The Blue Lagoon and the various attractions around the Golden Circle are classic excursions all tourists consider when planning to travel to Iceland. Every good travel planner knows that it helps to shop around with different providers to determine which offers the best deal. Expedia, Travelocity, and TripAdvisor have plenty of combination tour packages to review and select from. But consider the following before booking your tour package.
Price Verse Value
While price is the amount you will pay, value encompasses practicality, personal importance, and worth.
It’s simple economics. Everyone has a different “willingness to pay” for any product or service. Some budget-conscience travelers will opt for the cheapest tour available while others with more financial wiggle-room may choose to pay more for a smaller tour group or one that includes more destinations or VIP services.
Determine what factors are important to you. Do you want to see everything Iceland has to offer or would you settle for just the highlights? Are you okay with being on a tour with 50 other strangers who you will need to wait on at each stop or do you need a private tour for your family?
I selected NiceTravel’s Golden Circle Tour Kerid Volcanic Crater, and Blue Lagoon day trip from Reykjavik, which offered more than the highlights of Iceland while still in a small group (less than 15 people). Since I booked the tour through the Loki 101 Guesthouse where I am staying, the excursion included the admission costs for the Kerid Crater and the Blue Lagoon. For less than $250, I visited:
- Thingvellir National Park
- The Geysir geothermal area
- Gullfoss waterfall
- Bruarfoss waterfall
- Efstidalur farm and restaurant
- Kerid volcanic crater
- The Blue Lagoon
The tour description does not mention each of these stops, and it was exciting to experience the bonus locations. Throughout the drive (which went from 8:30 am to 8 pm), our guide dispensed stories, tales, and information about Icelandic history as we passed by the tectonic plates, random churches, and other hallmarks. Several of my fellow passengers raved about the value of the tour.
Transportation to Destination & Tour Size
Most tours out of Reykjavik use the bus stops littered throughout the city. Some providers will pick you up from your hotel. While Reykjavik is a walkable city, make sure you know where you are walking to.
The Mercedes Benz tour van had less than 20 seats, offered USB charging outlets, and was much easier to locate in a parking lot of huge buses. Although I knew there would be WiFi from the tour description, the charging ports were another welcomed bonus.
The vehicle was comfortable to be in, although it felt a little tight to walk through the narrow aisle flank by a row of single and double seats. Having the option to sit by oneself rather than shoulder-to-shoulder with a stranger was another plus for solo travelers.
Golden Circle Sights
Thingvellir National Park is a pretty straightforward experience. There are walking trails with spectacular views.
The Geysir geothermal area also has a trail (albeit not as easy to walk) that leads to the top of a hill with a 360-view of rural Iceland. If you have good walking boots and aren’t afraid of soiling them with red mud, then I recommend making the climb. The Geysir goes off every 8 to 10 minutes so if you miss it, you will not have long to wait. However, plan to keep your video recording, as the event happens suddenly and is over in two seconds.
Gulfoss waterfall is awe-inspiring. Near the trail that leads to the closest part of the waterfall is a dedication portrait to the woman, Sigridur Tomasdottir, who saved the waterfall from being used as a hydro-power plant. If you take the trail to get closer to the falls, then be prepared to be slightly moist from the splash-back.
Kerid volcanic crater is a pretty hole in the ground. You can walk around the rim and take the steps down to the blue pool at its center. There is an entrance fee if you are not part of a tour, which is 400 Kronos (less than $4).
The Blue Lagoon is every Instagrammers’ dream location with its beautiful blue water and contrasting white steam. The admission fee is pretty pricey (this is definitely what I would consider a tourist trap) and everything inside has a cost.
If you absolutely need to get that perfect blue-water background pic, then I recommend getting the cheapest option, which comes with one drink. Silica mask products and towels are readily available.
Tip: If you plan to use your phone to take photos, then purchase a waterproof case in advance or at the Blue Lagoon bar.
Iceland also offers the Secret Lagoon and the Laugarvatn Fontana hot springs, both of which are more affordable alternatives to the Blue Lagoon. Many tour providers combine the Golden Circle with either of these hot springs.