Are you intrigued by the renowned Iceland Golden Circle route and considering a self-drive road trip? It's an excellent choice for leisurely experiencing many of Iceland's iconic sights.

Embark on the Ultimate Driving Adventure through Iceland's Golden Circle, a journey that promises to be as exhilarating as it is breathtaking. This iconic route weaves through the heart of Iceland's stunning landscapes, offering a unique blend of natural beauty, geological wonders, and rich cultural history.

Ideal for the adventurous spirit, this self-drive expedition invites you to explore at your own pace, discovering hidden gems and famous landmarks. From the vibrant streets of Reykjavik to the serene vistas of the countryside, the Golden Circle route is a testament to Iceland's untamed beauty and allure, waiting to be explored by those seeking a road trip unlike any other.

Self-Drive Car Along Golden Circle

Self-driving the Golden Circle in Iceland typically takes about one full day, approximately 7 to 8 hours, including time for short stops at the main attractions. However, if you plan to explore each site more thoroughly or add additional stops, such as the Kerid Crater or the Secret Lagoon, it's advisable to allocate two to three days for the entire trip.

It allows a more relaxed pace to fully enjoy and experience the natural beauty and attractions along the route.

Pros of Self-Drive Car

  • Familiarity: Driving your vehicle can be more comfortable and less stressful as you're accustomed to its handling and features.
  • Cost-Effective: Using your car eliminates rental costs, which can be significant, especially for longer trips.
  • No Restrictions: You can explore off-the-beaten-path locations without worrying about rental agreements.

Cons of Self-Drive Car

  • Wear and Tear: Long drives, especially on rough Icelandic roads, can wear and tear significantly on your vehicle.
  • Maintenance Responsibility: You are responsible for any mechanical issues or breakdowns, which can be daunting in a foreign country.
  • Logistical Challenges: If you're not a local, bringing your vehicle to Iceland can involve logistical challenges like ferry trips and additional expenses.

Renting a Car

Renting a car involves hiring a vehicle from a car rental company for a specific period. The fee varies depending on the duration, type of car, and other factors like insurance coverage.

The process typically includes:

  • Choosing a vehicle that suits your needs.
  • Completing a rental agreement.
  • Paying a deposit or the full rental cost.

 You're responsible for the car during the rental period, including adhering to traffic laws, paying for fuel, and any tolls or parking fees.

At the end of the rental period, the car is returned to the rental company, where it is checked for damage or additional charges before the final settlement. Renting an automobile offers flexibility and convenience, especially for travel or situations where your vehicle is unavailable or unsuitable.

Pros of Renting a Car

  • Convenience: Rental cars are readily available at airports and major cities, making the process straightforward.
  • Flexibility: You can choose a vehicle that suits your specific needs, whether a compact car for fuel efficiency or a 4x4 for rough terrain.
  • Maintenance and Support: Rental agencies often provide roadside assistance and support for mechanical issues.

Cons of Renting a Car

  • Cost: Renting can be expensive, especially when adding insurance and other features like GPS.
  • Driving in Unfamiliar Territory: Navigating unfamiliar roads and driving conditions can be challenging, especially in Iceland's variable weather.
  • Restrictions: Some rental agreements may restrict where you can drive, limiting your exploration.

Choosing between renting a car or using a self-drive option for the Golden Circle depends mainly on personal preferences, budget, and the nature of your trip. Renting offers convenience and support but at a higher cost, while using your vehicle offers familiarity and cost savings but with added responsibility.

Carefully weigh these pros and cons to decide which option aligns best with your travel goals and comfort level.

Golden Circle Iceland Map

Golden Circle Iceland Map

Understanding the layout of the Golden Circle is essential for any road trip. The route forms a loop from Reykjavik into central Iceland and back, encompassing key attractions.

A detailed Golden Circle map is crucial for planning your journey, highlighting major stops such as Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall.

What to See in the Golden Circle

In Iceland's Golden Circle, you can see several key attractions:

Thingvellir National Park

It is known for its historical significance as the site of Iceland's first parliament and stunning geological features, such as the rift valley marking the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Starting From Reykjavik to Thingvellir National Park

  • Distance: Approximately 45 kilometers (28 miles).
  • Directions: Drive northeast on Route 1, then take Route 36 towards Thingvellir.
  • Highlights: Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its historical significance and stunning geological features.

