Golden Circle Iceland: Best tours, local tips and info!
If you’re in the midst of planning a trip to Iceland, then you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the Golden Circle! It’s one of the main attractions that makes it onto every traveler’s to-do list while visiting the country. Of course, it’s not just the fancy name that gets people excited!
The Golden Circle is a special route that you can easily begin and end in Reykjavik, creating a giant ring around some of Iceland’s most exciting natural wonders; Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir hot springs, and Gullfoss waterfall!
If you’re interested in the allure surrounding the areas within the Golden Circle, or want to know the best way to see it all (plus a little more), then you’ve come to the right place!
Text by: Annemarie Jonsson
Last updated: 13. August 2018
Don’t miss: The Best Tour of the Golden Circle (Small Group Experience).
Here, you’ll discover what the Golden Circle is all about, and why you should definitely do the full tour if you have the time! What are the main attractions? What other experiences can we have along the way? How long does the tour take? Where to eat? All of your questions will be answered!
Here is a little table of context to help you find the info you are looking for:
The best ways to see the Golden Circle
– The Best Golden Circle Tour Available
– Deals on Car Rentals
– Private tour
Things to know before you go
Golden Circle Google Maps Route
The Golden Circle main attractions
Extra areas for relaxing and sightseeing
GOLDEN CIRCLE ICELAND TOURS
You can explore the beautiful South Coast of Iceland in three absolutely awesome ways.
1. Golden Circle Small Group Tour
This is without a doubt the best guided tour of the Golden Circle out there. It takes about
8-9 hours to complete, but the experience includes all three of the main Golden Circle
attractions, plus some incredible added stops along the way–like Faxi waterfall, and Hveragerdi
Earthquake town! There are so many magnificent sights to be seen! Because the tour
specifies “small group,” to ensure a personal experience, you’ll be traveling with a very limited amount of people, maybe get to know a few folks, and have a super easy time interacting with your friendly tour guide! It’s an all around more personable experience compared to a lot of other tours.
If you’re visit to Iceland is quite short, this is definitely the most surefire way to explore as
much as possible within Iceland’s Golden Circle!
Get more information and find your Golden Circle tour here.
2. Rent your own car and do a Self-Drive Tour!
If you want to have more leeway in terms of timing, or would rather make your own
detours along the way, then renting a car in Iceland before your journey through the Golden
Circle is probably the better option. This is pretty much hassle-free as long as you have a
driver’s license! How long you want to spend at each attraction, where you want to eat, what
else you’d like to do–or even when you’d like to leave–all of it is up to you!
Check out the best deals through one of the largest car rentals in Iceland.
3. Private Golden Circle tour
If you’re travelling with a group of 8+ then we may be able to schedule a private tour
just for you! You’ll have one of our amazing local guides to accompany you, and the freedom
to decide the itinerary for the day. It’s a really nice way to discover the Golden Circle
completely worry-free, and enjoy the experience with just your closest friends and family!
Get in touch with us for a private tour of the Golden Circle.
GOLDEN CIRCLE GOOGLE MAPS ROUTE
How long does it take to drive the Golden Circle?
The Golden Circle is 220 km and will take you approx. 3 hours to drive front and back without making any stops.
But as you’ll see in the blog section below, you’ll definitely want to make a few stops along the way to see some truly awesome scenery spots.
An average golden circle day trip (whether driving on your own or with a tour will take 8-9 hours)
GOLDEN CIRCLE MAIN ATTRACTIONS
THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
Thingvellir is the first stop on the Golden Circle tour, located just about 45 mins away from
Reykjavik. It’s the first-ever established national park of Iceland, and is just teeming with
breathtaking nature! One of the coolest things about Thingvellir is that it’s actually located
right on top of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates! In fact, you can easily
pinpoint the continental drift through the different faults present throughout the park. What’s
more astounding about this geologic phenomenon, is some of the rifts that have formed as a
result of plate tectonics and have filled with clear water! One of these rifts in particular, Silfra,
is actually diveable! Check out the most amazing Silfra Tour for a closer look at what lies
beneath the surface!
