The Golden Circle is one of the most popular sightseeing tours in Iceland. There are many companies that offer guided tours of the golden circle, or you can drive yourself in your rental car. The three main attractions are Thingvellir national park, the geysers at Haukadalur and Gullfoss waterfall. If you are only looking to see these three natural wonders you can expect to be in your car driving for approx. 3 hours 20 minutes and you will be covering 237 km. If you are driving yourself and have a full day, it is likely that you may want to make a few more stops. We have a compiled a list of additional stops below and have included a brief description of these locations. Personally. while in Iceland, we elected to stay a few nights at a cottage in Thingvellir, which allowed us to break our golden circle tour up into a few days. We recommend adding various stops into a google map of Iceland and determining the driving time it would take for these stops before venturing out for the day. Please take a look at our list of additional stops and plan your day along the golden circle.
Þingvellir National Park – The first stop on the Golden Circle tour is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Aside from the folklore and history of the park, it is also a geographical wonder. You could spend an entire day just explore the park itself. Thingvellir National Park is Geologically unique because it is situated directly between the Eurasian and North American Tectonic Plates. We did some minor exploring of the church and the area of the park around it, we walked between the teconic plates, we also spent a whole morning Snorkeling the Silfra FIssure and came back one night to see the Northern Lights dance across the night sky.
Geysers at Haukadalur -50 minutes from Thingvellir National Park you will find the geothermal area of Haukadalur. There are two geysers found here, Geysir and Strokkur. While Geysir has been clogged up for decades, Strokkur erupts every 5-10 minutes, making this a quick stop along your golden circle route. Geyser activity is rare and requires a lot of unique conditions and this alone is enough to make seeing one in person worth the stop. The fact that Strokkur is so reliable makes it almost guaranteed you’ll get to experience an eruption at least once. The geothermal area leading up to Strokkur is also interesting, the ground is steaming everywhere you look so be careful to watch you step and not mind the sulfur smell in the air.
Gullfoss -The final stop on the Golden Circle and located just 10 minutes down the road from Geysir is Gullfoss. The word Gullfoss means “golden waterfall” and this is Iceland’s most popular waterfall. Some describe Gullfoss as looking like a slice of pie. The closer you walk down to the falls, the larger it becomes. There’s a wonderful path leading all the way down to the falls as well as a path along the top to get a different perspective of the falls. If you are going to get close be sure to wear a rain jacket as you will get wet. Also be aware this is a popular spot for photographers around sunset and it does get quite crowded with tripods.
There are several detours on the Golden Circle aside from the 3 main stops. Those detours incude: Kerio Crater Lake, Fontana Geothermal Baths, Secret lagoon in Fludir, Frioheimar tomato and horse farm, Pjorsardalur valley, Skalholt in Bikupstungur, Stokkseyri.
We recommend a quick stop at Kerio Crater Lake which was formed about 6500 years ago with a lake in the middle and cost about 500ISK admission and also a stop in Stokkseyri for lunch or dinner at Fjorubordid.