Golden Circle Tours

Golden Circle Tours

Discover a treasure trove of tours that take you to the three world-renowned sites that compose Iceland's Golden Circle sightseeing route. Þingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss waterfall are destinations that all travellers must visit during their stay in Iceland.

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Tudor Vieru

Tudor Vieru

31/05/2023, 08:53
Review of Iceland In-Depth | Two-Week Road Trip

Hi! My wife and I just got back from this amazing trip a few days ago, so everything is still fresh. I want to share my impressions of everything we've experienced, so I've structured my review in a few categories, lest I forget something. Schedule Especially during the first 2-3 days, the schedule is jam-packed with activities or places to visit. These vary from location to location. For example, while visiting East Iceland, the number of objectives is much smaller than in the east, south, or Westfjords, but this was to be expected. Overall, we found the schedule to include, on those full days, slightly more objectives than can comfortably be explored in a single day. On the other hand, this is part of the charm of creating your own goals for each day, so that you only visit places that really spark your interest. All in all, I would say that the schedule alternates quite well between long drive days, with fewer activities, and shorter drive days, with more places to see. Hotels The hotels were, by and large, very nice. We especially enjoyed Skuggi (we even bought an extra night there at the end of the tour), Blue Hotel Fagrilundur, Hotel North, Hotel Laugarbakki (funny because it looked like a prison from the outside, but the inside was very nice), Hotel Isafjordur, and most of all Hotel Latrabjarg, where we had the best experience. We would highly recommend including Hotel Latrabjarg in all itineraries that go through that area. Itinerary The itinerary was well thought out for the most part, and we stuck to it on most days. After going past Skaftafell we started analyzing it 2-3 days in advance and then creating our own. One of the reasons was that some objectives were out of the way, in the sense that they were listed for day X, but the trip took us there anyway the next day. One example is Klaustur, which is 70km east of Vik and scheduled for day 3. We passed it on the way to Skaftafell the next day because it did not make sense to add 140 km to our trip just to return and sleep in Vik afterward. A similar example was Hólmavík, scheduled for Day 8, but we passed next to it on Day 9, en route to Isafjordur. Going there would have meant adding 250-300 kilometers to our trip, from Hvammstangi and back. We based our daily goals on the itinerary until we got to the Skaftafell region, but afterward used it mostly as inspiration and for directions to the next hotel. There are a couple of days that only include visits to small coastal villages and not much else. We of course understand that Iceland is a large country and some days are just dedicated to the drive. In other areas, such as the Westfjords, Latrabjarg, or Snaefellsnes, we returned to the itinerary, but always used Google Maps as well, to find interesting attractions nearby. For the itinerary, my suggestion would be to add some smaller points of attractions along the way, as many are available right on the side of the road or a small distance from Route 1. A small waterfall or some geothermal footbaths, the 1238 The Battle of Iceland museum in Sauðárkrókur, the Sauðárkrókur Viewpoint, and so on. I think such attractions are good waypoints, especially on days when you have to drive longer. Communication Communication with Guide to Iceland was below expectations. There was no contact from your side during the trip. I would have expected at least an email asking if we were doing fine or needed anything during the 2 weeks we were there. Just to check in and see how we were. At the same time, for the only email that I have sent you, the response was very late, much too late to be of any use to us. In your itinerary, you said to contact the email address if we needed to reach an agent urgently. We did, but there was no one there for 8 hours. Related to that, not having the ferryboat booked in advance was difficult to understand. There was a single ferry at noon that day, we were following our itinerary, so there should have been a spot for us there. A short communication from your end related to this would have helped. Car rental We chose a 4x4 automatic model and got a 2022 Toyota Rav 4. The car in itself was amazing and easy to drive. It took us across the country, including the Westfjords, without any issues. Both I and my wife were very happy with the specs, handling, and everything else. We were very happy with the selection. We did not have Wi-Fi in the car, as it was not included in the package and we only figured this out in the middle of our second day. There was also an issue with having to pay a non-refundable 500 euros for insurance on the car, simply because we did not have a credit card. This was not communicated beforehand, either by Guide to Iceland or by MyCar. The trip's budget suffered accordingly and left a sour taste in our mouths. All of these requirements should be communicated to customers in advance, by both you and MyCar, so that we know what to expect. Having such an expense right at the start of our trip was definitely putting the left foot forward. Summary Regardless of the issues we've encountered, the trip was definitely worth it for us. We had the time of our lives visiting your beautiful country and were amazed at how quickly the landscapes and the weather can change. At times we felt like we were on the moon or some Sci-Fi movie set. We spent a lot of time on the open road and visited everything from innumerable waterfalls to caves and lava tunnels. The thermal baths are amazing and I would recommend including more of them in your itineraries going forward. They are were relaxing at the end of a busy day. The Myvatn one was especially beautiful. With the notes that I've mentioned above, we are very likely to recommend Guide to Iceland to our friends and family for our next vacation, and look forward to visiting Iceland and working with you again. Thank you for the amazing experience! Tudor

