Iceland is full of hot springs, volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers and just fantastic landscapes everywhere you turn. It’s no wonder why tourism has boomed over the last few years there, along with budget airlines such as WOW making it so easy to stop there. Our first visit was in 2016. Check out our other Iceland posts here!
If you make it to Iceland, one of the most popular tourist attractions other than the Blue Lagoon, is probably the Golden Circle Tour. There are plenty of tour group buses that you can book and make a day of it. It starts in the capital Reykjavik, makes a loop around to the sights, and ends back in the city. One day is sufficient to see all the lovely spots.
Or alternatively you can rent a car like we did and just drive to the sites yourself. We liked it this way best because then we could spend as much time or as little at each place as we chose. Plus all of the sights on the tour are free!!
There really aren’t but so many major roads in Iceland, so if you are worried about getting lost, don’t let that stop you! We didn’t even have a GPS, but used an actual map because that was all we had, and it was fun. A tip we learned a few years later was to download the map of an area you are traveling on Google Maps on your phone prior to visiting. Then you can use the navigation even if you don’t have internet or data. This has been our saving grace the last couple of years.
Our Map for Driving the Golden Circle
3 Major Sights on the Classic Golden Circle
1. Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is famous for the continental drift that is occurring here between the tectonic plates. It was also the location of Iceland’s Parliament for many years. A snorkelers and divers paradise can be found right here in the park in an area called Silfra, which is the only place you can dive between the dividing tectonic plates. We snorkeled it! Here’s our experience snorkeling Iceland’s Silfra!
2. Strokkur Geysir
Next stop along the route is Strokkur Geysir. This is an active geyser today and erupts about every 6-10 minutes. So get your cameras ready between eruptions! A rope barrier surrounds the geyser, as the boiling water can reach up to 100 feet high. There is a visitors center here so it’s nice to have a cup of coffee to warm up.
3. Gullfoss Waterfall
This is a 2-step waterfall with a plunging crevice. Gullfoss means “Golden Waterfall” and is one of Iceland’s most beloved.
*Optional 4th Additional Stop: Kerið
An added stop we made on the way back to the capital Reykjavik was the Kerið volcanic crater lake. This is a lake surrounded by red volcanic rock that once was a cone volcano. You can walk all the way around the top of the crater as well as enter to the bottom. There is a small fee to enter this though.
We loved Iceland so much and thought it was just magical. I can’t wait to go back one day again. Still hoping to see the Northern Lights and drive the Ring Road around the country.
What do you think about the Golden Circle route? Do you prefer to drive it yourself or take a tour bus? What are your thoughts about Iceland?