Are you considering visiting the Golden Circle in Iceland? If so, are you thinking about self-driving the Golden Circle or hiring a tour? Either way our Golden Circle Iceland Map will help you see the best things there is to do in the Golden Circle.
This guide covers all the tips, Iceland’s most iconic beautiful attractions, what to pack and photos from our experience self-driving the Golden Circle in Iceland. The Golden Circle is the perfect day trip for visitors with a short layover or in Iceland or for the people who want to see Iceland’s main highlights in a short period of time.
After spending some time at the Blue Lagoon is recommendable to drive the famous Golden Circle from Reykjavik. You can see the main and most beautiful landmarks in less than 300 km route. The driving distance of the Golden Circle is around 3 hours but you can easily spend a whole day depending how much you stop along the way. It can take you anytime from 6 to 8 hours.
➳ Read More: Driving Iceland’s Ring Road
You might need to either rent a car or take a tour. We chose to do a self driving tour of the Golden Circle ourselves with our sweet ride from Lagoon Car Rental. You can pick up your rental car either from the airport or in the city of Reykjavik.
We chose to self-drive the Golden Circle as it allowed us to go on our own pace and add a number of spectacular additional stops along the Golden Circle. In our Iceland’s Golden Circle Map we have included all the stops you must make during your self driving tour.
It is not hard to drive in Iceland, you just need to be careful of the many narrow roads. There are not many people in the country so traffic is not a big thing, specially when visiting off season, like we did.
Keep in mind that during summer sheep or horses can be walking across the street. During winter it is mostly to keep an eye out for icy roads. We recommend to always check the weather and road conditions in Iceland as it changes drastically from hour to hour.
Gas or Diesel is not cheap in Iceland in comparison to the United States, but a full tank should be more than enough for you to complete the Golden Circle.
If you do not feel comfortable driving in Iceland but you still want to visit the most popular stops on the Golden Circle then it might be best to get a guided tour. Iceland is an extremely popular tourist destination if tons of different options for tours. We strongly recommend booking a tour in advance in order to get the best one for you, especially if you only have a couple of days in Iceland.
What is the Golden Circle?
Before getting more into our Golden Circle route is important to know what is the difference between the Golden Circle and the Ring Road of Iceland. The Golden Circle is a circuit that includes some of the most beautiful things to do in Iceland relatively close from Reykjavik. While the Ring Road of Iceland is a national road runs around the entire island and connects most of the inhabited parts of the country.
Both routes are recommended as both have different landscapes worth being seeing. The Ring Road is more recommended if you have at least 7 to 10 days to explore the whole country while the Golden Circle is perfect for those visiting for a short period of time or have a long layover.
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Map to self-drive the Golden Circle Route:
In this Golden Circle Iceland map with stops you will find the best spots, less visited stops and the most popular stops on the Golden Circle route. The map will help you create the perfect Golden Circle itinerary for your next trip to Iceland.
What you should know about driving the Golden Circle in Iceland:
It all depends when you are visiting Iceland. If you go in the Summer or early Fall you will not have problems at all besides ships crossing the road. But if you are planning on visiting in Winter you might have to take extra precautions.
In the winter though, roads can get icy and it will be snow everywhere. Some of the roads might be close as well. During Winter you should also look out for snowstorm as the weather in Iceland changes drastically very quickly. We recommend to use Vegagerdin to check real time road conditions. They even have a handy smartphone app.
How long does it take to drive the Golden Circle?
To visit all the stops in the Golden Circle you need less than a day but if you want to visit all the stops in this article you might need a full day or maybe even two. We did it all in one day but it was because we have daylight 24 hours and we started our last hike at midnight.
Some stops take a lot longer than others, depending on what you want to see and do. You could spend a whole day hiking through Þingvellir National Park or just see the main highlights, while there are other locations where 30 minutes will be more than enough.
What to wear when visiting the Golden Circle
In Iceland more than other destinations it is super important to dress according to the weather to be able to enjoy your vacation. Depending on the time of the year is the what you should wear but in general terms, Iceland is always cold, it gets colder. The enjoy the Golden Circle stops to the fullest it is very important that you dress adequately so try to always bring at least the following:
- A waterproof Jacket (there are a lot of waterfalls)
- Water resistant hiking boots or shoes
- Waterproof gloves
- thermals fleece pants and shirt
- Waterproof pants
- Thick winter sucks
➳ Read More: Our complete guide on what to pack and wear in Iceland
What to visit in the Golden Circle?
Iceland is full of beautiful and breathtaking landscapes. Self driving the Golden Circle will give you a taste of what the whole country has to offer. We have split the locations into the most popular Golden Circle stop and the less visited Golden Circle stops to help you best experience this side of Iceland.
