The Golden Circle is one of the most popular routes in Iceland, a country we never get bored of visiting due to its incredible landscapes and northern lights.
We are lucky enough to be able to travel to the island every year to run our Iceland photo tours, and there isn’t a year where we don’t book a few days to drive the Golden Circle.
If you plan to visit Iceland, you shouldn’t miss the Golden Circle route. You can drive the Golden Circle yourself or take a Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik. There are a lot of very interesting stops on the Iceland’s Golden Circle, and once you complete the loop, you will have a general idea of how beautiful this country is.
In this guide to the Golden Circle, Iceland, I’m going to give you all the information you need to plan your tour to the Golden Circle. You will also find a Golden Circle Iceland map to help you find all the tourist attractions worth visiting.
Ready to plan your Iceland’s Golden Circle route? In this article you will find:
- What is the Golden Circle of Iceland
- Unmissable Iceland Golden Circle stops
- Best Golden Circle tours from Reykjavik
- Tips for driving the Golden Circle in Iceland
- Best Iceland’s Golden Circle hotels
- Best Golden Circle restaurants
- Iceland Golden Circle map with stops
What is the Golden Circle?
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular tourist routes in Iceland. It is a road route of about 186 miles that starts from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, and goes around the island. In fact, even though there are a lot of things to do in Reykjavik, most tourists decide to take a tour or rent a car to do the Golden Circle route in one or two days and thus discover the best that the Land of Fire and Ice has to offer.
It’s definitely one of the most beautiful tours from Reykjavik that you can take, and I recommend it, especially if you don’t have enough time to travel around the country. On the Golden Circle, you will find some of the most important natural wonders to see in Iceland: waterfalls, geysers, lakes, volcanoes, geothermal areas…
You can do the Golden Circle route in one day, although I recommend spending two days exploring the area thoroughly and staying overnight in one of the Golden Circle hotels that I will tell you about later. To explore it, you can rent a car or take one of the many tours to the Golden Circle from Reykjavik. Both options are good, although I prefer to drive the Golden Circle of Iceland Route to have more freedom and stop at each of the following tourist attractions of the Golden Circle when I feel like ir.
Unmissable Iceland Golden Circle stops
There are a lot of unmissable Iceland Golden Circle stops, but if you only have one day, don’t worry. Of the 10 places to visit in the Golden Circle that you will find in our guide, the first 6 stops make the best Golden Circle 1-day itinerary.
In fact, all Golden Circle tours from Reykjavik include, at a minimum, the top 4 Golden Circle attractions you’ll see below.
1. Thingvellir National Park, a must-stop at the Golden Circle Route
The Thingvellir National Park is an essential Iceland Golden Circle stop. This is the area where you will have to spend the most time in the Golden Circle, at least a couple of hours, but it is very worth it.
It is 24 miles from Reykjavik and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004. It’s undoubtedly one of the main tourist attractions of the Golden Circle and Iceland, because this is where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia separate. In addition, since these plates separate an average of one inch each year, you can currently walk through the Almannagjá, which is the rift where you can see the fractures that have occurred in the earth due to this separation.
One of the most popular activities in the Golden Circle is to snorkel in the Silfra fissure, where you can dive between two continents and explore the canyon walls, learn about the flora and fauna of the place, and go through Silfra Hall, the widest crack. If you are interested, I recommend you book this tour. Here, you can also visit the beautiful Silfra Cathedral.
In addition, in Almannagjá, you will see a cluster of rocks with a raised flag. This is “The Rock of Law,” where the first Icelandic and world parliament, Alþing, was set. It was founded there in 930 AD and gave its name to Thingvellir, the “esplanade of the assembly” in Icelandic. You can also enjoy Öxarárfoss waterfall, Pingvallavatn lake, and Thingvallakirkja, one of the first churches to be built in the country.
2. Gulfoss waterfall, the most popular Golden Circle waterfall
Gullfoss is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland and one of the places to visit in the Golden Circle that you cannot miss.