Travelling the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is widely known to be the most popular sightseeing route in Iceland, in large part due to the capital city’s proximity to three of the country’s most inspiring natural attractions; Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal valley and the mighty waterfall, Gullfoss (“The Golden Falls”).

Other attractions en-route, though not part of the Golden Circle itself, include Kerið volcanic crater, Efstidalur farm and ice cream store and the fascinating Sólheimar Ecovillage. If you hope to see these extra attractions, please make sure that the tour you are interested in includes them as part of the scheduled itinerary. 

What is less known, however, is the sheer variety of methods in which visitors choose to undertake this route, the most popular of which is taking a guided tour on a coach or minibus; this is a cost-effective means of experiencing the Golden Circle while also providing your party with a learned and experienced tour guide.

Guides on the Golden Circle are able to focus in on each attraction, teaching you about their history and importance to Icelandic culture, as well as pointing out lesser-known sites of interest, such as shooting locations for the HBO fantasy series, ‘Game of Thrones’, of which there are a number to be found in Þingvellir National Park.

Another means of experiencing the Golden Circle could include a helicopter tour, making this one of the more VIP undertakings of your holiday. While no doubt pricier that sightseeing at ground-level, flying from attraction to attraction allows you to cut down your tour time from 8 hours to a solitary one, making this the most time-effective, unique and exhilarating method on the market.

Another option is to drive the Golden Circle route yourself. This option provides you with the most freedom over your day, allowing you to spend just as much time at each attraction as you would like. And while this option lacks the knowledge and know-how of a professional tour guide, it is more than made up for with the company you choose.

Finally, the Golden Circle allows for many bonus activities that can but heighten your experience. These activities range from horse-riding to snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier to snorkelling in Silfra Fissure.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Golden Circle?

The Golden Circle is a popular sightseeing route in Iceland that covers three major attractions: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall (and may include other stops). It is a must-see for visitors who want to experience Iceland’s natural beauty and learn about its history and culture.

What is Thingvellir National Park?

Thingvellir is a national park east of Reykjavik. It is known for having been the site of the founding of Iceland's parliament Althingi in the year 930, making it the oldest legislature still in existence. The park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of two tectonic plates and is home to Silfra, one of the world’s most sought diving and snorkeling sites. Thingvellir was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

What is Geysir?

Geysir is a famous hot spring that gives its name to geysers all over the world. Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, it has a neighbor by the name of Strokkur, which spouts vast amounts of water 50 to 80 feet (15-25 meters) into the air every 5 to 10 minutes.

What is Gullfoss?

Gullfoss is a waterfall in the canyon of Hvita river in southwest Iceland. Gullfoss is one of Iceland's most iconic natural attractions. The name translates to ‘Golden Falls’ and is divided into two cascading sections which are 36 feet (11 meters) and 70 feet (21 meters) high, respectively.

Is a visit to Kerid crater included in Golden Circle tours in Iceland?

Although Kerid crater is not officially a part of the Golden Circle sightseeing route, some tours include Kerid as an extra stop. View your tour's description to see if your Golden Circle tour includes a visit to Kerid crater.

What is Kerid?

Kerid, which translates to "the vessel", is a 3000-year-old volcanic crater that has a shallow pool of water at the bottom of it. The color of the water is a unique aquamarine due to the minerals from the soil. It is not one of the three official attractions of the Golden Circle, but many tour companies include a short stop there during their Golden Circle tours as it's accessible and provides a great photo opportunity.

How long is the Golden Circle in Iceland?

A tour of the Golden Circle is just under a 140 miles (225 kilometers) route which makes it very drivable for a day tour. However, this increases if you intend to visit other lesser-known spots in the Golden Circle area.

How long does it take to do the Golden Circle in Iceland?

Driving the Golden Circle without stopping takes about 2.5 hours. The route, however, is often traversed in a full day so travelers have enough time to take in all the sights.

Can you traverse the Golden Circle in Iceland if the weather is bad?