Geysir Geothermal Area

It is famous for its active geysers, particularly Strokkur, which erupts every few minutes, and numerous hot springs.

Starting From Thingvellir National Park to Geysir Geothermal Area

  • Distance: About 60 kilometers (37 miles).
  • Directions: Continue on Route 36, then switch to Route 365, then Route 37.
  • Highlights: Witness the Strokkur geyser, which erupts every few minutes, and explore the bubbling mud pots and fumaroles.

Kerid Crater Lake

A striking volcanic crater with a vivid blue lake at its base, surrounded by steep and colorful slopes.

Starting From Gullfoss to Kerid Crater

  • Distance: About 55 kilometers (34 miles).
  • Directions: Drive south on Route 35, then take Route 30, and finally Route 1.
  • Highlights: Kerid is a volcanic crater lake known for its strikingly vivid aquamarine water and steep circular caldera.

Faxi Waterfall

A lesser-known but beautiful waterfall offering a serene and picturesque spot.

Starting From Kerid Crater to Reykjavik

  • Distance: Approximately 55 kilometers (34 miles).
  • Directions: Continue on Route 1 to return to Reykjavik.
  • Highlights: The drive back offers scenic views and opportunities to spot additional geological formations.

These attractions showcase Iceland's diverse natural beauty, from geothermal wonders to historic sites, making the Golden Circle a must-visit route for any traveler.

Golden Circle Routes and Itineraries

The Golden Circle in Iceland offers various routes and itineraries to cater to different interests and time frames. Here are some popular options:

Classic Golden Circle Route (1 Day)

  • Start from Reykjavik: The classic route covers about 300 kilometers and can be comfortably driven in one day.
  • Thingvellir National Park: Begin with this UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its historical significance and stunning geology.
  • Geysir Geothermal Area: Next, visit the geysers, especially Strokkur, which erupts every few minutes.
  • Gullfoss Waterfall: Conclude with this spectacular waterfall, one of Iceland's most iconic natural attractions.
  • Return to Reykjavik: After exploring Gullfoss, head back to the capital.

Extended Golden Circle Route (2-3 Days)

  • Additional Stops: Include the Kerid Crater, Faxi Waterfall, and the Secret Lagoon in Fludir for a more comprehensive exploration.
  • Overnight Stay: To fully immerse yourself in the Icelandic landscape, consider staying overnight in a nearby town or countryside guesthouse.

Adventure-Focused Itinerary

  • Snowmobiling and Horse Riding: Add adventure activities like snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier or horse riding in the Icelandic countryside.
  • Hiking Opportunities: Explore the hiking trails around Thingvellir or near other Golden Circle attractions to connect with nature.

Relaxation and Scenic Itinerary

  • Geothermal Baths: Visit the Secret Lagoon or other geothermal baths for a relaxing experience amidst nature.
  • Photography and Leisure: At each stop, allocate time for photography and leisurely walks, absorbing the scenic beauty at a relaxed pace.

Winter Golden Circle Itinerary

  • Northern Lights: If travelling in winter, include evening stops for potential Northern Lights viewing.
  • Winter Activities: Enjoy unique winter experiences like ice cave tours or glacier walks.

Each itinerary can be tailored to personal preferences, ensuring that the Golden Circle has something to offer whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, or a deep dive into Iceland's natural and historical wonders.

Golden Circle Iceland Driving Tips

Golden Circle Iceland Driving Tips

Driving through Iceland's Golden Circle is an extraordinary experience, offering breathtaking landscapes and unique geological sites. To make the most of your journey, here are some essential driving tips:

Understand Local Driving Laws

  • Speed Limits: Adhere to speed limits, typically 90 km/h on highways and 50 km/h in urban areas.
  • Right-Hand Driving: Iceland follows right-hand driving. Be cautious at roundabouts and intersections.

Prepare for Weather Conditions

  • Check Weather Forecasts: Icelandic weather can change rapidly. Regularly check forecasts and be prepared for different conditions.
  • Winter Driving: In winter, roads can be icy or snowy. Drive cautiously and consider renting a 4x4 vehicle.

Respect the Environment

  • Stay on Roads: Off-road driving is illegal in Iceland and harmful to the fragile environment.
  • Wildlife Caution: Be alert for roaming animals like sheep, especially in rural areas.

