Iceland is an extremely popular destination for those seeking a road trip. The dramatic scenery, rural landscapes and untouched nature make it an adventurer’s dream. Whether you’re pursuing mighty glaciers, impressive volcanoes, stunning lagoons or vast open space, there is something for everyone in this outstanding country.
One of the main highlights of a road trip in Iceland is travelling the Golden Circle. With famed sights along the route, you get to see some of the best that this island has to offer. From cascading waterfalls to intriguing hot springs, you will find a journey full of exploration and unmatched vistas.
If you’re planning to visit Iceland to drive the Golden Circle, you’re likely in need of more information. To help get you started on your exciting voyage, we have provided a list of recommendations below.
What Is Iceland’s Golden Circle?
Now, the first thing you’re probably wondering is what is the Golden Circle in Iceland? Luckily enough, we can answer that for you! The Golden Circle is a stunning route that comprises 3 main attractions on the island. Along the way, you will encounter the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall, the pristine Thingvellir National Park and the impressive Geysir geothermal area.
The Golden Circle ensures that you get a rounded trip in a circular route, preventing you from driving back and forth between sites. On the journey, you will encounter some of the best that Iceland has to offer. If you’re seeking an expedition brimming with gorgeous natural landscapes, raw rugged scenery and untouched beauty at every turn, then the Golden Circle is the place for you.
Iceland Golden Circle Driving Map
To help you get a better idea of what makes up Iceland’s Golden Circle, below shows a map of the island alongside the route. You can spot some key highlights along the way, as well as where your journey will start and finish.
One thing to note is that you don’t have to stick to this exact path, you are free to roam off to the many towns and villages. Another great aspect of Iceland is that it is built for adventure and freedom, making it perfect for every type of traveller.
The map above shows where your journey will start and finish (both in Reykjavik), alongside the three key attractions on the Golden Circle. You can find Thingvellir National Park first, then Geysir geothermal area and finally Gullfoss Waterfall. However, there are many other incredible things to see and do along the way, more of which will be covered later!
Renting a Car to Drive the Golden Circle
Many visitors aiming to drive Iceland’s Golden Circle tend to hire a car. Due to the country’s cold climate, there is a high chance of encountering ice and snow when driving here, making car rental a sensible option! Due to their expertise, car rental companies in Iceland know what kind of vehicles are up to the road conditions, making it a safer alternative to using your own car.
If you aim to drive Iceland’s Golden Circle in winter, we would recommend doing so in a 4X4 or 4-wheel-drive vehicle. These cars are well equipped to drive snow-dusted or icy roads, making them safer than a standard 2-wheel-drive.
For those planning to travel Iceland’s Golden Circle in summer, a 2-wheel drive would do the job but may limit you as to where you can go. Due to the country’s rural roads, or F-Roads, large 4×4 vehicles are better suited. When driving a 4-wheel drive in Iceland, you can cross rivers, journey through remote parts of the country and explore without restriction.
Once you have decided on a hire car, you next need to choose the best company. It’s important to look into car rental companies beforehand, this way you get to see what vehicles they have on offer, plus any added protections available. These will help ensure that you can drive through Iceland safely, meaning you can make the most out of your time on this outstanding island.
Having the flexibility of a car ensures that you get to see all the best sights and attractions in Iceland at your own pace. Unlike a tour of the Golden Circle, renting a vehicle means that you get to decide how long you stay in one spot and what itinerary to follow.
How Long Does it Take to Drive the Golden Circle?
The total length of Iceland’s Golden Circle is 140 miles, which takes around 4 hours to drive. However, this doesn’t include any stop-offs along the route. You can make the journey as long or as short as you like, some choose to spend a few days travelling with overnight stays in different places.
If you’d prefer to travel the Golden Circle in one day, allocating around 10 hours should give you enough time to drive the course and stop off at the top sights. For those planning to visit in summer, you can also travel the route and camp along the way – the perfect way to fully immerse yourself in Iceland’s great outdoors!
What to See on the Golden Circle: Highlights and Attractions
If you’re wondering about the best places for Iceland’s Golden Circle stops, we’ve got you covered! There are so many magnificent sights and attractions along the way, you won’t find yourself stuck for things to do on your road trip.
There are several highlights of Iceland’s Golden Circle and which you choose to visit comes down to personal preference. Below are our top recommendations for where to see along your voyage, alongside what to do whilst visiting.
Your Iceland Golden Circle itinerary will start in the stunning capital city of Reykjavik. As the route starts and finishes here, you can explore the area either at the beginning or end of the trip, it’s entirely up to you!
The city is famous for its vibrant nightlife, bustling atmosphere and plenty of entertainment. From festivals to lively bars and restaurants, alongside great shopping, you will find lots to do in Reykjavik. This is the ideal place to round off a wonderful trip around the Golden Circle.
Thingvellir National Park
One of the main attractions of Iceland’s Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park. Here you will find all that this stunning country has to offer, from mighty cascades to neverending natural beauty. The park is situated in a rift valley comprising coursing rivers, plunging gorges, rugged cliffs and much more – the perfect place for even the most experienced adventurer.
