There's no better way to experience Iceland's majestic beauty than a trip through the magnificent to drive the Golden Circle! From short excursions to week-long tours, this route has it all and is sure to be an unforgettable adventure. Don't miss out on discovering why they call this place "The Land of Fire and Ice"!
Prepare yourself and your travel plans for a journey to Iceland with this helpful guide. We've carefully gathered some of the best route most pertinent information about driving along the Golden Circle and route, along with providing answers to frequently asked questions. Thus, your Icelandic experience can begin!
What is the Golden Circle Geographical Location ?
Embark on a day trip to the breathtaking to drive the Golden Circle, a 305-kilometer (190-mile) drive near Reykjavík that showcases Iceland's geothermal power and glorious scenery. Nature lovers can revel in this perfect full day activity - one you should definitely include when checking off your Icelandic bucket list!
Have you ever wondered why this popular tourist route is called the Golden Circle route? Well, here's an interesting tidbit before you begin your journey into Iceland’s southern uplands: it derives its name from Gullfoss waterfall - which literally translates to "Golden Waterfall". Soak up this incredible landscape and make memories that will last a lifetime!
Iceland Golden Circle Map
Here is a map of Iceland's golden circle and routes that you can take while visiting the Golden Circle Iceland.
Make Sure to follow these routes and this Golden Circle Iceland Map on your visit to visit the Golden Circle in Iceland.
Top highlights to visit along the Golden Circle
The first part driving the Golden Circle trip is a must-see adventure and features three of the most awe-inspiring natural attractions. Discover why this journey will leave you in absolute wonderment with the following destinations listed below!
Allow the grand and dazzling, gullfoss waterfall of the south to be your first stop on this mesmerizing journey through Golden Circle. You won't regret it! It's an awe-inspiring sight that will take your breath away! Gullfoss waterfall This may be the first stop on your Golden Circle itinerary, the great and golden waterfall of the south.
Gullfoss is undoubtedly the most stunning of all Icelandic waterfalls, its magnificence heightened by the powerful Hvítá river that thunders over a 105-foot drop into an enchanted canyon. Here you can admire nature's majestic artistry in full effect!
The magnificent canyon cuts through the terrain, creating an out-of-this-world scene. It plunges a stunning 70 meters (230 feet) and stretches for almost 3 kilometers (1.9 miles).
To appreciate the majestic beauty of this waterfall, take a stroll along the footpath from the parking lot to the viewing platform. On sunny days in the hot spring, mesmerizing rainbows are created by the warm river and its roaring cascade of golden falls.
Further along your journey, you will come upon the fascinating Geysir Geothermal Area in Haukadalur valley. This geothermal wonder was recorded for posterity in Icelandic literature as far back as 1294 on account of a massive eruption from Mount Hekla that set the landscape ablaze with volcanic activity.
Have you ever heard of a hot spring or river geyser? This awe-inspiring, naturally occuring spectacle is created when heated water and steam surge from an underground vent reaching deep into the Earth's crust. A magnificent display of nature's power, these hot springs burst forth with impressive columns of boiling liquid!
Although Geysir may be sleeping, its neighbor Strokkur is still in full-swing. Every five to ten minutes you'll witness it spout water into the sky and no doubt marvel at this geothermal area's main attraction. Additionally, there are other smaller springs nearby that will captivate your attention early in the evening as well!
Þingvellir National Park
You will eventually arrive at the gem of the Golden Circle, Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park. Its breathtaking scenery of craggy crevices and winding rivers makes it a highly sought-after destination for travelers from around the world.The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and form a rift valley here. Within the national park, it's possible to take turns standing on the North American and Eurasian continents. Movement between the plates is ongoing, resulting in earthquakes that separate the plates by about two inches per year.
Iceland's picturesque landscape boasts a remarkable feature: a literal rip, caused by the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia gradually separating. Visitors to this national park can observe active geology in action as they wander around, making it an unforgettable experience!
Þingvellir was officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, due to its unparalleled value and immense historic importance. In the 10th century, it became home to the pioneering parliament that represented all of Iceland's people - which is now considered to be the world’s oldest parliamentary assembly!
