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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 chances to try unique activities, like soaking in thermal springs and snowmobiling on a glacier. Visit iconic sights like the roaring Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir geothermal area and a true gem of Icelandic nature and history – Þingvellir National Park.

Of course, there’s a lot more to see and do on the Golden Circle (and in the rest of Iceland!), and with your own personalised driving itinerary from Nordic Visitor, you’ll discover the best that South Iceland has to offer. Our travel experts in Reykjavik specialise in crafting rental car holidays all around Iceland, most of which include the stunning Golden Circle attractions.

Check out our suggested Iceland self-drive tour packages below that include this fascinating route. Want to know more about the Golden Circle? Scroll down this page for details about the driving distance and attractions.

 

— 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

 

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. Accomodations, car rental, GPS, maps and more included.

Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive

10 days / 9 nights

May - Sep

Iceland Full Circle Classic

205934ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller

10 days / 9 nights

May - Sep

Iceland Full Circle Classic

205934ISK

Eur

Close map view
Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive

14 days / 13 nights

May - Sep

Iceland Complete Classic

292686ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller

14 days / 13 nights

May - Sep

Iceland Complete Classic

292686ISK

Eur

Close map view
Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive

7 days / 6 nights

May - Sep

Iceland Ring Road Express

150092ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller

7 days / 6 nights

May - Sep

Iceland Ring Road Express

150092ISK

Eur

Close map view
Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive

8 days / 7 nights

Apr - Sep

South & West Iceland Classic

139648ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller

8 days / 7 nights

Apr - Sep

South & West Iceland Classic

139648ISK

Eur

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

186728ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller

10 days / 9 nights

Oct - Apr

Iceland Full Circle Classic - Winter

186728ISK

Eur

Close map view
Iceland
Best seller
Self-drive

7 days / 6 nights

Oct - Apr

South Iceland at Leisure - Winter

125818ISK

Eur

View map
Best seller

7 days / 6 nights

Oct - Apr

South Iceland at Leisure - Winter

125818ISK

Eur

Close map view
Iceland
Self-drive

6 days / 5 nights

Oct - Apr

South Iceland & Into the Glacier - Winter

138254ISK

Eur

View map

6 days / 5 nights

Oct - Apr

South Iceland & Into the Glacier - Winter

138254ISK

Eur

Close map view

Local travel agency

As a local travel agency, Nordic Visitor knows how to make the most of your time in Iceland. We offer a variety of tours—both independent and guided—that include the must-see attractions as well as lesser-known highlights that are hand-picked by our own Icelandic travel experts. To ensure a stress-free trip, we handle all the local details for you—accommodations, activities, rental car (for self-drive tours) and other services.
 
Oh, and all of our itineraries can be customised! So if you decide you want to spend more than the number of days specified in the packages or add some activities, for example, your personal Nordic Visitor travel consultant will be happy to make suggestions and modify your itinerary.

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

 

Our services

Whether you choose a guided tour or a self-drive vacation, all customers receive personalized 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

  • 97% of customers say they’d recommend us to friends.
  • Unexpected change of plans? You won’t lose your deposit.
  • As a local agency, we work closely with trusted suppliers.
  • We’re a fully licensed and insured company in Iceland.
  • Enjoy personal service from Iceland-based travel experts.
  • Get peace of mind with a 24/7 helpline during your stay.
  • We’re here for you in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Contact us

Whatever your travel needs, we are here to help. If you have any questions about our Iceland travel packages or services, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Our main phone number is
+354 578 20 80
Lines are open Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM (GMT)

Or, you can reach us by e-mail.

What do our customers say?

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

Veronica, Australia

Iceland Full Circle Classic, May 2018

I loved it

I have nothing but praise for our experience with Nordic Visitor and Iceland. The support provided by Brynja was outstanding - very efficient, pleasant and went above and beyond to accommodate our requirements.  I feel this was a contributing factor to having such a wonderful experience in Iceland - I loved it

Andrew, United Kingdom

Iceland Full Circle Classic, May 2018

Very impressed

Entire experience with Nordic Visitor was very positive. From first contact, communication was very prompt, informative and exactly what was requested, the package put together for us was just what we had hoped for. All information, including the "tour pack" was first class. Helga was a brilliant travel consultant - friendly, helpful, knowledgeable & always keen to help. Katrin was also very helpful when Helga was out of the office for a few days  Overall, we were very impressed with Nordic Visitor

Christina, Canada

Iceland Full Circle at Leisure - Winter, September 2018

Helpful and very responsive!

We are very happy with Nordic Visitor and the service we were provided.  Everyone was very helpful and very responsive!

Ayala, United States

Iceland Full Circle Classic - Winter, March 2018

Everything was perfect!

You are the best tour operator. You did an excellent trip. Everything was perfect. Thank you so much

Casey, United States

Iceland Full Circle Classic, May 2018

We can't wait to plan another with Nordic Visitor!

We had the best experience with Nordic Visitor!! We got married in Iceland before starting our tour and Dagny worked around our schedule and was extremely fast to reply and organize. She even left a sweet note and treats at our first hotel on our honeymoon. Nordic Travel took all the stress of planning our honeymoon away so we could focus on our wedding. I can't express enough how awesome our trip was and how thankful we are for this travel agency. There is no way we could have planned a trip any better than this. We can't wait to plan another with Nordic Visitor!

Carla and Grady, United States

Iceland Road Trip, July 2016

We absolutely loved Iceland

I have traveled the world and I can say without reservation that the Icelandic people are the most friendly, welcoming, helpful people I have ever encountered. The geology of the island is so unique and beautiful. I can't wait to go back in the winter to see the Northern Lights.

Amy Woods, United States

Iceland Full Circle Classic, July 2017

Can't wait to come back!

I have already recommend Nordic Visitor to several friends and family members! We had an absolutely amazing trip and I can't wait to come back! Everyone was helpful and patiently answered all of my questions. I'm very happy we chose Nordic Visitor for our trip and I would choose them again! 

Brenton, Australia

Iceland Full Circle Classic, June 2018

Outstanding

Most outstanding travel agency we have ever dealt with. We are 68 years old and travelled extensively throughout the world with jobs and for recreation for the last 45 years. Benchmark organisation which will only grow and prosper with their attitude.

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.

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