The powerful Gullfoss, the explosive Strokkur, and the historic Thingvellir National Park. Choose from a wide variety of tours to the Golden Circle and visit Iceland's most popular destinations featuring incredible waterfalls, breathtaking tectonic plates, and bursting geysers. Rich in culture, riveting history, and spectacular nature, a visit to the Golden Circle will create memories that last a lifetime. See below for all of the essential information on the Golden Circle.
Golden Circle Tours
Visit the most essential sights and learn about the riveting history of the Golden Circle with Iceland’s most accomplished and knowledgeable guides
The Golden Circle and South Coast come together to create an unforgettable tour with breathtaking nature and captivating culture
An adventure packed day discovering the legendary sights of the Golden Circle followed by a soak in the spring-fed Secret Lagoon under the open sky
Enjoy a morning of whale watching from Reykjavik before heading off to the Þingvellir National Park, up to Geysir hot springs and Gullfoss waterfall
Combines Reykjavik‘s top attractions and the Golden Circle with visits to Perlan, Höfði House, Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and...
Explore Iceland‘s most popular landmarks on the Golden Circle Tour and enjoy a relaxing visit to the natural Icelandic steam baths at Fontana Spa
Experience the highlights of the Golden Circle in a Super Jeep, travel up to the isolated highlands of Iceland, and try out snowmobiling on a glacier
Enjoy two adventures in one day on this ATV Trail Ride of Mt. Hafrafell and Golden Circle tour exploring Iceland’s natural and historical landmarks
Combine sightseeing and tasting Icelandic delicacies on the Golden Circle; at Efstidalur dairy farm, Fridheimar greenhouse & the Icelandic Turf House
Come for the Golden Circle and stay for the Northern Lights. Join us on this day and night combo tour and discover the essence of Iceland
Visit some of Iceland’s most significant landmarks along the Golden Circle with a knowledgeable Iceland Tour Expert leading the way
Ride an Icelandic Horse in an idyllic landscape on before visiting Thingvellir park, Gulfoss waterfall as well as Geysir and Strokkur hot springs
No visit to Iceland is complete without touring the main sites along the route known as the Golden Circle—Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, and Geysir geothermal area. If you have questions about the Golden Circle, look no further. This is your complete guide to the Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle is the name given to the route taken to the most popular sites in Iceland — Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss (Golden Falls) and Geysir geothermal area. Hit all these spots, and you’ve done the Golden Circle.
Thingvellir became Iceland’s first national park in 1930. It is also a designated UNESCO world heritage site due to its historical, cultural and geologic significance to the Icelandic people and the world. To walk through Thingvellir is to walk the fields where one of the oldest parliaments in the world first convened in 930 AD. Thingvellir lies in a rift valley created by the tectonic plates of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge slowly drifting apart. It is also home to Iceland’s largest natural lake, Thingvallavatn.
Gullfoss (Golden Falls) gets its name from the golden color of its water as it churns up silt and sediment. The magnificent waterfalls lie in the Hvitá river and are fed by Langjökull, Iceland’s second largest glacier. In total, Gullfoss is 32 meters high falling down two tiers that are 11 and 21 meters high respectively. Gullfoss is also at the center of one of Iceland’s most famous acts of environmental activism. Back in the early 20th century, developers wanted to damn the mighty waterfall to generate electricity, but through the will and determination of Sigriður Tómasdóttir, Gullfoss was saved. Thanks, Sigriður!
Geysir geothermal area is located in the Haukadalur valley and is the scenic home of the infamous Geysir hot spring. To visit is to pay your respects to the progenitor of all geysers as Geysir is the geyser for which all others are named. Geysir doesn’t erupt often but is surrounded by bubbling cauldrons of superheated mud, steaming pools, and Strokkur, a geyser that erupts every 6-10 minutes. The smells, colors, and eruptions at this popular destination are a window into all the geothermal activity happening across (and beneath) Iceland, making all those hot tubs, swimming pools, greenhouses and geothermal energy possible.
The short answer is southwest Iceland, just outside of the city of Reykjavik. The nearest site Thingvellir National Park is only 43 minutes (47.4 km/29.4 miles) away from Reykjavik, and Gullfoss waterfall is the furthest out at 1 hr 44 min (125 km/77.6 miles) away. The sites’ close proximity to Reykjavik makes touring the Golden Circle a perfect day trip.