Recommended place to eat: Lindin restaurant–about a 30 min drive on the way to
Did you know Iceland’s Geysir was the first of its kind to be mentioned in a piece of
literature? Yes, the infamous Great Geysir, located in Haukadalur valley, is the second main
attraction of the Golden Circle! Though the Great Geysir ́s eruptions are few and far
between, Strokkur, the second largest and most active hot spring, erupts about every five
minutes! Trust me, you won’t be able to miss it! Maybe you’re thinking that it’s a little
underwhelming to watch water shoot up into the open air, but-it’s so exciting to watch such a
unique piece of nature in motion! There’s almost nothing like it anywhere else. You can also
check out the 40 smaller hot springs within Haukadalur, as well as the natural pool located
two kilometers from the original Geysir.
Recommended place to eat: Supa, inside Geysir Center
Gullfoss, also known as the Golden Waterfall, is the third and final stop! I’ve got to say, the
view from Gullfoss is unparalleled. When you’re standing above the falls, you’ll see the
beautiful, Icelandic landscape spread out before you, and glimpse the crystal clear water as
it cascades down over the cliffs. If you get lucky enough to visit during a sunny day, a
rainbow may even appear, glimmering over this stunning scene. Almost every natural area
of Iceland can be considered picturesque, but its size and location really make Gullfoss one
of the best!
Recommended place to eat: Gullfoss cafe
EXTRA ADVENTURES ALONG THE WAY
Aside from the three “must-do” stops on the Golden Circle, there are plenty of more locations
to visit along the way! These are just a few of my favorites:
Kerið is a volcanic crater which formed around 3000 years ago, and is located about 40 mins
from Thingvellir. It has a depth of 55M, filled with an almost clear blue water, with a vivid red
wall comprised of the still “young” caldera, or lava stone. I recommend taking a look at Kerið
if you don’t mind taking a slight detour, as it’s one of the more unique geological
phenomenons in Iceland, and is undeniably beautiful!
Do note that there is an entrance fee of 400ISK, since it is privately owned and needs to be well maintained!
Langjökull, or “long glacier,” is the largest glacier in all of Iceland, and one of the most
important. Both Geysir and Gullfoss are fed the meltwater from this specific glacier, and
would not function or retain the same beauty without it! It’s also a very popular location for
glacier hiking and snowmobiling–just a couple of the more adrenaline pumping adventures
you can have in Iceland! This glacier snowmobiling tour is the absolute best! If you’re looking
to travel off of the beaten path a little bit, I definitely recommend you check it out!
Fluðir is a gorgeous–and unusually green–village in the Southern region of Iceland, and is
located within the bounds of the Golden Circle! Fluðir is very well known for its geothermal
activity, and is especially fruitful with hot springs and thermal pools. In fact, you can relax in
one of the “secret lagoons” located within the village–a much less expensive, and often less
crowded option than the infamous Blue Lagoon. It’s absolutely worth dipping your feet in!
Psst! We have an awesome Golden Circle & Secret Lagoon Natural Hot Spring combo tour that you can read about here!
Of course, one of the cutest things about Iceland is the popular Icelandic horse–and there
are plenty of them on the way through the Golden Circle! They are a pony-sized breed that
are specific to Iceland. If you have the time, I would recommend looking into a tour of the
amazing Icelandic landscape via horseback riding! This horse riding tour is my absolute
favorite because it’s such a serene experience, and there’s so much about the nature
around you to enjoy!
All in all…
However you decide to see the Golden Circle, I just know you will love it! It’s one of the main
areas around Iceland that truly contributes to its magical aura. I hope you enjoy your
newfound adventure, and bring home only the fondest of memories from Iceland! We can’t
wait for you to tell us all about it. Find us on Instagram and Facebook @wakeupreykjavik
and share your pictures with us!
Don’t miss out on our Small Group Golden Circle tour!