When you visit Iceland in January, your options are somewhat limited. Don’t get me wrong: There’s still plenty to do (and everything looks so pretty with a dusting—or more—of snow). But it’s highly recommended that, because of the unpredictability of the weather and the possibility of road closings, visitors don’t rent a car in winter. Fortunately, if you’ve got to take a tour, Iceland is a great place to do it. The tours run frequently, are well organized, and, perhaps best of all, will pick you up and drop you off right at your hotel.
With our glacier hike completed and a full day to explore, Nic, Carri, and I decided to book a tour of the Golden Circle, one of the country’s most popular tourist routes. Waterfalls? Check. Geysers? Yes, please!
I’m not gonna lie: Our tour started off a little slow, but not because of anything our guide did. The night before, I had found myself struggling with an unusual (for me) case of insomnia, while Nicole stayed up into the wee hours, listening the Patriots playoff game on her phone. With little sleep and no breakfast—not to mention dark skies, even at 9 am—we dozed on the bus until we hit our first stop.
And suddenly we were wide awake. How could anyone sleep through the roar of Gulfoss, one of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls? We grabbed a snack and took in the falls’ wild beauty from a prime viewing spot, while Carri slid her way closer to the action.
Next, it was off to Haukadalur, a geothermally active valley that’s home to the original Geysir (for which all other geysers are named), Strokkur, and other erupting springs. Although Geysir is less reliable, Strokkur erupts about every 7 minutes. We soaked up the hot steam in the otherwise chilly air as we waited for it to blow.
Later, we arrived at Thingvellir National Park, which provides an excellent view of the rift valley. It’s also the site of the original Icelandic Parliament, as well as of the intersection of (and drift between) the North American and Eurasian plates.
As our tour wound down and rain started to fall, we were all ready for a hearty dinner and a good night’s sleep. I’m so glad we didn’t miss the Golden Circle, even in January. I hope to explore the same area again someday—in summer.