The Most Popular Golden Circle Stops
These four stops along the Golden Circle are the most famous and definitely a must-see when driving the Golden Circle route. All of this stops are included in our Iceland Golden Circle map. No trip to Iceland is complete without self driving the Golden Circle.
Þingvellir National Park
We started driving the Golden Circle going NE on Route 36 towards our first stop, Þingvellir National Park. It is free to go inside the park but you will have to pay a parking fee.
Þingvellir National Park is one of the most popular stops on the Golden Circle route. It is located about 40 km from Reykjavik. I will try to enter as early as possible to avoid the crowds near the entrance. We stayed for about an hour and a half exploring more of the park, but you could easily spend a full day walking one of the main hiking trails, going scuba diving or even horseback riding.
The Þingvellir National Park is along the divide between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates were they are slowly separating creating a deep fissures where you can walk or even swim through. If you would like to snorkel or scuba dive on one of the fissures, Silfra is the place for it.
Oxagarfoss Waterfall: It is within the Þingvellir National Park and it is a beautiful waterfall worth visiting while at the park as it is a popular tourist attraction when visiting The Golden Circle.
Geysir At Haukadalur:
Our next stop on the Golden Circle road trip was Haukadalur, which is about 60 km from Þingvellir National Park. There are two famous geysers here called Geysir, the original namesake for all geysers, and Strokkur. Strokkur Geysir is one of the most popular Golden Circle stops and it is located in the geothermal pools of the Haukadalur Valley.
Geysir no longer erupts after an earthquake shut it down, but a second one called Strokkur still erupts with scalding water shooting 15 to 20 meters into the air approximately every 4 to 10 minutes.
We stayed for less than half an hour as it only takes a few minutes to walk from the parking place to the Geysirs. There are several smaller geysers in the area.
Gullfoss Waterfall. is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland and a major highlight of the Golden Circle. It is located just a short drive from the Strokkur Geysir. Gullfoss Waterfall is a powerful and massive 100 feet (32 meters) waterfall. The mist that the waterfall produces gives a high chance to spot a rainbow on sunny day. There are many viewpoints to see different perspectives of Iceland’s most popular waterfall.
We recommend you to go down the stairs and do the whole pathway to get even closer to the waterfall. Be careful as the area near the waterfall gets windy and you might get soaking wet. We spent 2 hours walking around and taking several photos at this fantastic location on the Golden Circle route.
The last stop along the Golden Circle Route is Kerið Crater Lake. The beautiful red volcano is covered in bright green vegetation. You can walk around the entire cone of the volcano to get the best photo of the contrasting colors. A short 5 minute hike down to the water gives you an up close view of the deep blue waters. Entry to the crater costs 400 ISK. It was a typical cone-shaped volcano until the tip collapsed into an empty magma chamber and not it is filled with water.
We spent about an hour walking both around the crater lake as well as taking the stairs down to the bottom of the lake to get another perspective on one of the coolest Golden circle stops.
The Less Visited Golden Circle Stops
The following points of interest along the Golden Circle are the less visited stops but still worth visiting. If you end up with some extra time make sure to see these locations along the Golden Circle. Many people have in the list Braurfoss Waterfall but in reality this place is temporarily closed.
Icelandic Horse Petting
You cannot leave Iceland without petting the beautiful fuzzy friendly Icelandic horses. If you are self driving the Golden Circle, you will definitely see the beautiful Icelandic horses. They are all across the island, just make sure to pull safely off the road for a photograph. Some of the stops even have food that you can buy to feed the horses!
One of the less visited Golden Circle stops is Faxi Waterfall, which is located only 20 km from Gullfoss. It is a beautiful little waterfall on the ride back to Reykjavik when completing the Golden Circle Route. It is less tourist option so you can get much closer to the falls and more easy to get photos free of other people. Faxi Waterfall is easily accessible from the parking lot. While it is not as breathtaking as some of the other waterfalls in Iceland it is a lovely stop along the Golden Circle route.
The hike to the second highest waterfall in Iceland takes 2 hours. You have to walk through glacier cold river water for a few meters so prepare yourself. It is a solid medium level hike that anyone can do if you are able to put a few of you height fears behind you. Glymur Waterfall is definitely not one of the most popular Golden Circle stops but it is worth doing it.
Reykjadalur Hot Springs
Reykjadalur Hot Springs is a good alternative to the Blue Lagoon. The hiking trail is located about 40 minutes from Reykjavik. It is an easy stop if you are self-driving the Golden Circle.
The hike to the natural hot springs is about 3 kilometers, but you will get fantastic scenic views along the way. It will be a great added stop on your Golden Circle itinerary.
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