The Ultimate Guide to Iceland's Golden Circle

The Ultimate Guide to Iceland's Golden Circle

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Learn everything you need to know about Iceland's amazing Golden Circle route. Discover spectacular natural sights, such as bursting geysers, roaring waterfalls, and a fissure between two tectonic plates.

The Golden Circle is Iceland's most popular sightseeing trail. You can combine it with a number of other activities and excursions, and should browse the largest selection of Golden Circle tours in Iceland before you plan your trip there.

Driving to the Golden Circle from Reykjavik is also easy and here you can find the cheapest car rental in Iceland. Almost all self-drive tours in Iceland visit the Golden Circle.

Continue reading this article to learn more about the best route to the Golden Circle, worthy stops along the way, main highlights, and must-see attractions. You can also save a number of Golden Circle maps and itineraries to your travel plan.

Why Should You Visit the Golden Circle?

The Golden Circle itinerary is an easy and efficient way to see three of Iceland's top attractions in a day, whether you take a group tour or opt for driving yourself. Each stop offers insight into Iceland's geologic history, not to mention excellent photo opportunities.

What Is the Golden Circle in Iceland?

The Golden Circle consists of three equally stunning locations in Southwest Iceland: 

Only the city of Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon compete with these destinations in terms of popularity, and the reasons for the Golden Circle's fame are numerous. 

In this article, we'll cover all three attractions.

Thingvellir National Park

Öxarárfoss is a waterfall found in Þingvellir National Park in Iceland.

Thingvellir National Park is a unique site in Iceland as its both historically significant as well as being a geological wonder. 

It has the honor of being the first of Iceland's three national parks to be established. It's also the only one that has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status. 

Considered the first stop on the Golden Circle, the park is only 29 miles (47 kilometers) from Reykjavik.

It's a place where dramatic geology meets a millennium of fascinating history. Here, visitors to Thingvellir can discover the roots of this island's formation and how the Icelandic settlers formed their leaderless society.

Northern Lights over the UNESCO site, Þingvellir National Park.

The park's unique geology comes from its location between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which create the rift valley that runs through Iceland.

Iceland is the only country where this valley, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, can be seen above sea level. Nowhere is it more visible than in Thingvellir National Park.

When you enter the park from Reykjavik, you'll drive towards a sheer cliff that is, in fact, a corner of the North American continent. The Eurasian continent is several miles away, on the far side of the park, and is equally dramatic to look at once you reach it.

A magma pocket formed between these plates, rising as they moved apart. This venting was responsible for creating Iceland millions of years ago.

Their continued separation is the reason that Iceland has such fascinating volcanic activity. The island as a landmass is still very young and still in its formation, which is why the land feels very much alive.

Öxarárfoss waterfall in the snow.

Visitors can find evidence of this process all across Thingvellir. The area consists of long stretches of lava rock, and many volcanoes surround the park, rising above Thingvallavatn, Iceland's largest natural lake.

The park has grown over with vegetation since the last eruption, over 2,000 years ago. 

The beautiful, tender moss that creeps over the Icelandic landscape now covers the lava fields, while many parts of the area are forested with native birch trees and imported pines.

Þingvellir in the autumn.There are still regular earthquakes in the area, each one partly responsible for the distance between the plates widening approximately one inch (2.5 centimeters) a year.

The ravines opened by these quakes are filled with fresh water that melts from the Langjokull glacier and travels underground through the porous lava rock toward Thingvallavatn lake.

This long filtration process means that when the water emerges from springs in these cracks, it's devoid of any sediment and crystal clear. 

Visibility exceeds 330 feet (100 meters), which makes walking through the area that much more scenic and makes for some magical diving and snorkeling opportunities.

While these activities do not seem to befit Iceland's climate, dry-suit technology advancements mean that the 36 F (2 C) water is more than accessible, even during the winter.

Qualified guides take groups multiple times a day on this increasingly popular adventure through the most beautiful of these ravines, the Silfra fissure.

Silfra Fissure is one the biggest attractions in the National Park.Photo from the Golden Circle & Snorkeling in Silfra Tour with Underwater Photos

Snorkeling in Silfra is available to almost everyone over the age of sixteen who knows how to swim. 

The dry suits are buoyant enough to act as a life jacket, and Silfra has a gentle current that helps guests move through the fissure.

