Golden Circle

Experience mind-blowing natural wonders on this iconic route in Iceland.

South Iceland
Houses at Þingvellir National Park on a cloudy day
Strokkur erupting on a sunny summer day
Houses at Þingvellir National Park on a cloudy day
Best time to visit
All year
Open
Every day
Parking
Paid
Charging station
Yes

Get up close to tumbling waterfalls, active geysers, and more on the Golden Circle, Iceland

Iceland’s Golden Circle route is one of the country’s most popular day tours. Starting in Reykjavík, you’ll travel about 250 km (155 mi) around South Iceland. Along the way, you’ll check out the 3 best places to stop on the Golden Circle: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss waterfall.

See where the continents part and Vikings came together

Head for Þingvellir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was home to the Alþingi, Iceland's Viking-era parliament. From the 10th century, Þingvellir was used as a political gathering place for Icelanders.

During your visit, you’ll also be wowed by geology in action. The park sits on a rift valley created by the drifting apart of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. At Almannagjá gorge, you can even follow a trail through the valley. 

Or you could go to Silfra fissure, a section of the canyon that’s filled with natural spring water. The crystal-clear visibility has made it a renowned spot for scuba divers. Why not join a guided snorkeling excursion for a thrilling experience? 

Experience Iceland’s geothermal might

Further along the Golden Circle, in Haukadalur valley, you’ll find the great Geysir geothermal area. Although Geysir itself is now dormant, you’ll find the active Strokkur geyser right next to it.

Strokkur usually erupts with a boiling plume of water and steam, around every 10 minutes. So you won’t need to wait long to see this spectacular sight for yourself. 

Discover a legendary, and beautiful, waterfall

Furthest from Reykjavík is Gullfoss waterfall, which makes up the trio of top attractions on the route. Gullfoss – meaning ‘Golden Waterfall’ – is actually what the Golden Circle was named after.

If you’re lucky with the weather and it’s a sunny day, the golden hue of the water makes it clear how the waterfall got its name. You might even spot rainbows in the spray of the falls. But with its two-tier drop into a gorge that’s 70 m (230 ft) deep, Gullfoss is stunning no matter the weather. 

How to experience the Golden Circle route, Iceland

One of the best ways to explore the Golden Circle is by renting a car. This will give you the freedom to spend as long as you like at each attraction. You’ll also be able to make extra stops along the way.

If you’d prefer not to drive, you could join a guided excursion from the capital. This lets you sit back, relax, and take in the views. Plus, you’ll learn about the places you visit from your local guide as you go.

Other attractions near the Golden Circle

The Tjörnin pond in Reykjavík in summer

Downtown Reykjavík

Immerse yourself in culture, cuisine, and heritage at the beating heart of the Icelandic capital.

0 km (0 mi)

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Þingvellir National Park, Iceland, in autumn colors

Þingvellir National Park

Step back in time and see Iceland’s natural and cultural history up close at this major historic site.

48 km (30 mi)

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The Strokkur geyser erupting in winter against a sunset

Geysir and Strokkur

Experience the power of nature first-hand when you visit the geothermal areas of Geysir and Strokkur.

106 km (66 mi)

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The Gullfoss waterfall in summertime

Gullfoss

Explore the pathways and history leading to one of Iceland’s greatest waterfalls.

125 km (78 mi)

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FAQs about the Golden Circle

You’ll find the Golden Circle sightseeing route in South Iceland. Include this in your Iceland trip and you’ll set off from Reykjavík, before heading inland to discover natural wonders and cultural gems.

Travel this iconic touring route and you’ll see these 3 famous spots along the way: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss waterfall.

What’s more, with your own rental car in Iceland, you could make detours to these worthwhile places:

  • Langjökull glacier
  • Fontana geothermal baths
  • Kerið crater
  • Þjórsárdalur valley
  • Skálholt cathedral

The Blue Lagoon isn’t part of the Golden Circle, but it’s just 50 km (31 mi) from Reykjavík, the starting point of the route.

Although it’s possible to tour the circle and visit the lagoon in one day, it would feel a bit rushed. To get the most out of your time on the Golden Circle, it’s best to allow an entire day.

The Blue Lagoon is a great activity to do on the day you arrive or depart Iceland. It’s just 22 km (13.5 mi) from Keflavík International Airport. So the lagoon makes for a relaxing pre or post-flight stop on your way to or from downtown Reykjavík.

Set out from Reykjavík on the Golden Circle route and you’ll cover around 250 km (155 mi).

Traveling the route with no stops takes less than 4 hours. That said, it’s best to give yourself a whole day to do the trip, so you get the most out if it. And remember, if you’re on a self-drive tour of Iceland, you can add detours and stop wherever you like along the way.

Yes, one day is an ideal length of time for exploring the Golden Circle.

Guided day tours from Reykjavík tend to run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Or you could enjoy more flexibility by choosing a self-drive trip.

Absolutely! The Golden Circle was designed as a road trip so it’s easy to navigate. And because the route follows paved roads, you don’t need to know how to drive a 4x4.

Why not make taking the wheel even easier by booking with Iceland Tours? Discover the Golden Circle on a self-drive package and our local experts will arrange your accommodation and car rental. Plus, you’ll get a detailed itinerary for your trip.

You might also like to combine the Golden Circle with other unforgettable road trips in Iceland including the Ring Road or Diamond Circle.

Yes, the Golden Circle is a jaw-dropping road trip all year round.

It’s worth remembering that the Icelandic weather is more unpredictable between October and March. This means that driving conditions could be trickier, especially if there’s snow and ice on the roads.

But the Golden Circle is so popular that the route is frequently cleared of snow and ice. This makes it one of the best road trips to do over the winter months.

Plus, this is when you’re most likely to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. So if you’ve dreamed of hunting down magical displays of the aurora, this is the time to come.

The Golden Circle route begins in Reykjavík. From here, the journey between Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss waterfall will cover about 250 km (155 mi).

The weather in Iceland is changeable, so you’ll want to be ready for varied conditions. For instance, you could experience a snow flurry in summer or a beautiful blue sky day in mid-winter.

This means that no matter when you’ll be traveling, we recommend packing:

  • Waterproof jacket and pants
  • Warm, insulated jacket
  • Cozy woolen jumper or fleece
  • Hiking shoes or boots with a grippy sole
  • Hat, gloves, and neckwarmer
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Thermal underwear (for winter)

As part of your trip to Iceland, you might also want to visit one of the country’s many geothermal pools or hot springs. In this case, swimwear and a travel towel will come in handy.