Destinations Europe

Driving The Golden Circle Iceland

The Golden Circle Iceland

The Golden Circle in Iceland is an easy day-trip from Reykjavik and is a popular excursion. It takes in some main tourist sites including Thingvellir National park, the Geysir area including Strokkur Geysir and Gullfoss waterfall.

Most tour companies will cover a tour of the Golden Circle however it is easy to drive it yourself and that is what we did. You won’t be going off the main roads so you can do this is a normal two wheel drive car.

Planning

We planned our trip online using Google maps and this was our itinerary below. Be aware that this is the driving time before any stops. I would allow at least 6 hours for this tour with short stops and you may want to even spend longer so factor this in.

Did you know you can download areas of Google Maps to use offline and this is what we did, and used this instead of a SatNav?

Thingvellir National Park
Þingvellir (Thingvellir)

Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park

Our first stop was at Thingvellir National Park or Þingvellir National Park as it’s written with Icelandic lettering. This World Heritage site is where the oldest existing parliament in the world assembled in 930 AD. It was designated a national park due to its historic significance as well as it’s natural beauty.

There is a visitors centre where admission is free and they have a selection of souvenirs, snacks and drinks. Toilets are available but which you have to pay to use at 200 ISK (cards are accepted).

It’s worth it to just get out of your car and take some photos here, to admire the beautiful scenery. You can camp in the park so worth considering in the Summer.

Geysir And Strokkur
Strokkur Landscape

The geothermal landscape around Strokkur

The next stop on our trip was a stop off at Geysir. Geysir means to gush in Icelandic and this is the original geysir here – the Great Geysir. It rarely goes off these days but next to it is Strokkur which thrills tourists with its eruption every 5 to 8 minutes.

Strokkur

Stokkur Geysir

The water at Strokkur bubbles and swirls and tantalises tourists, but the wait is worth it as it shoots up into the air, sometimes up to 40 meters. I defy anybody not to be excited at the eruption at Strokkur.

Gullfoss
Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Gullfoss is an impressive waterfall on the Golden Circle route. It really is a must see and is stunningly beautiful and exciting at the same time. With big gorges and massive crashing water, you can see why it is said to be the most popular waterfall in Iceland. The name Gullfoss translates to ‘golden falls’ and on a sunny day, you can see rainbows in the mist along the falls.

There are different viewing points available and a car park at the top and at a lower level to the waterfalls. There is a visitor centre, with gift shop, a decent cafe serving food and free toilets.

Other Stops On The Golden Circle
Kerid volcanic crater

Kerid volcanic crater

Laugarvatn – a lake town that also has the Fontana geothermal spa
Kerid volcanic crater – a natural crater
The Secret Lagoon – a geothermal spa

Where To Eat
Fridheimar

Fridheimar

We ate at the restaurant at Fridheimar. This tomato farm and restaurant serves tomato-based cuisine and was excellent. We had tomato soup and fresh bread from their buffet, and other items include pasta, Bloody Mary cocktails and tomato based desserts. If you don’t like tomatoes you will be rather limited!

The cafe in Gullfoss serves soup, sandwiches and salads and is a good option as well.

Tourists

Although the sites are incredible and the Golden Circle tour is not to be missed, this is the most popular tour in Iceland and there are hundreds of tourists at every main stop. We went in March which isn’t as busy as the Summer months so I can’t imagine what it is like in high season. If you want Iceland at it’s most peaceful and remote this is not it.

Iceland is considering a tourist tax due to concerns about how tourists are affecting the country and we would be happy to pay this if it helps the environment. A mix of cheap flights, an increase of tourists after the volcanoes erupted in 2010 and 2012 and the Game Of Thrones effect means that in less than a decade tourism has quadrupled.

Safety
Icelandic Horses

The Icelandic horses

There are areas along the way on which you can stop and admire the beautiful Icelandic horses and natural stunning scenery. If you do stop, be sure to pull off the main roads into a lay-by as we saw two American girls stop their car in the middle of the fast road to the displeasure of a lorry driver. Be safe, a photo isn’t worth risking your life for!

 

Top Tip

Don’t forget everything in Iceland is so expensive, for example, we paid on average £3 for a filter coffee and £3.80 for a cappuccino so to save money either take a flask of coffee or tea or stop in one of the supermarkets prior to your trip to stock up on soft drinks. ‘Bonus’ is the cheapest supermarket and well worth a visit to save money.

Tell me, have you ever been to Iceland? Would you like to tour the Golden circle?

