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Golden Circle Self Drive Tours

See the wonders of nature in action on a Golden Circle self-drive tour in Iceland. Visit the Gullfoss waterfall, Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area and more.

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Golden Circle Self-Drive Tour: Iceland’s Most Famous Route

Want to experience hot springs, a glacial waterfall, geothermal pools and volcanic terrain all in a short amount of time? On a Golden Circle self-drive tour, Iceland’s incredible natural diversity is on full display – all condensed into a simple journey from Reykjavik.

A road trip on the famous Golden Circle route in Iceland promises epic photo opportunities, as well as activities like soaking in thermal springs and snowmobiling on a glacier. Visit the roaring Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir geothermal area and a true gem of Icelandic nature and history – Þingvellir National Park.

What’s more, when you book a trip to Iceland with Nordic Visitor, you get hand-picked accommodation, transportation reservations, daily breakfast and access to our 24/7 helpline. 

Get in touch with us and we'll happily plan your perfect Iceland adventure. You can reach us via our toll-free numbers, contact form or LiveChat.

 

— WHY US?

Why book with Nordic Visitor

  • Hassle-free & seamless travel experience
  • Flexible & customisable tour options
  • Value for your money
  • Professional service from local experts
  • 24/7 emergency helpline during tour

Drive the Golden Circle in Summer

Get behind the wheel and prepare to be amazed. These flexible self-drive tour packages include the Golden Circle as well as journeys on the Ring Road. Accommodations, car rental, maps and more included.

Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive
10 days / 9 nights
4.8
May - Sep

Iceland Full Circle Classic

228805ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller
10 days / 9 nights
May - Sep

Iceland Full Circle Classic

228805ISK

ISK

Close map view
Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive
14 days / 13 nights
4.6
May - Sep

Iceland Complete Classic

278483ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller
14 days / 13 nights
May - Sep

Iceland Complete Classic

278483ISK

ISK

Close map view
Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive
8 days / 7 nights
4.8
Apr - Sep

South & West Iceland Classic

186795ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller
8 days / 7 nights
Apr - Sep

South & West Iceland Classic

186795ISK

ISK

Close map view
Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive
7 days / 6 nights
4.9
May - Sep

Iceland Ring Road Express

170515ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller
7 days / 6 nights
May - Sep

Iceland Ring Road Express

170515ISK

ISK

Close map view

Do a Golden Circle Road Trip in Winter

Watch hot springs spout during the day, watch for northern lights at night. These self-drive tours include a 4x4 rental car for safe winter driving, a flexible itinerary and other perks for an incredible road trip.

Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive
10 days / 9 nights
Oct - Apr

Iceland Full Circle Classic - Winter

240015ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller
10 days / 9 nights
Oct - Apr

Iceland Full Circle Classic - Winter

240015ISK

ISK

Close map view
Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive
7 days / 6 nights
Oct - Apr

South Iceland at Leisure - Winter

158910ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller
7 days / 6 nights
Oct - Apr

South Iceland at Leisure - Winter

158910ISK

ISK

Close map view
Iceland
Self-drive
8 days / 7 nights
Oct - Apr

South & West Iceland Classic - Winter

169835ISK

Eur

View map
8 days / 7 nights
Oct - Apr

South & West Iceland Classic - Winter

169835ISK

ISK

Close map view
Iceland
Self-drive
10 days / 9 nights
Oct - Apr

South & West Iceland at Leisure - Winter

207935ISK

Eur

View map
10 days / 9 nights
Oct - Apr

South & West Iceland at Leisure - Winter

207935ISK

ISK

Close map view

Local travel agency

As a travel agency with offices in Reykjavík, Edinburgh and Stockholm, Nordic Visitor knows how to make the most of your time in Northern Europe. Choose from a variety of carefully curated tours that include must-see attractions as well as lesser-known highlights.

You can also make customisations to your itinerary by adding extra nights, optional activities, or upgrades to your tour. Or ask your personal travel consultant for advice and they will tailor your itinerary. This way you get a bespoke travel experience that is perfectly suited to you. 

Your dedicated travel consultant will arrange all the local details for you. You get accommodation, activities, transport, and other services included in your package. If you need to rework your itinerary, we’ll handle it for you, so you can relax and look forward to your getaway.

Different ways you can experience Iceland

We have tours for all varieties of travel styles and interests. See our options for exploring Iceland below.

What is the Golden Circle?

In a nutshell, the Golden Circle is the most popular tourist route in Iceland. If you’re flexible with your definition of shapes, then this drive is indeed a circle, starting and ending in Reykjavik.

