If you’re coming to Iceland, you’re no doubt ready to enjoy the plethora of outdoor pursuits our beautiful Nordic island has to offer. One of the most popular driving circuits for tourists is the Golden Circle route. It makes for the perfect day trip from Reykjavik and features lots of typically Icelandic highlights and attractions. But it’s not just Gullfoss Waterfall, Thingvellir National Park, and the geysers in Haukadalur geothermal valley that you should go visit. Let’s look at a full Golden Circle tour in Iceland to give you some ideas for your itinerary.
Golden Circle Tour Iceland: A Full Itinerary
The Golden Circle is a collection of natural attractions in South Iceland close to Reykjavik. It gets its name from essentially being a 300 km (190-mile) route that loops its way around from the capital city. Whether you opt for a full day outing or half-day excursion, There’s plenty to see and do along the way.
Anyone visiting the Iceland Golden Circle already knows about the Big Three mentioned previously. But what many people are not aware of are the other fantastic stops in detours along the way. If you’re planning on making a day out of it, you want to have a good mix. An ideal road trip includes both the main places of interest and some off the beaten path gems.
Road trips and DIY day tours in Iceland with a car, camper van, or motorhome rental are definitely the way to go. You have a lot more flexibility than with guided tours to visit the attractions in Iceland to your heart’s content. That’s why we’ve created this ultimate guide to the Golden Circle Iceland. It’s a full list of everything there is to see and do on one of the most popular day tours in Iceland. Pick and choose what appeals to you most and go from there.
So what are the stops on the Golden Circle? Heading clockwise to and from Reykjavik, these are the main places of interest on a Golden Circle map.
- Thingvellir National Park
- Silfra Fissure
- Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths
- Efstidalur Farm
- Geysir and Strokkur geysers in Haukadalur Geothermal Valley
- Gullfoss Waterfall
- Langjökull Glacier
- Drumbó River Base
- The Secret Lagoon
- Friðheimar Farm
- Slakki Zoo
- Solheimar Ecovillage
- Kerið Crater
Thingvellir (þingvellir) National Park: Golden Circle History and Geology
This national park in Iceland has a lot of significance, both historically and geologically. as the home of Iceland’s first parliament, this is where democracy began in Iceland. In fact, the Alþingi (Iceland’s parliament) began in 930 AD, making it the oldest parliament in the world.
Thingvellir is also where you can see the Earth’s crust coming apart. Iceland rests on the plate boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. There’s a huge crack running through the ground and you can go scuba diving here at the Silfra fissure. it’s no wonder this UNESCO World Heritage site was chosen as a Game of Thrones filming location.
Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths
There are lots of Icelandic Hot Springs nestled away for those looking to avoid the crowds of the Blue Lagoon. Laugarvatn is a lovely little spot town gives you the chance to relax in peace. It’s a great alternative if you don’t have time to make it to the Mývatn Nature Baths.
If you weren’t aware, Icelandic ice cream is some of the best in the world. This may seem a bit ironic at first, but we Icelanders aren’t anything if not quirky. If you’re traveling around the Golden Circle, be sure to make a stop at Efstidalur Farm. Their hand-crafted ice cream made with locally-sourced ingredients Uses cow’s milk fresh from the farm. There is also a hotel and restaurant on site.
Geysir and Strokkur Geysers in Haukadalur Geothermal Valley
The Geysir geothermal area in Haukadalur Valley is home to the mighty Strokkur and Geysir geysers. In fact, we get the English word “geyser” from Geysir. Unfortunately, it’s not as active anymore. You’ll have better luck with Strokkur, which shoots boiling water into the air approximately every 5 to 10 minutes
Gullfoss Waterfall: A Star of Iceland’s Golden Circle
Iceland “golden” waterfall is one of 10,000 cascades around the country. Its unique moniker, meaning golden falls, comes from the color it gives off on sunny days. When the light of the sun hits the sediment in the water it seems to have a golden tint.
Although Vatnajökull gets most of the attention, Iceland actually has a whopping 269 named glaciers. Ice caps, outlet glaciers, ice streams, mountain glaciers, and more cover around 11% of the island. Langjökull is one of these, and you can hike the glacier, explore its ice caves, or go snowmobiling. It’s a detour that takes you slightly off of the Golden Circle but it’s quite impressive, so I highly recommend it.
Drumbó River Base on the Hvitá River
River rafting fans will want to grab their oars and life jackets and head for the Hvitá River. Rafting is a popular thing to do here as long as you can take the chill of the water. This is a great outdoor activity, especially in the summer.
The Secret Lagoon
The Secret Lagoon is one of the thousands of hot springs you’ll find in Iceland. if you want to take a dip while traveling the circuit, this is a great place to stop. When you come to Iceland, be sure to bring your towel and bathing suit as you’ll have ample opportunities to use them.
Stop for Lunch at Friðheimar Farm
Friðheimar Farm is a local Institution that specializes in homemade tomato soup and freshly baked bread. If you are driving the Golden Circle, this horse, cucumber, and tomato farm could be a great place to stop for lunch. They’re open from 12-4 pm and you want to call in advance to let them know to expect you.This is especially crucial if you’re with a large group.
For history lovers, you’ll want to stop by Iceland’s first town. It features the typical Icelandic architecture that you see on churches dotting the countryside. A dark or colorful roof atop a white church will become a familiar sight as you travel around the Ring Road.
The Slakki Zoo
If you’re on a family road trip in Iceland (or just love animals) the Slakki Petting Zoo could be a fun, unexpected addition. With birds, bunnies, piggies, and other furry friends, you’ll be in animal lover’s heaven. Just don’t sneak one into your backpack, no matter how much you want to take one home with you as an Iceland souvenir.
This international community has villagers here working as both volunteers and interns for short periods. The hundred people living and working here in harmony usually spend three to 12 months taking care of tasks around the ecovillage. You’re welcome to come to visit or to stay as a longer-term resident if that interests you.
This is the last outdoor stop along the Golden Circle Iceland before you get to Selfoss and head back to Reykjavik. But last certainly does not mean least. Kerið is a beautiful volcanic crater lake filled with turquoise water. It’s a wonderful way to end your journey before getting back on Route 1.
Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant
For those interested in science or who wonder about how Iceland harnesses its geothermal energy, stop by Iceland’s second-largest power plant. You can learn about the fascinating process at the plant’s exhibition on geothermal power.
Golden Circle Iceland: A Comprehensive List
Who knew there were so many amazing sites to explore and additional stops to explore when doing and Iceland Golden Circle tour? Of course, you can’t really see everything in one day, not even with the help of the Midnight Sun. Be sure to take your time exploring each one. you want to give yourself ample opportunity to enjoy the stunning sites along this oval-shaped circuit.