One of the best sightseeing destinations that was on my Iceland tour checklist is Iceland’s Golden Circle.
Also known as the “Golden Triangle”, this 300km route goes through the country’s most impressive attractions: Thingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss.
The best part is that the whole area can be covered in a single day, tirelessly.
In this post, I will detail the itinerary that I did and recommend.
Iceland’s Golden Circle
Find places to stay in Reykjavik here.
Where Did the Golden Circle Get Its Name from?
The Golden Circle got its name from Gullfoss, which is a huge waterfall in Iceland. Gullfoss means golden waterfalls in Icelandic. Hence, the name Golden Circle.
The route is a round-way with three major attractions and that is why it is called a circle.
The Golden Circle is also used as a marketing term to attract visitors with its fancy name.
What Not To Miss in the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle covers some miraculously stunning sites born out of Mother Nature, ready to sight-struck you, with just a glimpse. My itinerary included those attractions:
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park was the first stop. This park attracts many people. Having the status of a National Park since 1928, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.
If you want to try Scuba Diving between the tectonic plates of two continents, then you must visit this place.
The tectonic plates of North America and Europe meet at this beautiful place. You can dive into the divine sight characterized with the clearest water around the globe between the two continents.
If you are a fan of Game of Throne, you will get to see a few locations where prominent scenes from the series were shot.
Another historic site that blew off my mind was Geysir Geothermal Field.
This is the most crowded among all. So make sure you either come very early or quite late on the day.
Here, you come across the hyperactive natural geyser, springs, and hot pools dating back to thousands of years.
Scientists say that these geysers and hot springs were born out of natural tension caused by the seismic activities.
The oldest and now dormant is known to have originated back in 1294. However, most of the dormant Geysers became active again due to an earthquake that took place in 2000.
The main geyser named Strokkur erupts almost every ten minutes, 50m high lying around a surface area of 3 square kilometres.
While waiting for the eruption, make sure you are staying in a safe place keeping in mind the wind direction.
Some visitors will have the right warm bath when the erupted water comes down.
The gorgeous and gigantic golden waterfalls from where this trip got its name, is Gullfoss. It lies in the upper part of the Hvita River.
This is one of the few places in the world where you get to see the real power of mother nature. Just a 10 mins drive, these two-tiered waterfalls take you to a dream-world.
The water from the waterfall falls down in two stages, the first one being 11m high and the other being 21m. It plummets down into a 2.5km abyss.
If you’re somebody who loves playing with water, the Gullfoss sprays water all over you, channelled by winds.
The cherry on the cake is the rainbow, which forms over the waterfall during the day-time.
During winters, the waterfall freezes in its shape, making it look spectacularly amazing!
Kerid Crater Lake
Kerid Crater Lake is a 55m deep lake carrying milky blue-green water. It is surrounded by red-coloured volcanic rock slopes around the crater.
It was formed due to a volcanic eruption that took place about 3000 years ago. This place looks unreal and one of the most beautiful in Iceland.
However, some geologists also believe that it was formed more than 6000 years ago as a collapsed magma chamber as a result of eruptions.
The slopes are usually made of red and black coloured volcanic rocks. But, there is also a moderate steep side that grows lush green mosses.
Therefore, the Kerid Crater lake is laden with rich hues all over.
The Best Means Of Transportation In The Golden Circle
It takes around 3.5 hours to drive the whole Golden Circle. You can complete the whole trip in one day if you start early.
However, the Golden Circle tour is not the best one when it comes to public transport.
So, instead of looking for a means of public transport, book a car. These might be expensive if you are a solo-traveller but you will be really flexible.
Driving yourself is the best way to cover the area without any time restrictions of a third party.
The roads are excellently maintained and it is quite safe to drive.
Rental cars are widely available in Iceland. Don’t forget to watch out for radars!
Tips To Enjoy The Golden Circle In The Best Way
Exploring the Golden Circle is an experience in itself. It has everything that is said to be “nature’s beauty”. Here are a few tips that will make your trip even more memorable:
Few places like the Gullfoss Waterfalls get extremely cold. Remember to pack some warm clothes along.
Don’t forget a rain cover for your camera. The weather in Iceland is so unpredictable and you can get really wet near the huge waterfalls.
As you can imagine, the temperature in Iceland drops deeply to negative during winter. So, if you have a problem with travelling during winter, avoid planning your visit between November and February.
Restaurants in Iceland are extremely expensive. What most people do is buy goods from the supermarkets and cook where they are staying at night.
Near Geysir, the water is really hot everywhere. If you are travelling with children, keep an eye on them, especially when the water erupts.
Try to drive yourself. It allows you to explore every nook and corner which you probably couldn’t when travelling by public transport.
What Else To Explore In Iceland
Thorufoss is just 5km away from the Golden Circle and is a must-visit.
The fall looks fairly beautiful. It is the place where the Game of Thrones shooting took place.
Whether it is the Blue or the Secret Lagoon, you should try a relaxing natural spa in those special waters.
If your budget can’t afford the Blue Lagoon, try Laugarvatn Fontana, which is also a lagoon and near the Golden Circle.
Stop wherever you find horses
Iceland’s horses are gorgeous and one of a kind. Stopover when you see a horse farm on the road. Iceland has so many horses and they are just perfect in the scenic landscapes around.
Reykjadalur Hot Spring
Another hot spring that bubbles up and connects to the natural river is Reykjadalur Hot Spring. The best part is that it is the only free hot spring!
If your itinerary and budget allow travelling to the south of Iceland, do visit the beaches in the country. There are unique black-sand beaches along the coastline.
That’s it, guys! I tried to sum up in this post the best spots that you can visit on your Golden Circle trip.
I personally stayed in Iceland for 10 days and explored most of the island. But this is the perfect itinerary if you would like to stay within the Golden Circle.
When Achraf is not devoted to civil society, like helping organize the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, he’s most probably backpacking the Alps. He enjoys being on the road and taking snapshots of life around the world. Achraf loves sharing his travel journey and helping people travel responsibly. He blogs at walkbesidemeblog. Follow on Instagram and Facebook.
For more info on hiking in Iceland take a look at my Laugavegur Trail hike.
Pick up the Lonely Planet Iceland Guidebook to help plan your trip.
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