Diving tours, however, require you to be a qualified PADI Open Water Scuba Diver and experienced in dry suit diving.

The underwater world here is incredibly beautiful, and the fact that guides conduct the Silfra diving tour between the tectonic plates makes it all the more exciting.

Silfra has been voted one of the top ten dive sites in the world. You can read more about diving and snorkeling in Iceland in this article.

Near the entrance to Silfra Fissure, guests can look down into the crystal clear glacial water.The area is not, however, without its dangers. Only those who are qualified and confident in their abilities should dive into the cold water. Most healthy people can enjoy snorkeling in Silfra, but beware, it will be cold.

If you wish to see where the earth is tearing apart but want to stay fully dry, it's possible to walk in the Almannagja gorge. This stunning valley displays how the area's geological processes work and leads to a lovely waterfall called Oxararfoss

Öxarárfoss is a hidden waterfall in Þingvellir national parkWhen taking this hike, fantasy fans will notice some scenes from Game of Thrones that were shot in Iceland. The gorge was the shooting location for the path up to the Eyrie and where Arya Stark and Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane journeyed through the Riverlands.

However, Thingvellir's incredible location and fascinating geology have nothing to do with why it received National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site status. 

It received that title due to its compelling history. To learn Thingvellir's history is to understand the history of the Icelandic people. The first permanent settlers to Iceland came in the late 800s and were largely vagabond clans who refused to bend the knee to the first King of Norway, Harald Fairhair. 

In 930 AD, they decided that some sort of collective government could ease disputes on the island, and each of the thirty or so groups present sent someone to represent them.  

They deemed their meeting place 'the fields of assembly,' which translates to Thingvellir. 

This first assembly was so successful that the tradition continued year after year, decade after decade, and century after century, eventually evolving into a parliament.

The institution endured after Norway took over the Icelandic Commonwealth in 1262 and transferred into the clutches of the Danish crown in 1380. Since its establishment over a millennium ago, the parliament was only interrupted for one period, from 1799 to 1844.  

After that, it was relocated to Reykjavik, but its function remained the same.

Parliament House in ReykjavíkPhoto from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Zenneke. No edits were made.

This history makes the Icelandic Althingi (parliament) the world's oldest representative parliament that's still in session.

While the populations of Europe endured feudalism without a thought to any democratic process, the 'heathens' of Iceland created a representative system that would act as a model to many who followed it. 

Because of these roots, Iceland declared Thingvellir a National Park in 1930, precisely 1,000 years after the assembly there.

UNESCO eventually declared it a World Heritage Site in 2004. Not just for its natural beauty, but because it was the most important site in Icelandic history for centuries, Thingvellir witnessed many significant changes as the nation developed.

A ravine at Þingvellir national park in IcelandFor example, the country converted to Christianity in 1000 AD, fearing the violence threatened by Norway's pious monarch, King Olaf I. It was also the site of many witch trials and other dramatic events detailed in the Icelandic sagas.

Even after the parliament site moved to Reykjavik, the area remained relevant to Icelanders. It was the ceremonial site of Iceland's declaration of independence in 1944 and where the parliament appointed the country's first president, Sveinn Bjornsson.

Thingvellir's history, combined with its beauty and geology, demonstrates why the park is such a popular destination. It is, however, only one of three iconic sites on the classic Golden Circle route.

The Geysir Geothermal Area

The geyser Strokkur erupting in the light of the rising sun.

The second stop on the Golden Circle is the Geysir Geothermal Area, located within the Haukadalur valley

It's a 37-mile (60-kilometer) drive from Thingvellir. Steaming vents and chimneys are visible along the way and notably concentrated in the village of Laugarvatn, located halfway between Thingvellir and Geysir. 

This settlement has a spa heated by hot water currents beneath the ground's surface. Its steam rooms sit on top of bubbling hot pots that reach a sweltering 140 F (60 C). 

What is Iceland's Golden Circle sightseeing route and why is it so popular? Where should you stop when driving the Golden Circle?

However, at Haukadalur valley, this geothermal activity becomes even more intense. Visitors can see the steam rising from miles away. Many hot pools, clay pots, and fumaroles dot the area. Minerals vividly color the hills and soil.

It would be a fascinating enough site even without the two geysers that make it famous.

While Geysir, in the foreground, is largely dormant, Strokkur, behind, erupts every ten minutes or so.

