A Complete Guide To Golden Circle Iceland

The Golden Circle is a classic road trip, taking you on an unforgettable journey in Iceland. From thundering waterfalls to volcanic calderas and tranquil lakes to thermal hot springs – there is something for every type of traveler here.

In this Iceland Golden Circle guide, I offer useful tips to make the best of your visit and have an incredible experience!

What are the stops on Golden Circle Iceland?

The stops along the route include Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall.

Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park is the first stop on the Golden Circle, which is the ideal starting point for any visit to Iceland.

Located in southwest Iceland, Thingvellir was established as a national park in 1930 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

You can explore the diverse landscape of lava fields, mountains, valleys, waterfalls, rivers, and lakes. The park also features important archaeological sites that date back to medieval times. 

Thingvellir national park in Iceland golden circle.

The Great Geysir and Strokkur Geysir

The Great Geysir and Strokkur Geysir are world-renowned attractions in the Haukadalur Valley of Iceland.

The Great Geysir is thought to be the first geyser ever discovered, and its name became a generic term for all other geysers around the world.

It may not erupt as often as it used to, but when it does, it can reach heights of up to 30 meters!

Not far away from this geological wonder is Strokkur Geyser which can be seen erupting every 5-10 minutes. 

Strokkur Geysir in Iceland golden circle.

Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss Waterfall is the dramatic conclusion to the Golden Circle. The mighty falls are located on the Hvítá river, presenting an awe-inspiring view, you will never forget.

Its two cascading tiers plummet 32 meters into a narrow canyon below, providing a beautiful backdrop for any photo opportunity.

Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland golden circle.

How far is the Golden Circle from Reykjavik?

The Golden Circle is a popular tourist destination in Iceland, about 300km from Reykjavik.

The drive along this route takes around 3-4 hours from Reykjavik, although it can be done in a day tour if you are pressed for time.

To reach Golden circle, you can either rent a car or join the Golden Circle tour.

How to drive the Golden Circle in Iceland?

The entire route covers 300km and includes three major attractions: Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Geysir Hot Springs.

The drive can be completed within half a day, but as with any highway driving, planning before beginning your journey is important.

Before setting out on the Golden Circle road trip, check that your rental car has all the necessary safety equipment (e.g., spare tire) and that you are familiar with the Icelandic driving laws.

Make sure you have the right maps or GPS directions so you won’t get lost, and pack all the necessary supplies, such as food and water.

When embarking on your Golden Circle journey, plan several stops along the way. Take some time to visit each of the three main attractions and enjoy the scenery around them.

With its beautiful waterfalls, hot springs, geysers, and other geological wonders, there is no shortage of photo opportunities or places to explore.

Be aware that some roads in Iceland can become slippery during icy conditions and snow storms, so take caution when driving over these areas.

Read more: How to rent a car in Iceland.

driving car Iceland.

Where to stay in the Golden Circle?

The Golden Circle is a popular tourist destination in Iceland and offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets.

From luxury hotels and carefree camping to quaint cottages, the area has something for everyone. 

For those looking for an unforgettable experience, there are several glamping sites located in the region offering unique locations with easy access to key attractions.

Nature lovers can also opt to stay at one of the many huts by stunning natural wonders like Gullfoss Waterfall or Geysir Hot Spring.

If you are looking for convenience, you will find that Reykjavik and other nearby towns have plenty of comfortable hotels and hostels with easy access to local restaurants and shops.

Readmore: Where to stay in Reykjavik.

Book your hotels in Reykjavik.

When is the best time to visit Golden Circle Iceland?

The best time to visit the Golden Circle is during the warmer months of May through September.

During this period, the days are longer, and you can enjoy longer hours of daylight for sightseeing and activities. The temperatures are also mild and comfortable, making it ideal for exploring outdoors.

Summer is particularly popular since more activities are available during that season, such as rafting, horseback riding, and glacier hikes.

However, winter can also be enjoyable if you enjoy snow sports like skiing and snowmobiling or simply admire the wintery landscapes in peace.

Gullfoss is one of the best waterfalls in Iceland.

Tips for visiting Iceland’s Golden Circle in winter

Visiting the Golden Circle in winter can be a magical experience – the different landscapes are transformed with snow and frost. Here are some tips to help you plan your trip: 

Dress warmly

Even in sunny weather, temperatures can drop below 0°C (32°F). Make sure you’ve dressed appropriately for the cold weather by wearing multiple layers of clothing, including waterproof outerwear and plenty of hats, scarves, and gloves.

Check the forecast before going

Iceland is known for its unpredictable weather, so check the forecast before setting out on your journey to know what to expect during your visit. 

Litli Geysir Iceland.

Bring traction equipment if necessary

If you plan on venturing off the beaten path and exploring the Golden Circle’s rugged terrain, you may need to bring traction equipment such as crampons or snowshoes. 

Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter conditions

Iceland’s roads can be dangerous in winter, so make sure that your vehicle is equipped with the right tires and has plenty of antifreeze before setting out.

Also, check there are no road closures due to weather conditions when planning your journey. 

Take extra time when driving.

Ice and snow-covered roads can be slippery and unpredictable – take extra care when driving by slowing down and allowing yourself more time to reach your destination safely. 

Best things to do in Golden Circle in Iceland

The first stop is Geysir Hot Springs, known for its natural geothermal pools and hot springs that reach temperatures up to 80 degrees Celsius (176F).

Here you can observe the active Strokkur geyser shooting water up to 30 meters into the air every few minutes.

