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An Ultimate Travel Guide to the Golden Circle, Iceland

Batul Nafisa Baxamusa Oct 3, 2019
The Golden Circle, Iceland is the ultimate tourist trail. It has waterfalls, geysers, and scenic national parks all lined up along the route. It is one of the most popular day-trips for visitors to Iceland. This 300-km route has beautiful landmarks that can be covered in a single day.

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The Golden Circle, Iceland

The Golden Circle is a sightseeing route in southern Iceland.
It is a 300-km loop that starts from Reykjavik, goes all the way into the southern uplands of Iceland and back to where you started.

Which Locations Does the Golden Circle Include?

The Golden Circle consists of 3 stunning locations in southwest Iceland. These include the Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and the Gullfoss waterfall. These three locations are a 2-hour drive from Reykjavik. Thus, these spectacular sites can be visited in a single day tour.

How to Drive Around the Golden Circle?

Rent a Car

If you can drive a car, then take a rental and drive around yourself. The roads are well-maintained all year round. However, during winter the driving conditions are challenging and you should avoid it if you have no experience driving in the snow.
When you reach Iceland, you will find there are a plethora of car rental agencies. Make sure you rent cars from a reputed agency as their cars are in good condition and have insurance. Make sure the agency has proper service stations around the country, as you don’t want to get stuck with a broken car in an unknown place.

Book a Tour

You will find there are many tours for Golden Circle, Iceland. You could book one beforehand or join an excursion after reaching the country. The excursion includes an expert guide who will guide you around the entire day. You have the option of choosing a group tour or a private tour as per your budget.

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You can get additional activities included in your excursion package, this will include whitewater rafting on the river Hvítá, a dip in the superheated water of the Blue Lagoon, and much more.

Where to Eat at the Golden Circle, Iceland?

There are many traditional and contemporary Icelandic cuisine options to try on your Golden Circle trail such as:
  • The Geothermal Rye Bread at Fontana Spa
  • Pizza and Craft Beers at Ölverk
  • Icelandic Meat Soup at the Gullfoss Café
  • Tomato Soup at Friðheimar
  • Minilik in Flúðir to try tasty Ethiopian food and coffee
  • Ice Cream at a dairy farm not very far from Laugarvatn
Other notable Icelandic dishes include:
  • Skyr (strained yogurt) at Skyrgerðin
  • Chocolate desserts and home-cooked Icelandic meals at Lindin
  • Nordic dishes, burgers, and seafood at Tryggvaskáli
  • Pizza, pasta, burgers, and casual dining at Kaffi Krús
  • Langoustines in garlic butter, langoustine soup at Fjöruborðið

Popular Stops at the Golden Circle

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1. Thingvellir National Park

The first stop on the route is the Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is about 40 kms from Reykjavik and one can spend an entire day within the park itself.

Top Things to Do at Thingvellir National Park

  • Enjoy the beauty of Thingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.
  • Visit the Langjökull glacier.
  • Try snorkeling between the tectonic plates at Silfra.
  • Hike on the North American plate through the Almannagjá gorge.

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  • Get blown over by the thundering waters of the Öxarárfoss waterfall.

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2. Strokkur Geysir

The most popular destination is the Strokkur Geysir. This active geyser erupts every 10 minutes or so spewing boiling water 15 to 20 meters high into the air.

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Walk the surrounding Haukadalur Valley to admire hot springs, bubbling mud pots, and small geysers.

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3. Gullfoss Waterfall

The powerful and dramatic Gullfoss waterfall has the river Hvita come crashing down over 2 drops down the cliffs into a narrow crevice. There are many trails that let you enjoy beautiful scenes of the waterfall from different angles.

4. Kerid Crater Lake

The Kerid Crater Lake is a volcanic crater lake that is approximately 3,000 years old. Visiting the lake is not for free as the landowners charge about 400 ISK. This is, however, the perfect place for photography and selfies.

Other Off-Beat Stops Along the Golden Circle

  • Fontana Geothermal Baths: To unwind and enjoy spa baths using natural water from the hot springs.
  • Sólheimar: The eco-village that motivates you to contribute towards protecting the Earth.
  • Thjorsardalur Valley: It is not a part of the Golden Circle but visiting it will allow you to enjoy waterfalls such as Hjalparfoss, Haifoss, Glanni, and Pjofafoss.

How Much Does it Cost to Visit the Golden Circle?

You can enter the Golden Circle for free. All you need to pay for is the entrance fees at certain sites, parking fees, renting a car or booking a tour bus, places you visit to eat, and pay for using toilets at some places.

Where to Stay at the Golden Circle?

Golden Circle, Iceland can be toured in a single day. If you wish to stay for a few days, you will find many hotels, guest houses, and hostels at Reykjavik that suit all budgets.

Best Time to Visit the Golden Circle

You can visit Iceland all-year round. Summers have longer days and at times the sun hardly sets. During winter, you can chase the Northern Lights or appreciate the jaw-dropping icy cliff-walls created by the freezing spray of the Gullfoss waterfall.
Visiting the Golden Circle, Iceland will be a dream for every photographer. The stunning countryside, spouting geysers, thundering waterfalls, and the dramatic cliffs will leave you with many golden memories. So, get ready for an iconic adventure by booking a tour to the Golden Circle, Iceland.