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.
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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.
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.
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!
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?
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