The Golden Circle is the most popular tourist trail in Iceland. It’s not surprising, because you will find the most wonderful natural wonders on the road. But even if it’s so popular, you will have a pleasant journey because the highways are in good condition and the landscapes are unique. We have put together a guide to driving the Golden Circle in Iceland, which includes the Kerid crater, the Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and Stokkur, and the beautiful Secret Lagoon next to Fludir.
The whole route can be completed in 3-4 hours. It starts and ends in Reykjavik, but of course you will stop in a lot of places for hours, so just count with the whole day. You can also return to Reykjavik after the last stop. It depends on your plans for the next days. We wanted to continue our road trip to the Southern Iceland, so we decided not to return to Reykjavik. In this case you can also stay in one of the towns located along the road, Fludir for example.
You can also take an organised tour from Reykjavik to the Golden Circle, but our guide focuses on driving your rental car and exploring the attractions by yourself.
How to rent a car?
First things first: you need a car. There will be several car rental companies offering you cars at the airport, but we really recommend you to rent your car in advance. Don’t worry about special features like snow tires or fog lights, because usually in Iceland all the cars have those features.
When you will search for the car that fits you, it’s very important to check all the details carefully. Always check that the company offers you the car with unlimited kilometers, because some of them just give you a little bit and then they start to ask for more money after you pass the limit.
In our case, we decided to rent a 4 door car with Procar (not paid ad), we booked it 3 weeks before the trip and we paid a total of 120 euros for 5 days including the full insurance. They picked us up at the airport and drove us to the office where we got our car.
It’s very important to get a full insurance with your rental car, Icelandic weather is really crazy! In 5 days we drove in sunshine, rain, fog, heavy storm, snow and heavy wind! You can even face a sudden “rock storm” that can damage the glass or some other parts of the car without even noticing it. So it’s better to be fully protected on your road trip 😉
In this map you can watch the route that we followed:
Oh by the way! Don't forget to hire an insurance!
World Nomads has the best insurance options for backpackers, young travelers and digital nomads.
Time from Reykjavik by car: 1 hour
Entrance fee: 400 ISK (about 2 euros / 3 US dollars )
Parking: free of charge
The Kerið crater is not a popular stop in the Golden Circle, but after watching the photos of the place, we knew that we wanted to visit it. The place is located next to the highway, and you can’t miss it because you will see the big Icelandic flag right away.
Time from Kerið by car: 40 minutes
Entrance fee: free of charge
Parking: they charge you depending on the size of your car
Þingvellir National Park (pronounced as Thingvellir in English) was our first “main” stop in the Golden Circle. This amazing place is the birthplace of the Icelandic independence and also a lot of interesting historical moments happened here.
The continental drift can be clearly observed in the valley of Þingvellir, all the canyons and rock structures are geological faults between the European and North American tectonic plates.
Also, some of these faults are full of clear water that give the place a very surrealistic vision. One of the most famous ones, Peningagjá is full of coins. They cover the bottom and they are visible thanks to the clarity of the water.
If you will visit this place we recommend you to arrive early, to be able to discover as much as possible. You need a couple of hours to see the Öxarárfoss waterfall and the Þingvallavatn lake, which one is actually the second biggest lake in whole Iceland
TRAVEL TIP: The Þingvellir Park has a fee entrance, but you must pay for the parking place. You need to pay 750 isk (more or less 6 euros) by card in payment cabins located in the WC and in the visitor center.
Despite the fact that there are no road bars at the entrance and it seems that nobody cares about the parking, there is a camera that checks your car plake. You have to type in the plake number and an email address in the machine to receive the invoice.
The good thing is that this parking card is valid for 24 hours, so if you want to come back in the night to watch the Northern lights you don’t need to pay again! 😉
Time from Þingvellir by car: 1 hour
Entrance fee: free of charge, but you can donate
Parking: free of charge
Located in the Haukadalur valley, the Geysir is the oldest known geyser in the world. The origin of the name of the natural phenomenon is actually this geyser. All the area is full of other geysers of different sizes. Strokkur is the most active one, it erupts every 5 or 8 minutes.