Explore Iceland’s largest lake, Þingvallavatn at Thingvellir National Park, or check out the incredible Langjokull glacier. There are hiking trails in abundance, alongside waterfalls that will take your breath away. If you’re looking for some of the best of Iceland’s natural landscapes, then a trip to Thingvellir is sure to impress.
Geysir Geothermal Area
After you have taken in all the magnificent views at Thingvellir National Park, your next stop will be Geysir geothermal area. Nestled away in the Haukadalur Valley, you will find a place brimming with breathtaking volcanoes and dramatic landscapes.
Spend some time exploring the famed hot springs at Geysir, and wait to see as the geysers erupt in all their beauty. For those seeking Iceland’s geothermal activity, a trip here will do the trick. You will be astounded by the sheer size of these natural wonders. Plus, Stokkur is known to erupt every four to ten minutes and has previously reached an impressive height of 130ft!
It’s important to note that as Geysir geothermal area is an active site for geysers, you must be sensible when visiting here and always keep children close. They can erupt at any time, shooting hot water out of the ground, so always be alert when going here and you will be guaranteed a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Gullfoss or the ‘Golden Falls’ is a renowned tourist attraction in Iceland and for good reason! Being one of the most powerful falls in the country, this stunning cascade plummets an impressive 32 metres down two tiers. As it flows into the gorge below, you are met with an utterly breathtaking sight, making Gullfoss a must-visit when travelling Iceland’s Golden Circle.
Situated on the Hvita river, Gullfoss Waterfalls display some of Iceland’s most magnificent natural wonders. The amount of water here is also noteworthy, with 109 cubic metres flowing through the falls per second, it is quite a sight to see when visiting Iceland.
The waterfalls at Gullfoss provide an unmatched experience in Iceland, the sheer size and beauty of these cascades make them a true bucket list destination. With raw, rugged scenery and dramatic landscapes encompassing Gulfoss, you will find yourself needing more time here just to marvel over all it has to offer.
Langjokull is one of the most popular glaciers in Iceland, with many tourists heading to the country just to check out all of its magnificence. Situated on the West side of the country, Langjokull is a great sight to visit after you have spent some time at Geysir geothermal area.
Visitors often head here to take advantage of the snowmobile tours, skiing and hiking trails around Langjokull, making it ideal for a range of holiday itineraries. One of the best things about visiting here is that no matter what time of year you go, you will always find snow. This is the perfect place for anyone seeking some of Iceland’s mighty glaciers during the summer months.
There are so many incredible sights and attractions on Iceland’s Golden Circle, we simply cannot list them all! No matter where you choose to go, you will be sure to find a place full of unique natural wonders and landscapes like no other.
How to drive the Golden Circle
One of the best things about the Golden Circle in Iceland is that it is regularly travelled on. This means the route is cleared often, making it easy to navigate even in the winter months. If you plan to stick to Iceland’s ring road without detours to other parts of the country, a 2 wheel-drive vehicle will suffice for driving the Golden Circle. However, for those seeking a little more adventure, you will want to ensure you have an equipped 4×4, SUV or Jeep to journey in. This will help you steer trickier paths, and ensure you’re able to drive with ease on the F-roads.
Be sure to check weather conditions before embarking on your trip. Knowing what the weather has in store for you will help with preparation for your journey, you can see if it’s safe to travel during this time, alongside packing any essentials for colder climates.
It’s also best to check out Iceland’s laws and regulations for driving before taking a road trip here. This is important to know as there is information about licenses and road signs, making sure you drive safely and legally when visiting the Golden Circle.
Places to Eat on the Golden Circle
For any foodies travelling Iceland’s Golden Circle, you will find plenty of great places to stop off and grab a bite to eat. Many visitors choose to explore Reyjavik before heading off on their adventure, with some of the best eateries here, you will be spoilt for choice!
If you would prefer to find somewhere to eat once you have set off, there are some excellent options along the way. Try places like Fridheimar Farm for fresh produce and tasty homemade meals, Kaffi Krus in Selfoss for an informal dinner, or perhaps try out Lindin in Laugarvatn village for some mouth-watering desserts! There are many more along the way so whatever tasty treats you’re looking for, you will find plenty on Iceland’s Golden Circle.
When Should you Visit the Golden Circle?
When you choose to visit Iceland is entirely up to you. For landscapes shimmering under frost, a chance to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights and impressive snow-capped peaks, the best time to go is winter. Although driving during this time may prevent more hazards as the weather conditions can be a little unpredictable.
Summer is a great time to drive the Golden Circle, the roads are clearer and the pleasant temperatures are great for anyone looking to hike and explore. The landscape is still beautiful and with longer daylight hours you can pack more into your trip.
Whatever time you choose to visit, you will find a country brimming with lots to do and plenty to see. Iceland displays some of the best natural landscapes in the world, making it a must-visit destination for many travellers throughout the year.
We hope that after reading our guide to driving the Golden Circle in Iceland, you can now visit well-equipped for your journey. You will find adventure at every twist and turn, alongside memories to last a lifetime, making it a true bucket list voyage for all.
If you’re planning a road trip through Iceland, you’re likely in need of a vehicle. Fara Car Rental has an excellent range of cars to suit varying journeys. Whether you’re hoping to explore the many towns and villages in Iceland or head off the beaten path, you will find something for all with Fara!