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Golden Circle Itinerary

Discover Golden Circle in a Day

|April 4, 2022

From thundering waterfalls to natural geysers, there are so many places to visit and explore. Explore all the highlights of the Golden Circle on a day tour.


The itinerary to explore the Golden Circle in Iceland is one of the top searched online. Dramatic cliffs, natural landscapes, stunning waterfalls, and a relaxing drive through the countryside are everything and more you could expect. Set out on an incredible journey to discover some of these iconic places and experience adventure at its best.

Icelandic flag in Thingvellir National Park

Icelandic flag in Thingvellir National Park

While there are several tours that you could book in advance to experience the best of the Golden Circle Iceland itinerary, a self-driving tour at your own pace is equally fun. From Reykjavik, it only takes about 4 hours to reach your destination. Get started on this 300 km road trip that covers many landmarks across the Golden Circle, especially if you are planning a one-day layover.

This one-day itinerary we have put together could also be used as the Golden Circle Driving itinerary. We have carefully chosen all the breathtaking spots that must not be missed. Honestly, you may think driving in Iceland could be a difficult and challenging task, but we think otherwise. The Golden Circle route is exceptionally well maintained. During summers though, you may experience traffic on the route, and so, it is always recommended you start early to reach your destination. Find the right place to rent a car and set out on a very fulfilling journey to check off the Golden Circle from your travel bucket list.

Happy couple traveling in Iceland by jeep

Couple having self-driving tour in Iceland

What Is the Golden Circle?

The Golden Circle is the circular route in southern Iceland that begins and finishes in Reykjavik. Spread over 300 km, the attractions are easily accessible by road. The origin of the name comes from Gullfoss, which means Golden Falls in Icelandic, which is one of the major waterfalls that you'll get to see along the way.

Gullfoss Waterfall and a Rainbow in Iceland

Gullfoss waterfall in the summer, Iceland

Golden Circle One-day Itinerary

It's imperative to have a Golden Circle Itinerary map handy. Let's get started with your first and foremost stop.

Thingvellir National Park

This is one of the first attractions of the Golden Circle, provided you are driving in a clockwise direction. Besides being a National Park, Thingvellir is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and where Iceland’s first parliament existed, back in 930 AD. The sheer beauty of this national park makes it one of the greatest attractions of Iceland. The exposed North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are a fascinating formation that must not be missed. If you are up for some adventure and have planned an extended itinerary, you could enjoy snorkeling or diving in the fissures.

Thingvellir National Park during gloomy day

Thingvellir National Park

Some of the top things to do in the national park include:

  • Discover the Þingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake.

  • View the Langjökull glacier.

  • Snorkel at one of the world’s top 10 dive sites in Silfra.

Snorkeling tour in Silfra Fissure clear water

Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure, Iceland

  • Hike along with the North American plate and by the Almannagjá gorge.

  • Finally, witness the thundering waters at Öxarárfoss waterfall.

Oxararfoss waterfall at Thingvellir National Park

Öxarárfoss waterfall at Thingvellir National Park

Haukadalur Geothermal Field

After exploring Thingvellir National Park, your next stop on the itinerary will be the Geysir Geothermal Area, also known as the Haukadalur Geothermal Field. From mud pots to hot springs, this is incredible attraction is located only an hour away from the National Park. Being home to the most famous geysers, Strokkur and Geysir is also another reason why this geothermal field is a must-visit.

Geysir Strokkur huge eruption in Iceland

Geysir Strokkur eruption, Iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall

These golden falls provide some of the last few remaining highlights that need to be covered to complete the Golden Circle tour. Located on the Hvítá river, Gullfoss waterfalls offer different views, both stunning, from the lower and higher elevations. The first level of the falls is at a height of 36 feet, and the second one is at 70 feet.

Gullfoss Falls view from a distance

Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

To complete the Golden Circle day trip itinerary, it's worth taking these detours as well:

  • Fontana Geothermal Baths: Relax, unwind, and rejuvenate during your exploration of the Golden Circle in Iceland at the Fontana Geothermal Baths and spa. Hot springs, steam room, sauna, and everything that is required for a relaxing trip.

  • Kerið Crater: This is one of the most stunning and picturesque spots in Iceland. Witness the natural wonder of having a turquoise blue water lake around the Kerið Crater.

  • Langjökull Glacier: For an adventure junkie, Langjökull Glacier on a snowmobile is a paradise.

  • Sólheimar: Make a pit stop at the eco-village of Solheimar and interact with the locals here. Learn more about the community and how they have managed to maximize the potential of every resident.

  • Þjórsárdalur (Thjorsardalur) Valley: Set out on an off beaten path to find some thundering waterfalls.

  • Skálholt: Considered to be Iceland’s first town, Skálholt is a tiny village. The key highlights of Skálholt are the quaint cathedral and secret lagoon.

You'll find numerous travel consultants with Golden Circle tours included, but there's nothing like enjoying the location at your own pace. Be sure to make stops, enjoy the views, take on adventures, and experience the Golden Circle at its best.

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