Highlights around the Golden Circle
If you're looking to make your time in the area truly unforgettable, why not schedule a few of the available excursions? Here are some great ideas that can be tailored to suit any preference or interest:
No matter how much time you have in Iceland, what your budget looks like, or even the type of journey you're on - a Golden Circle Adventure is highly doable. This incredible region offers an unmatched diversity of landscapes and should be experienced by all travelers. To best explore this area we recommend that rent a car self drive private tour, while you are visiting Iceland!
If you drive to visit all the highlights of Golden Circle Attractions yourself, there are a plethora of side trips and detours to explore exciting peculiar places. Most of these spots go unnoticed by travelers, so it's an extraordinary chance for you to gain a unique experience as well as a few photos by visiting all the classic sites in one route!
Here are nine hidden gems of the Golden Circle that deserve your attention.
1. Fontana Geothermal Baths
Nestled on the edge of a stunning lake with renowned geothermal heat and activity, Laugarvatn is an idyllic village that has been appreciated by locals since 1929. The Fontana Geothermal Baths spa was opened in 2011 and offers travelers along their journey from Thingvellir National Park to Geysir a unique opportunity to relax in its natural hot springs.
Fontana offers a sensational experience with its three steam rooms, traditional wooden Finnish sauna, and stunning views of the lake and nature. In addition to this wonderful atmosphere, there are numerous shallow pools that span various temperatures - so kids can have an amazing time in the hot water while parents unwind!
The Fontana Geothermal Baths open up to breathtaking views of the lake. As you relax, take a moment to appreciate the warmth emanating from boiling water underneath, around your toes. If you're feeling daring, try out their special 24-hour rye bread baked in hot sand; it's an Icelandic delicacy that is both traditional and tasty! To top off this experience even more, be sure to enjoy some butter with your freshly made snack - what could be better?
2. Kerid Crater
Don't miss out on the opportunity to explore Kerid crater if you're taking one of the many full-day Golden Circle tours. This spectacular natural wonder was formed about 6,500 years ago and features an oval shape with an enchanting lake located at its center.
The landscape around the crater is breathtakingly beautiful, with rocks that are a mosaic of fiery red and orange interspersed with streaks of black and green. This stunning contrast creates an awe-inspiring sight next to the crystal azure waters.
Kerid is widely renowned for its breathtaking acoustics and has become a beloved destination to host concerts. Set on Route 5, near the town of Selfoss, this incredible crater offers visitors an unforgettable experience that can be enjoyed just steps away from the convenient parking lot - but don't forget your entry fee! Float around in a boat or explore the surrounding area while taking in all that Kerid has to offer.
3. Secret Lagoon in Fludir
Unwind and regain your vitality in the tranquil Secret Lagoon, or Gamla Laugin, of Fludir after a day full of exploration.
Iceland's oldest and oldest swimming pool here, built in 1891, is nothing short of remarkable. With the hot springs nearby providing continually heated water from 100-104 F (38-40 C), this swimming hole remains temperate all year round!
Nestled between the geothermal grounds awaits a walking path, constructed around the swimming pool. From 1909 to 1947, this local landmark offered swimming lessons until newer pools emerged in other parts of the country and it fell into disrepair. However, through recent renovations which included modernized changing facilities as well as an on-site cafe; this picturesque destination officially reopened its doors back in June 2014!
Located on south coast on Route 30, Fludir is becoming increasingly popular. To ensure that you can experience all the beauty this destination has to offer, we highly recommend booking your trip in advance. What makes it even better? You can drive there with no trouble at all!
4. Snowmobiling on Langjokull Glacier
The most desirable option is to couple a Golden Circle day tour with snowmobiling on Langjokull glacier. If you prefer, there's also the choice of only booking day tour with a snowmobile visit at Langjokull, or select an upgraded experience that will take you inside a remarkable ice cave!
The snowmobiling excursion to Langjokull glacier is not one to be missed by thrill-seeking adventurers! Just a short drive from Gullfoss waterfall, the tour operators will pick you up with their giant customized super-jeeps. On a bright day, you'll have an awe-inspiring view of the area - and even on cloudy days, just getting there in these jumbo 4x4s makes for quite an experience!