This waterfall is also known as the Golden Waterfall and is located in the course of the mighty Hvítá river. When you get to it, it will give you the impression that the river disappears into the depths of the earth, as the flow continues practically perpendicular to the waterfall, creating a unique visual effect. This occurs because Gullfoss emerged after a crack in the Earth’s crust, creating an impressive waterfall that you won’t find anywhere else in Iceland.
If you look closely, you will see that there are actually three drops: a small one of 36 feet, a second of 69, and the third, the most impressive, of 104 feet, which crosses a canyon of about 230 feet. Without a doubt, an authentic wonder of nature that deserves to be among the most important Iceland Golden Circle stops.
The only downside to this place is that it’s excessively touristy and usually crowded. However, it is one of my favorite places to see Northern Lights in the Golden Circle of Iceland, and luckily, there is never anyone at night.
3. Geysir Hot Spring Area & Strokkur
The Haukadalur Valley, better known as the Valley of the Geysers or Geysir geothermal area, is the best area to discover Iceland’s great telluric force. Geysir, the geyser that gave the phenomenon its name, as it was the first geyser to be discovered, is here.
Unfortunately, it has been dormant for quite some time, so Strokkur, another geyser 0.3 miles from the previous one, has become the main point of interest in this area. I didn’t get a chance to see Geysir in action, but I assure you that Strokkur is fascinating, and it’s no wonder that even with his older brother inactive, this area is one of the most popular Golden Circle tourist attractions.
Strokkur launches, up to 100 feet high, steam and water jets at 200 ºF, not much compared to the 260 feet that Geysir eruptions used to reach. However, it’s still a place worth stopping in the Iceland Golden Circle. Also, eruptions happen every 5 or 10 minutes, so whenever you go, you can enjoy this show.
If you want to get a different view than the one from the base of Strokkur, there is a path that allows you to observe this geothermal phenomenon from above. My favorite time to visit is at sunrise.
4. Kerid Crater, one of the best things to see in the Golden Circle
Iceland is known as the Land of Fire and Ice for places like Kerid Crater, another of the Golden Circle attractions that you have to visit. This crater stands out for its aquamarine lake, which forms an authentic natural masterpiece.
When you see it in person and view its perfect circular shape, reddish hues, the green moss that grows around it in summer, and the turquoise blue of the lake, it is impossible not to fall in love.
The crater is on a private property, and although you used to be able to visit it for free, the landowners now charge an entrance fee of ISK 400 (about $4). Not all tours include a stop at this crater, even though it is one of the most impressive places to visit in the Golden Circle. So if you are going to take a Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik, make sure you book a tour that stops there.
5. Bruarfoss, the most beautiful waterfall in the Golden Circle
A few years ago, Bruarfoss was one of the most popular stops on the Golden Circle, as it’s called the bluest waterfall in Iceland. However, the landowners, whose land you have to pass through to get to the waterfall, got tired of the hundreds of tourists who visited it every day on the Golden Circle Route and decided to close off access.
Luckily, you can still visit Bruarfoss, and, in fact, it’s one of the most important things to do in the Golden Circle for me. However, what previously consisted of a 5-minute walk now takes 45 minutes one-way, since you’ll have to walk upstream along the bank of the Brúará river.
This means that not everyone who drives the Golden Circle of Iceland visits it, allowing those who consider it a must-see stop of the Golden Circle to enjoy it practically by themselves. It’s totally worth the walk, and you will also pass by two other very beautiful waterfalls on your way there.
Take into account that there is no signposting and it’s very easy to get lost, so I recommend downloading our tourist map of Iceland, where I have marked the route. In any case, don’t try to get to Bruarfoss in the rain or if it has rained recently, as a lot of mud usually forms and the terrain becomes very slippery. But if the conditions are favorable, it’s one of the essential stops on the Iceland Golden Circle.
6. The Secret Lagoon, a great thing to do in the Golden Circle
Relaxing in the warm waters of the Secret Lagoon is one of my favorite things to do in the Golden Circle. Although it’s considered the oldest pool in Iceland, until a few years ago, it was only frequented by locals. But a farmer bought the land, in the heart of the Golden Circle, to equip it with new changing rooms and showers and popularize it among travelers. Nowadays it’s one of the most popular thermal pools in Iceland.
