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The Silver Circle of West Iceland - Your Guide

You’ve heard of the Golden Circle, but here’s why you should head to Iceland’s western peninsula and discover the Silver Circle of West Iceland

March 10, 2023

The Silver Circle of West Iceland - Your Guide

You’ve heard of the Golden Circle, but here’s why you should head to Iceland’s western peninsula and discover the Silver Circle of West Iceland

March 10, 2023

Anybody visiting Iceland will have heard of the Golden Circle – the circular route from Reykjavik taking in top sights like Þingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir area of geothermal activity.

In the peak season (June, July and August), this route can become very crowded as it is one of the most popular day trips in Iceland. Those that seek something a little more adventurous and undiscovered can head away from the crowds to the west of Iceland, and explore the Silver Circle. Like the Golden Circle, the Silver Circle is a circular driving route from Reykjavik.

It takes in beautiful waterfalls tumbling over rocks and cascading into glacial rivers, geothermal hot springs fit for outdoor bathing and hiking routes through volcanic valleys. Silver Circle tours are for those that seek something a little less ordinary, away from the crowds. Here’s everything you need to know about the Silver Circle so you can decide if this route is for you.

About the Silver Circle

The Silver Circle is one of Iceland’s three “jewel routes” – the other two being the most popular and famous Golden Circle and the Diamond Circle up in the north of Iceland. The Silver Circle route is just as easily accessed from Reykjavik as the Golden Circle, and takes in beautiful waterfalls, history and hot spring baths. Along the route, you’ll be able to stop at baths fed by water from Europe’s most powering hot spring and see a waterfall streaked ethereally orange thanks to ancient lava flow.

You should generally dedicate a full day to the Silver Circle, to give you time to properly admire the waterfalls, hike to the secret lava valley bathing pools and learn about the area’s history. You can also easily add it to a road trip around the entire ring road of Iceland as it sits just off Route One between Reykjavik and Akureyri.

Hraunfossar waterfalls

Almost a kilometre wide, the Hraunfossar waterfalls are one of the prettiest stops along the Silver Circle. As subterranean water wells up beneath the Hallmundarhraun lava fields, it spills out over rocks fringed with greenery and streaked with tiger-orange stripes, and cascades into the blue glacial water of the Hvítá river.


hraunfossar waterfalls

In autumn, the greenery turns to fiery reds and browns above the falls which is a truly spectacular sight to behold. Due to the stripes of orange in the rocks here, Hraunfossar translates as “lava falls.” These falls are protected and have been considered a national monument since 1987.

Barnafoss waterfalls

Barnafoss waterfalls are very close to Hraunfossar falls – in fact, they are practically next-door neighbours. Crossing the Hvítá river over a narrow, wooden bridge, you can catch a glimpse of Hraunfossar from a different angle before admiring Barnafoss.

Here, the glacial river has cut through the volcanic rock over the centuries and forces itself through an archway, creating Barnafoss falls. Photographers flock here to capture the impressive image of glacial meltwater powering through the rocks.

It may be beautiful, but there is a dark side to the history and legends surrounding Barnafoss. In English, Barnafoss translates as “the Children’s Falls” because, legend has it, that in the deep past two boys from the nearby farm of Hraunsás decided to follow their parents to church one day, taking a shortcut across a stone bridge over the powerful rush of water that is now known as Barnafoss.

Both boys fell to their death leading to their mother embracing witchcraft and scratching a rune into the stone so that any children crossing the stone bridge would plummet into the dangerous water. Iceland’s myths and legends tend to come from oral history passed down through generations, so it is possible the story is true.

Or, it could have simply been used as a cautionary tale to stop children from crossing the dangerous stone bridge. However the story came about, there is no longer a stone bridge across Barnafoss as it was destroyed in an earthquake. But the name “the Children’s Falls” remains.

Krauma Spa

Fed by naturally heated water from Europe’s most powerful hot spring, Krauma Spa is a modern complex of outdoor baths where you can embrace Iceland’s famous bathing culture along the Silver Circle. Slip into the infinity-edge hot spring bath and gaze out at the natural landscape as you relax and rejuvenate. There are five warm baths and one cold plunge pool to immerse yourself in after a session in the infrared sauna. Just like the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon, the Krauma Spa has state-of-the-art changing facilities and an on-site restaurant.
krauma thermal baths

Húsafell, Waterfalls and Icelandic Hot Springs

Travelling across Iceland, you’ll often see signs pointing to what may look like a village, but they turn out to be a few farms clustered together with a church nearby. That’s precisely what Húsafell, along the Silver Circle, is.