5. Fridheimar Tomato and Horse Farm
On Route 35, close to Reykholt lies Fridheimar - an enchanting farm that grows tomatoes, cucumbers and maintains horses. Stop by anytime between noon and 4 PM for a delightful lunch, including their renowned tomato soup with freshly-baked bread!
If you are planning a day trip or a visit with just a few friends, dropping in might work. However, it is best to call ahead and reserve your spot as the farm can get quite full! For any special activities such as tours or horse shows, advance reservations are necessary for entry. Fridheimar may be one of Iceland's lesser-known gems, but taking time out of your trip to explore this location will surely be worth it!
6. Helgufoss and Thorufoss Waterfalls
Just about an hour off the famous Golden Circle route lies a plethora of breathtaking waterfalls in Iceland. Gulfoss is among the most renowned, yet hidden gems are scattered throughout that also deserve attention!
Steeping out of the ordinary are Helgufoss waterfall and Thorufoss waterfall, both titled after Icelandic female names -Helga and Thora respectively.
Traveling from Reykjavik to Thingvellir National Park is made extra special with two breathtaking waterfalls along the way. Helgufoss waterfall stands tall beside Route 36, while Thorufoss can be found by taking a quick detour down Route 48 after admiring Helgufoss. The river Laxa i Kjos is home to both of these magnificent natural wonders - perfect for pausing during your journey and soaking up their power!
To explore the stunning waterfalls, you must have access to a car. Unfortunately, these remote locations are excluded from Golden Circle Tours. However, when you reach your destination there will be signage and a nearby spot where you can park your vehicle.
7. Solheimar Eco-Village
Solheimar, an eco-village of around 100 individuals founded in 1930 by Sesselja Sigmundsdottir as a charitable refuge for children with learning disabilities and orphans, remains truly remarkable to this day. With its unique approach that values the potential within each person regardless of age or capability, it has long been considered a singular place unlike any other.
Over the past few years, its quaint charm and unique vibe have attracted droves of visitors. Now up to 30,000 individuals travel each year just to catch a glimpse of this remarkable settlement! Seamlessly integrated into nature, it offers all that vacationers could need with a bakery, cafe, guesthouse and art gallery - all operated by locals who live in the area.
The Solheimar gift shop is a perfect place to pick up unique, handmade souvenirs from the town's art workshop. Here you can find candles, weavings and ceramics crafted by residents as well as take a guided tour of of Sesselja House; an ecological education center devoted to sustainable development.
Solheimar is the perfect pitstop to make on your self-drive Golden Circle tour, located a mere 13 miles (21 kilometers) away from Laugarvatn. This attraction will astound you with its unique atmosphere of freedom and positivity that no other destination can offer. Get ready for an unforgettable experience!
8. Thjorsardalur Valley
For those looking to discover some lesser-known gems, taking a slight detour to the Thjorsardalur valley only requires an additional two hours of driving. Situated in the southern Highlands of Iceland, this remarkable area is overflowing with incredible natural wonders waiting for you to explore!
For those wanting to explore the wonders of nature, Iceland offers an array of majestic waterfalls that only a few get to witness. Haifoss, Granni and Hjalparfoss are some of these natural marvels that have been well-preserved away from public eye. Burfell woods is also something special; it's a famous waterfall in an unusually large forest which still maintains its ancient beauty and charm even after all this time.
Meanwhile Thjorsardalur serves as a botanist’s sanctuary with wildflowers species, grasses and moss flourishing in the area – making for one captivating spectacle!
To reach your destination, take a left on Route 32 from Gullfoss after driving southwardly on Route 30.
Skalholt, an astonishing Icelandic town of historical note, served as the seat of bishops in Iceland from 1056 until the 1800s. During this period when Iceland was under foreign rule by Scandinavian rulers, the bishop's jurisdiction extended beyond simple religious matters; consequently making it a symbolically powerful position and site to many for centuries.
As early as 1200, Skalholt was considered Iceland's very first town with an initial population of 120 citizens. It also held the title for Iceland's inaugural school in the 12th century and still continues to be a flourishing cultural center, featuring its renowned Skalholt Summer Concerts as well as hosting an ordained bishop today.
Skalholt can be located along Route 31, just a short detour from Route 35, en route to Reykjavik from the Geyser geothermal area. Tourists should make it a point to take some time and explore the majestic cathedral of this historic city!