The thermal waters of the lagoon are between 100 and 104 ºF throughout the year, so, in winter, you don’t get cold, even if you are surrounded by snow. The views from the lake are mind-blowing, and you can even see a small geyser that erupts every 5 minutes from the water.
What I like most about this lagoon is that it isn’t overcrowded compared to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, although you should book well in advance, as it’s very cheap and tickets sell out frequently.
I definitely recommend planning your visit to the Secret Lagoon to finish your Golden Circle route, since I assure you that you will leave these hot springs so relaxed, you’ll be unable to drive the Golden Circle.
7. Fontana Geothermal Baths, A must-visit in the Golden Circle
Didn’t manage to get a reservation at the Secret Lagoon? The Fontana Geothermal Baths is also a very good option and a stop that I recommend you do on your Golden Circle trip if you fancy relaxing.
Its location is also excellent, between the Geysir geothermal area and Thingvellir National Park. So after a long day visiting some of the most important tourist attractions in the Golden Circle, you can take a little breather in this complex of natural geothermal waters.
From the facilities, you will have stunning views of Lake Laugarvatn. However, the resort is very modern and lacks the natural charm the Secret Lagoon or other Icelandic hot springs have. Still, if you don’t want to miss an essential thing to do in the Golden Circle (relaxing in one of its hot springs), you can book it here.
8. Langjökull Glacier, an interesting place to visit in the Golden Circle
The glacier Langjökull, with its 350 mi2, is the second-largest glacier in Iceland after Vatnajökull. This glacier is not always included among the main stops in the Golden Circle, although I think it is worth visiting if you have time.
To get to know it, you must take one of the tours that leave from the Gullfoss Waterfall cafe and cover the glacier on a snowmobile like this. From there, you will ride in a special snowmobile until you reach the glacier base camp, where your snowmobile will be waiting for you.
However, if you can afford it, it’s worth taking this tour, since, in addition to taking the snowmobile ride, you will visit the famous Langjökull ice cave, which, although it was built artificially in 2015, is quite shocking. The most interesting thing is that from inside, you can hear the sound of ice moving above your head.
In any case, whatever tour you choose, if you are doing the Golden Circle route in two days, touring the Landjokull Glacier is a great plan that I recommend doing the morning of your last day in the Golden Circle.
9. Sólheimar, the eco-village of Iceland
Sólheimar is not one of the most popular Golden Circle stops, although if you have time and you are going to do the route over several days, I recommend visiting it.
It is a sustainable eco-village in the heart of Iceland, and it’s actually the largest and oldest in Europe. According to registered data, 100 people live in this place and also work together. But what most caught my attention in this village is that they live off the grid and use only geothermal energy, making this place one of the most ecological places in the world. They also follow the sustainable philosophy in everything they do, from the care of their greenhouses to the construction of schools and other buildings.
If I recommend you include this place among the Golden Circle attractions that you should visit, it’s because you should see that it’s possible to live a life that’s respectful of the environment and the planet in general. A visit that will certainly give you food for thought.
10. Skálholt, a historical place to visit in the Golden Circle
Skálholt is my last recommendation for points of interest to visit in the Golden Circle. It’s a very brief but interesting historical Golden Circle stop.
In this town is Skálholt Cathedral, which was built between 1956 and 1963 and played a fundamental role in the Christianization of Iceland.
In addition to the church, the town of Skálholt is known for having been a cultural and political center during the Middle Ages. The first school was built here.
Currently, in addition to the cathedral, only a few small houses remain, although at one point in history, it was the most populous city in Iceland. If you like history and want to know more about the island, it’s a stop you cannot miss on the Golden Circle.
Best Golden Circle Tours from Reykjavik
Not driving shouldn’t be a reason not to visit Iceland’s Golden Circle, especially considering the number of tours to the Golden Circle from Reykjavik and how varied they are.
Visiting Iceland without a car is possible, since numerous tours depart from the capital to all the tourist attractions of the island and especially to the Golden Circle of Iceland,.
