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Golden Circle Iceland Itinerary

Iceland's Golden Circle: A Detailed Guide, Itinerary, and Map for Your Trip!

|July 18, 2023
Anhelina is a wanderlust-fueled soul who is also a cat mom, amateur cyclist, and painter in her free time. She believes that every location, no matter how remote or obscure, has a unique charm that deserves to be shared with the world.

Are you dreaming of steaming geysers and legendary waterfalls on Iceland's Golden Circle? We are here to help you in planning your perfect itinerary for the Golden Circle. Let's create memories that will leave you speechless!

Are you excited to discover the wonders of Iceland's Golden Circle, a route that has captivated travelers from all corners? Get ready for an unforgettable journey through some of the region's most awe-inspiring natural attractions, from mesmerizing geysers and majestic waterfalls to therapeutic hot springs and mystical volcanic craters. 

We're thrilled to share our insider knowledge on the best places to visit along the Golden Circle route and a few extra hidden spots and tips along the way. 

Not sure whether to opt for a guided tour or a self-drive adventure? We've got you covered with helpful advice to suit your personal preferences. Our Golden Circle itineraries and easy-to-use maps will ensure you get all the highlights on your epic voyage. 

So, why wait? Let's embark on an enriching and unforgettable exploration of the Golden Circle together!

What Is Iceland's Golden Circle?

If you're planning a trip to Iceland, one route that should be at the top of your list is the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle route is approximately 230 kilometers (140 miles) long and forms a loop from Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. The route takes you through some of the country's most iconic attractions and landscapes. From the diverse geothermal wonders to cascading waterfalls and historical sites, each stop on the Golden Circle promises something extraordinary. Be prepared to be amazed at every turn!

How Long Does It Take to Drive the Golden Circle?

It is possible to drive the Golden Circle Iceland in one day. The Golden Circle tour typically takes 4 to 6 hours, including stops at the three main attractions. To fully enjoy the Golden Circle experience without feeling rushed, allocating a whole day to the tour is recommended.

However, you should also consider additional time for driving, traffic (these are some of the most famous sights!), and potential weather disruptions. Additionally, remember that if you explore detours or visit hidden gems along the way, you may need to adjust your schedule accordingly.

Self-drive around Golden Circle in Iceland: Guide and Tips

Man sitting on his car on Golden Circle route in Iceland

Can You Drive the Golden Circle Yourself?

Yes! It is one of the most significant advantages of the Golden Circle—the opportunity to embark on a self-drive adventure. Driving the Golden Circle yourself allows you to set your own pace, discover hidden gems, and immerse yourself in Iceland's landscapes.

Why Should You Self-drive the Golden Circle in Iceland?

Let's break it down: In short, it is flexibility, convenience, and the opportunity to uncover hidden gems. With your wheels, you can set your schedule, explore the sights at your own pace, and make spontaneous detours along the way if you feel like it. 

Plus, navigating the well-marked roads of the Golden Circle is relatively straightforward, making it a practical choice for independent travelers. So, you can bravely go out there and unlock the secrets of Iceland's Golden Circle on your terms.

Renting a Car for the Golden Circle

Before embarking on your Golden Circle self-drive journey, choosing the right vehicle is essential. Opting for a 4x4 or SUV is highly recommended in winter (usually between November and March) and if you plan to explore beyond the main attractions. These vehicles offer better traction and stability on Iceland's rugged terrain.

Couple waving from out of their car in Iceland

When planning your Golden Circle adventure, you might also face the question of whether to rent a car or a campervan. Both options have their advantages. Renting a car provides comfort, especially during the colder months, and allows for more flexibility in terms of accommodation. 

On the other hand, hiring a campervan offers the freedom to combine transportation and accommodation, allowing you to have a unique camping experience in many campsites around the Golden Circle. 

Depending on the season, consider your preferences and needs to make the best choice for your journey.

Are you feeling unsure about driving on your own through the Golden Circle? No worries! We've got the perfect solution for you. Have you considered a guided minibus tour? Sit back, relax, and let the experts take the wheel while providing commentary and insights along the way. Enjoy the convenience, local tips, and the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the stunning Icelandic landscapes without worrying about navigation.

Golden Circle Route Iceland Map

Iceland Golden Circle Self-Drive Itinerary

When designing your Iceland Golden Circle itinerary, there are three main stops you shouldn't miss: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. And then there are many other secret and not-so-much detours you can take. Let's take a look at each of them! 

