Wondering about the Silver Circle in Iceland?
This is a fantastic driving loop to experience both the fire and ice of Iceland.
Below is my guide with map, practical tips and the best things to do, including the famous waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss.
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Why visit the Silver Circle in Iceland?
What is the Silver Circle?
The Silver Circle is a collection of fascinating locations on a small driving loop. It combines history, geothermal power, waterfalls, glacier and lava tubes: a little bit of everything from the land of fire and ice.
It can be easily accessed from Reykjavik on a day trip. It has been recently branded as the "Silver Circle".
What are the main attractions on the Silver Circle?
I will show them to you in more details further in this article. But here is a quick list:
- Deildartunguhver, the most powerful geothermal spring in Europe
- The historical town of Reykholt
- Hraunfossar, the waterfalls through lava
- Barnafoss, the rushing river
- The wooded area of Husafell
- Into the Glacier, the experience of going on the Langjökull glacier and inside it (Book visit)
- Vidgelmir, the stunning lava tube (Book visit)
Is the Silver Circle worth it?
In both Winter and Summer, I think the Silver Circle is worth the drive.
You can enjoy the
- Fire of Iceland with the spring and the lava tubes and the
- Ice of Iceland with the glacier and the tunnels, and the melting water making its way down
Plus, Hraunfossar is one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland.
Planning Tips & Map - Silver Circle, Iceland
How to get to the Silver Circle location - map
- Loop from Road 1 and Road 50, North of Borgarnes
- Roads 518, paved until Husafell
- You can drive back via 518 or do more of a loop with Road 523, but it is a gravel road
- It goes to the small villages of Reykholt and Husafell
- Reykjavik to Borgarnes = 1h10 drive
- Borgarnes to Husafell = 1h drive
- Reykholt to Husafell = 20min drive
- Below is a map to help you get oriented and locate the Silver Circle:
These locations are included (with GPS coordinates, map of Snaefellsnes region and planning info) in my travel guide eBook that helps you easily plan your Iceland road trip:
Plan your dream road trip in Iceland
How long is the Silver Circle loop?
- I recommend planning 1 day if you plan on visiting the lava cave and the glacier
- However, if you only do the free sites, then it can be done in half a day.
- Once in Borgarnes, there is not much driving left
Need to rent a car in Iceland?
- Option 1 - Local experts - Iceland has a lot of specificities and offerings by local companies are adapted - compare cars and prices of quality local brands on GuidetoIceland.com
- Option 2 - International Brands - compare offers on Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
- If you plan on driving on F-roads in the Central Highlands, a good 4WD is mandatory
- You can get information at the visitor center in Husafell
- Make sure you book your activities in advance. They are not running all the time.
- Book your Vidgelmir lava cave tour from Husafell HERE
- Book your visit "Into the Glacier" from Husafell HERE
- Wear layers of clothes - you are going inside a cave and a glacier!
- Wear good walking shoes
- Facilities in Reykholt and Husafell
Silver Circle Tours - organized
If you don't want to drive, you can book a day trip from Reykjavik. They won't stop everywhere, but you can enjoy a lot of it.
- In Summer, you can enjoy Super Jeep Tour. They don't include the caves visit, but with the vehicle they can take you on the glacier as well - see program and book
- Or in Summer as well, you can enjoy the main road stop and the head by 4WD to another hidden waterfall instead of experiencing the glacier and cave - see program and book
- In Winter - check out this option in which you can include both the lava tube and the glacier - Read program and book
Where to stay
- Borgarnes is where you will find the most options. It is a practical location if you want to do the Silver Circle on one day and the Snaefellsnes peninsula on another - Check out the best rated accommodations in Borgarnes
- I really enjoyed the Icelandair Hotel Hamar. The views from the room were beautiful and the food really nice - Check out photos and availability
- Otherwise if you want to stay more in nature, check out the accommodation options around Husafell
Where to stay in Iceland?
- Reykjavik - capital city - see best rated accommodations
- Selfoss - between Golden Circle and South Coast - see best rated accommodations
- Vik - near waterfalls and glaciers - see best rated accommodations
- Höfn - gateway to the East fjords - see best rated accommodations
- Egilsstadir - between fjords and North Iceland - see best rated accommodations
- Reykjahlid - for the wonders of Lake Myvatn - see best rated accommodations
- Akureyri - capital of the North - see best rated accommodations
- Grundarfjordur - to explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula - see best rated accommodations
7 Best things to do on the Silver Circle
Now, let's have a look at all the attractions you could enjoy on the Silver Circle.
#1 - Deildartunguhver
Deildartunguhver hot spring is the most powerful geothermal springs in Europe.
It is hard to imagine:
- It provides 180 l per second of hot water (47.5 gallons per second)
- The water is at 97°C (200°F) when it exits.
You can walk around the area where the water spurts. There are fences so you don't get too close and burn yourself.