I advise you to book your tour to the Golden Circle of Iceland as soon as you know the dates of your trip, since, being so popular, the best tours fill up right away. Specifically, you will need to book in advance if you are interested in the best Golden Circle tours below:
If you want to do the basic Icelandic Golden Circle route, I recommend this tour, since you will spend the day visiting the highlights of the Golden Circle at the best price. In fact, this tour is considered the cheapest Golden Circle day tour from Reykjavik.
During the tour, which lasts approximately 8 hours, you will visit the Geysir geothermal area, the impressive Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir). Also, this is one of the few tours that stop at Kerid Crater. Without a doubt, one of the best Golden Circle full-day tours to take if you are on a budget.
- Highlights: Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, Thingvellir National Park, and Kerid Crater.
- Duration: 8 hours.
- Price: $57.20 (check availability)
- Description: Enjoy the main Golden Circle stops and some of the most beautiful Icelandic landscapes, among which there is no shortage of geysers, waterfalls, and volcanoes.
The Blue Lagoon, along with the wonders of the Golden Circle, is one of the most distinctive places to visit in Iceland. In fact, it isn’t uncommon to hear the question: Is the Blue Lagoon in the Golden Circle? Although it’s relatively close, the Blue Lagoon is not in the Golden Circle, although there are plenty of Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle combo tours. Of all of them, this small group tour with tickets included is undoubtedly the best option and the best way to visit the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon in one day.
You will visit Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, Kerid crater, and the Blue Lagoon, where you can enjoy a relaxing bath. I advise you to bring swimwear to bathe in the lagoon so you don’t have to rent it there. What the ticket does include are towels, soap, and shampoo. You can check our guide to the Blue Lagoon here.
- Highlights: Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, Kerid Crater, and the Blue Lagoon.
- Duration: 11 hours.
- Price: $229.16 (check availability)
- Description: Get to know some of best points of interest in the Golden Circle and relax in the Blue Lagoon. The price includes entrance to the Kerid crater and to the Blue Lagoon. It doesn’t include swimsuit rental, but it does include towels, soap, and shampoo.
The Secret Lagoon is the oldest hot spring pool in Iceland, so it’s worth visiting and taking a dip in it. In addition, it’s a good option if you want to relax in one of the many hot springs that are in Iceland, but you don’t feel like going to the Blue Lagoon because it is too touristy.
It’s also a good option if you think the extra cost of visiting The Blue Lagoon isn’t worth it, since taking a tour of the Golden Circle with access to the Secret Lagoon will be much cheaper and much more original in my opinion.
With this tour that departs from Reykjavik, in addition to enjoying this beautiful lagoon, you will also discover some of the most distinctive Golden Circle stops, such as the Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall, and Þingvellir National Park.
They will give you an hour and a half to take a relaxing bath in the Secret Lagoon and then, you will visit the most popular places to visit in the Golden Circle. This is undoubtedly the best small group Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon tour.
- Highlights: Secret Lagoon, Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park.
- Duration: 10 hours.
- Price: $91.59 (check availability)
- Description: This tour includes the entrance to the Secret Lagoon for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Then you will visit the Geysir geothermal area, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the Thingvellir National Park.
Snorkeling in the Silfra fissure is a unique experience and a different thing to do in the Golden Circle that is increasingly popular. The intensely blue water of the glaciers reaches the Silfra fissure, filling it and forming a landscape that looks like it’s from another planet.
To visit it, I recommend this tour, since it includes underwater photographs taken while diving in what is considered one of the most spectacular sites in the world, the Silfra fissure, in Thingvellir National Park.
In addition, you will also visit the most distinctive stops of the Golden Circle, such as Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area. Definitely a good way to get to know the Golden Circle of Iceland with a tour from Reykjavik.
- Highlights: Snorkeling in the Silfra fissure, Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall.
- Duration: 10 hours.
- Price: $206.34 (check availability)
- Description: Snorkel in the Silfra fissure and see some of the Golden Circle’s attractions, such as Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area. The tour includes a guide and the necessary equipment to dive in Silfra, free photos during the tour, and hot drinks and cookies at the end of the trip.
If you are looking for a Golden Circle full-day tour that includes a snowmobile ride on the imposing Langjoekull glacier, I recommend this tour.
