The Ultimate Guide to Driving Iceland’s Golden Circle

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Iceland is becoming a popular destination for those who want to experience something new and different. There are many attractions and experiences to enjoy in Iceland whether you’re visiting the country on your way from North America to Europe, or if you plan to stay for two weeks.

Driving the Ring Road around Iceland takes 10 days. However, the Golden Circle route from Reykjavik can be done in a few hours. I recommend it!

Here’s how I drove Iceland’s Golden Circle in one day.

What is the Golden Circle?

The Golden Circle, not to be confused with Iceland’s Ring Road, takes approximately a week to complete. It is a circular route covering about 300 km that loops from Reykjavik to central Iceland in one day.

This route will take you through some of Iceland’s most beautiful sights, including historic buildings and natural sites. It is a short way to see all of Iceland.

Although the main points of interest are the most popular, there are many stunning points along the route.

Guide To Driving Icelands Golden Circle
Guide To Driving Icelands Golden Circle

There are many options. You can join organized tours or drive the Golden Circle on your own.

You will make a million stops! So, give yourself plenty of time to enjoy them all.

Iceland: Renting a vehicle

Renting a car in Iceland can be expensive. Here are some ways to cut costs.

  • To get the best price, you can book your rental car online. Matt, my friend, and I chose to rent a car and we used SadCars.
  • If you are looking for an automatic transmission car (like me), You should book early as there is a limited supply of cars in Iceland. SadCars provided a solid, automatic 4×4 for me to drive.
  • Gas is expensive. It currently costs over $7 USD per gallon. Make sure to factor this cost in your Iceland budget and get a full tank.
  • The low season between September to May, if you’re flexible about travel dates, will lower rental costs.
  • There are many signs along the Golden Circle route. Four-wheel drive is not necessary for this route. However, rental car companies can provide all information and equipment you may need.

Navigation & Timing

Reykjavik is the most difficult part of the Golden Circle route. It is also the busiest section.

Golden Circle Iceland
Golden Circle Iceland

You can enjoy nature from the moment you leave the city. If you drive the route yourself you can stop at any point you want.

Scrolling across the map will enable you to zoom in and click More Options will take to an itinerary stop-by-stop!

You can find the main attractions around the Golden Circle well posted, but many car rental companies offer the option to rent a GPS unit.

To save money, you can download Google Maps to your smartphone and use it offline.

The Golden Circle route is a fast and easy drive that takes 3.5 hours without stopping. However, we drove for 8 hours, taking lots of photos, and didn’t feel rushed.

Remember that the timing of your drive to the Golden Circle is entirely up to you!

Where to stop along the Golden Circle

There are many stops along the Golden Circle. Here are some of our favorites!

Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has played a significant role in Iceland’s past. There are many natural formations and lakes. My favorite is the Silfra Fissure.

Silfra Fissure, a crack between North American and Eurasian continental plates is the only place where you can snorkel or dive between these two plates. This was my top priority since I received my PADI Open Water Diver certificate in Bocas del Toro.

Learn More: Snorkeling in Iceland’s Silfra Fissure

Icelandic Silfra Fissure dive

Strokkur Geyser

Strokkur, located in the Haukadalur valley, is one of the two largest geysers in this area and the only one currently active.

Strokkur is also one the most reliable geysers on the planet, sending out plumes of steam high up into the air and very hot water every eight to ten seconds.

Gullfoss Waterfall

Tourists love Iceland’s Gullfoss waterfall, which cascades over the cliffs and into a narrow crevice. You can only see the spray plume rising into the air from certain angles.

Kerid Crater Lake

Kerid crater lake, a striking crater composed of red rocks interspersed with streaks green grass and moss that contrast with the deep blue of the lake.

This is a great place to stop. You can take a short walk to the waterfront and see the remains from the volcano that has collapsed.

Additional Interesting Stops along the Golden Circle

  • Laugarvatn Fontana – A spa and wellness center built around natural hot springs. Enjoy steam baths, geothermal pool & many other benefits!
  • Skalholt Cathedral – After Iceland adopted Catholicism, Skalholt was home to the largest cathedral in Iceland. It’s a magnificent structure!
  • Hveragerdi is a place where you can find hot springs, a geothermal area, shopping and many nature adventures that you can enjoy during a long pit stop.
  • Reykjavik Energy’s Geothermal Energy Exhibit – This exhibition shows how geothermal power can be harnessed in a sustainable way. Experienced guides are available to give informative presentations.

Weather

Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable. In just an hour, you can change from completely white-out to clear skies. We visited in October, and we experienced almost all four seasons in one day.

You can use this site for weather and road conditions checks.

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