However, the addition of charming campsites and a handful of farmhouses turned into accommodation means the population increases during hiking season. Those following the Silver Circle stop here for the Húsafell hot springs, or Giljaböð (Canyon Baths). Two lagoon-like hot spring pools, lined with stone at the end of a hike through a volcanic valley.
husafell hot springs

Húsafell is also a popular walking area, especially for those that seek solace in the trees. Iceland’s harsh climate means it is not blessed with verdant forests, but the protected nature of this area means that the birch woodlands of Húsafell have been left to grow tall and sturdy. The Húsafell walking trail also passes pretty waterfalls like Langifoss.


Embrace the country’s outdoor bathing culture in the hot springs and geothermal pools of Iceland


hot spring iceland

The volcanic activity that simmers beneath Iceland’s surface heats the underground water naturally. This water is teased to the surface, naturally or by man-made plumbing to create hot springs in Iceland. From free pools in river springs to luxurious spa-like experiences with changing facilities, dining options and rejuvenating rituals, there are hot springs for every kind of experience in Iceland.


DeildartunguhverHot Spring

Deildartunguhver is Europe’s most powerful hot spring and it sits along the route of the Silver Circle. Water from the spring emerges from the ground at 97 degrees Celsius (around 207 degrees Fahrenheit), so it is far too hot to bathe in. Winding your way along walkways and paths, you can admire the hot pools that coat the landscape in wisps of steam. At Krauma Spa, the boiling hot Deildartunguhver spring water is mixed with cold glacial water, so you can bathe in the hot springs of Europe’s most powerful hot spring yourself.
Deildartunguhver hot spring
### Langjökull Ice cave

Although not technically on the route of the Silver Circle, Langjökull glacier is a quick hop from Húsafell so works well as an addition to a day exploring the sights of the Silver Circle. While you can take part in the classic glacial experiences at Langjökull – glacier hiking and snowmobiling – the attraction that makes this glacier unique in Iceland is its man-made ice cave which is open all year.

While natural ice caves close during summer as glacial melt conceals entrances, an ice cave tour at Langjökull means you can step into the sleek, blue world of crystalline ice year-round.


Explore a world of shimmering blue ice that has to be seen to be believed in Iceland’s ice caves


langjökull ice cave

Crystalline walls of ice that shimmer in the sunlight and burrowing tunnels deep within glaciers, ice caves in Iceland offer a unique experience. The constant, slow change of temperature and flow of glacial ice creates air pockets within Iceland’s ice caps which form natural ice caves. Embarking on a trip into an ice cave can reward you with the sleek, Arctic-looking world of your imagination.


Reykholt

In the valley of the river Reykjadalsá, Reykholt is a tiny village with plenty of things to see and do in the area. It may be small, but this isolated spot is packed with history. It was once home to the legendary writer, chieftain and lawmaker Snorri Sturluson, without whom we’d know very little about mediaeval northern Europe. It was also the place of his assassination in 1241. There’s a centre dedicated to the works of Snorri Sturluson. The Snorrastofa is a research centre with an expansive library and regular exhibitions showcasing artefacts and texts about mediaeval northern Europe and Snorri Sturluson’s writings.

Reykholt is also home to one of Iceland’s oldest structures – the Snorralaug geothermal pool. There are a few places to stay here from homely little cabins to hotels. Our two-day tour of the Northern Lights and Snaefellsnes national park includes a stop at historic Reykholt.

The Ring road

One of the most popular ways to see the entirety of Iceland in a week or ten days is to take a road trip on the Route One road. Iceland’s ring road circles the entire island, leaving from Reykjavik and taking in the sights of the south coast – black-sanded beaches, glaciers and waterfalls – the isolated east coast and onwards to the north of Iceland.

Up here, you can stop for a spot of whale-watching in Husavik and try to spot the Northern Lights outside the northern town of Akureyri. Returning to Reykjavik via the western fjords, once you hit Hvammur, it is easy to add a day of following the Silver Circle to your island-wide road trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you still have questions about the Silver Circle in Iceland, we’ve rounded up the frequently asked questions and got you covered.

What is the Silver Circle in Iceland?

