The Silver Circle in Iceland: Driving Itinerary

Waterfall in Iceland.

While many travellers flock to Iceland’s famous Golden Circle, there is another circular route that is somewhat of a hidden gem: The Silver Circle. This picturesque journey is filled with natural wonders, showing you everything that Iceland has to offer.

Where is the Silver Circle?

Nestled in the scenic Borgarfjörður region in western Iceland, it is possible to visit the attractions of the Silver Circle in a single-day trip from Reykjavík city. 

The whole route is around 283 km [175,8 mi] and takes just over four hours to drive without any stops. Needless to say you will want to take your time to enjoy the beautiful scenery and rich history of the region. The trip can easily be extended to a two day trip with an overnight stay at the charming Húsafell farm estate or at Reykholt village. 

The must-see’s of the Silver Circle are:

  1. Deildartunguhver: The most powerful hot spring in Europe.
  2. Hraunfossar and Barnafoss: two of the most beautiful waterfalls in the region with glacial water falling from the lava cliffs. 
  3. Reykholt: a historic village and research centre filled with mediaeval history. 
  4. Húsafell: a small farm and church estate and cultural centre.
  5. Víðgelmir: a 1600 m [0,9 mi] long lava cave with multi coloured rocks.

Now, let’s delve into each stop and how you can make the most of it.

Also read: Iceland’s Finest Car Rentals

First stop – Deildartunguhver hot spring

The first stop of the Silver Circle is Deildartunguhver hot spring. The drive from Reykjavík is about 105 km [65 mi] and takes approximately 1,5 hours.

Deildartunguhver is the most powerful hot spring in Europe, providing 180 litres [47,5 gallons] of boiling hot water per second. The landscape around the hot spring is characterised by the unique geothermal features of the area. The rising steam combined with the red rocks surrounded by vividly green moss makes for a beautiful scenery. 

The area is easily accessible with viewing platforms surrounding the hot spring. Nonetheless, it is extremely important to be careful and adhere to all safety guidelines and stay within the designated areas.

Hot springs in Iceland.
Steam at Deildartunguhver hot springs.

 

Second stop – Reykholt village

Reykholt village is only a ten minute drive from Deildartunguhver hot spring. This tiny village is one of the most historic places in Iceland.

The village was the hometown of Snorri Sturluson (1179 – 1241), who was a very important writer, politician and historian in the Middle Ages.
His written works
Edda and Heimskringla are priceless contributions to preserving the history of the vikings and the Old Norse language and mythology. 

In Reykholt you will also find Snorrastofa, a cultural centre for research and mediaeval studies. There you can visit an exhibition of Snorri´s life, his work and discover more about the rich history of the Borgarfjörður region.

Being such a historic place it comes as no surprise that Reykholt village is an extremely fruitful archeological site. Remains of a mediaeval farm have been excavated, that might even have belonged to Snorri himself. It´s also home to the oldest geothermal pool in Iceland, Snorralaug, the first ever archeological site listed in Iceland. 

Third stop – Hraunfossar waterfalls

After taking in the mediaeval history in Reykholt village, the third stop, Hraunfossar waterfalls, will only be a 15-20 minute drive from there.

Hraunfossar literally means Lava Waterfalls and takes its name from the 900 metre [2950 ft] long lava cliff it falls off. The Hraunfossar waterfalls are considered an extremely beautiful phenomenon with glacial water emerging from the lava, creating many small waterfalls pouring down into the river below. The water originates from Langjökull glacier and emerges with Hvítá river, which is the source of the famous Gullfoss waterfall. 

Barnafoss waterfall

Barnafoss or Children´s waterfall, is only a few minutes walk from Hraunfossar waterfalls. 

The waterfall draws its name from a tragic accident that is said to have happened centuries ago. When crossing a stone arch over the river, two children are believed to have fallen into the waterfall. According to folklore the mother of the children had the arch destroyed to prevent further tragedies. 

Today it is possible to cross the river on a sturdy bridge and admire both Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls from different angles. Even though the name comes from a horrifying tale, the bright blue Barnafoss waterfall and the powerful glacial river make for a beautiful scenery.

Icy river in Iceland with a bridge crossing.
Photo: Signe. Barnafoss waterfall in the wintertime.


Fourth stop – Húsafell farming estate

The fourth stop on the Silver Circle is the Húsafell farming estate. The drive from Hraunfossar waterfalls takes about ten minutes. 

Húsafell is a small farm and church estate that now serves as a hub for travellers visiting and residing in the surrounding area. It is a destination frequented by locals, many of which have holiday houses in the area. Nearby you will also find a campsite, a hotel and other short term lodgings.

This would be the perfect place to camp for the night if you wish to extend your Silver Circle journey into a two day trip.

What to do in Húsafell farm?

There are many beautiful hiking trails in the area which is one of the few wooded areas left in Iceland. 

Húsafell farm also has numerous other activities to keep you busy. You can go swimming at the local pool, play a round of golf, go horseback riding, book a cave-trip to one of the nearby ice- or lava caves, have a relaxing soak at the Húsafell geothermal Canyon Baths and wine and dine at the local restaurant. 

Here you can find tours and guided activities to do while in Húsafell. 

Photo: Erik. Húsafell Canyon Baths.

