The Golden Circle is the most popular area to tour in Iceland. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, it is very close to Reykjavik, so you can see all of it in less than a day. And second, it is truly magnificent.
The Golden Circle is named after Gullfoss (Icelandic for Golden Waterfall), one of the three destinations in the circle. Gullfoss is a part of the river Hvítá (White River) and is by far the most famous waterfall in Iceland – and certainly among the most majestic.
Geysir is another stop on the Golden Circle. It is Iceland’s most famous geyser – and since it was the first one described in print and the one the english word geyser comes from, one could argue that it’s the most famous one in the world. The area around Geysir has a number of hot springs, and it’s really beautiful. Geysir has been mostly dormant for a while now, but Strokkur, Geysir’s little brother, still goes off every 5-10 minutes.
The third destination on the Golden Circle is Þingvellir National Park. It is the site of the old parliament (Alþingi), and lies on the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is literally where America and Europe meet. The park also has the largest lake in Iceland, Þingvallavatn, which is a great spot for trout fishing. You can fish there if you have the Fishing Card, which is a very cheap way to go trout fishing.
The Best Ways To See The Golden Circle
There are several ways to see the Golden Circle. Which one you choose comes down to personal preference and situation. Are you the kind of person who wants to set your own course and go around at your own leisure? Or do you prefer the VIP treatment of a small, private tour. Are you maybe looking to find a nice, budget friendly bus tour that takes you to all these great places without breaking the bank? Maybe you want a tour that offers a nice detour or two and makes the most of your time. Well, we’ve got you covered.
It’s pretty easy to rent a car and drive around the Golden Circle yourself. And if there are a few of you, it might be even cheaper than the cheapest bus tour. Granted, you won’t have a knowledgeable guide with you, but you can certainly educate yourself a fair bit, and there are pretty good plaques along the way with information about each site. Driving yourself allows you to set your own schedule and your own pace, and you can also take some very cool detours (which we’ll cover further down).
There are several bus tours available to tour the Golden Circle, each with their own flair. This is the most popular option, and the simplest. You get taken around and get to see the sites in groups of varying sizes. As you would expect, you need to pay more if you want to go around with a smaller group and have a more exclusive experience, but that’s just the nature of the beast. Some of these tours also visit other great sites in the area, such as the Kerið volcanic crater, The Secret Lagoon or even The Blue Lagoon. More on these detours below.
If you want only the best and most luxurious, there are great tours available from some of our most trusted partners, that give you a tailored, boutique experience. These are some of the most unique ways to experience the Golden Circle. They cost a fair bit, obviously, but the comfort and luxury can’t be beat. You will ride in a jeep or mini bus and visit a few great detours.
The Best Golden Circle Detours
As stated above, there are several great places you can visit alongside the Golden Circle. Some of these are included in the packaged tours you can book on our site, and they are all within a shouting distance of the Golden Circle. You should have no problem visiting one or more of these, in addition the circle itself, within a single day.
Kerið is a volcanic crater in Grímsnes, quite close to the Golden Circle. It has a little lake in it that is absolutely stunning. It is well worth a visit, although you should be aware that the land owners charge a small fee to go up to the crater. If you do a Golden Circle tour that includes Kerið, you shouldn’t have to worry about that, though – it will be included in the price of the tour. Kerið is a beautiful, picturesque location that I highly recommend.
The Secret Lagoon
There are tours that include The Blue Lagoon in their Golden Circle rounds, and that’s great, if you’re intent on seeing the Blue Lagoon. Some even include the tickets in the price, which makes it a pretty good bargain, all things considered.
However, I like to recommend things you might not have thought of, and The Secret Lagoon is one of my favorite locations. It’s the oldest swimming pool in Iceland, and it’s basically a dug out hot spring. It’s completely natural (apart from the fact it’s been dug out to make room for more people), and the surrounding area is gorgeous. There is a geyser there that shows off for guests every few minutes, and they even have a restaurant and a bar. In the winter you might even get lucky and catch the northern lights while you soak in the pool. I can’t think of a better environment to enjoy the Auroras than the Secret Lagoon.
Friðheimar Tomato Farm
The Secret Lagoon is located in a small village called Flúðir, which is also home to Friðheimar, a wonderful tomato farm. Friðheimar has a restaurant inside their greenhouse, and if you are in that area you mustn’t miss it (unless you’re allergic to tomatoes or bees). All their dishes are tomato based, and they are delicious, not to mention the great surroundings. You dine inside the greenhouse, and you get a chance to tour it and see the bumble bees hard at work pollinating the plants, and the owner will probably greet you and tell you all about how the smart technology keeps the greenhouse running. It’s remarkably interesting.
If you are driving around that area by yourself, you simply have to stop by in Friðheimar for lunch. Keep in mind, however, that they do require you to make a reservation in advance, so make sure to visit their web site and drop them a line to reserve your seat. It’s totally worth it.
River Rafting On Hvítá
If you want an exciting adventure, you can go river rafting on Hvítá. It’s a really exciting trip that you will remember for the rest of your life. Hvítá is the river that feeds into Gullfoss, so it makes total sense to make this a part of your Golden Circle adventure. There are in fact tours that combine both, so if you want to add a bit of excitement to your Golden Circle tour, this is a great way to do it. Or if you are on your own, you can book the rafting separately and stop by and raise hell on the river.
Sólheimar is a unique, self-sustainable village, unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else. It is home to about 100 residents with diverse backgrounds, and their philosophy is something else. There are greenhouses, workshops, art venues, a café, a bakery and so much more to explore. The residents range widely in age and abilities. There are people with special needs, long time unemployed, former prisoners, long term patients and more. The village is a vibrant, fun place and I can’t recommend it enough.
The Golden Circle Is Worth It
I hope this post has given you a few ideas for your tour around the Golden Circle. Let us know if we can do anything to help you plan your tour. And if you’re ready to book, click here to look at the great variety of Golden Circle Tours you can book through our web site.
See you in Iceland!