Just like the Golden Circle, the Silver Circle in Iceland is a circular driving route, taking in waterfalls, geothermal hot springs and historic settlements. The route is to the west of Reykjavik and tends to be less crowded than the Golden Circle so it is ideal for those that seek natural wonders away from the well-beaten track.

How long is the Silver Circle?

There are a couple of different options to drive the Silver Circle. You can either follow completely paved roads, or add a little more time and distance (and adventure) to your route with some gravel roads around Husafell. You should dedicate a day to the Silver Circle from Reykjavik as the whole route there and back is around 300 kilometres of driving and, with stops at the major waterfalls and hot springs, would take around nine to ten hours to enjoy everything.

What is The Silver Circle famous for?

The most famous sight along the Silver Circle is probably Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls which sit practically side-by-side. Orange streaks at Hraunfossar make for a striking picture and lend it the name “lava falls”. The route is also home to Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot spring which you can experience at the Krauma Spa.

What is the best time of year to tour the Silver Circle?

The hot spring baths and historic sights of Reykholt are open year-round, so you can visit the Silver Circle at any time. However, if you are driving the route yourself, you may want to avoid the winter months when the weather can make road conditions hard to navigate. A winter trip to the Silver Circle is best done on an organised day tour from Reykjavik with an experienced Icelandic driver.

Winter also sees the nights get longer and days get shorter, so there is less time to see the sights of the Silver Circle in the light. The long daylight hours in summer mean you can dedicate the proper nine or ten hours to the trip. In terms of scenery, there is something particularly magical about seeing Hraunfossar falls awash with the autumnal hues of fiery oranges and reds, so September and October might be considered the best time for this particular sight.

So, that’s the Silver Circle. It may not be as well-known as the Golden Circle, but this works in the Silver Circle’s favour – with fewer crowds at each beautiful waterfall and fewer people bathing in the geothermal hot springs, it feels more like you’ve stumbled across a secret that only Icelandic folk know about. Trips to the Silver Circle can be done year-round, but to dedicate the recommended amount of time at each sight, summer, spring and autumn are the best times of year to go.

REYKJAVIK EXCURSIONS BLOG

Get inspired! Information and tips and must see places in Iceland, fun facts, customs and more.

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The Silver Circle of West Iceland - Your Guide

You’ve heard of the Golden Circle, but here’s why you should head to Iceland’s western peninsula and discover the Silver Circle of West Iceland

March 10, 2023

The Silver Circle of West Iceland - Your Guide

You’ve heard of the Golden Circle, but here’s why you should head to Iceland’s western peninsula and discover the Silver Circle of West Iceland

March 10, 2023

Anybody visiting Iceland will have heard of the Golden Circle – the circular route from Reykjavik taking in top sights like Þingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir area of geothermal activity.

In the peak season (June, July and August), this route can become very crowded as it is one of the most popular day trips in Iceland. Those that seek something a little more adventurous and undiscovered can head away from the crowds to the west of Iceland, and explore the Silver Circle. Like the Golden Circle, the Silver Circle is a circular driving route from Reykjavik.

It takes in beautiful waterfalls tumbling over rocks and cascading into glacial rivers, geothermal hot springs fit for outdoor bathing and hiking routes through volcanic valleys. Silver Circle tours are for those that seek something a little less ordinary, away from the crowds. Here’s everything you need to know about the Silver Circle so you can decide if this route is for you.

About the Silver Circle

The Silver Circle is one of Iceland’s three “jewel routes” – the other two being the most popular and famous Golden Circle and the Diamond Circle up in the north of Iceland. The Silver Circle route is just as easily accessed from Reykjavik as the Golden Circle, and takes in beautiful waterfalls, history and hot spring baths. Along the route, you’ll be able to stop at baths fed by water from Europe’s most powering hot spring and see a waterfall streaked ethereally orange thanks to ancient lava flow.

You should generally dedicate a full day to the Silver Circle, to give you time to properly admire the waterfalls, hike to the secret lava valley bathing pools and learn about the area’s history. You can also easily add it to a road trip around the entire ring road of Iceland as it sits just off Route One between Reykjavik and Akureyri.

