- Best time to visit
- All year round
- 64.32694, -20.12481
- Distance from Reykjavik
Looking for a multi-day tour that offers thrilling outdoor adventures, spectacular sightseeing, and cosy accommodation? This is it! This all-inclusive farm stay includes incredible scenery, including vast glaciers, epic waterfalls, and hauntingly beautiful black sand beaches.
Experience the best of Iceland with this package of two of the island’s most popular tours in one day! The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Þingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir. After touring the landmarks, soak in the milky blue healing water of the Blue Lagoon.
Nature, culture, and history prevail in this combination tour, which takes you to the sites of the Golden Circle and inside the Lava Tunnel Raufarhólshellir cave. Experience a new world of Iceland's natural wonders -- Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir geothermal region, Þingvellir National Park and the raw beauty of a lava tunnel. This is an easy, guided tour with no caving experience required.
Experience the landmarks of the classic Golden Circle in South Iceland with an exciting snowmobile ride on this unforgettable day tour. The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Þingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir. Cap off your sightseeing adventure with a thrilling snowmobile ride on Langjökull glacier!
Experience the best of Iceland's natural wonders and the charm of its capital city with our Golden Circle & City Sightseeing combo. This tour combines an insightful 8-hour journey through the iconic Golden Circle, with a visit to the Fridheimar Tomato Greenhouse along the way, and additionally, the flexibility of exploring Reykjavík at your own pace on the Hop On Hop Off bus.
Want to see the sites of the Golden Circle but have a limited amount of time? Consider this express Golden Circle tour! Experience the landmarks of the classic Golden Circle in South Iceland on this unforgettable day tour. The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Þingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir.
Day Trip Around the Golden Circle
The Route of the Golden Circle
Departing from Reykjavík, the Golden Circle is a 250-kilometre (155-mile) road route that showcases some of Iceland's most breathtaking natural sights, all achievable within a single day. It's the country's most popular tour route.
As you journey through the southern uplands of Iceland, you'll encounter vast lava plains and a national park that's verdant with short birch forests in summer and blanketed in thick snow during winter.
The route offers glimpses of picturesque agricultural areas, unparalleled natural scenery, thundering waterfalls, and visible signs of the geothermal activity simmering beneath the island’s surface.
While embarking on a Golden Circle self-drive tour is a favoured choice, driving conditions in late autumn, early spring, and winter can prove challenging. Being an isolated island in the North Atlantic, Iceland's weather is notoriously unpredictable, with road conditions that can shift rapidly. If you choose to drive yourself, it's crucial to stay informed about road closures and conditions, preferably using the SafeTravel app.
For those wanting to eliminate potential travel hitches, consider joining a guided tour of the Golden Circle from Reykjavík. An experienced driver and guide will not only ensure safe transit between sites but also offer valuable local insights. Additionally, Golden Circle tours can be combined with other activities such as geothermal bathing, horse riding, or exploring surreal landscapes on an ATV.
Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir, Iceland's oldest National Park, is a standout highlight of the Golden Circle. Here, striking rocky ravines reveal the point where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates drift apart.
Þingvellir is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its geological and historical importance. It's not just where the tectonic plates drift apart but also the location where the world's first democratic parliament convened.
How Much Time Do You Need at Þingvellir?
A leisurely walk through the ravine typically takes between 0.5 - 1.5 hours. If you wish to explore the rock formations, the historical site of Lögberg (also known as the Law Rock), the secluded wooden Þingvallakirkja church, and the scenic Öxarárfoss waterfall, anticipate a walk of about two hours with brief pauses.
You can certainly spend more time at Þingvellir National Park. There are walking trails winding through the rugged landscape, which can take three or four hours to traverse. Alternatively, you might want to snorkel or dive in the pristine waters of Silfra, nestled between the continents.
Gullfoss, often referred to as the "Golden Falls," is one of Iceland's most iconic and beloved waterfalls. This majestic cascade plunges into a deep canyon, creating a breathtaking spectacle that showcases the raw power and beauty of Icelandic nature.
Descending in two dramatic tiers, the waterfall has a combined drop of over 32 meters (105 feet) and spans nearly 20 meters (65 feet) in width, making it one of the most formidable cascades in Europe. Originating from Iceland's second-largest glacier, Langjökull, the waters of the Hvítá River rush towards Gullfoss, creating a thunderous roar and often generating misty rainbows on sunny days.