The Húsafell Stone

The Húsafell stone is a legendary lifting stone weighing 186 kg [410 lb]. Originally the stone, which actually has the name Kvíahellan or Pen slab, was used as the gate to a sheep pen built in the 18th century. 

The stone has been used for centuries to test physical strength by lifting and carrying it around. It is measures as follows:

  • Amlóði (lazybones): Able to lift the stone up to your knees.
  • Hálfsterkur (half-strong): Able to lift the stone up to the waist level. 
  • Fullsterkur (full-strong): Able to lift the stone up to the chest and walk with it for 34 metres [112 ft] 

Anyone willing can put their strength to test but seeing the stone has no handles it can be very difficult to grip, let alone lift. 

Fifth stop – Víðgelmir lava cave

The last but certainly not the least stop on the Silver Circle route is Víðgelmir lava cave. The drive from Húsafell farm is approximately 11 km [6.8 mi] and takes about 17 minutes. 

This stunning lava cave is 1600 metres [0,9 mi] long and takes you deep inside a lava flow, filled with stunning stalagmites, ice and lava formations and multi-coloured rocks. You can only go inside the cave with an experienced and knowledgeable guide who will guide you safely into this remarkable geological phenomenon. It is advisable to book a tour in advance of your trip.

Additional Silver Circle adventures:

Into The Glacier

Enhance your Silver Circle experience with these exciting activities and attractions:

  1. Krauma spa is a modern geothermal spa with six baths: five hot ones, with water coming straight from the nearby Deildartunguhver hot springs, and one cold one with water from Langjökull glacier. Enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape while soaking in the naturally warm water. Krauma spa welcomes visitors all year-round between 11 AM and 21 PM local time. 
  2. Have you ever wanted to go horseback riding on an Icelandic horse? This is possible at different locations throughout the Silver Circle route. 
  3. Into the glacier is an ice cave experience at Langjökull, the second largest glacier in Iceland. Enjoy this extraordinary experience of exploring the glacier from the inside. 
  4. Hike through the wilderness, past Langifoss waterfall all the way up to the Húsafell Canyon Baths during your stay at Húsafell farm estate. Enjoy a relaxing soak in these geothermal hot spring baths surrounded by mountains, canyons and glaciers.
  5. Þingvellir National Park is officially a part of the Golden Circle tour but on your way back to Reykjavík city you could make a small detour to the historic Þingvellir park. 

Can I drive the Silver Circle on my own?

Yes, the Silver Circle route is easily accessible with your own car. Bear in mind that driving conditions vary depending on the time of year and the weather. If you are considering renting a car, see our selection of Iceland’s Finest Car Rentals

However, if you would rather sit back, relax and enjoy having an experienced guide and driver, there are many different Silver Circle tours available. Some of which even combine the main stops with other attractions such as Glanni waterfall, Paradísarlaut hollow and Grábrók crater.

Whether you choose to explore the Silver Circle on your own or with a guided tour, one thing is certain: the Silver Circle will be an unforgettable journey through Iceland’s untamed beauty.

150 Cattle Taken by Authorities in Abuse Case

icelandic cows

150 cattle have been removed from a farm in Borgarfjörður by the authorities on November 14 and 15. After repeated demands by authorities that their owner improve their conditions, authorities have finally been forced to confiscate the cattle after it became clear the farmer in question would not cooperate.

Both police officers and representatives from MAST, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority, were at the scene, reports RÚV.

Read more: Further Animal Abuse in Borgarfjörður

The owner in question is said to have a long history of mistreating his animals. Sheep and horses have been previously taken from the farmer to be slaughtered, as they were too maltreated to be rescued.

Some cattle confiscated in the latest episode will likewise be slaughtered, but many of the cows will be allowed to live and given new homes.

Ellen Ruth Ingimundsdóttir, district veterinarian for Southwest Iceland, stated that such cases are very difficult for all involved: “It’s a long and difficult story. We decided that it was no longer possible to give deadlines that weren’t met […] We don’t take animals from people just because we want to. We need to follow the law and we need to do this in consultation with locals so that it doesn’t hurt the animals. That’s why it has also taken a long time.”

Ellen additionally thanked those farmers who will be receiving the remaining cows, which are headed to barns with better pasture and conditions.

 

Glacial Flood Expected in West Iceland

Hraunfossar Waterfalls

A relatively high water level in a glacier lagoon by Langjökull glacier, West Iceland, suggests that a flood can be expected from the lagoon in the near future. Such floods have occurred before and are known to cause a very rapid water level rise in the rivers Svartá and Hvítá in the Borgarfjörður area.

The Volcanology and Natural Hazard Group and the University of Iceland published satellite images of the lagoon and surrounding area yesterday, showing a high water level in the lagoon. At least three floods have occurred from the lagoon before in the last few years; in August 2020, August 2017, and September 2014.

Eldfjallafræði og náttúruvárhópur Háskóla Íslands / Facebook. 

Typically, the floodwater runs under the glacier toward the southwest, where it runs into Svartá and then from that river into Hvítá. The Icelandic Met Office is monitoring the situation, in part with water level measuring equipment in Hvítá, which will be able to detect the peak of the flood.

The flooding could be dangerous to those travelling on or near the two rivers.