The Golden Circle in Iceland is a route in the south of Iceland close to Reykjavik. Starting from Reykjavik, the Golden Circle takes you to 3 highlights in the south of Iceland: Þingvellir National Park, Haukadalur geyser basin, and the waterfall Gullfoss.
The total trip around the Golden Circle should be doable in 1 day (not including a visit to Reykjavik). Driving around the Golden Circle is about 250 kilometers (150 miles). But along the road, you have some other interesting stops as well. So if you make the trip, we recommend checking those other interesting stops as well.
At the bottom of our article, we’ve added an interactive map highlighting all the stops we did along the Golden Circle: the highlights of the Golden Circle that you must visit, but also other great stops we did.
1-Day Itinerary Golden Circle of Iceland
The easiest option to visit the Golden Circle is to drive by your own (rental) car. In our opinion, this is the best way to explore the Golden Circle. Having your own car will give you the flexibility to stay and go wherever you want, for as long as you want to be there. But as an alternative, there are also guided bus tours from Reykjavik along the Golden Circle.
Your drive will start and end in Reykjavik. If you just want to see the highlights, drive from Reykjavik to Þingvellir National Park. From Þingvellir continue to Haukadalur and from there continue to Gullfoss. It’s an easy itinerary to follow.
To drive back to Reykjavik, it’s more interesting to follow another road, via Hveragerði. This only takes a few minutes longer than the same way back and will give you some other scenery and landscapes to take in along the way.
This is doable in 1-day, but if you want more time to explore, you can stop along the road. We did a 2-day extended Golden Circle visit. We visited some other stops along the Golden Circle and we stayed in Geysir and Hveragerði.
Itinerary and map of our extended visit: Golden Circle Iceland in 2 days
Distances Along the Golden Circle
In the table below you can find the sections of the 1-day drive along the Golden Circle.
|Reykjavik to Þingvellir||45’||48 km (30 miles)|
|Þingvellir to Haukadalur||50’||60 km (37 miles)|
|Haukadalur to Gullfoss||10’||10 km (6 miles)|
|Gullfoss to Reykjavik||1h 45’||125 km (78 miles)|
Best Stops along the Golden Circle in Iceland
When you drive along the Golden Circle in Iceland, there are 3 stops that you have to make for sure: Þingvellir National Park, Haukadalur geyser basin, and Gullfoss. A visit to those 3, along with the drive of the Golden Circle is doable as a 1-day trip from Reykjavik. See itinerary above.
In the chapters below we’ll highlight the top stops along the Golden Circle.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, located on the east of Iceland. The city is located about 1 hour from Keflavík International Airport and is the ideal first or last stop on any visit to Iceland. In Reykjavik, your visit to the Golden Circle starts and ends.
During our visit to Reykjavik, we explored the city center of Reykjavik, saw important landmarks such as the Hallgrimskirkja and Sun Voyager.
For details, check our guide with the best places to visit in Reykjavik
Another place we visited (twice) is Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach in Reykjavik. Here you can escape the city for a more summer holiday feeling. Nauthólsvík has a large sand beach and has a geothermal heated hot tub.
Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park is a wonderful stop along the Golden Circle. The park has a historic value to Icelanders, but it’s also a geological miracle. Þingvellir is located along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, causing the fissures in the park.
You can hike along the trail through the national park to explore the area. Discover Drekkingarhylur (the drowning pool) and the waterfall Öxarárfoss.
More information: Þingvellir National Park
Haukadalur – Geysir & Strokkur
The geothermal area Haukadalur is most famous for the 2 geysers that are located there: Geysir and Strokkur. The valley Haukadalur is located near the end of the Golden Circle, close to Gullfoss. Haukadalur is one of the most visited places in Iceland.
The geyser Geysir is inactive. The geyser only erupts every few years. The more famous highlight of the Haukadalur geothermal area is the Strokkur geyser. This geyser forms a bubble before it erupts.
More information: Geysir & Strokkur in Haukadalur Valley
The last of the highlights along the Golden Circle in Iceland is the waterfall Gullfoss. Gullfoss is the furthest away from Reykjavik, but definitely worth visiting. Gullfoss means Golden Falls. This is where the Golden Circle gets its name “golden” from. The name Golden Falls comes from the golden hue that the waterfall often has because of its glacial waters.
The waterfall is enormous and in 3 different drops. The hiking trails from the parking lot will take you to different viewpoints to see the different drops.
More information: Guide to visiting Gullfoss
Other Stops along the Golden Circle Worth Visiting
On the map at the bottom of our article, we have highlighted the route to take, we put in the important stops (highlights) of the Golden Circle and we added the other places we visited along the Golden Circle: Kerið Crater, Reykjadalur Valley Hot Springs, the waterfalls Bruarfoss and Midfoss and the geothermal area Nesjavellir.
If you want to include some of those other stops along the Golden Circle in your road trip along the Golden Circle, you’ll need more than 1 day. We did the Golden Circle, including the 3 primary stops and the other stops mentioned, in 2 days. But our days were quite full and tiresome. So if you need to take it easier, take 3 days.
Check out the itinerary of our extended Golden Circle visit in 2 or 3 days.
In this article, we don’t go into detail on the other stops. If you do want more detail, click on one of the posters. Each of those will explain in detail how you can plan your visit to those other stops and will have some photos so you can judge if a visit is worthy for you.
Golden Circle Iceland Map
Check the highlights of the Golden Circle in Iceland, along with our other interesting stops on our map. If you want to do all stops, check out our article Golden Circle Iceland in 2 days for an itinerary to start planning.
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