The Golden Circle in Iceland is one of the most popular day tours in Iceland. If you do not have much time in Iceland or just have a stopover, there is a Golden Circle express half day tours available to suit your needs. The Golden Circle is a circular route ~200 mile route from Reykjavik city that is packed with some amazing landmarks for a visual treat. You will find lots of guided tours from local travel companies and you can do a self-guided tour as well. It totally depends on the travel season and weather conditions. We did the golden circle tour during winter in the month of February and the road conditions were not favorable unless you are an expert driving in hard ice/snow conditions. The weather is so fluctuating in winter and becomes difficult if you are not aware about the road conditions and the local Icelandic guides are well aware who can make your trip effective.If you are visiting Iceland in summer, I would highly recommend a self-drive tour that gives you the flexibility to explore on your own majority of the attractions.
Did you know that it’s free to visit all the sights on this route? You have to pay for just the transportation.If you are combining Kerid crater, there is a fee involved to visit the site.
Before we dive into the details, enjoy a short video of Golden Circle tour!
What are the most popular attractions in the Golden Circle Route? If you are doing a self-drive tour, I highly recommend to add this to your bucket list.
1. Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir is the only place on earth where tectonic plates can be seen above ground. The massive cracks in the earth that appear to literally split this area in half are actually the results of the separation of the the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge passes right through Þingvellir and separates the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate. This basically means that one part of Þingvellir is located in America and the other in Europe. If you love to swim, this place is well-known that many people attempt to swim between the two tectonic plates. Historically, this is an UNESCO heritage site that has stunning landscapes and a very important part of Icelandic history. The site is important as it hosted the old Parliamentary assembly of Iceland more than 1000 years ago. We learnt from our guides that the Icelandic assembly meets here every 2 weeks in summer that includes government meets and festival gatherings in this historic site. Apparently many scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed in the Þingvellir location
Gullfoss Waterfall is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. If you ask anyone who visited Iceland on must see places, Gulfoss is the most common name that you get to hear. Having seen the beautiful photos of the Gulfoss during summer, I was really looking forward to the winter experience and the beauty that i can capture through my lens. We visited Gulfoss during winter break in February and on the day of our visit the weather was extremely windy.Upon arrival at Gullfoss, stop for a moment to look at the surrounding snow-covered landscape.it’s simply beautiful. As you saunter along the slippery paths and stairs, you finally get your first glimpse of Gullfoss Waterfall. It’s so natural and impressive that you want to jump in to snap as many photos as possible..I captured few really good shots but had to turn off my camera and enjoy the moment :-). There are multiple viewing points to see the Gulfoss waterfalls up close. The Gullfoss falls is a two tier staircase where the river drops off into a deep crevice.
We were well prepared for the winter, dressed up in layers, wind-breaker jackets and all the winter accessories needed to sustain the weather conditions. If you’re going to visit Gullfoss Waterfall during winter, bring all of your winter gear. It’s not only cold but very windy, and you’ll be in need of winter boots, crampons, parka, beanies, gloves, etc. The paths, staircase are quite slippery, and it’s not a good idea to come on the tour with oridnary shoes or plain boots.
Iceland is very famous for Geysers that are both active and dormant and you should be able to spot many across different parts of Iceland. In the Golden Circle route, the Strokkur is quite popular Geyser that erupts every 10 minutes a white columns of boiling water that can reach as high as 30 meters. The Strokkur is less than 10 minutes drive from Gulfoss waterfalls. If you have’nt seen a Geyser in action, this is a great spot to see it live. I have watched Old Faithful Geyser in Yellow Stone National Park, though its not as big as Old Faithful, Strokkur is great to watch when in Iceland. There is parking available at either end of the attraction where you can stroll from one side to other side. It’s a good place to stroll around and enjoy the shooting of the hot water into the sky.
4. Faxi Falls
The Faxi waterfall is a wide waterfall and one of the smaller versions of Gullfoss. Though this fall is not well-known among tourists, Faxi falls is a hidden treasure along the golden circle route. There is a good viewing point and you can hike down to take a closer look of the falls. I personally loved the views of this fall, less windy compared to Gulfoss especially during peak winter seasons. It is also less crowded making this spot more personal and excellent place to capture beautiful photography.
5. Kerid Crater
Kerid Crater is located along the Golden Circle route and is one of many crater lakes in the Icelandic volcanic zones. This crater is very unique because of the deep calderas on the earth surface unlike other craters. Kerid is a crater lake created from a cone volcano that erupted and emptied its magma reserve. Once the magma was exhausted, the weight of the cone collapsed into the empty magma chamber. If you are visiting in summer, you will be seeing the natural colors from the volcanic rock, lots of fauna and flora and the water inside the lake making it more colorful. There were lots of mixed reviews from forums that Kerid is not an ideal attraction to visit in winter. During winter, yes the pool and crater are frozen but i visualized a different beauty of the crater in winter. The whole caldera covered in snow mixed with light shades of the red rock, glittering and shining ice caps during sunrise was totally a different experience. You will need to take great care as the lake is icy and slippery but you can definitely enjoy a short hike at Kerid. Dress up in layers and bring a wind breaker jacket if you plan to do a hike.
Visit to the local greenhouse tomato farm
As part of our Golden Circle tour, we had an opportunity to stop at Friðheimar, a local greenhouse tomato farm for our lunch.This place is all about tomatoes and their menu has the tomato theme ranging from soups, starters, entrees to desserts. The visitors can also do a quick tour to see the farms while enjoying a good lunch at this place. A unique and rare food experience to try at Friðheimar!.