You will be picked up at your hotel in Reykjavik first thing in the morning to begin your Golden Circle of Iceland Route. Once there, you will visit Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall.
At Gullfoss, you will get aboard a custom-made super truck to reach the Langjökull glacier base camp, where you can explore the glacier in the best possible way, on a snowmobile.
I haven’t been able to do this tour yet, but I will book a day on my next trip to Iceland to do it, since I can’t think of a more fun way to do Iceland’s Golden Circle Route.
Going over ice and snowfields at full speed and discovering landscapes that only a few people have seen is one of the best things to do in the Golden Circle.
- Highlights: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Snowmobile Tour of the Langjökull Glacier.
- Duration: 11 hours.
- Price: $249.90 (check availability)
- Description: Get to know Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall, and tour the Langjökull glacier on a snowmobile. The tour includes all tickets, the snowmobile trip (2 people per vehicle), and the necessary equipment to carry out this activity. It also includes an audio guide that is available in 10 languages.
Seeing northern lights is one of the best experiences you can have in this country, so I advise you to take a look at our guide on how to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, and if you travel from September to April, don’t miss them.
Although there are plenty of Northern Lights tours from Reykjavik, if you’re interested in touring Iceland’s Golden Circle as well, you can save some money by combining these two tours and doing them on the same day.
Of all the Golden Circle and Northern Lights combo tours, this is the one I recommend. In the morning, you will visit the main tourist sites of the Golden Circle, such as Thingvellir National Park, Strokkur, Gullfoss waterfall, and Kerid crater, and you will end the day enjoying the magic of the Northern Lights. This is certainly one of the best excursions to the Golden Circle of Iceland if you have never seen the northern lights before.
- Highlights: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gullfoss waterfall, Kerid crater, and northern lights tour.
- Duration: 9 hours.
- Price: $166.22 (check availability)
- Description: With this tour, you will have the opportunity to visit four essential places on the Golden Circle: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gullfoss waterfall and Kerid crater. In addition, you will go on a northern lights hunt with a guide.
Whale watching in Iceland is one of the best things you can do on the island, and you can combine it with a Golden Circle tour to do both excursions on the same day and save time and money.
This tour is my favorite, and it’s divided into two parts. In the early morning, you will take a boat from Reykjavik to see humpback whales, porpoises, and dolphins, which are the species that are usually in the area. Later, in the afternoon, you will visit some of the main tourist attractions of the Golden Circle, such as Þingvellir National Park, where you will see Alþingi, the first parliament in the world; Gullfoss waterfall; and the Geysir and Strokkur geothermal area. You will also pass through Hveragerði before returning to Reykjavik.
The truth is that I consider this tour of the Golden Circle from Reykjavik an excellent option if you are short on time and don’t want to leave Iceland without seeing whales. However, I think it is better to dedicate a day to seeing whales and exploring Reykjavik and another day to doing the Golden Circle of Iceland route combined with some other activities (Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Snorkeling in Silfra, snowmobile excursion on the Langjoekull glacier or Northern Lights).
- Highlights: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Strokkur, Hveragerði, and whale watching tour.
- Duration: 10 hours.
- Price: $181.12 (check availability)
- Description: You will take a whale watching tour in the morning. Then, you’ll visit some of the main points of interest on the Golden Circle, such as Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir and Strokkur geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall, and the town of Hveragerði.
If you travel to Iceland in summer, you won’t be able to see the northern lights, but there are other highly recommended activities that you can only do during this time of year. For example, rafting in the Golden Circle. Specifically in the Hvítá River, which is a beautiful light blue color.
This is the same river that runs down the Gullfoss waterfall, although don’t worry, rafting is done downstream of the waterfall. On this tour, after
discovering the walls of the beautiful Brúarhlöð canyon and jumping into the water from one of its cliffs, you can relax in a sauna before visiting the most interesting stops of the Golden Circle of Iceland: Gullfoss, Geysir, and Thingvellir.
Please note that this is not a tour to Iceland’s Golden Circle that is suitable for everyone. Children under the age of 11 cannot go on it, since, although you have guides that take care of your safety, it’s still an extreme sport, so I also advise you to buy the best travel insurance.
