Park. This was our first stop on the Golden Circle tour and one of the most popular places to visit in all of Iceland. This was also the stop that I knew the least about, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
Some interesting things to know are that Thingvellir is a Unesco World Heritage site and Iceland’s first national park. If you’re a history buff like me, it’s also cool to know that Thingvellir was home to Iceland’s first Parliament, which began in 930 AD.
The park is quite large so it’s easy to spend an hour or more walking around exploring all the different sights. For wheelchair users, the park is extremely easy to navigate. There are paved paths that lead to most areas so I was able to roll from one place to the next.
Thingvellir is also home to where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are separating. They are separating 1-18 mm (less than an inch) per year and you can see their deep fissures in the ground.
Other remarkable sights at Thingvellir include waterfalls (one of which is accessible and easy to view) and even a church and cemetery. The church was originally built around 1000 AD, but has been repaired several times since then.
The natural beauty at Thingvellir National Park made me truly appreciate Iceland. It was nice to get out of the city and see the countryside. Thinking back on it, this was probably my favorite stop along the Golden Circle (but every stop was spectacular).
Stop #2: The Geyser
The next stop on our Golden Circle tour was Haukadalur, a geothermal area that is located just 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Thingvellir National Park. This area is famous for one of Iceland’s most notable natural attractions, the geyser!
This is definitely the stop that I was looking forward to the most and it did not disappoint. The most popular geyser today is named Strokkur and it erupts every 5-10 minutes. It’s actually the most reliable geyser in the world so you do not have to worry about it not erupting while you’re there.
There is a paved path from the parking lot to Strokkur, and it’s a short walk (or roll) away. We could actually see the geyser erupting from the parking lot a little bit, but we went over to it for a better view. After just a short wait, it erupted and was amazing to watch. The geyser can shoot as high as 70 feet or more on average and it is boiling hot. Temperatures can reach as high as 212° Fahrenheit, but as long as you stand back a bit there’s no need to worry about getting burned.
We watched the Strokkur geyser erupt several times and then made our way over to the massive gift shop. The gift shop is two stories tall and has almost any souvenir that you could possibly want. The gift shop had an elevator and even a spacious companion care restroom on the lower level. There is a restaurant on the top floor as well, where we enjoyed an authentically Icelandic lunch of chicken nuggets and Doritos. Haha! If you’re wanting a different selection of food, there is another restaurant on the lower floor with more dining options.
Stop #3: Gullfoss Waterfall
After witnessing the natural beauty of Thingvellir and the geyser, we got back in the accessible van and made our way over to the last stop on our Golden Circle tour – Gullfoss!
Gullfoss is just a short 10-15 minute drive from the geyser and has a paved parking area. There was also a paved path that led to a viewing area, where we could see Gullfoss in all of its majestic glory. I viewed pictures of it online before visiting and they did not do it justice AT ALL.
Gullfoss means Golden Waterfall and is more than 100 feet tall. The speed at which the water rushes down the Hvita River is remarkable and I could feel its power from a distance. Unfortunately, it was rather rainy and extremely windy when we visited so we didn’t observe Gullfoss as much as I would’ve liked, but the short time that we did see it was unforgettable and a highlight of my time in Iceland.
wheelchair accessible golden circle tour iceland
What I learned on this Golden Circle tour with Iceland Unlimited is that Iceland is full of unbelievable natural beauty. I have never seen such breathtaking sights before and it seemed as though there was a photo op every 30 seconds. Just a year ago I didn’t even know what the Golden Circle was, and now when I hear of it, I’ll reminisce on one of my favorite days of all time.
*While this tour with Iceland Unlimited was complimentary, all opinions expressed are my own. This tour really was just that remarkable!