The first of these is the one that gave all others their name: the Great Geysir

Geysir is the earliest documented geyser in European literature, and its name comes from the Old Norse verb 'to gush.'

Geysir rarely erupts, but its neighbor, Strokkur geyser, goes off every ten minutes, throwing water from 66 to 132 feet (20 to 40 meters) into the air.

The original Geysir is primarily inactive these days because of local tectonic activity and intrusive human intervention. Studies show that it has existed for about 10,000 years and tends to erupt in cycles. Usually, an earthquake will trigger it, and it will then slowly peter out over time. 

However, even when it's erupting, it's unpredictable in both timing and consistency. For example, in the early 1910s, it was known to erupt every half-hour, yet its activity had almost ceased by 1916.

Strokkur, pictured here about to erupt, has been known to blast water 131 feet (40 meters) into the air.

Tired of the fact that their country's most famous landmark was so inconsistent, Icelanders dug a channel into the silica rim around Geysir's vent in 1935 to lower the water table and encourage it to go off again. 

Although it worked for a short time, the channel became clogged, and activity ceased once more. The channel was cleared in 1981, and it was found that Geysir could be made to erupt on occasion by pumping soap into it. There were many concerns about this activity's environmental impact, and it was stopped in the 1990s.

Geysir has been mostly dormant since then, though it still goes off occasionally, giving the lucky a chance to catch sight of it. When it does erupt, it's much larger than Strokkur.

In 2000, it spewed water 400 feet (122 meters) in the air. The only time it was recorded blasting higher was in 1845, when it reached an estimated 558 feet (170 meters).

Geysir geothermal area on the Golden Circle

The reliability of the highly active Strokkur in such an accessible location is part of what makes the Golden Circle so incredible. Geysers are a rare natural phenomenon. Their rarity is due to the specific conditions required for their formation. 

For a geyser to exist, it requires the following circumstances:

  • An intense heat source: For geysers to erupt, magma must be close to the earth's surface to heat rocks hot enough to boil water.
  • Water flow: There must be a source of flowing underground water. In this case, the water is runoff that melted from the Langjokull glacier and traveled through porous lava rock into the area.
  • A natural plumbing system: There must be an underground reservoir for water to gather and a vent lined with silica so that the water cannot seep out of it before rising from the reservoir to the surface.

Walking around the Geysir Geothermal Area is a fascinating and rewarding experience, but its appeal goes further than these exploding hot springs.

They Geysir area in Iceland is a great place to see the Northern lightsThe Geysir Center, just opposite the geysers, has a large boutique shop with many handcrafted and locally made Icelandic goods. The center also has several restaurants serving traditional Icelandic food made from local ingredients.

The Haukadalur valley is an incredible place to stop and marvel at nature. Be sure to respect the area and do not throw anything into the hot springs or geysers.

Gullfoss Waterfall

The third and final stop on the route of the Golden Circle is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland: Gullfoss. This is the landmark from which the Golden Circle draws its name, as Gullfoss directly translates to "Golden Falls".

Gullfoss waterfall is one of Iceland's most beautiful natural features, and its power is immense.Visitors can find the waterfall less than ten minutes down the road from Geysir. 

This powerful waterfall is located in a plunging, ancient valley and tumbles down two drops from an overall height of 105 feet (32 meters). During its heaviest flow in the summer, it pours an average of 4,944 cubic feet (140 cubic meters) of water every second.

Gullfoss is not only known for its breathtaking power but also for the rainbows that appear above the falls like a multicolor crown on a sunny day.

These only add to an already beautiful sight. In addition to the dramatic valley and falls, the area looks over rolling fields right up to the magnificent ice sheet of Langjokull glacier. 

Gullfoss waterfall covered in snow in the winter season

Like the springs in Thingvellir and the water at the Geysir Geothermal Area, the river flows down Gullfoss from Langjokull. The river is called Hvita, and it was once a popular spot for river rafting in Iceland

Summer is arguably the best season to visit Gullfoss. When there's no ice on the ground, a walkway takes you right up to the edge of the falls, close enough to feel the waterfall's mist on your face.

The photo opportunities here are incredible, and one could spend hours marveling over the awe-inspiring power of the water.

However, that is not to say that Gullfoss is any less spectacular in the winter. 