- Highlights: Hvítá River, Gullfoss, Geysir, Thingvellir National Park.
- Duration: 10 hours.
- Price: $ 158.20 (check availability)
- Description: you will raft in the Hvítá river and then relax in a sauna. After lunch, you will do the Golden Circle route and see Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir geothermal area, and end in Thingvellir National Park before returning to Reykjavik.
As I mentioned, the best thing is to spend one or two days doing the Golden Circle route, but if you don’t have enough time, I recommend taking the opportunity to see the best of Iceland in just 11 hours: the Golden Circle and South Iceland in a day.
I only recommend this tour if you are going to spend a single day in Iceland. If you have more time, spend at least one day in each of these areas. But if you are making a stopover or just don’t have time to see everything you would like to see, this tour concentrates the best of Iceland into the shortest time possible.
You will head towards the South of Iceland very early in the morning, where you will see the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, the Solheimajökull glacier, the black beach of Sólheimasandur, and, finally, the beautiful Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls before starting your Iceland Golden Circle route.
In the afternoon, you will visit the most interesting points on the Golden Circle, Gullfoss, Geysir, and Thingvellir, to then return to Reykjavik in record time after enjoying the best of Iceland in one day. The tour is not cheap, but as the saying goes, time is money and you cannot leave Iceland without touring the Golden Circle.
- Highlights: South Iceland (Eyjafjallajökull, Solheimajokull, Sólheimasandur, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss) and Golden Circle (Gullfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir).
- Duration: 11 hours.
- Price: $355 (check availability)
- Description: The most complete tour you can do in Iceland in a day, where you will visit the most important attractions in both South Iceland and the Golden Circle, including the black sand beach of Iceland, the popular waterfalls of Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, Gullfoss, Geysir, and Thingvellir.
The Golden Circle helicopter tour is a good option if you have even less time, or if you are passionate about photography and nature like us.
From the air, the Golden Circle looks different, and the views you get from taking this tour are just magical. There is no better way to see the wonders of the Golden Circle route hides.
You will get spectacular aerial views of such remarkable places as Gullfoss waterfall and the highest waterfall in Iceland, Glymur. You will also enjoy incredible volcanic landscapes of lava and ice. You will also see the Langjokull glacier from above and get views of spectacular glacial lakes.
- Highlights: Gullfoss waterfall, Glymur waterfall, Langjökull glacier, and other places. Aerial view.
- Duration: 180 minutes.
- Price: $ 1100 (check availability)
- Description: You will fly over the Golden Circle and see the main places of interest from a bird’s eye view, including Gullfoss waterfall, Glymur waterfall, and the Langjökull glacier.
Tips for driving the Golden Circle in Iceland
If you are planning a Golden Circle road trip so you don’t depend on buses or have pre-established schedules or stops, I advise you to take a look at our guide on how to get cheap rental cars and our article on best tips for driving in Iceland. For me, this is one of the best ways to get to know a country like Iceland, where each curve presents a new opportunity for you to admire the views.
In general, driving in Iceland is not dangerous, although I recommend always checking the state of the roads on Road.is, especially in winter. If you decide to drive the Golden Circle, my recommendation is that you first check that all the roads you are going to drive are in good condition and that you can make the most of daylight hours.
If you are wondering how much time you need to drive the Golden Circle, I can assure you that you can do the entire loop in one day. However, if you want to stop at each of the tourist attractions of the Golden Circle, I advise you to spend at least two days on it. That way, you will drive during the day, and at night, you can stay in one of the Golden Circle hotels that I will recommend later.
What kind of car do you need to drive the Golden Circle?
If you decide to drive the Golden Circle, Iceland, you have to know that the roads that make it up, although narrow, are perfectly paved, so you can drive any type of vehicle.
If you plan to drive on an F-road, you will need a 4wd, but these roads are located in the Highlands of Iceland. If you do the basic Golden Circle route, you won’t go on any unpaved roads. In any case, if you are going to drive the Golden Circle of Iceland in winter, remember that a 4×4 car will always be safer.
However, take into account that gas is quite expensive in Iceland, so you may want to look for a fuel-efficient vehicle when renting a car for the Golden Circle if you’re traveling on a budget.