The weather in Iceland is extremely volatile and can change in an instant. Icelandic sites and landscapes are, therefore, explored in almost any weather. Most tours around the Golden Circle will remain operational except in the rare instances when the weather poses a safety risk. Your tour provider will inform you if the weather is too bad to travel. However, if you are driving yourself please keep alert of the weather conditions daily.

Can I get a full refund if I cancel my booking?

Yes, you can book and cancel Golden Circle day tours up to 24 hours before departure.

Where are the pick-up locations for Golden Circle tours in Iceland?

Pick-up locations for most tours departing from Reykjavik are situated across the city. Normally, you will find a pick-up location very close to your accommodation that will take you to the Golden Circle in Iceland. If you are unsure where your pick-up location is or need to rearrange, please contact your tour provider directly.

Is Iceland's Golden Circle worth it?

If you're staying in Reykjavik, the Golden Circle is the most accessible and diverse tour you can do in one day in Iceland. It includes a national park, a waterfall, an erupting geyser, and sometimes a crater. Seeing all sights in one day makes it a highly memorable tour and is definitely worth it.

What is the best Golden Circle tour in Iceland?

The best Golden Circle tour in Iceland is this 8-hour minibus tour of the Golden Circle, with a fantastic rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars from 508 reviewers. The minibus ensures the tour is not too crowded and includes a sample of traditional Icelandic food.

Is the Blue Lagoon part of the Golden Circle?

No, the Blue Lagoon is located on the Reykjanes peninsula and is not en route on the Golden Circle. However, there is another geothermal pool with hot spring water near the Golden Circle route, the Secret Lagoon. Some tour companies include the Secret Lagoon as part of their Golden Circle tours. If you're self-driving the Golden Circle and want to end the day soaking in natural hot spring water, make sure to book a reservation at the Secret Lagoon ahead of time.

Is there a lot of walking in the Golden Circle tour?

Compared to many other tours around Iceland, the Golden Circle is very accessible and doesn't require a lot of walking. The hardest place to traverse is the Gullfoss waterfall, as you will need to walk some steps to get to the waterfall there will also be a lot of mist in the air, so you might get pretty wet if you get close to it.

How long does the Golden Circle tour take?

The Golden Circle tour usually takes around 6-8 hours, depending on the tour operator and itinerary. This means you can go on a Golden Circle tour in the morning and be back in Reykjavik for dinner.

Can I do the Golden Circle in Iceland on my own?

Yes, definitely. The Golden Circle is conveniently located near Reykjavik, so if you rent a car in Iceland, it is an easy drive to make and be back in the capital by the evening.

Is Secret Lagoon part of the Golden Circle?

A classic Golden Circle tour has three stops, Thingvellir National Park, Geysir hot springs, and Gullfoss waterfall. However, many tour companies have their own twist on the Golden Circle, and some of them include a visit to the Secret Lagoon, such as this tour with a rating of 4.7 stars out of 5 from 15 travelers and costs 108 USD.

What should I wear on a Golden Circle tour?

You should wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes suitable for walking on uneven terrain. Depending on the season, you may need to wear additional layers, a waterproof jacket, and warm accessories such as gloves, hat, and scarf.

Keep in mind that when visiting Gullfoss waterfall, there can be a lot of water spray in the air, so wear a waterproof jacket or a rain poncho if you want to get close to it.

Are meals included in Golden Circle tours?

Some Golden Circle tours may include meals or snacks, while others may not. Read the tour description carefully beforehand to know what is included in the tour price. In case you forgot to bring a snack, you can buy ready-made meals and snacks at the visitor center in Thingvellir, which is usually the first stop on Golden Circle tours.

Is the Golden Circle accessible for people with disabilities?

Some parts of the Golden Circle tour may be difficult for people with disabilities, but many tour operators offer accessible options or private tours tailored to specific needs.

The lower platform at Gullfoss waterfall requires a steep walk down a cliff, but the upper platform is wheelchair accessible (and also keeps you free from water spray).

Can I combine a Golden Circle Tour with other activities?

Yes, you can combine a Golden Circle tour with other activities, such as a visit to the Blue Lagoon, a glacier hike, or a snowmobile tour. Some tour operators offer package deals that include multiple activities. You can check the sidebar on the left side of the page to see the extra activities available for tours.

Can I book a private Golden Circle tour?

Yes, many tour operators offer private Golden Circle tours for individuals, families, or groups. These tours can be customized to suit your preferences and schedule, such as this private 8-hour Golden Circle tour.