One thing I learned when visiting Iceland is that every site you want to see is spaced at least an hour away from another site. I might exaggerate a bit but not much. You really have to strategically plan when you visit Iceland. Luckily you can see lots even if you just stick to the “Ring Road” or main road that goes around the entire country. Fortunately, there were two things we wanted to see within several miles of each other. One was Gullfoss Falls and the other was a geothermal area with two active geysers and boiling hot pots called Geysir Hot Springs.
As you can see from the map, Gullfoss and Geysir are almost a two-hour drive northeast of Reykjavik. The drive is fairly straightforward, as you’ll take 1 and then turn off on 35 the rest of the way. Although you would arrive at Geysir first, we decided to visit Gullfoss first and then hit Geysir on the way back through.
It surprised me when visiting our first waterfall in Iceland that you have to walk sometimes as much as over a mile to see a waterfall. In my mind, I pictured them being right beside the parking lots for each. Here’s the path you take from the parking lot to Gullfoss. It was much quicker than the 15-minute walk it takes to get to Dettifoss. I’d say it took about 8-10 minutes.
Gulfoss means “golden waterfall” in Icelandic. It is appropriately named, as many times you can see a golden color coming from the mist from the falls. Gullfoss wouldn’t even be here today if it wasn’t for a woman who lived nearby who successfully managed to halt construction plans of a hydrothermal power plant. This would have been devastating! A powerful reminder that your voice and your stance do matter and do affect change.
I love how this waterfall has two different views. The first is the view you get when you approach the waterfall, and the second is the view you get looking back into the waterfall after walking the length of the falls along the path. If you visit Gullfoss, definitely take the time to walk down to the other end of it. Both views are beautiful!
After just a several mile drive, we arrived at Geysir Hot Springs. Eager to see the most active geyser Strokkur, we lined up alongside others waiting to see it erupt too. We didn’t have to wait long, as this Iceland geyser erupts every 4-6 minutes. We stayed and watched it a few times spray water over 100 feet into the air!
The mix of sulfur, land and water found at the hot springs area provides these unique colors all along the ground here. It was beautiful to see this mix of colors.
Make you sure you keep walking along the paths to explore other hot springs and basins. The vivid, aqua blue colors found in many of them are simply breathtaking.
There is no fee to enter here and you can stay for as long or as little as you like. I’d allow about an hour to see the geysers and hot springs area. There is a hike you can take up a nearby mountain, so if you want to do that I’d allow an additional couple hours. You’d park in the same parking lot for hiking as you would visiting the geysers.
I’ll also mention that we found this beautiful farm spot of running water alongside the road. I can’t tell you the name of it (not sure it even has one) or where it was exactly but you’ll know when you see it. It was a stop the car and pull over moment and definitely worth the small detour. It was truly a “path less traveled.”
Paths Less Traveled Ranking: 2 footprints
Paths Less Traveled Ranking Explanation: Gullfoss Falls and Geysir Hot Springs did have people but it wasn’t at all crowded. I would rank this with 2 footprints. You will encounter others, but it doesn’t feel packed at all.
*In each of my articles I will provide a Paths Less Traveled Ranking. This ranking system is from 1 footprint to 5 footprints with 1 footprint being very remote and off the beaten path and 5 footprints being very populated.