Strokkur sign Geysir Iceland.

Another highlight of the Golden Circle is Gullfoss Waterfall – a spectacular two-step cascade that drops 32 meters into a deep canyon with thunderous power.

You can observe this magnificent sight from either side of the canyon or take a short hike down closer to the falls.

Gullfoss waterfall iceland.

The final stop on a tour of the Golden Circle is Þingvellir National Park, which holds immense cultural and historical significance for Icelanders.

Here you can explore its many hiking trails, scenic lakes, waterfalls, impressive fissures, and ravines, as well as its unique geological features such as Almannagjá.

Iceland Golden Circle Itinerary

An Iceland Golden Circle Itinerary is an ideal way to explore the country’s spectacular natural wonders in just a few days.

This iconic route spans some of the nation’s most breathtaking attractions, allowing you to experience all that this stunning landscape has to offer. The itinerary begins with the following:

  • þórufoss
  • Thingvellir National Park
  • Haukadalur Geothermal Field
  • Gullfoss Waterfall Stop
  • Faxi waterfall
  • Kerið Crater
  • Hotspring: Laugarvatn Fontana or the Secret Lagoon.
Kerid volcanic crater lake Iceland.
Kerid volcanic crater lake is one of the must-stop in Iceland.

What to wear when visiting Golden Circle Iceland?

When it comes to deciding what to wear for your trip, there are a few things you should consider.

First, the weather in Iceland can be unpredictable, so be sure to dress in layers. A waterproof outer layer is essential, as well as hats, scarves, and gloves in case of rain or windy conditions.

And don’t forget comfortable shoes! You’ll likely be doing some exploring on foot during your time at the Golden Circle, so make sure you have good walking shoes.

It’s also a good idea to bring along a spare pair in case of wet weather. My travel companion broke his pair of shoes just after two days, and he had to buy new ones at a high price because he didn’t bring extra.

Finally, nighttime temperatures may drop considerably depending on where you’re staying near the circle; pack some warm clothes such as sweaters or a jacket to stay warm. 

Gullfoss waterfall trip iceland.

What to pack for Golden Circle?

When packing for a trip to Iceland’s Golden Circle, you will want to pack the essential items that will ensure your comfort and safety.

Some of the most important things include warm layers of clothing as well as travel documents.

Also, it is best to bring along some items specific to the activities you may engage in while traveling around the Golden Circle, such as insect repellent if you plan on exploring Iceland’s natural beauty outdoors.

Lastly, depending on your plans for the duration of your visit, it may be wise to bring along a map or GPS device. 

Please check the Iceland Golden Circle packing list below.

Where to eat when driving Golden Circle?

If you are driving the Golden Circle in Iceland, you may be looking for a place to eat along the way.

Many restaurants and cafes in the area offer traditional Icelandic dishes such as reindeer stew, smoked salmon, and rye bread.

You can find many international options, too, including Italian, Mexican, and American-style cuisine.

Popular restaurants include Báran Café & Restaurant in Selfoss and Friðheimar Tomato Farm near Reykholt, both of which serve local delicacies. For those who prefer fast food or snacks on the go, several convenience stores throughout the region offer sandwiches, ice cream, and other treats.

FAQs about Iceland Golden Circle.

Is the Golden Circle worth it?

The Golden Circle is undoubtedly worth a visit for those visiting Iceland. It’s an easy day trip from Reykjavik, consisting of three of the country’s most popular attractions: Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal area at Haukadalur (Geysir). 

How much is the Golden Circle tour in Iceland?

The cost of the Golden Circle tours in Iceland depends on the type of tour you choose. Generally, guided tours start at around $90 per person and go up to more than $200. Self-drive tours tend to be less expensive, starting at about $50 per person. You can check the tour details here.

How long does it take to drive the Golden Circle in Iceland?

The Golden Circle route in Iceland is approximately 300 kilometers (186 miles) long and will take around 6-8 hours to complete. You can start from Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, or at any point along the way. You can choose your car here.

Is it difficult to drive around the Golden Circle?

Driving around the circle can be difficult for those unfamiliar with the roads due to some winding turns and route changes, but overall it is not a particularly challenging drive. However, it is important to take extra caution while driving and watch out for other vehicles or pedestrians on the road. You can check my Iceland driving guide for more information.

Is the Blue Lagoon part of the Golden Circle Iceland?

No, the Blue Lagoon is not part of the Golden Circle of Iceland. The Golden Circle tour in Iceland consists of three major attractions – Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall. The Blue Lagoon is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, in the southwest part of Iceland, some distance from the Golden Circle route.

Can you do the Golden Circle in one day?

The Golden Circle route is a classic road trip that takes you through some of Iceland’s most iconic sights spanning 230 kilometers (140 miles). Although it may seem like a lot of ground to cover, you can complete the Golden Circle in one day – all while taking in some truly spectacular views along the way!

How to visit Iceland’s Golden Circle solo?

One of the most popular and cost-effective ways is by renting a car and driving yourself. This allows you to explore the area at your own pace without being tied to a tour schedule. However, if you are not comfortable driving yourself, several companies offer guided tours of the Golden Circle. You can check the tour information here.

Final thought

The Golden Circle is an unmissable experience for any traveler to Iceland.

This guide offers tips to plan your trip and see all the best sites this incredible country has to offer. With its stunning natural beauty, Vargulfur geothermal area, and historical places like the Thingvellir National Park, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Whether you’re planning a trip to Iceland or just dreaming about one, be sure to add the Golden Circle to your itinerary.

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