The Golden Circle route forms a loop through southwestern Iceland via a few different highways, including Route 35 and Route 1, the renowned “Ring Road”. It’s a must for all first-time visitors as it encompasses a few of Iceland’s most famous sights:

  1. Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, where Iceland’s parliament was founded in 930 AD and where two tectonic plates are slowly drifting apart.
  2. The spouting hot springs of the Geysir geothermal area, where you can finally witness first-hand the erupting Strokkur geyser from all those amazing Instagram pics.
  3. The mighty waterfall Gullfoss. As its name means “Golden Falls” in Icelandic, this may very well explain the golden part of route’s name.

There’s a lot more on the route to see than those 3 places though, which truly makes this route worth its weight in gold.

Good to know: Not only does Nordic Visitor rent a car and book your accommodations for you, we also give you a handy booklet on arrival with your own personal itinerary and details of Iceland’s best attractions to visit on your road trip.



How long is the Golden Circle tour?

The classic Golden Route is around 230 km (140 miles) in total. Can you do the Golden Circle in a day? Absolutely – if you got in a car and drove the whole journey without stopping, it would take you a little over 3 hours. But you’ll want to stop for photos and have an occasional snack and loo break, right?

So to answer the question, “How long does it take to drive the Golden Circle?” we would say to give yourself at least 8 hours. Setting aside a full day for this allows you to factor in some unplanned stops, for example, at little dairy farms that sell homemade ice cream.

Good to know: Nordic Visitor actually marks these little ice cream stops – and other notable diversions – on your road map. We even highlight your driving route and overnight locations!



What is the best way to see the Golden Circle?

There are numerous guided day tours from Reykjavík around this route all year round, though we find that driving yourself around the Golden Circle is the best option for flexible sightseeing – read more in our how-to guide. Plus, it’s an easy route to drive as the popular attractions are easily located just off the main roads.

This is especially true for anyone serious about photography, families with kids – who may need more bathroom breaks – and travellers who free time for hiking.

What is the best way to drive the Golden Circle?

Starting from Reykjavik, you could drive clockwise or counter clockwise, depending on how you want to time your attractions and activities. There really is no right or wrong direction, though most tours tend to go clockwise as you’ll reach the major sites sooner – by car, it’s about 55 minutes from Reykjavik to Þingvellir National Park.

For example, driving clockwise from Reykjavik you first head northeast, stopping at Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss in that order. Then you head down to the south coast at a leisurely pace on your way back to the capital city, with optional stops at places like the Friðheimar greenhouse, the Kerið crater and small towns on the way.

An advantage of doing the Golden Circle clockwise is if you’re taking your road trip further east along Iceland’s south coast – an extension we wholly recommend. There’s a lot more to South Iceland beyond the Golden Circle!

Good to know: The best way to drive the Golden Circle is to do it safely. Nordic Visitor provides customers with handy information about driving in Iceland, so you'll be well prepared for the traffic rules and road signs.



When is the best time for a Golden Circle tour?

Summer in Iceland, namely June through August, is the busiest time of the year on the Golden Circle. While sparsely populated Iceland can never really be considered “crowded”, these are the months with the most organised bus tours to the attractions.

If you’d like fewer people in your photos, consider departing Reykjavik earlier in the morning. Or take advantage of the “midnight sun” and extend your drive later into the evening to capture the Golden Circle during golden hour.



Can you drive the Golden Circle in winter?

Yes! Just as ice cream is Icelanders’ favourite treat year-round – even in the colder months – you can do a driving tour of the Golden Circle any time of year. It’s just as beautiful with snow on the ground.

The advantage of booking a Golden Circle self-drive tour between October and April is that you’ll encounter fewer crowds at the attractions and potentially even catch a brilliant northern lights show in the evening! Of course, you will need to account for limited daylight hours between November and January.

Good to know: The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable, but Nordic Visitor’s travel consultants are skilled at quickly modifying itineraries in the event of poor winter road conditions. You’ll also have access to our 24/7 emergency phone support for extra peace of mind on the road.



See what services we offer, and what our other travellers say about us, below. Then keep reading for details about the major and minor attractions of the Golden Circle.

 

— THINGS TO SEE

Highlights of the Golden Circle

  • Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park
  • Gullfoss waterfall
  • Geysir geothermal area
  • Langjökull glacier
  • Kerið volcanic crater

What do our customers say?

The reviews speak for themselves. See what Nordic Visitor travellers said about their experience with us.

James, Germany

Classic South Coast, August 2021

Amazing and seamless experience

This was an excellent trip and we highly recommend Nordic Visitor for booking. We didn't have to do anything, they had everything arranged and it was a seamless, amazing experience! Thank you so much!

