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Golden Circle Itinerary

Drive Iceland's Golden Circle in a Day

|April 4, 2022
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From thundering waterfalls to natural geysers, there are so many places to visit and traverse. Explore all the highlights of the Golden Circle on a day tour.


The itinerary to explore the Golden Circle is one of the top Iceland-related online searches. It’s also one of the best ways to spend a day in Iceland. Dramatic cliffs, natural landscapes, stunning waterfalls, and a relaxing drive through the countryside are just some of the highlights. Set out on an incredible journey to discover some of the most iconic places in Iceland and experience adventure at its best with this one-day Golden Circle itinerary.

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 Reykjavík, it only takes about four hours to reach your destination. Get started on this 300 km (186 mi) road trip that covers many landmarks across the Golden Circle, especially if you are planning a one-day stopover.

We have carefully chosen all the breathtaking spots that must not be missed.  Honestly, you may think driving in Iceland could be a challenging task, but we think otherwise. The Golden Circle route is exceptionally well maintained. During the summer months though, you may experience traffic on the route, and so, it is always recommended you start early to reach your destination. If you are traveling in the winter, explore our winter guide to the Golden Circle. 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.

 

Inside the Golden Circle Tour | Arctic Adventures

What Is the Golden Circle?

The Golden Circle is a circular route in southern Iceland that begins and finishes in Reykjavík. Spread over 300 km (186 mi), the attractions are easily accessible by road. The name of the route comes from Gullfoss, which means Golden Falls in Icelandic and 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

CAN YOU DRIVE THE GOLDEN CIRCLE IN ONE DAY?

Absolutely! With its well-maintained roads and relatively short distances, driving Iceland's Golden Circle in one day is entirely feasible. While you can see all three main attractions—Þingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall—in a single day trip, you might have to shorten your visits to each site to fit within daylight hours. However, if you're keen on thoroughly exploring these natural wonders and perhaps discovering some hidden gems along the way, consider extending your journey over multiple days.

Golden Circle One-day Itinerary

It's imperative to have a Golden Circle Itinerary map handy. The most popular way to complete the Golden Circle itinerary in one day is to start with the nearest attraction to the capital city and drive clockwise. 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 around the Golden Circle, you could enjoy snorkeling or diving in the fissure.

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. To get to the top easily, book the Golden Circle & Snowmobiling tour to combine these attractions with the thrilling experience of riding over the snow.

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

  • Hike along 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

GEYSIR GEOTHERMAL AREA

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 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 Waterfall offers two different views, both stunning, from the lower and higher elevations. The first level of the falls is at a height of 11 meters (36 feet), and the second one is at 21 meters (70 feet). Truly experience the power of the Hvítá River when you join a river rafting tour.

Gullfoss Falls view from a distance

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

STOPS OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

If you’re keen to check out some additional natural attractions during your time in Iceland, there are plenty of stops to add to your day. Our Golden Circle Map includes these stops to ensure you don’t miss out. 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 Sólheimar 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 adventure off the 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 a quaint cathedral and a 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.

If you've got a little more time to dedicate to the Golden Circle and the unforgettable attractions that surround it, one of our four-day tours could be the perfect adventure for you as you will experience the Golden Circle, Jökulsárlón, the South Coast, and Landmannalaugar.

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