When visiting Iceland, there’s perhaps no easier way to say see some of the country’s greatest beauty quickly than by touring Iceland’s Golden Circle. This 300km loop starting from Reykjavik is an ideal way to see some of the country’s top attractions for those only spending a couple of days in Iceland. The Golden Circle’s close proximity to Iceland’s capital city makes it very popular, and for good reason.
If you’re planning to visit Iceland you’ve probably already heard of the Golden Circle. But what else should you know about this route through the stunning southern uplands of Iceland if you’re planning to drive the route? In this blog post, we’ll tell you all about the top attractions you’ll see, as well as some lesser-known attraction and hidden gems along the route.
Along the Golden Circle route, there are three standout attractions; Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and the mighty Gullfoss waterfall.
Thingvellir National Park
Heading Northeast out of Reykjavik on Route 36, the drive to Thingvellir National Park will take you about 45 minutes. Once you arrive in the park, there are a few things you definitely want to see before you leave.
The Silfra Fissure is an amazing diving spot with some of the clearest waters in the world. Glacial waters flow down to Silfra, which is the reason behind the water’s freshness and clarity. The fissure itself is between two tectonic plates, meaning Silfra is the only place in the world you can dive between two continents.
You’ll also want to check out The Law Rock (Lögberg), which is a high rocky outcropping which was the original site of Iceland’s parliament going back for many hundreds of years.
Öxarárfoss waterfall is also worth a visit. The rugged and craggy rocks surrounding the waterfall only echo the sheer power of the water forging down the face of the cliffs.
To get to the next stop on the Golden Circle, you’ll want to continue eastward on Route 36, which will lead you to Route 365, then to Route 37, followed by Route 35. Here you will find the greatest of all of Iceland’s geysers, Geysir. While this is definitely Iceland’s most impressive geyser, it’s also incredibly unpredictable and can go years without erupting. Geysir is currently in an inactive phase, so you are not likely to see it.
Just a very short walk from Geysir you will see Strokkur Geysir, which is much more reliable because it erupts every ten minutes or so, thrusting boiling water sometimes as much as 130ft into the sky.
Heading along Route 35 for just about ten minutes will lead you to the final top attraction of the Golden Circle. Gulfoss is a magnificent waterfall, flowing through the Hvítá river canyon. This is one of Iceland’s most visited waterfalls, and during the winter months, when surrounded by snow and ice, makes for a breath-taking experience.
Hidden Gems of the Golden Circle
If you have less time or you’re not confident in exploring lesser known attractions on the route, you can follow Route 35, then Route 1, back into Reykjavik. From Gulfoss, you’ll want to allow a little less than 2 hours to get back to the capital.
If however, you have more time and are eager to see more of what the Golden Circle has in store, we would highly recommend you explore the following lesser-known gems of the route.
Secret Lagoon Fludir
From Gulfoss, taking Route 30 for about 30km will bring you to the Secret Lagoon at Fludir. While there are on-site facilities and fees to enter, this geothermal spring has a much more rustic and isolated feeling than other larger spa areas, like the Blue Lagoon. It’s also more affordable. The waters of Fludir maintain bath tub temperatures throughout the year, so no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll be able to enjoy the soothing setting.
Located a little further of the main route of the Golden Circle along Route 32 is the Thjorsardalur Valley. This beautiful oasis is home to many beautiful features including volcanic formations, ponds and many small waterfalls. The area is wonderful to visit and spend a few hours relaxing and exploring.
Just a slight detour off Route 35 is a fantastic example of Icelandic church architecture. Throughout history, Skalholt has played a significant role in the country religiously. The site used to have a cathedral, school, farms and even a monastery. The modern cathedral is beautiful and the town in general is quite popular with tourists, partly for the beauty of the area in addition to the historical significance.
Located back along the main Route 35 is Kerid. This volcanic crater lake is 180 feet deep and holds striking blue-green waters due to mineral content. Formed just 3,000 years ago, this spot makes for fantastic photographic and selfie opportunities for visitors. The colour of the surrounding soil and vegetation in contrast to the water is stunning, and there is even a path that visitors can take down to the very edge of the lake to truly experience the beauty of this crater lake.
From Kerid, visitors can take Route 35 until it leads you to Route 1. Following this route will take you directly back to Reykjavik. The Golden Circle is a fantastic way to see Iceland and can be done in a single day or spread out into a longer trip to experience more of what the region has to offer.