Iceland's Golden Circle: Highlights

The Golden Circle is famous for its three main attractions, each offering a unique and breathtaking experience.

Þingvellir National Park:

Tourists visiting Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Þingvellir National Park holds historical significance as the birthplace of Iceland's parliament, Alþingi, in 930 AD. Besides its historical value, the park is also geologically significant as it lies in the rift valley between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Explore the dramatic landscapes, walk along the Almannagjá fault line, and witness the meeting point of two continents

The Geysir Hot Spring Area:

Geyser erupting in the Geysir Geothermal Area, Iceland

Prepare to be mesmerized by the geothermal wonders of the Geysir Hot Spring Area. Here, you'll encounter Strokkur, a geyser that erupts every few minutes, shooting boiling water high into the air. Watch in anticipation as the water builds up and feel the thrill as it erupts before your eyes. Ensure your camera is ready because capturing that perfect eruption moment is like winning the jackpot! Stroll around the area and witness other geothermal features that make this place extraordinary.

Gullfoss Waterfall:

Aerial view over the famous Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

Last but not least, no trip to the Golden Circle is complete without visiting Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most magnificent waterfalls. As you approach Gullfoss, thundering water grows louder, building anticipation. When you reach the waterfall, you'll be greeted by the sheer power and beauty of the cascading water. It's a sight that will leave you breathless and completely mesmerized. Feel the mist on your face as you stand in awe of nature's grandeur.

Iceland's Golden Circle: Bonus Stop

While the main attractions steal the spotlight, there are other noteworthy stops along the Golden Circle route that deserve your attention. Some of the most interesting ones are:

  • Gjabakkahellir Cave

  • Silfra fissure

  • Thingvallakirkja Church

  • Kerið Volcanic crater

  • Faxi waterfall

  • Secret Lagoon Hot Spring

  • Friðheimar Tomato Farm

  • Hvítá River Base

  • Laugarvatn Fontana Spa

  • Efstidalur farm

  • Skálholt town

  • Slakki Zoo

  • Sólheimar Eco-Village

  • Brúarfoss waterfall

Gjabakkahellir Cave

Lava Tunnel in Iceland Cave Exploring

Woman standing at the entrance of the Gjabakkahellir cave

In the heart of Thingvellir National Park, you'll find the fascinating Gjábakkahellir cave. This incredible lava tube was formed around 9,000 years ago and stretches a whopping 360 meters in length. You can actually walk through the cave as it has openings on both ends.

Silfra Fissure

Person diving in Silfra Fissure, Iceland

Dive into an underwater wonderland at the Silfra Fissure, a mesmerizing rift between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Snorkel or dive in crystal-clear waters and marvel at the stunning visibility and vibrant colors beneath the surface.

Thingvallakirkja Church

Man standing in front of Thingvallakirkja Church, Iceland

Discover the historical and cultural significance of Thingvallakirkja Church, nestled within the beautiful Þingvellir National Park. Admire its unique architecture and reflect upon the centuries of Icelandic heritage it represents.


Kerið Volcanic Crater

People coming down the stairs to see Kerid crater up-close

Witness the captivating beauty of the Kerið volcanic crater, with its deep blue lake surrounded by vibrant red slopes. Take a moment to absorb the awe-inspiring sight; it’s a unique chance for a closer encounter with this natural wonder.

Faxi Waterfall

Faxi waterfall, Iceland

Experience the serene majesty of Faxi waterfall, a hidden gem along the Hvítá River. Marvel at its graceful cascades and enjoy a quieter, more intimate encounter with nature's power and beauty.

Secret Lagoon Hot Spring

People bathing in the Secret Lagoon Hot Spring, Iceland

Escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the Secret Lagoon Hot Spring, one of Iceland's oldest geothermal pools. Relax and rejuvenate in the warm mineral-rich waters, surrounded by a magical natural setting.

Friðheimar Tomato Farm

People sitting in the restaurant at Fridheimar Tomato Farm

Discover the unexpected delight of the Friðheimar Tomato Farm, where you can explore the fascinating world of tomato cultivation in Iceland's unique geothermal greenhouses. Enjoy a meal amidst the tomato vines and savor the farm-to-table dining experience.