Janet, United States

Iceland Grand Tour, July 2021

We loved every minute of our trip

Nordic Visitor were a pleasure to work with! You were so responsive, listened to our requests, planned everything perfectly and ensured that we had a fantastic vacation. We loved every minute of our 17 day Grand Tour of Iceland - you did all of the work for us so all we had to do was enjoy it. Our tour gave us enough time to explore so many areas of your beautiful country. We want to return someday - and when we do, we will be calling Nordic Visitor again!

Lene,

Iceland Complete Classic, August 2021

Nordic Visitor made it easy

Iceland is a magical place which combines relentless epic grandeur alongside endless miniature wonders and Nordic Visitor really makes it easy for a first timer to discover it. The true stars of the show for us though were the genuine, friendly, super kind and quirky (the all-women punk poetry band 'Gertrude and the Flowers' was amazing!) Icelanders at every stop. Every single experience (bar one, the Arctic Fox Centre where the new owners really didn't seem to care about us or know anything about the centre) was absolutely wonderful, especially the Hestasport experience but also the Whale Watching and Vok Baths. Huge appreciation for the writing on the map (especially as some of the instructions, particularly on the North West fjords was a little hard to follow) and the many little touches and caring approach.

Desiree, United States

Iceland Ring Road Express, July 2021

Nice to have a local contact

We were very happy to have been referred to Nordic Visitor by a friend based on their good experience. It was nice to have a contact that was familiar with the local area providing input on our itineraries. It was great to have a contact when we were there also as a couple of items needed to be rescheduled due to the weather and also when we had questions we had a person to call. This made our experience very comfortable in another country.

Vincent, United States

Iceland Full Circle Classic, July 2021

Tour was well done

The tour was really well done. I got a ton of information before the trip and even more upon landing so I really felt like I knew all of my options and what I could do on the trip. The accommodations were also quite nice.

David,

Highlights of Westfjords & West Iceland, July 2021

Everything ran smoothly

The trip to Iceland was a late substitute for a Norway trip cancelled due to COVID restrictions, so the timescale was tight but all was done well. Once we were on the way, everything ran smoothly and the accommodation was varied and interesting. The Western Fjords are a truly special experience even if you have been to Iceland before.

Amy, United States

South & West Iceland Classic, July 2021

A fantastic trip

This was the first time I used a company to plan a trip for me. It was so nice to know the legwork was done and I had people I could reach out to with questions. My sister and I had a fantastic trip.

Iosif, United States

Iceland Full Circle Classic, July 2021

High-quality service

High quality service, a very good value for money, in my opinion.

What is included in the Golden Circle tour?

As we mentioned earlier, the core of the Golden Circle is three popular attractions: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir hot springs and the beautiful waterfall Gullfoss.

In our Golden Circle travel guide below we’ve broken down what makes each site so special, along with a list of other points of interest you may want to fit in to your Golden Circle day trip.

Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park

This is the largest attraction on the route, so give yourself at least an hour to park the car and check out the main features. Iceland’s first national park, Þingvellir — often spelled as Thingvellir for English readers — is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is noteworthy for several reasons.

Firstly, it’s an area of remarkable geology and natural beauty. Þingvellir National Park is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Rift and is characterised by its rocky cliffs and deep fissures — visible scars of the slow separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Here you’ll also find Iceland’s largest lake, Þingvallavatn.

Secondly, Þingvellir is the site where the first Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, was founded in 930 AD. Today you can stand next to Lögberg (The Law Rock), where Viking Age settlers would meet to make – and enforce in grisly manners – the laws of the land. Executions were carried out here too, at spots like Drekkingarhylur (The Drowning Pool).

To experience both the geological and historical significance noted above, walk “between continents” on the popular pathway in the Almannagjá gorge. And don’t miss the stunning panorama from the Hakið viewpoint near the park’s visitor centre. Feeling adventurous? There are also guided snorkelling tours in the Silfra fissure (best booked in advance).



Geysir geothermal area

This is the place where you can witness up close (but not too close) the sheer force of Iceland’s geothermal activity. This is also where you’ll want you camera on the ready.

The Geysir geothermal area in Haukadalur Valley is best known as the home of The Great Geysir, a previously powerful but now inactive geyser. The geyser eruption you see today in all the Instagram posts is actually from nearby Strokkur, which bursts at regular intervals of 8 – 10 minutes. Get ready for a show… the hot water shoots as high as 40 metres (131 feet)!