Gullfoss waterfall in winterWhile you cannot get as close, seeing it partially frozen and carrying chunks of ice into the abyss is mesmerizing. If you visit in winter, be sure to wrap up in warm layers. The winds coming over the glacier are notoriously sharp and the mist spraying off the waterfall is icy cold.

Gullfoss today is an attraction that captivates people from across the world, and without it, Iceland's tourism industry would not be the same.

Therefore, it's incredibly fortunate that it's well-preserved and has not been meddled with in any way. 

After all, protecting nature in Iceland has not always been everybody's intention.

In the early 20th century, foreign investors saw a huge opportunity to add a dam to Gullfoss and turn it into a hydroelectric plant. 

The owner of the land adjacent to the falls, Tomas Tomasson, had allowed British investors to explore building a dam there. These plans started to go ahead against his wishes but became incredibly difficult to enforce when Tomas's daughter entered the picture.

This great environmentalist, named Sigridur Tomasdottir, refused to allow the destruction of the natural wonder she loved so much. 

She did everything she could to preserve it, from threatening to throw herself into the falls to walking the 134 miles (200 kilometers) of unpaved road to Reykjavik and back again multiple times to build a legal case in Gullfoss's defense.

Although her actions did not directly save the waterfall, they drew attention to the case. This awareness led to national criticism of the plans and ensured that the dam-building process was delayed.

Eventually, the lawyer Sigridur enlisted in her protests, managed to work with the investors (who lacked the money to take action), and persuaded them to annul the contract. 

The lawyer's name, Sveinn Bjornsson, may sound familiar. In 1944 he became Iceland's first president.

Gullfoss, located in Iceland's Golden Circle, is beautiful no matter the time of year or the time of day.

Today, Sigridur is immortalized in a stone memorial on top of the cliff overlooking the waterfall. Icelanders remember her for bringing awareness to the importance of preserving Iceland's nature and not being tempted by foreign investments. Her actions eventually helped preserve Gullfoss for all of us to marvel at its beauty to this day.

When Is the Best Time To See the Golden Circle?

My trip to the Golden Circle - Gulfoss

The Golden Circle can be visited at any time of year. Spring, summer, and fall offer milder temperatures, and the landscape is free of snow. If you decide to spend a night near the Golden Circle during the summer, you'll have the opportunity to see these places under the midnight sun with its hues of pink and orange.

In winter, snow blankets the region, offering a unique experience. The water at Gullfoss waterfall continues to run, but parts of the waterfall get frozen, making it seem like glass. This is also a great time to look for the northern lights. Just make sure to step carefully as the platform at the waterfall can be slippery.

Snow is regularly cleared from the roads. However, sudden storms can cause delays. Be sure to follow the road conditions so you can travel safely. 

Choosing when to visit the Golden Circle is more a matter of personal preference than accessibility.

The Classic Golden Circle Route Map

There are a number of ways to explore the Golden Circle. This map details the fastest and simplest Golden Circle route. Below, you can find more notable attractions along the way.

How Far Is the Golden Circle From Reykjavik?

It's a fast and easy drive to Iceland's Golden Circle, just 25 miles (47 kilometers) east of Reykjavik. This is the distance to the closest attraction, Thingvellir National Park. 

The furthest of the three attractions is the Gullfoss waterfall, 72 miles (116 kilometers) east of Reykjavik. As you can see from the map of the Golden Circle, the entire route can be traversed in one day, with a return to Reykjavik in the evening. Read this article to find out how to drive the Golden Circle.

Where To Stay Near the Golden Circle?

If you'd like to get a head-start on seeing the Golden Circle without the day-trippers from Reykjavik, then consider an overnight stay nearby. 

Hotels are available at all three sites, plus there are campgrounds at Thingvellir National Park and Geysir if you prefer to camp.

Some of the most popular hotels on the Golden Circle Include: 

Go to this article to read more about where to stay in Iceland or here to find the best prices for hotels in Iceland.

The Top 5 Best Golden Circle Itineraries and tours

The Golden Circle route is one of the most popular trails in Iceland, and over the years, we've helped thousands of people explore it. These are our top 5 Golden Circle itineraries based on customer feedback. 

5. Affordable 10-Hour Golden Circle ​Tour with Snowmobiling on Langjokull and Transfer from Reykjavik 

If you're looking for adventure on a budget, this affordable tour stops at all the best Golden Circle attractions. This tour includes a stop for a snowmobile trip across the majestic Langjokull glacier, the second-largest glacier in Iceland.

