Where is “The Golden Circle”?
The Golden Circle refers to a popular route around the South-Western part of Iceland that runs from Reykjavík, through Thingvellir national park. It then goes towards the famed Gullfoss waterfall and the geothermal area that is home to Geysir the world famous hot spring.
There are some variations on which exact roads are chosen to close the “circle” but a Golden Circle takes about 5 hours to complete with short stops but usually 6-8 hours would be an ideal time to reserve for a trip like this.
How can I best experience the Golden Circle?
You could always rent a car, drive the route yourself and stop at your own convenience. Be your own master if you will. The freedom of having no schedule to adhere to can surely be liberating. The downsides of doing so however are also a few.
Traffic along the Golden Circle can be a bit congested in the summer and in the winter, conditions can be dangerous to unfamiliar drivers. Another downside is the exorbitant cost of rental cars and gas in Iceland. The day rate of a car + the gas will often set you back a similar amount a guided tour will!
Or with a guided tour…?
For the Golden Circle we actually recommend the guided tours. One of the upsides of having a guided tour with a driver is that it frees up your eyes for enjoying the view on the way! The route is very beautiful so let an experienced driver do the driving so you can put that free wi-fi to use and make all your friends envy you on Instagram!
Also the guides can sometimes provide interesting information about places that you would otherwise have missed. The variety of tours is great so you should always be able to find one that suits your needs.
What Golden Circle tours do you recommend?
Since there are pretty much countless variations of tours it can be hard to recommend any one of them as each tour might offer something that specially suits someones particular interests. However ALL of the tours below have got our sign of approval in the past and offer great value each to their own merit .For prices and availability, click the pictures or follow the links below:
You can go classic Golden Circle! Grapevine review of the tour available here.
You could also do the Golden Circle with a stop at the legendary Blue Lagoon:
Here is a tour along the same route we can recommend with snorkelling in one of the most beautiful diving spots in the world:
On this tour you can do the Golden Circle and bathe in the Fontana spa after. Full Grapevine review available here!
Horses and tomatoes?
This tour includes a stopover in Friðheimar, a vast greenhouse tomato and horse farm. Also a tour to Kerið, a stunning volcanic crater along the route to Selfoss. You can read the full Grapevine review here.
This 16 hour mammoth of a tour will first take you along the Golden Circle. Then you will be taken on an hour long snowmobile ride onto a glacier to experience the northern lights:
Geothermal pool and farm visit?
We can also wholeheartedly recommend this tour. It includes lunch at Friðheimar (the geothermal tomato farm) and a dip into the Secret Lagoon í Flúðir. The Secret Lagoon is the oldest known swimming pool in Iceland. Read the review here!
A northern lights hunting tour along the Golden Circle:
Crater and farm?
And finally a tour that also takes you to Efstidalur, an old Icelandic dairy farm with a stop at Kerið a 3000 year old crater:
Other things to have in mind?
Is it over-crowded…?
The Golden Circle is the most popular tourist route in Iceland. It has become popular because of it´s unique beauty as well as it´s proximity to the capital area of Reykjavík. In summer it can get crowded (on an Icelandic standard) and that is to be expected. Not crowded like Venice or Oxford street but it is certainly not tranquil like some advertising may lead you to believe.
So be ready to enjoy the sights with other tourists on the Golden Circle. If you are the type who only wants to experience natural beauty totally alone then maybe other parts of the country would be better to explore. It is not “over-crowded” by any means but it can be quite busy during high season (late June through August).
What about safety…?
If you decide to drive the route yourself always make sure to stay safe. The traffic on the Golden Circle has increased considerably in recent years and it is important to be aware that most roads in Iceland are just one lane in each direction. So the roads are generally quite narrow. For this reason parking on the side of the road can pose a great danger to you and to other drivers.
Please visit Safetravel.is for more info on rules and safety on the Icelandic roads.
Who are we?
We are your local experts from the Reykjavík Grapevine! We have been publishing travel articles and reviews since 2004. Our main goal is providing our readers with the best local recommendation available so they can enjoy Iceland as much as we enjoy it. Feel free to follow us on social media for Icelandic news, travel features and food reviews. Also check out these articles on everything you need to know about northern lights, whales, glaciers or volcanoes in Iceland!
Book your day tours in Iceland right here!