For visitors, two main viewing platforms offer unique perspectives of this natural wonder. The upper platform provides a panoramic view from a distance, allowing onlookers to appreciate the waterfall's vast scale and its place within the sweeping Icelandic landscape. Meanwhile, the lower platform draws visitors closer to the falls, immersing them in the spray and sound of the cascading waters.
While both platforms are accessible in the summer, offering awe-inspiring views of Gullfoss set against verdant landscapes, winter visits can be a bit more restrictive. Due to icy conditions and snow, the lower platform is mostly closed between November and April due to safety reasons. However, the upper platform remains open, presenting a mesmerizing scene of the waterfall partially frozen, framed by snow-covered terrains.
Whether viewed under the midnight sun of summer or the frozen embrace of winter, Gullfoss never fails to captivate and inspire its visitors.
Geysir Geothermal Area
Another highlight of the Golden Circle is the Geysir Geothermal Area, a hotbed of underground volcanic activity. Here, beneath the verdant terrain, the earth's crust is unusually thin, allowing superheated water from below to surface in spectacular displays of nature's power.
The earth's molten magma heats underground water reserves, and the subsequent pressure buildup results in the geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles seen at Geysir.
Sulphuric hot springs bubble and hiss, releasing pungent aromas that blend with the misty atmosphere. Rivulets of near-boiling water weave through the landscape, creating ethereal clouds of steam that dance above the ground.
While Iceland boasts numerous geothermal springs suitable for a rejuvenating dip, Geysir is not one of them. Given the extreme temperatures, which can soar over 100°C, visitors are firmly advised to admire the scalding beauty from a safe distance.
The crown jewel of the Geysir geothermal park is the Strokkur geyser. This lively hot spring offers a visual spectacle like no other: every ten minutes or so, it propels a towering plume of water high into the air. Anticipation builds as the earth murmurs and photographers jostle for the best position.
With an average eruption reaching between 15 to 20 metres (49 to 66 feet) and occasionally soaring up to 40 metres, capturing Strokkur's magnificence is a photographer's dream. But fret not if you miss the perfect shot; Strokkur is ever-reliable, granting numerous opportunities for that quintessential eruption photo.
Geothermal Bathing after your Golden Circle Tour
After soaking in the sights for half a day, unwind in the embrace of nature at the Secret Lagoon or Laugarvatn Fontana, both set amid stunning landscapes and boasting naturally heated waters.
For a touch of luxury, extend your Golden Circle journey with a visit to the Blue Lagoon. Though it lies further on the Reykjanes peninsula, it's a popular finale for many due to its status as a globally acclaimed geothermal spa. Immerse yourself in its iconic milky-blue waters or, if you're returning to Reykjavík, consider a dip in the contemporary Sky Lagoon.
For those keen on a rejuvenating experience closer to the city, the Sky Lagoon offers the ideal solution. Nestled on the city's fringe, it stretches towards the vast Atlantic, providing bathers with panoramic views of the boundless horizon.
Other Sights in the Golden Circle Area
Beyond the renowned attractions of Þingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss, the Golden Circle boasts a plethora of lesser-known yet equally captivating sights.
Kerið Crater Lake: This volcanic crater lake is a stunning sight, characterized by its nearly symmetrical form and the stark contrast of its red and brown crater walls against the vivid blue waters. The reflection of the sky on the lake's surface on a sunny day is a sight to behold.
Faxi Waterfall: A less frequented but equally beautiful waterfall, Faxi is located close to Geysir and Gullfoss. It's smaller than Gullfoss but is known for its wide cascade and a peaceful surrounding that is perfect for a short picnic.
Efstidalur II: This is not just a farm, but also an eatery that offers a delightful farm-to-table experience. You can enjoy ice cream, dairy products, and meats that are all sourced from the farm while observing the cows through a glass window.
All About the Golden Circle
While the colour gold has connotations of first place, implying the Golden Circle is the number one activity you should plan in Iceland, the name comes from Gullfoss waterfall which translates as “golden falls” in English. Legend has it that a Viking threw his treasure into the waterfall’s plunge pool so that nobody could take his riches after he died, and that is where the name Gullfoss comes from. Others say it is simply because the falls have a golden hue when the sun hits them, due to the sediment carried down from glacial valleys.
