Golden Circle Tours

Golden Circle Tours

Discover the famous Golden Circle sightseeing route. Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss waterfall are must-see attractions for your trip to Iceland.
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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. In the year 930, Iceland's parliament, Althingi, was founded here, making Thingvellir the original home of the world's oldest existing legislature.

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 beautiful 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, this destination is also home to the geyser Strokkur, which spouts vast amounts of water 50–80 feet (15–25 meters) into the air every 5 to 10 minutes.

What is Gullfoss?

Gullfoss is a waterfall in the canyon of the 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. The color of the water is a unique aquamarine due to minerals in the soil. Kerid 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 easily accessible and provides a great photo opportunity.

How long is the Golden Circle in Iceland?

The Golden Circle route is just under 140 miles (225 kilometers), making it easy to drive in a single day. However, the distance 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 check the weather conditions regularly.

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. If you are unsure where your Golden Circle tour pick-up location is or need to make other arrangements, 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 these sights in one day makes for 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 you'll also enjoy a sample of traditional Icelandic food along the way.

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 driving the Golden Circle route yourself 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 must descend several stairs to reach the waterfall (no elevators are available). There is also a lot of mist in the air, so the stairs and paths are often slippery.

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 the 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 10-hour tour of the Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon, starting from 111 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 spray in the air, so wear a waterproof jacket or a rain poncho if you want to get close to the falls.

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 forget 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 descending stairs and slippery paths, but the upper platform is wheelchair accessible.

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.

Can I stay in a hotel in the Golden Circle?

Yes, there is a wide variety of accommodation options in the Golden Circle that you can explore. Some are located right by the attractions, such as Hotel Geysir, which is situated by the geothermal area of the same name, while others are located in more secluded areas but within a short distance from the wonders of the Golden Circle.