You can see the water bubbling, the smoke going up. But my favorite part is admiring the color of the rocks around the water.
The water is used to heat the houses in the whole region.
#2 - Reykholt
Reykholt is a small village and an easy stop in the middle of the amazing natural attractions.
It is a charming place with a few interesting buildings:
- The little church
- The Museum / Library about Snorri Sturluson and his work (as it was his home). He is a legendary medieval writer and historian (in the Nordic World). He has diligently documented the Old Norse Mythology that used to be only kept alive orally. And he also documented the sagas of the Norwegian Kings in Heimskringla.
- The Snorralaug geothermal pool (picture blow) - a small pool in front of one of a turf house. It is one of the oldest structures in Iceland. The Spring is thought to have been used since the 12th century
#3 & 4 - Hraunfossar and Barnafoss
Hraunfossar and Barnafoss are visited together. There is a walking path connecting both.
The area is well-maintained with viewpoint points, easy trails and facilities (including restaurant in Summer).
First you see Hraunfossar also known as Lava Falls. It is 1km wide and clear water flows from every little crack in the lava. It is quite a unique sight!
Plus the water flowing in the glacial river Hvítá is often bright blue, making the view even better (it was not when I took the picture above, but you can see it in my section about the Silver Circle in Winter).
Then you walk upstream and discover Barnafoss (also known as Children's Fall). It is not a waterfall in height but mostly the powerful River Hvita rushing in a narrow gorge in the lava. You can really feel the power of the water making its way.
#5 - Husafell
Husafell is a small settlement, a farm and a church.
The area has been welcoming travelers for a long time. And since the 19th century, it has become a colony of artists inspired by the beautiful Nature around.
Today it is well-known as a camping spot, for its old family farmhouses and for being one of the rare wooded areas left in Iceland (birch forest).
This is where you will wind a small shop and the pick-up point for the Lava Cave and the Glacier experience.
#6 - Vidgelmir
Vidgelmir is one of my favorite places to visit in Iceland. But it is because I love geology.
It is a well-preserved lava cave / lava tube. It has been protected from visitors between the 70s and the 90s because of an ice build-up. It is located in the Hallmundarhraun lava field.
Today you can enjoy a guided visit on a well set up trail to discover the incredible lava formations. Geologists are not sure about the eruption that created it, but the estimation is that the eruption must have happened around 900 AD and lasted 1 to 4 years.
And, if you visit in Winter, you may see ice stalagmites created by water drops entering the cave and freezing.
#7 - Into the Glacier
Some people have crazy ideas... and sometimes it works!
Langjökull (the Long Glacier) is the second largest in Iceland. It covers about 950 km². For a long time, people were driven on top of the glacier to experience it. But a couple of guys through it would be good to take visitors under it! And they cut a tunnel into the glacier....
It is quite a unique experience again!
It is not as beautiful as the natural ice caves you can see in Winter, but it is a great way to see the inside of a glacier and be impressed by the walls of ice. And you can visit it all year round!
It is the first and biggest man-made glacier ice cave.
On the tour, you first climb aboard a vehicle and enjoy the beautiful views as you drive on the glacier to the entrance of the tunnel. And then you put on ice grips to explore the tunnel.
Silver Circle in Winter
The road is also accessible in Winter.
In case of a snowstorm, it may not be cleared as fast as the Golden Circle road, but you can access those attractions most of the time.
The waterfalls are particularly beautiful in Winter with the blue water.
Plus, as I wrote earlier, the lava tubes will be home to frozen stalagmites!
Silver Circle vs Golden Circle
The 2 experiences are quite different. If you have the time and budget, I recommend doing both.
- Popularity -
The Golden Circle is more popular because of how impressive and grand each site is. It is one of the most famous touring roads in Iceland
The Silver Circle is quite recent in its branding.
- Planning -
For the Golden Circle, you can just hop on your car at any hour and head to the attractions
For the Silver Circle, it requires a little bit more planning if you want to visit the lava tube and the glacier. You need to get organized to book your visit and to plan the day. However, if you only visit the free site, no issues
- Price -
On the Golden Circle, if you do it on your own, you pay only for the parking areas
On the Silver Circle, 2 of the attractions require a fee. They are guided visits, and one requires a special vehicle to go on the glacier.
- Attractions -
Both have waterfalls, geothermal power, history and fascinating geological attractions. On both tours, you get to see a little bit of every faces of Iceland.
You can learn more on my article about the Golden Circle.
Want to see other highlights inland on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula?
- The iconic Mountain Kirkjufell and its waterfalls - read article
- Go off the beaten path to see the Berserkjahraun lava field - read article
- Enjoy the charming Glanni waterfalls - read article
- Go up to Grabrok crater - read article
- Enjoy the lava formation at Arnarstapi, Londrangar and the other volcanic craters... read my Guide to the best things to do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Planning a trip to Iceland?
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