Navigation and Route Planning

  • GPS and Maps: Use a GPS or physical maps for navigation.
  • Plan Your Route: Familiarize yourself with the route and main attractions beforehand.

Fuel and Breaks

  • Fuel Up: Gas stations are less frequent in remote areas. Keep your tank at least half full.
  • Rest Stops: Take regular breaks, especially on longer stretches, to avoid fatigue.

Emergency Preparedness

  • Emergency Numbers: Keep emergency numbers handy (112 is Iceland's emergency number).
  • First Aid and Tools: Carry a basic kit and tools like a spare tire and jumper cables.

Driving Etiquette

  • Headlights: Always keep your headlights on, a legal requirement in Iceland.
  • Parking: Use designated parking areas, especially when stopping for sightseeing.

Cultural Considerations

  • Respect Local Communities: Drive courteously through small towns and villages.
  • Information Centers: Utilize local visitor centres for updated road conditions and attractions information.

By following these tips, you can ensure a safe and memorable driving experience through the Golden Circle, allowing you to enjoy Iceland's stunning landscapes and natural wonders fully.

Arrange Your Golden Circle Self-Drive Trip With Us

Arranging your trip with Golden Circle Tours offers a convenient and comprehensive way to explore Iceland's Golden Circle. These tours are designed to provide a hassle-free experience, covering major attractions with the expertise of knowledgeable guides. Here's what you can expect:

  • Pre-Planned Itineraries: Golden Circle Tours typically offer pre-planned itineraries, ensuring you visit all key attractions like Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall.
  • Expert Guides: The tours are often led by local guides who provide valuable insights into each site's history, geology, and culture.
  • Transportation Included: Transportation is typically included, and it ranges from comfortable coaches to smaller vehicles for a more personalized experience.
  • Convenience: These tours take care of logistics, such as timings and routes, which can be especially helpful for first-time visitors or those unfamiliar with driving in Iceland.
  • Customization Options: Some tour operators offer customizable options, allowing you to tailor the trip to your interests, whether adding a visit to the Secret Lagoon or arranging adventure activities.
  • Learning Opportunity: These tours provide an educational experience alongside sightseeing, offering a deeper understanding of Iceland's natural phenomena and Viking history.
  • Safety and Comfort: With safety and comfort as priorities, these tours ensure a pleasant journey, making them suitable for a wide range of travelers, including families and seniors.

Arranging your Golden Circle adventure with a tour company can offer a stress-free and enriching way to experience one of Iceland's most famous routes.

Final Thoughts

Iceland's Golden Circle is the ultimate driving adventure. This unforgettable journey, rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage, can be undertaken as a self-guided Golden Circle road trip or a guided Golden Circle tour.

Driving Iceland's Golden Circle lets you witness the majestic landscapes and geological marvels that define this extraordinary route. Embarking on the route clockwise offers a unique perspective, gradually unfolding the diverse array of attractions from the historical depths of Thingvellir National Park to the eruptive wonders of the Geysir Geothermal Area and the cascading majesty of Gullfoss Waterfall.

This journey is not just a drive but a voyage through time and nature, where each turn presents a new vista and story. The Golden Circle road trip stands as a testament to Iceland's raw and magnetic beauty, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in an environment where the forces of nature are both creator and canvas.

It's a route where every stop and every mile traveled adds to a tapestry of memories that will last a lifetime. It is not just a journey on the road; it's an exploration of the heart of Iceland, a golden circle tour that captures the essence of the island's indomitable spirit.


Are there dining options available along the Golden Circle?

Several dining options are along the route, from small cafes and takeaway spots to restaurants offering traditional Icelandic cuisine. Some attractions also have onsite eateries.

Can I camp anywhere along the Golden Circle?

Yes, most of the campgrounds in the Golden Circle are equipped with basic facilities such as toilets, showers, and areas for cooking or barbecue. However, facilities can vary between campsites, and it is advisable to check the specific amenities of each campground before you visit.

Can you sleep anywhere in a campervan in Iceland?

No, you cannot sleep anywhere in a campervan in Iceland. While Iceland is known for its natural beauty and openness, there are specific regulations regarding where you can park and sleep in a campervan.

Icelandic law requires that campervans and motorhomes stay overnight in designated camping areas or campgrounds. This regulation protects the environment and ensures that off-road parking and camping do not damage the natural landscapes.