This guide covers tips, highlights, and photos from our experience self-driving the Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle is the perfect day trip for visitors if they have a short layover in Iceland. 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 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 and we rented our equipment from Iceland Camping Equipment for our trip around Iceland’s Ring Road.
We chose to self-drive the Golden Circle as it allowed us to go on our own pace and stop as many times as we wanted for photos.
Things to do in Iceland Travel Video:
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.
➳ Find all: Hotels in Reykjavik
Route Map to drive the Golden Circle:
What you should know about driving 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.
What to visit in the Golden Circle?
We started driving the Golden Circle going NE on Route 36 towards our first stop, Þingvellir National Park.
- Glymur Waterfall: 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.
- Þingvellir National Park: 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.
- Geysir At Haukadalur: Our next stop on the Golden Circle road trip was Haukadalur, which is about 60km from Þingvellir National Park. There are two famous geysers here called Geysir, the original namesake for all geysers, and Strokkur. Geysir no longer erupts after an earthquake shut it down, but a second one called Strokkur still erupts with scalding water shooting 100 feet into the air approximately every 10 minutes.
- Icelandic Horse Petting: You cannot leave Iceland without petting the beautiful fuzzy friendly Icelandic horses. You will see them all across the island, just make sure to pull safely off the road for a photograph.
- Gullfoss Waterfall: It is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland and a major highlight of the Golden Circle. Gullfoss Waterfall is a powerful 100 feet 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 the 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.
- Faxi waterfall: It is a beautiful little waterfall on the ride back to Reykjavik when completing the Golden Circle. It is less tourist option so you can get much closer to the falls and more easy to get photos free of other people.
- Kerið Crater: The last stop along the Golden Circle 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 400ISK. It was a typical cone-shaped volcano until the tip collapsed into an empty magma chamber and not it is filled with water.
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⇟ More articles from Iceland that might interest you:
➳ Read More: Insider Guide: Iceland Road Trip Tips and Tricks
➳ Read More: 22 Top Things to do in Iceland over the Summer
➳ Read More: Complete Guide for Driving the Ring Road of Iceland
➳ Read More: Ultimate Packing List for Iceland During the Summer
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