No trip to Iceland is complete without a visit to the Golden Circle, the most famous sightseeing route in the land of fire and ice. The 186-mi (300-km) circuit winds through some of the world’s most dramatic and soul-stirring landscapes, so be sure not to miss it! From the birthplace of the world’s oldest parliament to the confluence of two continental plates, these landscapes are an ideal introduction to one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. Our guided Golden Circle tours in Iceland are tailored to your needs, with expert commentary en route.

Hot spring and Geysir on Golden Circle

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About Golden Circle

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is the most iconic sightseeing route in Iceland. It’s comprised of three of our most important natural attractions: the UNESCO Heritage Site Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and the Gullfoss Waterfall.

You’ll discover Iceland’s fascinating history and striking nature packed into this 186-mi (300-km) long loop. It’s a perfect option for tourists visiting for just a few days, who are looking to maximize their time in Iceland.

Located conveniently in southwestern Iceland, the Golden Circle is just a short drive from Reykjavik. It takes about 3 hours to circumnavigate the entire route and can be extended to a half or full day tour if you add a few more sigh-inducing landmarks along the route.

We recommend a full day if you want to explore the Golden Circle in-depth or if you’d like to take a detour to other nearby sites like Hveragerði or the Secret Lagoon.

Iceland's unique location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is nowhere more evident than at Thingvellir (or Þingvellir in Icelandic), where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are visibly shifting away from each other. Established as Iceland's first national park in 1928 and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004, Thingvellir is the most revered place in Iceland.  

In the year 930 c.e., more than thirty Vikings gathered here and created Iceland's first parliament, the Althing. Since then, Þingvellir (Icelandic for “Plains of Assembly”) has become a central gathering place to discuss laws and settle disputes. Every year, people traveled to the Althing by horse or foot from all across the country. It’s believed that markets were also often held at assemblies, contributing to the festive atmosphere. Though the governmental proceedings moved to Reykjavik in recent centuries, it’s still the oldest-running parliament in the world.

Located in a rift valley, Þingvellir National Park is a volcanic hot spot, enclosed by hulking cliff faces. Much of the region is scattered with grass-covered lava fields and gushing waterfalls. Here ripples Þingvallavatn (Thingvallavatn), Iceland's largest spring-fed natural lake, famous for trout and char fishing, as well as snorkeling and scuba diving.  

One of the most eye-catching attractions is Almannagjá, Iceland's largest volcanically-formed gorge. Tourists can walk from the parking lot down the gorge into the wetlands below.

In the foreground of Almannagjá’s cliffs sits Lögberg (the Law Rock), a craggy outcrop where Althing’s law speakers recited the laws and expressed their ideals of justice to the assembled crowd below. The backdrop of Almannagjá created an ‘amphitheatre effect’ and ensured that the Law Speaker was clearly head.

Lögberg is now marked with the Icelandic flag and symbolizes the national identity. It was here Iceland declared its independence from Denmark in the year 1944. Each year, conclaves meet here to celebrate Midsummer and Iceland’s independence.

Driving northeast of Thingvellir, you’ll reach the geothermal area of Haukadalur Valley, where Iceland’s most impressive geysers reside. It’s believed that the area became active about 1,000 years ago. More popularly known as the Geysir Geothermal Area, it invites visitors to get up close and personal with some of the geothermal forces that helped to sculpt the island.

The hillside of bubbling pools and hot water blowholes is home to the Great Geysir, the most famous and formerly the largest waterspout in the world. It was the first spouting hot spring discovered in Europe and mentioned in written human history. Thanks to this spout, the site became a geological pilgrimage for many explorers, drawn to what was a very unusual phenomenon at that time. The Great Geysir became so famous that all other geysers were named after it. The Icelandic meaning of the word is “the Gusher.”

Today Geysir has tapered off, however, it still emanates steam into the crisp Icelandic air. Touch the warm ground around its large pool and feel the mighty powers beneath the Earth crust!

Though your visit might not coincide with a Geysir eruption, the thermal area hosts other spectacular hot springs, such as Strokkur (“the Churn”). Known as Iceland’s most active geyser, it erupts once approximately every ten minutes and woos tourists with a spectacle of vast jets of steaming water shooting 50 ft (15 m) into the air. Take care at Strokkur and supervise children as the water is extremely hot.