4. 3-Day Northern Lights Tour of Iceland's Golden Circle & South Coast with Ice Caving & Glacier Hiking

This 3-day tour is the best way for you to make all of the must-see Golden Circle stops and fit in two of Iceland's most iconic activities: exploring the famous ice caves and hiking across expansive glaciers.

3. Small-Group Golden Circle Tour with a Visit to an Ice Cream Farm and Transfer from Reykjavik

This intimate small-group tour will take you to all of the most popular Golden Circle attractions with an added leisurely stop for a tasty treat at a local ice cream farm in Efstidalur valley.

2. Afternoon 6-Hour Golden Circle Tour to Gullfoss, Geysir & Thingvellir with Transfer from Reykjavik

This short, affordable tour is perfect if you want to see all the most popular Golden Circle highlights in a single afternoon and be back in Reykjavik by nightfall. 

1. 4-Day Northern Lights Winter Vacation Package with the Golden Circle, South Coast & Blue Lagoon 

Our most popular Golden Circle tour takes you through the attractions at a leisurely pace, giving you plenty of time to take in the sights and explore the areas fully. The tour starts at the famous Blue Lagoon Spa, where you can soak in the warm geothermal waters and get yourself ready for your journey in Iceland. The next day you'll explore the Golden Circle along with snowmobiling on the nearby Langjokull glacier. The following day you'll go to Iceland's dramatic South Coast to see majestic waterfalls and Reynisfjara black sand beach with an option of walking on Solheimajokull glacier.

The Best Way to See the Golden Circle

Autumn colours on the Golden Circle of Iceland

As Iceland's most popular tourist trail, there are many different ways to see the Golden Circle. 

Despite the Golden Circle having three main sites, it's way more than just a Golden Triangle. You can find hundreds of different tours from dozens of providers that combine your Golden Circle with extra activities or more sightseeing locations.

Some tours allow you to see it in a unique way, such as on a helicopter tour or on an evening excursion under the midnight sun.

Of course, renting a car and driving from one attraction to another is enjoyed without the time and itinerary restrictions that come with a guided tour.

Doing it this way allows you to explore the route at your own pace and take as many detours to lesser-known locations nearby as you like.

For those who would rather avoid the pressure of driving in Iceland, there's a vast array of guided tours from which you can choose as well. 

Some of the tours are very straightforward, simply visiting the Golden Circle's three attractions, then returning you to your accommodation.

Others make more of the day by taking you to popular sites like the beautiful crater lake Kerid and the Blue Lagoon.

It's possible to visit both the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon within a day.

Many combination tours have cropped up since visitors can complete the Golden Circle in around six hours, including driving to and from Reykjavik. 

For example, the Golden Circle and Snowmobiling Tour whisks you around all three sites. From Gullfoss, the tour drives you up to Langjokull glacier for an exhilarating blast across the glacial ice.

Combining the Golden Circle with snorkeling in Silfra at Thingvellir or lava caving on the Reykjanes Peninsula is also possible.

It's even possible to combine this excursion with a rich cultural experience. For example, you can enjoy sightseeing for the day, then complete the tour with a taste of traditional Icelandic cuisine in the evening.

Combine your Golden Circle tour with horseback riding

There are even multi-day tours, both guided and self-drive, centered around, or featuring, a trip along the Golden Circle stops.

Those with a short amount of time may enjoy the guided three-day South Coast tour. This tour takes you along the Golden Circle trail, along the South Coast to the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, and into a glistening ice cave inside of a glacier that is sure to leave you breathless.

Meanwhile, those here for several weeks have plenty of options from which to choose. A 14-day self-drive package that encircles the whole Ring Road, taking in the stunning Westfjords area, is highly recommended.

Top 9 Detours on the Golden Circle Route

Regardless of your time in this country, budget, or travel plan, it's nearly always possible to fit in a trip around the Golden Circle.

The incredible diversity of scenery available within a simple drive makes it an essential Icelandic experience for any traveler. Therefore it's advisable to rent a car in Iceland and explore the area near the Golden Circle.

If you elect to drive the circle yourself, there are many detours you can take to fascinating sites along the way. Most of these are lesser-known, so you can combine the classic Golden Circle route with visits to these off-the-beaten-track attractions.