Hvítá River Base

People doing river rafting on Hvita river

Embark on an exhilarating adventure at the Hvítá River Base, where you can partake in thrilling activities such as river rafting or kayaking, immersing yourself in Iceland's wild and untamed beauty.

Laugarvatn Fontana Spa

Laugarvatn Fontana Spa, Iceland

Indulge in a moment of pure relaxation at Laugarvatn Fontana Spa. Unwind in the geothermal pools and saunas, letting the soothing waters and tranquil surroundings rejuvenate your body and mind.

Efstidalur Farm

Efstidalur Farm, Iceland

Experience authentic Icelandic hospitality at Efstidalur Farm, where you can enjoy farm-fresh dairy products and even meet the cows that produce them. Delight in the flavors of homemade ice cream and immerse yourself in the charm of traditional Icelandic farming.

Skálholt Town

Ancient church in Skalholt town, Iceland

Immerse yourself in history and culture as you visit Skálholt, a historic town that served as a cultural and educational center for centuries. Explore the ancient church, soak in the tranquil ambiance, and gain insights into Iceland's rich past.

Slakki Petting Zoo

Slakki Petting Zoo, Iceland

Enjoy  the company of Icelandic animals at Slakki Zoo, a family-friendly attraction where you can interact with adorable creatures such as rabbits, goats, and horses. Experience the joy of getting up close and personal with Iceland's beloved wildlife.

Sólheimar Eco-Village

Solheimar Eco Village, Iceland

Discover the sustainable and inclusive community of Sólheimar, Iceland's first eco-village. Explore its beautiful gardens, workshops, and art studios, and learn about the village's commitment to environmental stewardship and social integration.

Brúarfoss Waterfall

Prepare to be enchanted by the ethereal beauty of Brúarfoss waterfall. With its mesmerizing turquoise hues and cascading streams, this hidden gem offers a sight straight out of a fairy tale.

Bruarfoss waterfall, Iceland

As you venture off the beaten path, these secret spots will undoubtedly enhance your journey, providing a glimpse into the lesser-known wonders of this beautiful land. All you have to do is embrace the spirit of adventure!

For those seeking even more adventure and exploration, consider taking detours from the Golden Circle route. Nearby attractions such as the Snæfellsnes Peninsula or the enchanting South Coast offer diverse landscapes, charming villages, and unique experiences that showcase Iceland's natural wonders beyond the Golden Circle.

Best Season to Drive the Golden Circle

Whether to tour the Golden Circle in Iceland during summer or winter is a common question. Both seasons offer unique experiences, and the choice ultimately depends on your preferences and what you hope to encounter during your journey. Let’s take a look at each season below.

Summer in Iceland, which spans from June to August, brings almost endless daylight hours and mild temperatures. The landscapes come alive with vibrant greenery, colorful wildflowers, and picturesque meadows. It is the ideal time for hiking, exploring nature trails, and immersing yourself in the beauty of Iceland's countryside. The roads are generally clear and accessible, making navigating the Golden Circle's attractions easier. You'll also witness unique natural phenomena like the Midnight Sun, where the sun remains visible at midnight, casting a magical glow over the surroundings.

View from a car passing by the Icelandic mountains

On the other hand, winter in Iceland, from December to February, showcases an entirely different side of the country. While the days are shorter, this season offers the chance to witness the enchanting Northern Lights dancing across the night sky. The landscape is transformed into a winter wonderland, with snow-covered fields, frozen waterfalls, and icy formations. It's an ideal time for photography enthusiasts and those seeking a quieter, more serene experience. However, pay close attention to the warning that winter driving conditions can be challenging, especially in more remote areas. It's important to stay informed about weather and road conditions!

Whether you choose to visit during summer or winter, being well-prepared is essential. Pack appropriate clothing and gear, including layers, waterproof clothing, sturdy footwear, and accessories like hats and gloves. Regularly check weather forecasts and road conditions, and exercise caution while driving, especially during winter.

Golden Circle Self-Drive Road Trip Itinerary Tips

Feel like you’re ready to go? To ensure a smooth and enjoyable Golden Circle self-drive experience, consider these handy tips:

  • Regularly check the weather and road conditions to stay informed and adapt your travel plans accordingly.

  • Pack layers of clothing as the weather in Iceland can be unpredictable. Be prepared for both sunshine and rain.

