The Golden Circle is quite possibly the most common day trip to take from Reykjavik.
The itinerary usually includes Gullfoss waterfall, Strokkur geysir and Thingvellir National Park. There is a good reason why these places are in such high demand – they are gorgeous! I had done this day tour on my first trip to Iceland in 2013, and honestly, I was surprisingly excited to do it again. I had seen all these places during the middle of winter, so it was likely that my return trip would be vastly different.
As I had been to Iceland numerous times before, Chelsea and Mel pretty much let me plan our itinerary which meant that I had the freedom to play around with our day, and I ended making a few changes to a more typical Golden Circle itinerary.
I made the decision to skip Thingvellir, and in it’s place, we would visit Háifoss and Kerið crater.
Háifoss was the place farthest from Reykjavik, so given that we would be returning to Reykjavik in the evening, we made the decision to head out to Háifoss and then make our way closer back to town over the course of the day.
So, with that decision made, we picked up our little rental car and hit the road!
Things went pretty smoothly for the first few hours (at least if you ignore the unexpected manual instead of auto and the trauma of going the wrong way down a one way road) but when it came time to take the turnoff to reach Háifoss, I was slightly surprised to see that the gravel track didn’t look all that smooth.
However, we persisted.
As it turned out, my prior travels in Iceland made me a little bit too confident, and I had decided to visit this waterfall without doing any research beforehand. I figured that because so many of Iceland’s attractions are so easily accessible, surely Háifoss would be too…
I was very wrong.
There was no signage on the roads, meaning that I was completely unaware that the track was an ‘F’ track – in Iceland, ‘F’ roads are considered 4×4 only, and taking a 2×2 on such a track completely voids all of your insurance.
I didn’t find this out until after the fact, and had I known beforehand, we would never have attempted to navigate the track. There were huge potholes, rocks and puddles that were much too deep to drive through in a car with such low clearance, but by the time we realised just how dodgy and poorly maintained the road was, we were already halfway there and made the decision to ignore our better judgement and persist.
We were incredibly lucky to not have any issues (although there were some encounters with rocks and puddles that did leave me a little worried about returning the car) but it was a highly stressful twenty minute drive. I would urge anyone planning to visit Háifoss to opt for a 4×4 instead of 2×2, and I’d like to reiterate that by ignoring this advice, you’d be liable to cover any related damage that the vehicle may receive.
With that said, it leaves me in two minds about visiting Háifoss. On one hand, I’d absolutely never attempt the track again without a 4×4 vehicle, but on the other, I am so glad that we were a bit irresponsible – because Háifoss was so undeniably beautiful and so wonderfully secluded.
There were only a handful of other people present at this jaw drop worthy waterfall, which due to a huge tourism boom in Iceland, is really quite the rarity.
I had previously been convinced that Goðafoss was my favourite Icelandic waterfall, but then out of nowhere, Háifoss just swooped in and stole that title.
This next photo ended up being my favourite photo from my entire time in Iceland! I should’ve been annoyed that I peaked so early, but honestly, with such a magical shot, how on earth could I feel anything other than pure delight?
Eventually it was time to say goodbye to the magical landscape of Háifoss and brave the ‘F’ road once more. Once we landed back on a sealed road we all let out a little sigh of relief and off we went to our next stop – Gullfoss.
Famous for being one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland and also for being so easily accessible from Reykjavik, Gullfoss is undeniably impressive. However, it certainly was a different experience the second time around.
On my first visit to Gullfoss, our minibus tour group was the ONLY tour group. On this repeat visit, the carpark was full with at least 400 vehicles, if not more.
I am not gonna lie, I definitely preferred it the first time, but it was still pretty cool to see the waterfall surrounded by green grass and not blending in with white snow.
Next up was Strokkur Geysir. Once again, the crowds had grown significantly since the last time I visited (and the lighting for photographs was pretty appalling compared to my first visit) but neither of things made visiting the geysir any less fun. We got absolutely saturated the first time we watched it erupt, and it was so much fun that I didn’t find the crowds frustrating.
Our last stop for the day was the Kerið crater. I gotta admit, this wasn’t as exciting as the Instagram pictures made it out to be! It wasn’t the most exciting of places, but the thing is, even the most boring places in Iceland are beautiful, so it was still a lovely end to our first day of exploring.
We may have risked murdering our little rental car, but we made it through without incident! Plus, we saw some truly beautiful places in Iceland. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Getting to Reykjavik: The capital of Iceland is well connected to Europe and North America through Keflavik airport
Loft Hostel: Still my favourite hostel in Reykjavik, dorm beds start at around $70 AUD per night, click here to learn more
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: I cannot stress this enough! If you want to see Háifoss, YOU NEED A 4×4!
3 thoughts on “Self Driving The Golden Circle + Nearly Killing Our Rental Car in the Process”
The photos are beautiful! An amazing country. I’m glad your car survived the journey!
Haifoss looks gorgeous. My accidental wrong turn in Iceland landed me a punctured tyre, an out-of-hours fee to get the puncture repaired, and a waste of half a day sightseeing. Learnt my lesson with that one!
Kerid looks as if it is accessible by trail, which little old me would probably take the time and walk. I am likely to rent a 4×4, and to traverse the Ring Road clockwise, to boot. it’ll take the time it takes.