Below are the top nine lesser-known Golden Circle highlights you should consider.

9. Skalholt

Skálholt's church in Iceland is a historic monument in Iceland's Golden CirclePhoto from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Qasmed. No edits were made.

Skalholt is a remarkable historical town in Iceland. It was the seat of Iceland's bishop from 1056 and remained so until the 19th century. To put that in context, the bishop of Iceland was the most powerful position in the country when Iceland was ruled by foreign kingdoms in Scandinavia. The position of bishop far exceeded just attending to religious matters. Therefore Skalholt was a very important seat of power for centuries in Iceland.

By the year 1200, it was considered Iceland's first town, with a population of 120 people. Skalholt was also the site of Iceland's first school, established in the 12th century. Today it has an ordained bishop and hosts many cultural events, including its famous Skalholt Summer Concerts.

You can find Skalholt on Route 31, just off Route 35, from the Geyser geothermal area to Reykjavik.

If you are driving through Skalholt, its cathedral alone is worth a stop.

8. Thjorsardalur Valley

Thjofafoss waterfall in Thjorsardalur Valley is one a great detour on your Golden Circle road trip

If you wish to explore some more hidden gems and do not mind a bit of extra driving, a detour to Thjorsardalur valley only takes a couple of hours. 

Thjorsardalur valley is part of the southern Highlands of Iceland. It boasts a wide range of incredible natural sites.

Here, you can find a wealth of beautiful waterfalls that most never get to visit, such as Haifoss, Granni, and Hjalparfoss.

Burfell woods is another natural attraction, being an unusually large forest for Iceland.

Thjorsardalur is quite the botanist's paradise, with many wildflower species, grass, and moss growing in the area.

To get there, drive south on Route 30 from Gullfoss, then take a left turn onto Route 32.

7. Solheimar Eco-Village

The unique Solheimar eco-village has a population of approximately 100 people. 

Formed in 1930 by Sesselja Sigmundsdottir as a self-sustaining settlement for orphans and children with learning disabilities. It has always been a unique place with a distinct philosophy of maximizing every person's potential, irrespective of age or ability.

Over the past few years, its charm and quirky vibe have drawn more and more visitors. Now over 30,000 people stop by every year to see what it's all about.

The settlement - nestled seamlessly in nature - has everything visitors could need, with a bakery, cafe, guesthouse, and art gallery, all operated by the town's residents.

The gift shop at Solheimar has hand-made souvenirs made in the town's art workshop, where residents can engage in candle-making, weaving, and ceramics.

It's also home to the Sesselja House. An educational exhibition center focused on ecology and sustainable development.

Solheimar is a 13-mile (21-kilometer) drive south of Laugarvatn, so it's ideally located to visit as part of an extended Golden Circle self-drive tour. It is a different type of attraction with an atmosphere of positivity and freedom that's truly unique.

6. Helgufoss and Thorufoss Waterfalls

Helgufoss waterfall is located near the Golden Circle route.

Some of Iceland's most incredible waterfalls are close to the Golden Circle.

The classic route takes you to Gulfoss waterfall, though other lesser-known waterfalls nearby are well worth visiting.

Two stand-out options are Helgufoss waterfall and Thorufoss waterfall, both named after Icelandic female names, Helga and Thora.

Thorufoss waterfall near the Golden Circle in Iceland

Helgufoss waterfall is located just off Route 36, on the way to Thingvellir from Reykjavik.

Meanwhile, Thorufoss waterfall forms part of the river Laxa i Kjos and can be visited by following Route 48 after Helgufoss before reaching Thingvellir National Park. 

The waterfall is signposted, and there's a small area on the side of the road where you can park your car.

You'll need access to a car to visit both waterfalls, as Golden Circle tours don't typically visit these remote locations.

5. Fridheimar Tomato and Horse Farm

Friðheimar tomato farm is a great place to dine while on your Golden Circle detourPhoto from Golden Circle Minibus Tour With Visit to Fridheimar & Kerid Crater Lake

Fridheimar is a tomato, cucumber, and horse farm located on Route 35, close to Reykholt.

The farm is the perfect place to stop for lunch between noon and 4 PM. Here you can enjoy some delicious tomato soup with home-baked bread.

You can sometimes drop in if you're in a small group, but it's usually better to call ahead and reserve your place, as it can get quite busy. 