After you’ve admired the erupting geyser, as well as the bubbling pots along the marked pathways, head back across the road for a quick lunch, a postcard or some local information at the large Geysir Centre complex. Oh, and if you’re visiting in winter, step carefully on the icy ground around the hot springs.



Gullfoss waterfall

This attraction puts the gold in the Golden Circle. Gullfoss means “Golden Falls”, and though much of the landscape here is a vivid mossy green – accented by frequent rainbows in the mist, it’s said that the falls glow in a lovely golden hue at sunset. Regardless of colour, this waterfall is quite impressive as the glacial-fed Hvítá River plunges 32 metres (105 feet) over two tiers into a deep canyon.

From the parking lot by the visitor centre and cafe there are two ways to experience this marvel: from the overlook at the top, and via the stairs and pathway down to the edge overlooking the falls. Choose the latter option for the thunderous sound and excellent photo vantage points. A rain jacket and waterproof lens protection would be wise here.

Like Geysir, the path at Gullfoss can be quite icy in the colder months (and is sometimes partially closed for that reason), and the wind gusts can be strong, so do watch your step.



Other highlights of the Golden Circle route

What is there to do on the Golden Circle besides those 3 core attractions? Plenty! If you’re up for an adventure, or maybe just want to relax at a thermal spa or sample locally-grown Icelandic foods, leave a few hours for little detours to experience these other attractions below.

  • Langjökull glacier -- This feeds the mighty Gullfoss, but it’s also a popular spot for guided super jeep and snowmobiling tours. You can add those to your Nordic Visitor tour in advance if you’re interested.
  • Laugarvatn Fontana Spa -- For much-needed relaxation, this small geothermal spa delivers. Enjoy the steam baths, sauna and views over Lake Laugarvatn from the warm outdoor pool.
  • Efstidalur farm -- Craving something sweet on the way between Þingvellir and Geysir? Stop at this dairy for the creamy, delicious homemade ice cream.
  • Friðheimar greenhouse -- Taste fresh tomatoes grown from geothermal power, nibble on their freshly baked bread and sip one of their signature Bloody Mary drinks (if you’re not the driver) made with Icelandic honey. Go see the pretty Icelandic horses outside, too.
  • Secret Lagoon in Flúðir -- Take a dip in some natural hot springs! Called Gamla Laugin (“The Old Pool”) by locals, this is a great place for geothermal bathing surrounded by nature. We know because we tried it.
  • Skálholt: This small village was home to Iceland’s first bishop and boasts a quaint cathedral.
  • Kerið (Kerid) crater --Where else can you pull off the road and stand on the rim of a 3000-year-old volcanic crater? Check out its milky blue crater lake and red sandy slopes.
  • Selfoss: You’ll pass through this town on the southern leg of the circle, so it’s a good place to stop for petrol, refreshments or other road trip essentials.
  • Hveragerði & Reykjadalur -- Also on the south coast, the village of Hveragerði is another good place for a pit stop. And if you’ve got a couple hours to spare, there’s a fabulous hike (and a natural hot spring to bathe in!) in Reykjadalur (“Steam Valley) behind town.

Note: The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is not actually part of the Golden Circle, but it's super easy to add to your holiday in Iceland since it's located close to Keflavik International Airport.

Want to see more of the Golden Circle and beyond? Nordic Visitor offers a wide range of tours in Iceland that can be customised to your liking, with extra nights and optional activities added to your itinerary on request.

 

— THINGS TO DO

Activities along the Golden Circle route

  • Snorkel between continents in the Silfra fissure
  • Zoom across Langjökull glacier on a snowmobile
  • Soak in the thermal springs at the Secret Lagoon
  • Taste fresh, geothermally-grown tomatoes at Friðheimar

Travel Guide

Be prepared for just about anything on your Icelandic adventure.

Our services

Whether you choose a guided tour or a self-drive vacation, all customers receive personalised service with a designated travel consultant, tailor-made quality travel documents, and our self-drive clients receive a hand-marked map that outlines their route, overnight stays and highlights along the way. Furthermore, Nordic Visitor has long-standing professional relationships with local tour operators, which are carefully selected by our staff and are recognized for consistent, quality service.

Book with confidence

  • Protect your money & plans with our flexible booking terms  .
  • Get peace of mind with a 24/7 helpline during your stay.
  • Enjoy personal service from Iceland-based travel experts.
  • We’re here for you in case of unforeseen circumstances.
  • 97% of customers say they’d recommend us to friends.
  • As a local agency, we work closely with trusted suppliers.
  • We’re a fully licensed and insured company in Iceland.

Contact us

Whether you have queries about our tours or want to add activities to existing bookings, we’re here to help. Get in touch with our friendly team for any of your travel questions.

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