How to drive the Golden Circle in Iceland
The best way to drive the Golden Circle is clockwise, that is, visiting Thingvellir first, where you will need to spend the most time, then going to the Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall, and, finally, making a short stop at Kerid crater before returning to Reykjavik.
If you are going to drive the Golden Circle in two days, do it the same way and stay in one of the hotels of the Golden Circle near Strokkur. You’ll be able to see the sunrise from this geyser and take some of the excursions that depart this area the next day, such as the Langjökull glacier tour or rafting down the Hvítá river, in addition to visiting Gullfoss and the Kerid Crater.
Is Driving the Golden Circle dangerous?
I do not consider driving the Golden Circle of Iceland dangerous. The roads on this route are paved, and the journey can be done with any type of vehicle. Of course, I always advise driving at a reasonable speed, regardless of the time of year, and checking the condition of the roads and the weather before leaving.
If you visit Iceland at off-peak times, you won’t find any traffic, so it will be quite comfortable to drive through the Golden Circle. But if you travel during peak tourist season, both the parking lots and the roads themselves may be somewhat crowded. This doesn’t mean that driving the Golden Circle is dangerous, just that you have to be more cautious because the roads are narrow.
As you can see, driving the Golden Circle is quite safe if you do it at the right speed.
Driving the Golden Circle in Winter
If you’re going to drive the Golden Circle in winter, you must check the weather forecast and the state of roads in Road.is before leaving. If there is a severe storm or snow forecast, stay in your hotel. The wind in Iceland can also be quite dangerous if you’re driving.
Even if you think there is good visibility, always keep your lights on, and don’t drive at the maximum speed of 90 km/h (55 mph) on paved roads. You should drive slower in case there is “black ice”, which you won’t be able to see with the naked eye but could be very dangerous when driving the Golden Circle or anywhere else in Iceland.
Even if you are not going to drive on any F-roads, renting a 4×4 to tour the Golden Circle in winter is the most sensible choice. By this, I mean that you can drive around the Golden Circle in winter with no problems, but a 4wd car will make your route much safer.
Best Iceland’s Golden Circle hotels
If you can spend more than one day visiting the Golden Circle and are looking for hotels to stay in the Golden Circle, then you will find the best accommodations in this section. That way, you can do the Golden Circle tour at your leisure and enjoying all its wonders. Of course, I advise you to book early, especially if you are going to travel during peak toursit season.
The Hotel Grimsborgir is one of the best hotels in the Golden Circle, although I have to admit that it’s pretty pricey. It is 10 minutes from Kerid Crater and half an hour from Thingvellir, so its location is excellent.
The best thing about the hotel is that they have hydromassage bathtubs with views of the sky and the mountains, which you’ll especially appreciate after a long day touring the Golden Circle because being able to relax with good views is a luxury. And best of all, if there are northern lights that night, the hotel has a wake-up service so you can see them. This also makes it one of the best hotels to see Northern Lights in Iceland.
It also has quite a good restaurant and a buffet breakfast that is a real wonder. So overall, I consider this to be the best Golden Circle hotel if you can afford it.
We stayed one night at the Litli Geyser hotel on one of our last trips and we saw one of the most beautiful sunrises of the year there. Also, its location is excellent, just 600 feet from the Geysir geothermal area and a 10-minute drive from Gullfoss waterfall.
Although we didn’t book them, the hotel runs quite interesting excursions and activities in the area. It also has a restaurant and free parking for guests. It’s a hotel in the Golden Circle without too many luxuries, but is a very good option for its location.
If you are on a tight budget, I recommend staying at the Gullfoss Hotel. Don’t let its price fool you; the hotel is very well located, as it’s a 10-minute drive from Strokkur, 35 minutes from Thingvellir National Park, and just 5 minutes from Gullfoss waterfall. So it’s another excellent option if you are looking for well-located hotels in the Golden Circle.
The rooms are very well equipped, and the restaurant serves traditional Icelandic dishes with lamb and seafood. The only drawback is that, due to its good price, you will have to book many months in advance if you want to find a free room.