Iceland is a photographer’s paradise. Everywhere you turn, there’s another stunning vista. But if you want to really be in the moment and only take out your phone or camera for the best shots, we’ve compiled a list of the most Instagram worthy photo ops on the Golden Circle.
● Almannagjá gorge leading down to the fields of parliament
● Thingvallakirkja, the church at Thingvellir
● The Icelandic flag flying in the middle of the fields of parliament
● Öxarárfoss waterfall
Gullfoss is a broad tiered waterfall, falling down two “steps” before plummeting into the gorge below. Thankfully, there are viewing platforms and a path that goes from the top of the falls to the bottom so you can hit all the angles.
● View from the top
● View from the bottom
● Rainbows on top of rainbows (if it’s a sunny day)
● Steaming Geysir (Geysir last erupted in 2016, but you might get lucky)
● Strokkur erupting (every 10 minutes or so)
● The mineral deposits in this geothermally active area can come in some pretty interesting colors and make for cool abstract photos.
The Golden Circle is bursting with delicious food options with many restaurants going out of their way to use local ingredients, ensuring visitors get a real taste of Iceland with every bite.
● Efstidalur II is a working dairy farm and restaurant providing excellent views of Hekla volcano, fresh farm meals and an ice cream bar with windows looking into the dairy.
● Did you know that Icelanders use greenhouses to grow most of their produce? Stop by Friðheimar Greenhouses and try out their famous tomato soup made from their very own Iceland grown tomatoes.
● Gullfoss Café is a great place to refuel after walking up, down and around Gullfoss.
● Héraðsskólinn Restaurant and Bistro will have something tasty for everyone from pizzas and bruschetta to falafel and vegan chickpea salad.
● Get a bite to eat after your spa day at Laugarvatn Fontana Kitchen & Café where you can enjoy lunch and dinner buffets.
● Minilik Ethiopian Restaurant Ethiopian food in Iceland? Yes, delicious Ethiopian food in Iceland and the best cup of Ethiopian coffee around.
● Restaurant Mika offers locally sourced dishes that not only look good but also taste good, plus they have handmade chocolates.
● Þrastarlundur is perfectly situated in the town of Selfoss with plenty of tasty food options making it a great place to stop for dinner after touring the Golden Circle.
Thingvellir, Gullfoss, and Geysir are the anchors of the Golden Circle but if you want to expand your Golden Circle experience you can check out these other points of interest:
A volcanic crater lake. It’s bright blue color set against the surrounding volcanic rock is stunning. There is an entrance fee of 400 ISK to help with the preservation of this gem on privately owned land.
At one time the center of religious power and scholarship in Iceland, Skálholt is now home to a rebuilt church and museum where visitors can explore the crypt and view religious relics and artifacts.
Take a short detour on a gravel track to find Faxi waterfall on the Tungufjlót river. While not as imposing as Gullfoss, this waterfall is impressive in its own right with a handy salmon ladder to help salmon make their way upstream to spawn. There’s even a picnic area where visitors can have a snack while they sit and enjoy the falls.
Gray Line Iceland has a number of Golden Circle tours to choose from that will take you to the main attractions, so you can sit back and enjoy the scenery instead. We’ll get you there and back again, and all of our tour guides are Golden Circle experts—full of stories and fun facts on the region. And if you prefer to drive yourself, all the roads to the highlights of the Golden Circle are paved and the driving time between sites is only 3-4 hours.
For those seeking accommodation outside of Reykjavik and close to the sites of the Golden Circle, there are several hotels and guesthouses in the towns and villages of the region.
This charming village gives visitors a taste of small-town Iceland. Much of Iceland’s produce is grown in the greenhouses of Hveragerði. Make sure to get in a visit to the Geothermal Park while you’re in town.
Route 1 or the Ring Road which runs around the entire island passes straight through Selfoss making it a convenient base camp for your Golden Circle excursions. The town has a great swimming pool, and all types of accommodation are available.
The village of Laugarvatn is centrally located to all Golden Circle sites, and Laugarvatn Fontana Spa calls the village home. Nearby lakes and rivers are popular for fishing, and the golf course attracts locals and tourists alike.