Even if Geysir is the biggest one, it didn’t have any activity since years because of the litter and rocks that tourists were throwing inside through the years. The geo activity of the zone have reactivated it a couple of times with a powerful overcome. In 2000 after a strong earthquake, Geysir threw water out with an altitude of 120 meters for two days long! So you never know when will you be able to see it erupting again.
Anyway, you can capture the eruptions of Strokkur more often and even feel the water on your face if you’re standing on the the south part of the geysir (as it happened to us while we were taking some photos of the eruption).
Remember to take care with the signs placed around the valley, they say that you shouldn’t touch the water, because small rivers of water around the geysers are very hot, they have between 80°C and 100 °C!
Time from Geysir by car: 10 minutes.
Entrance fee: free of charge
Parking: free as well, but you have to pay for toilets. In the visitor centre there are toilets for free 🙂
Gullfoss is one of the most famous spots in Iceland, and one of the most epics too! This powerful waterfall almost disappeared in the past because foreign investors wanted to use it as an energy generator. Luckily, the licitation and agreement between the parts was never concrete and the waterfall is now a protected place.
The walking from the parking lot to the waterfalls takes approx. 15 minutes and the view is spectacular, it’s definitely worth it.
This place is perfect for taking a break and having a good meal during your trip. The place is famous for the tomato soup, so it’s perfect for vegans and vegetarians!
The tomatoes are grown in special green houses that keep the conditions perfect for growing of the plants inside.
Secret Lagoon - the perfect alternative
Time by car: approx. 35 minutes from Gullfoss
Entrance: The entrance fee is 3000 isk (approx. 21 euros) and the kids under 14 years old enter for free 😉
Parking: free of charge
After a long day of taking photos and exploring the Golden Circle, what’s better than a little chill in a hot spring?
The Secret Lagoon is not as famous as the Blue Lagoon, but it’s really worth to visit! Considering that the entrance fee is the quarter of the entrance fee of the Blue Lagoon, it sounds even better!
This was actually the oldest pool of Iceland, it was built in 1890. This is the place where Icelandic people learn how to swim since more than 100 years. The water comes from a little geyser that erupts more or less every 20 minutes. Thanks to the structure of the pool the water stays hot.
How to visit the Secret Lagoon?
Consider that this place follows the Icelandic tradition, so before entering you will need to take a shower fully naked without swimwear, in order to avoid bringing dirt or chemicals into the hot spring. Women and men have to take shower separately, but there are no showering cabins. They say don’t be shy, we are all the same!
We recommend you to book your tickets online in advance. Of course you can also buy them there, but the entering can be denied in case there are too many visitors at that time.
This place has been one of our most amazing experiences ever, and we really recommend you to swim in a hot spring or public bath at least once in Iceland. It doesn’t have to be the overpriced Blue Lagoon, there’re plenty of other, cheaper options with less crowds. .
Where to stay in Flúðir?
Accommodation in Iceland can be very expensive, but it depends on the season as well. If you book in advance, you can also spare some money.
If you're traveling with a group and you want to share the costs of an apartment, this is the best option for you. On Airbnb, you can also find great options if you're traveling solo or as a couple, and you feel more comfortable in a room or flat just for yourself. The rooms and flats are rented by private people. Click here and get a discount for your booking with Airbnb!
Booking.com is the biggest collection of hostels and hotels all over the world. Click here to explore all the accommodations in Flúðir and book the best deal 🙂
Efra Sel Hostel- We stayed at an apartment called Efra Sel Hostel and we would totally recommend it. It was clean, it has a kitchen, the owner is helpful and kind, and of course, let's not forget about the hot tube 🙂 It’s perfect if you don’t want to return to Reykjavík after exploring the Golden Circle road. There is even a vegan-friendly restaurant near the hostel.
But if you want to find other accommodation that fits more to your needs, click on our Booking.com deals finder for Flúðir.