You'll need to book in advance if you would like to enjoy a farm tour or go to a horse show. Fridheimar is one of Iceland's most underrated locations, and it's well worth a visit.

4. Snowmobiling on Langjokull Glacier

Snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier is a great detour on the Golden Circle. Photo from Snowmobile Adventure | Golden Circle and Langjokull Snowmobiling

The most popular option is to combine a Golden Circle tour with snowmobiling on the Langjokull glacier

It's also possible to just book a snowmobiling tour at Langjokull glacier or upgrade to a tour that also visits a stunning ice cave.

Langjokull isn't far from Gullfoss waterfall, where the tour operators will pick you up for the snowmobiling excursion. On a clear day, you'll have a fantastic view from the glacier, and the ride up to the glacier in a giant customized super-jeep is an adventure in itself. This excursion is not to be missed by adventurous travelers.

3. Secret Lagoon in Fludir

The Secret Lagoon at Fludir is just a short way from Gullfoss and a must-visit on your Golden Circle tripPhoto from Golden Circle Tour with the Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon, or Gamla Laugin, at Fludir is a great place to relax and renew your energy after a busy day of sightseeing. 

It's the oldest swimming pool in Iceland and was built in 1891. The pool's temperature is 100-104 F (38-40 C) year-round, sustained by the water entering it from the surrounding natural hot springs.

There's a also walking path around the swimming pool for guests to admire this geothermal area.

The Secret Lagoon is one of Iceland's most beautiful spots.Photo from Golden Circle Tour with the Secret Lagoon

The pool hosted swimming classes from 1909 until 1947, but it fell into disrepair as new pools opened around the country. However, it has recently been renovated and modernized, with new changing facilities and a cafe. It reopened in June 2014.

Be aware that if you wish to visit this location, it's always best to book in advance, as it's growing in popularity.

Fludir is on Route 30. It can be easily visited by car or on a guided tour of the Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon.

2. Kerid Crater

The crater Kerið in Grímsnes is near the Golden Circle.Photo from Minibus tour | Golden Circle & Kerid Volcanic Crater

Many full-day Golden Circle tours make a stop at Kerid crater, so if you're driving, you shouldn't miss out on this natural wonder either. The crater was formed about 6,500 years ago and is oval-shaped, with a lake at its bottom.

Kerid Crater is often visited by Golden Circle tour groups, and for an obvious reasonThe rocks surrounding the crater are fiery red and orange, with streaks of black and green running through them. These colors contrast beautifully with the azure waters.

Due to its shape, Kerid is renowned for its acoustics, and artists sometimes hold concerts there, floating on a boat in the middle of the lake. This crater is situated on Route 5, close to the town of Selfoss. It also has a small parking lot next to it.

Please note that there's a small fee to be paid on entry to Kerid.

1. Fontana Geothermal Baths

The Fontana Spa is a great Golden Circle detour.Photo from Guided 9-Hour Tour of the Golden Circle with Fontana Spa Bathing and Transfer from Reykjavik

Fontana Geothermal Baths are the name of a spa in the town of Laugarvatn, on the way from Thingvellir National Park to Geysir. 

Laugarvatn is a picturesque village perched on the edge of a vast lake renowned for its geothermal activity. Locals have enjoyed this area since 1929, though the current spa was opened in 2011.

Fontana features three steam rooms and a traditional wooden Finnish sauna with fantastic views of the lake and surrounding nature. There are also plenty of shallow pools that vary in heat, allowing kids to enjoy the water while the adults can relax.

The Fontana Geothermal Baths open out onto the lake, where it's possible to feel warm water rising from the earth between your toes. 

Kids can have fun at Fontana Geothermal Baths!Photo from 8-Hour Golden Circle Sightseeing Tour & Fontana Hot Spring Bathing with Transfer from Reykjavik

If you stop here, make sure to try the rye bread that the spa bakes for 24 hours in the hot sand. Hot, freshly baked rye bread with butter is as traditionally Icelandic as it is delicious.

You can enjoy both this site and the Golden Circle on the Golden Circle and Fontana Geothermal Baths day tour.

Whether you're planning on joining a guided tour or opting for a self-drive, we hope you find our recommended list of the Golden Circle's top 9 detours helpful in making your visit to Iceland that extra special. Log in to Facebook to see or add to the comment section below!

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