Strokkur Geysir, The Golden Circle, Iceland

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  • Jess
    March 21, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    I’d love to visit Iceland, it looks like you saw some incredible sights! Your photos are lovely. I really like the idea of doing the tour by yourself so you can spend as long as you like at each point 🙂

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 21, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      If we did the tour again we would allow more time, there are lots of other attractions that are a bit quieter too. In the summer you’ll have much mire daylight as well,

  • Louise
    March 21, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    I would love to go to Iceland and these pictures look fab so glad you had such a good time

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 21, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      Iceland is an amazing place, we may be going back in the summer.

  • Jessica McDonnell
    March 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I’d love to go to Iceland and this blog post has made me want to go even more!

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 22, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      You must go if you get a chance, it’s amazing.

  • Sarah Bella
    March 22, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Iceland is on my bucket list of places I’d like to visit! It’s such a unique, beautiful country. The Gullfoss Waterfall looks AMAZING! It sounds like you had a wonderful time 🙂 Lovely photos.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 22, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      It is an amazing place, the landscape lends itself to photography.

  • Kavey at Kavey Eats
    March 25, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Lovely lovely photos, really took me back. We visited Iceland a few years ago and also did a self-drive but we went around the big N1 ring road around Iceland. We did of course visit the wonderful sights of the Golden Circle – such an incredible landscape isn’t it? Beautiful post.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 25, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      We only had 7 days this time so we have just booked for the summer so we can explore further.

  • Alouise
    March 25, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I know family and friends who’ve been to Iceland and they rave about how amazing it is. It’s certainly a country high on my must-see list. And aside from the beautiful scenery on the golden circle I’m also curious to try a tomato dessert at the restaurant you recommended.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 25, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      We loved it so much we have just booked to go back in August.

  • Anne
    March 25, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Your pictures look fabulous and I love that it is so Wintery. Cannot beat scenes covered in snow!

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 25, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      It was really beautiful and looked mare dramatic with the snowy backdrop.

  • ankita
    March 25, 2017 at 10:09 am

    I’ve never been to Iceland but I’ve always wanted to. And after reading this post it just moved up on my wanderlist! 🙂

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 25, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      It’s dramatic and beautiful any time of the year.

  • Indrani
    March 25, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Iceland seems to be a hot tourist destination! This drive experience sounds good.
    I would like to check this out when I visit.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 25, 2017 at 6:05 pm

      They call it the “Game of Thrones’ effect, lots of people seeing the landscape on TV and Films.

  • Natasha Amar
    March 26, 2017 at 9:46 am

    I did this in winter last year and really enjoyed the trip. Iceland is gorgeous and those photogenic Icelandic horses make for the perfect models for photographers!

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 26, 2017 at 11:27 am

      Those horses were very popular with the tourists, unfortunately, they seemed to be quite popular on Icelandic menus as well.

  • Bilyana | OwlOverTheWorld
    March 26, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    I haven’t been in Iceland, but it’s on the top of my travel destinations list. I have read a lot and I think that the Golden Circle is definitely the best way to explore the country. As I see you went to the Golden Circle on a day trip. I would love to do the whole circle.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 26, 2017 at 7:09 pm

      The golden circle is near Reykjavik and you can do it in the day. Thre big one is the Ring Road 1 which goes around the whole island, this takes at least 7 days. We are doing part of this when we go back in August.

  • Vicki Louise
    March 28, 2017 at 2:46 am

    I’d love to drive the Golden Circle in Iceland! Your photos are beautiful – and Iceland has such an incredible natural beauty. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the horses – they’re so cute.
    Just a tip on offline maps – Maps.me is an offline map app which allows you to generate driving directions on the go from the data it stores. Its free and gives you more flexibility that singular downloaded maps.

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 28, 2017 at 9:11 pm

      Thanks for the tips about the maps, we are going back to Iceland in August so will give it a try.
      What was amazing was that we were in a cafe in an old shipping container near a glacier in the middle of nowhere and I had a better internet connection speed that I have in my house!

  • elisa
    March 28, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    So beautiful pictures! But I am not sure I would like to do it in winter time, how cold was it? And how can I download a piece of google maps to use it offline? Thanks

  • Reshma Narasing
    March 28, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Although you have mentioned that it’s a popular tourist attraction, the place looks so less crowded, typical Iceland way. I loved the gorgeous landscapes! Great tips on shooting pics and taking a private cab!

    • Mr and Mrs W
      March 28, 2017 at 9:07 pm

      The crowds do get busier in the summer, tourism has grown a lot in the last couple of years., they call it the ‘Game of Thrones’ effect, We are going back in Agust and it was hard to get accommodation, we are going back straight away because we loved it so much.