Also of interest in the area is Litli Geysir, once a powerful waterspout that cooled down, leaving a muddy pool shrouded in plumes of steam. When you reach Blesi and Konungshver, two dormant hot springs, beware, their deep hue of blue might put a spell on you!

The last stop on the Golden Circle is Iceland’s most iconic waterfall, Gullfoss. The powerful double cascade flows from the glacier-fed Hvítá river, whose waters travel all the way from the mighty Langjökull Glacier. Langjökull is Iceland’s second largest glacier, after Vatnajökull.

Gullfoss, otherwise known as the Golden Falls, takes its name from the golden color its waters take as they pass over the lava rock and the clouds of rainbows that appear on sunny days. The main viewing area is the platform on the top of the canyon. Here you can safely admire the dramatic setting. The waterfall drops 105 ft (32 m), turns right and then drops again down into the deep canyon.

Close to the base of the staircase leading up to the upper part, you’ll find a memorial to Sigríður Tómasdóttir. She was a local farmer and guide who helped save Gullfoss from exploitation. In 1907, she took legal action against a landowner who wanted to build a dam across the Hvítá River. Sigríður even threatened to throw herself into the falls. Though she lost the case, public opinion ran in her favor and the plant was never constructed. Thanks to Sigríður, Gullfoss was donated to the nation and is now a protected site.

If you’re planning a visit to Iceland during the winter season, you’ll have a unique chance to see the cascade partly frozen and glistening with ice. Yet the summer season gives you the best lighting conditions for photographing the falls in their full glory. Be enchanted by sheer contrast of green vegetation below the waterfall and the lunar-like fields further north.

The Golden Circle offers a great number of detours that you can add to your trip. If you wish to unwind after an adventure-filled day, we recommend a visit to the Secret Lagoon, or Gamla Laugin, in Flúðir. Here you can take a rejuvenating dip in one of  Iceland’s oldest swimming pools - surrounded by wispy plumes of steam and geothermal landscapes.

The Crater Kerið is another fascinating site for every nature lover. Created about 6,500 years ago, oval in shape and filled to the brim with bright blue water that contrasts sharply with its red slopes and green moss.

Those wanting to explore uncharted territories or find a new adrenaline rush may choose a spine-tingling snowmobile ride on Langjökull Glacier.

If you’re eager to know more about Iceland’s history and culture, visit Sólheimar, the oldest eco-village in the world. Nearby sits Skálholt, Iceland’s historic religious center where the episcopal see resided for almost 700 years. One of the few remaining copies of the first edition of the Icelandic bible is on display in the local church.

FAQ

Still got questions about Golden Circle? Find the answer here!

Your pickup time is stated on your tour voucher. We kindly ask all participants to be at the designated pickup point at the time that you choose when booking the tour.

Pickup will be from your hotel or a nearby meeting point in Reykjavik. Picking everyone up can take up to 30 minutes, so we appreciate your patience.

It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Reykjavik to the first stop on the Golden Circle, Thingvellir National Park. The drive offers fantastic, sweeping landscapes and the roads are well maintained throughout the year.

All our Golden Circle tours are designed to include Iceland’s three most famous attractions. Namely Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. We also offer Golden Circle tours that combine sightseeing with some of our adventure tours.

View all our Golden Circle tours and find your perfect trip.

Our Golden Circle tours are available all year, meaning you can do the trip in winter without a  problem. If you decide to visit Iceland during the winter, you might want to consider combining your Golden Circle tour with a thrilling Northern Lights hunt. Long evenings during the winter months gives you the best chances of seeing the elusive aurora borealis.  

Most of our Golden Circle tours are family-friendly, meaning they are suitable for children and the elderly alike. However, some of the tours recommend that children should be a minimum of 6 years old.

You can always check the information regarding the age limit in the tour description or contact our office for more information.

All our tours are divided into four different categories to help you understand what to expect from the tour and choose the best. The categories are Easy, Moderate, Challenging, and Demanding. Each tour is rated based on how physically demanding the itinerary is.

You can always find the difficulty rating on the specific tour page.

We reserve the right to adjust the itinerary and/or take different routes depending on the weather conditions. Your safety is our number one priority.

Check out the specific tour page for more precise information regarding this matter.