The Golden Circle traces its path through southern Iceland, typically starting and concluding in Reykjavík. A journey encompassing the wonders of Thingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss guides you across the southern uplands, initially venturing inland before gracefully looping back to Reykjavík along the scenic south coast.
The Golden Circle spans approximately 250 kilometres (155 miles) and, without stopping, would take around three hours to drive. Of course, with stops you’ll want to allow a lot longer, around five to six hours just to hit the highlights and even longer if you want to embark on a glacier hike, try horseback riding or explore one of the walking trails at Þingvellir National Park.
Yes, you can swim in certain parts of the Golden Circle. One of the most unique experiences is swimming between the tectonic plates at Silfra in Þingvellir National Park. If you book a guided tour, you can snorkel or dive in the crystal-clear waters of Silfra, which is a fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
In addition to this, there are other swimming opportunities around the Golden Circle:
Secret Lagoon: Located near the town of Flúðir, the Secret Lagoon is a geothermal hot spring where you can relax in warm waters amidst a natural and rustic setting.
Laugarvatn Fontana: This is a geothermal spa located by Lake Laugarvatn. Not only can you swim in the geothermal waters of the spa, but you also have the opportunity to swim in the cold lake. After a refreshing dip in the lake, you can quickly warm up in a sauna or enjoy a geothermal hot spring steam bath.
These swimming experiences provide a unique way to immerse yourself in Iceland's stunning natural landscapes and make the most of your trip to the Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle's attractions can undeniably draw crowds, particularly during peak season. Yet, its popularity is well-earned, showcasing some of Iceland's most breathtaking natural wonders. If you're a first-time visitor, the Golden Circle is a must-see. Despite the crowds, vast open spaces allow visitors to find their own secluded spots.
For instance, at Thingvellir, many visitors stay close to the parking area, but a brief walk offers a more tranquil experience. Over at Geysir, ascending the nearby hill takes less than an hour and rewards you with panoramic views of the geothermal marvels, including Strokkur's eruptions, away from the throngs. Similarly, at Gullfoss, while many gather at the main viewing platforms, a walk along the waterfall's path unveils less frequented vantage points.
These off-the-beaten-path perspectives not only offer respite from the crowds but provide unique, postcard-worthy views untouched by the typical tourist lens. So, should crowds be a concern, remember that tranquility is just a few steps away.
Friðheimar tomato greenhouse is a unique dining experience where you can sample tomatoes grown in geothermally-heated greenhouses in all their dishes. This is a popular additional stop on the Golden Circle. There are also cafes at Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir serving warming soups, chunky sandwiches and hot meals packed with Icelandic produce. If you want to embrace modern Icelandic tradition, opt for one of the ubiquitous hot dogs at any of the petrol stations along the way. Icelandic hot dogs are made from organic lamb meat so are a little different from your average hot dog in the USA.
The Golden Circle is a circular route beginning and ending in Reykjavík, taking in the highlights of Iceland’s unique scenery. Over approximately 250 kilometres (155 miles), it takes in Þingvellir National Park where the continental plates meet, Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir area of geothermal activity. There are additional sights along the route to stop at, but those three are the main attractions.
Yes, there are plenty of toilet stops along the Golden Circle. All the major attractions have public toilets, cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. Smaller sights like Kerið volcanic crater don’t have toilets, but you can stop at petrol stations along the route if you need to as well.
Apart from the absolute basics of the Golden Circle – Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir geothermal park – there are a few other highlights along the route. Kerið volcano crater is a quick and easy stop and the Secret Lagoon is a popular addition to the route to soak tired muscles after seeing the sights.
You’ll want to stop for lunch too, and while there are cafes at most of the main attractions, some Golden Circle tours offer a stop at Friðheimar tomato greenhouse to sample the menu and see how tomatoes can be grown in near-Arctic conditions.
No, you should not skip the Golden Circle in Iceland. The Golden Circle is one of the most iconic and popular routes in Iceland, offering a fantastic showcase of the country's natural wonders that encapsulate Iceland's essential beauty. Given the proximity of these attractions to Reykjavik, it's an accessible and doable day trip for most travelers. If you're visiting Iceland, experiencing the Golden Circle is a unique opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.