As with other communities in the region, Flúðir is very geothermally active and is where you’ll find the largest mushroom farm in Iceland. Horseback riding, swimming and a visit to the local folk museum are a few of the activities awaiting you when you spend time in Flúðir.
The southern region of Iceland is a popular spot for summerhouses, and many are available for rent should you want cozier, home-like accommodation.
While Golden Circle tours are not free, there is no admission fee for any of the main sites on the Golden Circle. There is an entrance fee to visit the crater lake Kerið and, of course, there are fees for other activities in and around the Golden Circle.
There is plenty to see on the Golden Circle, but what is there to do? Just about anything a nature lover can dream of and more.
Get a taste of Icelandic farm life at Efstidalur farm
Have a picnic at Faxi waterfall
Grab lunch at Friðheimar Greenhouses
Explore Gjabakkahellir Cave
Go whitewater rafting down the Hvítá River
Climb up to Kerið crater
Luxuriate at Laugarvatn Fontana Spa
Soak in the Secret Lagoon
Dive into the clear waters of the Silfra fissure
Get some culture at Skálholt
Kids will love a visit to Slakki Petting Zoo
Witness sustainable living at work in Sólheimar Eco-Village
Anytime! But many visitors like to make several trips around the Golden Circle at different times of year to bear witness to the changes in the Icelandic landscape throughout the seasons. Thingvellir, in winter, is often snow covered. In spring its trees are budding, and its wildflowers are in bloom. Come summer everything turns green, and in fall the trees put on their fiery autumn colors.
All the seasons bring out something uniquely beautiful in the Golden Circle sites. When to visit is really up to your personal preference. It should be noted that daylight is limited at the height of midwinter, and there is 24-hour sunlight in midsummer.
Wearing layers is rule number one for dressing in Iceland. You can experience all the seasons in one day. A good rule of thumb is to always wear three layers:
● Long sleeved shirt
● Warm fleece
● Waterproof parka
Those more susceptible to cold may want to add wool leggings and a thermal undershirt. Warm socks, waterproof hiking boots, gloves, and hat are also a must.
● Snacks. You will be doing a fair amount of walking and a little bit of climbing. You don’t want a rumbling tummy to get in the way of getting the most out of your trip.
● Water bottle. Fill up your reusable water bottle from the tap before you begin your trip and keep it handy to refill when you can. In Iceland, the bottled water and the water from the tap are exactly the same. Stay hydrated.
● An adventurous spirit and the ability to adapt. Icelandic weather is unpredictable and doesn’t always cooperate. Remember you are in Iceland getting to see spectacular natural wonders. Enjoy it!
● Maps. If traveling with a Gray Line Iceland tour, you won’t need one, but if you venture out on your own, it’s a good idea to have a good road map. Mobile phones die (especially in the cold), and you don’t want to be without backup.
Looking for a Golden Circle tour with a little extra? Gray Line Iceland has a variety of Golden Circle tours to choose from making it easy to find the one that’s perfect for you.
● Golden Circle Classic is perfect for families
● Nature lovers & honeymooners will enjoy soaking in a geothermal pool out in the Icelandic landscape on the Golden Circle & Secret Lagoon Tour
● Spa junkies should check out the Golden Circle Classic & Fontana Geothermal Bath Tour
● Golden Circle & South Coast is great for photographers hoping to get the perfect shot of Iceland
● Whale Watching & Golden Circle Tour and Viking Horse & Golden Circle Tours are ideal for animal lovers who want to get to know the animals of Iceland
● Culture mavens won’t want to miss the chance to get to know more about Reykjavik, Iceland’s largest city, on the Reykjavik City Sightseeing & Golden Circle Tour
● Adventurers will love our ATV Sightseeing Trail Ride on Mt. Hafrafell and Golden Circle Tour
● Bundle up couples, and get a dose of the ethereal Northern Lights with your Golden Circle experience on the Golden Circle Classic & Northern Lights Tour
● Golden Circle Private Tour is great for groups
● Delicious Golden Circle Private Food Tour is crafted with the discerning tastebuds of epicures in mind.
Traveling the Golden Circle is an exciting way to get to know Iceland. Join us!