Hraunfossar waterfalls

Almost a kilometre wide, the Hraunfossar waterfalls are one of the prettiest stops along the Silver Circle. As subterranean water wells up beneath the Hallmundarhraun lava fields, it spills out over rocks fringed with greenery and streaked with tiger-orange stripes, and cascades into the blue glacial water of the Hvítá river.


hraunfossar waterfalls

In autumn, the greenery turns to fiery reds and browns above the falls which is a truly spectacular sight to behold. Due to the stripes of orange in the rocks here, Hraunfossar translates as “lava falls.” These falls are protected and have been considered a national monument since 1987.

Barnafoss waterfalls

Barnafoss waterfalls are very close to Hraunfossar falls – in fact, they are practically next-door neighbours. Crossing the Hvítá river over a narrow, wooden bridge, you can catch a glimpse of Hraunfossar from a different angle before admiring Barnafoss.

Here, the glacial river has cut through the volcanic rock over the centuries and forces itself through an archway, creating Barnafoss falls. Photographers flock here to capture the impressive image of glacial meltwater powering through the rocks.

It may be beautiful, but there is a dark side to the history and legends surrounding Barnafoss. In English, Barnafoss translates as “the Children’s Falls” because, legend has it, that in the deep past two boys from the nearby farm of Hraunsás decided to follow their parents to church one day, taking a shortcut across a stone bridge over the powerful rush of water that is now known as Barnafoss.

Both boys fell to their death leading to their mother embracing witchcraft and scratching a rune into the stone so that any children crossing the stone bridge would plummet into the dangerous water. Iceland’s myths and legends tend to come from oral history passed down through generations, so it is possible the story is true.

Or, it could have simply been used as a cautionary tale to stop children from crossing the dangerous stone bridge. However the story came about, there is no longer a stone bridge across Barnafoss as it was destroyed in an earthquake. But the name “the Children’s Falls” remains.

Krauma Spa

Fed by naturally heated water from Europe’s most powerful hot spring, Krauma Spa is a modern complex of outdoor baths where you can embrace Iceland’s famous bathing culture along the Silver Circle. Slip into the infinity-edge hot spring bath and gaze out at the natural landscape as you relax and rejuvenate. There are five warm baths and one cold plunge pool to immerse yourself in after a session in the infrared sauna. Just like the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon, the Krauma Spa has state-of-the-art changing facilities and an on-site restaurant.
krauma thermal baths

Húsafell, Waterfalls and Icelandic Hot Springs

Travelling across Iceland, you’ll often see signs pointing to what may look like a village, but they turn out to be a few farms clustered together with a church nearby. That’s precisely what Húsafell, along the Silver Circle, is.

However, the addition of charming campsites and a handful of farmhouses turned into accommodation means the population increases during hiking season. Those following the Silver Circle stop here for the Húsafell hot springs, or Giljaböð (Canyon Baths). Two lagoon-like hot spring pools, lined with stone at the end of a hike through a volcanic valley.
husafell hot springs

Húsafell is also a popular walking area, especially for those that seek solace in the trees. Iceland’s harsh climate means it is not blessed with verdant forests, but the protected nature of this area means that the birch woodlands of Húsafell have been left to grow tall and sturdy. The Húsafell walking trail also passes pretty waterfalls like Langifoss.


Embrace the country’s outdoor bathing culture in the hot springs and geothermal pools of Iceland


hot spring iceland

The volcanic activity that simmers beneath Iceland’s surface heats the underground water naturally. This water is teased to the surface, naturally or by man-made plumbing to create hot springs in Iceland. From free pools in river springs to luxurious spa-like experiences with changing facilities, dining options and rejuvenating rituals, there are hot springs for every kind of experience in Iceland.


DeildartunguhverHot Spring

Deildartunguhver is Europe’s most powerful hot spring and it sits along the route of the Silver Circle. Water from the spring emerges from the ground at 97 degrees Celsius (around 207 degrees Fahrenheit), so it is far too hot to bathe in. Winding your way along walkways and paths, you can admire the hot pools that coat the landscape in wisps of steam. At Krauma Spa, the boiling hot Deildartunguhver spring water is mixed with cold glacial water, so you can bathe in the hot springs of Europe’s most powerful hot spring yourself.
Deildartunguhver hot spring
### Langjökull Ice cave

Although not technically on the route of the Silver Circle, Langjökull glacier is a quick hop from Húsafell so works well as an addition to a day exploring the sights of the Silver Circle. While you can take part in the classic glacial experiences at Langjökull – glacier hiking and snowmobiling – the attraction that makes this glacier unique in Iceland is its man-made ice cave which is open all year.