At Guesthouse Fludir you can choose between a room with a private bathroom or a shared bathroom. It’s a good option if you are looking for something cheap or traveling in a group, since they have up to two-bedroom apartments.
The location is very good, since it’s a 20-minute drive from Gullfoss and Geysir and 0.6 miles from the Secret Lagoon. In addition to providing free parking, this accommodation has a restaurant, and it’s a good option to stay in the Golden Circle for groups.
Best Golden Circle restaurants
Regardless of how many days you’re going to spend in the Golden Circle of Iceland, you will have no problems with meals, since there are numerous restaurants along the way and some of them are very good.
Efstidalur Farm, which is also a hotel and ice cream parlor, is one of my favorite ones. Here, you can taste a wide variety of Icelandic dishes, which are always made with local products and by real chefs. In addition, they have plenty of vegetarian options. The restaurant is located in Laugarvatn, making it ideal for having lunch between Thingvellir and Geysir and Gullfoss. In fact, it’s the restaurant in the Golden Circle where we stop every year during our photo tours.
Another recommendation is the Geysir Restaurant, which is the restaurant of the hotel I have recommended in front of Strokkur, the Litli Geyser hotel. It has vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, which makes it a very good place to stop. On the menu, you will find everything from light meals to more hearty ones with seafood or meat. All the products they use are local, and it’s one of the Golden Circle restaurants that I am sure you will like.
And my last recommendation is the Gullfoss Kaffi, a cafe and restaurant in the Golden Circle located a few feet from the waterfall. This is another of the places to eat in the Golden Circle of Iceland where we stop every year. There is certainly nothing like their soup to warm you up, especially in winter. They also have vegetarian options and even group menus.
Iceland Golden Circle map with stops
If you want to find the main attractions of the Golden Circle, there is nothing better than a map. You’ll find a very visual map of the Golden Circle below where you can quickly locate the main tourist attractions. In this way, you can plan your Golden Circle itinerary quickly.
But if in addition to the Golden Circle, you want to visit other places in this beautiful country, download our tourist maps of Iceland, where you will find everything you need, including the Iceland Golden Circle map with stops.
Iceland Golden Circle FAQs
To finish, here are some frequently asked questions about the Golden Circle of Iceland in case there is still something that we haven’t covered in this guide.
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular routes in Iceland.
The Golden Circle departs from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, which is located in the southwest of the island, and goes inland.
The Golden Circle begins right after leaving Reykjavik and runs for 200 miles.
The Golden Circle is very worthwhile, since, in a very short time, you can get to know the best of Iceland. It’s ideal to get an idea of the type of landscapes and places you can find in the country. If you have very little time and you can’t visit other areas of Iceland, it is worth doing the Golden Circle of Iceland Route, but even if you have more time, you should still do it.
The must-see Golden Circle stops are Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Kerid Crater.
The route can be done at any time of the year. If you are going to do the Golden Circle Route in winter, it is safer to drive a 4×4 car, but it is not mandatory.
The total route of the Golden Circle is about 190 miles. However, there are some stops outside the basic Golden Circle itinerary that may extend the tour.
You will need at least one day to visit the Golden Circle, although it’s recommended to spend two days on this route.
roads are paved, and although they are narrow, they aren’t dangerous if you check the weather and road conditions on Road.is before you drive.
Unless you head to the Highlands and take an F-road, a 4wd car is not necessary. However, it may be advisable to rent a 4×4 car to tour the Golden Circle in winter.
Yes, you can drive the Golden Circle in winter, as long as you check the weather and road conditions on Road.is. If you want to drive the Golden Circle in winter in a safer way, renting a 4wd is a good decision.
The Golden Circle route is free, but there are places where you must pay an entrance fee, such as in the Kerid Crater.
No, the Blue Lagoon is not part of the Golden Circle, since it’s located more to the southwest, on the Reykjanes peninsula. However, the Blue Lagoon is close to the Golden Circle, so they can be visited on the same day.
If you have any questions when planning your Golden Circle road trip, leave a comment and we will be happy to help you.
Whether you are going to take a Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik or you are going to drive the Golden Circle on your own, I hope you have a very good trip.