  • Keep a sufficient supply of snacks and water in your vehicle as services can be limited in some areas.

  • Plan your stops strategically if you want to avoid crowds. Early mornings and late afternoons are often less busy.

  • Take breaks and explore the surroundings on foot. Some of the most memorable experiences are just a short hike away from the main attractions!

Where to Eat Along the Golden Circle

Restaurant on the Golden Circle route

Exploring Iceland's Golden Circle can surely work up an appetite. Thankfully, there are several dining options available along the route. From cozy cafes to traditional Icelandic restaurants, you'll find an array of choices to satisfy your cravings. There are also some fantastic farms offering meals from fresh, locally-sourced produce. Don't miss the opportunity to try Icelandic specialties like lamb soup, fresh seafood, or skyr, a delicious local yogurt.

Where to Stay Along the Golden Circle

Hotel next to Golden Circle route, Iceland

Finding the perfect accommodation along the Golden Circle can enhance your overall experience. Whether you prefer luxury hotels, guesthouses, or camping sites, options are available to suit every budget and preference. Consider staying near the main attractions to make the most of your time or choose a location that offers tranquility and access to nature.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, embarking on a self-drive adventure along Iceland's Golden Circle is an excellent choice for those seeking freedom, flexibility, and the opportunity to immerse themselves in the country's most popular sightseeing route. 

By carefully planning your itinerary, considering the challenges, and exploring beyond the main attractions, you'll create memories that will last a lifetime.

If you feel all the logistical worries can be overwhelming, we got you! Hop in for a guided tour of the Golden Circle. You can sit back, relax, and fully immerse yourself in the wonders of Iceland's iconic route without the stress of navigating or planning. Expert guides will provide insights, share fascinating stories, and take you to hidden gems off the beaten path.

Whichever way you choose, buckle up, embrace the scenic landscapes, and prepare for an adventure of a lifetime in Iceland's Golden Circle!

Woman Observing A Waterfall In Iceland Golden Circle

Woman enjoying the view of waterfall in Iceland

Frequently Asked Questions About the Golden Circle

How Long Is the Golden Circle in Iceland?

The total distance of the Golden Circle route, including the main attractions of the standard loop, is approximately 237 kilometers (147 miles).

Is It Safe to Self-Drive the Golden Circle in Iceland?

Iceland offers a generally safe driving experience. However, being well-prepared and cautious is key. Stay informed on traffic laws, weather, and road conditions to enjoy the ride fully.

Can I Visit the Golden Circle in Winter?

Yes, you can visit the Golden Circle in winter, but be aware of potential weather challenges and shorter daylight hours. Check weather conditions, dress appropriately for cold temperatures, and be cautious on snowy and icy roads.

How Many Days Do You Need in Golden Circle Iceland?

If you are wondering how long does the Golden Circle take, the short answer is just one day. However, to fully experience the Golden Circle and go out there to see more attractions, spending at least two to three days exploring the route is recommended. This will allow you to take your time at each stop, discover hidden gems, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Iceland. But if you're short on time, it's still possible to visit the main attractions in a single day and have a great experience!

Is Golden Circle Worth It?

Absolutely! The Golden Circle is one of Iceland's most popular tourist routes for a reason. It showcases the country's most iconic natural wonders, including powerful waterfalls, geothermal areas, and historic sites. And all of that you can see in just one day! The diverse landscapes and breathtaking scenery make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a quick but intense taste of Iceland's beauty and charm.

How Easy Is It to Drive the Golden Circle in Iceland?

Driving the Golden Circle Iceland is relatively easy as roads are well-maintained and clear signs lead to the main attractions. The route is popular among tourists, so you'll find plenty of resources and support. However, it's important to stay vigilant, especially during bad weather, and be mindful of other drivers and road conditions.

How Long Does It Take to Get to the Golden Circle From Reykjavik?

The Golden Circle is easily accessible from Reykjavik, with a driving time of approximately 1 hour to reach the route's starting point. This makes it a convenient day trip option for those staying in the capital city. Plan your journey accordingly, considering traffic conditions and any additional stops you may want to make along the way.

Are There Any Entry Fees for the Golden Circle Attractions?

There is no entry fee for visiting the main Golden Circle attractions: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. However, you will pay for car parking, and some additional sites or activities may also require a fee.


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