While natural ice caves close during summer as glacial melt conceals entrances, an ice cave tour at Langjökull means you can step into the sleek, blue world of crystalline ice year-round.


Explore a world of shimmering blue ice that has to be seen to be believed in Iceland’s ice caves


langjökull ice cave

Crystalline walls of ice that shimmer in the sunlight and burrowing tunnels deep within glaciers, ice caves in Iceland offer a unique experience. The constant, slow change of temperature and flow of glacial ice creates air pockets within Iceland’s ice caps which form natural ice caves. Embarking on a trip into an ice cave can reward you with the sleek, Arctic-looking world of your imagination.


Reykholt

In the valley of the river Reykjadalsá, Reykholt is a tiny village with plenty of things to see and do in the area. It may be small, but this isolated spot is packed with history. It was once home to the legendary writer, chieftain and lawmaker Snorri Sturluson, without whom we’d know very little about mediaeval northern Europe. It was also the place of his assassination in 1241. There’s a centre dedicated to the works of Snorri Sturluson. The Snorrastofa is a research centre with an expansive library and regular exhibitions showcasing artefacts and texts about mediaeval northern Europe and Snorri Sturluson’s writings.

Reykholt is also home to one of Iceland’s oldest structures – the Snorralaug geothermal pool. There are a few places to stay here from homely little cabins to hotels. Our two-day tour of the Northern Lights and Snaefellsnes national park includes a stop at historic Reykholt.

The Ring road

One of the most popular ways to see the entirety of Iceland in a week or ten days is to take a road trip on the Route One road. Iceland’s ring road circles the entire island, leaving from Reykjavik and taking in the sights of the south coast – black-sanded beaches, glaciers and waterfalls – the isolated east coast and onwards to the north of Iceland.

Up here, you can stop for a spot of whale-watching in Husavik and try to spot the Northern Lights outside the northern town of Akureyri. Returning to Reykjavik via the western fjords, once you hit Hvammur, it is easy to add a day of following the Silver Circle to your island-wide road trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you still have questions about the Silver Circle in Iceland, we’ve rounded up the frequently asked questions and got you covered.

What is the Silver Circle in Iceland?

Just like the Golden Circle, the Silver Circle in Iceland is a circular driving route, taking in waterfalls, geothermal hot springs and historic settlements. The route is to the west of Reykjavik and tends to be less crowded than the Golden Circle so it is ideal for those that seek natural wonders away from the well-beaten track.

How long is the Silver Circle?

There are a couple of different options to drive the Silver Circle. You can either follow completely paved roads, or add a little more time and distance (and adventure) to your route with some gravel roads around Husafell. You should dedicate a day to the Silver Circle from Reykjavik as the whole route there and back is around 300 kilometres of driving and, with stops at the major waterfalls and hot springs, would take around nine to ten hours to enjoy everything.

What is The Silver Circle famous for?

The most famous sight along the Silver Circle is probably Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls which sit practically side-by-side. Orange streaks at Hraunfossar make for a striking picture and lend it the name “lava falls”. The route is also home to Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot spring which you can experience at the Krauma Spa.

What is the best time of year to tour the Silver Circle?

The hot spring baths and historic sights of Reykholt are open year-round, so you can visit the Silver Circle at any time. However, if you are driving the route yourself, you may want to avoid the winter months when the weather can make road conditions hard to navigate. A winter trip to the Silver Circle is best done on an organised day tour from Reykjavik with an experienced Icelandic driver.

Winter also sees the nights get longer and days get shorter, so there is less time to see the sights of the Silver Circle in the light. The long daylight hours in summer mean you can dedicate the proper nine or ten hours to the trip. In terms of scenery, there is something particularly magical about seeing Hraunfossar falls awash with the autumnal hues of fiery oranges and reds, so September and October might be considered the best time for this particular sight.

So, that’s the Silver Circle. It may not be as well-known as the Golden Circle, but this works in the Silver Circle’s favour – with fewer crowds at each beautiful waterfall and fewer people bathing in the geothermal hot springs, it feels more like you’ve stumbled across a secret that only Icelandic folk know about. Trips to the Silver Circle can be done year-round, but to dedicate the recommended amount of time at each sight, summer, spring and autumn are the best times of year to go.

REYKJAVIK EXCURSIONS BLOG

Get inspired! Information and tips and must see places in Iceland, fun facts, customs and more.