What can you see on Iceland’s Golden Circle tour?

Iceland Golden Circle Route

Iceland is world famous for its diverse and unique geothermal landscape, and one of the greatest things about visiting here is its uniqueness which captures you from all directions.

After arriving in Keflavik ,the nearest Airport to the capital city of Reykjavik, you don’t have to look far to see plumes of smoke rising from the ground, natural hot springs, waterfalls, bubbling mud pots and erupting geysers, in fact you can see all this on the Golden Circle tour. After hiring a car and driving to see and explore its attractions, I couldn’t recommend any visit to Reykjavik without a day or more spent along this driving route. The Golden Circle has many attractions, but the three most famous attractions are:

1. Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
2. The geysers including the Great Geysir and Strokkur Geysir.
3. Gullfoss waterfall

Together, these three areas make up an unrivalled team of intense nature. But as well as these giants, there are also several other places to stop off including Kerid crater, a 3,000 year old volcanic crater lake that was my last stop on the Golden Circle route before heading back to Reykjavik.

Hiring a car in Iceland is favourable because there are so many smaller, eye-catching sights on the road that being able to pull up and get closer to is just the type of freedom the curious mind aches for! However, guided tours definitely have their perks, and usually take less organising, so which ever choice you make it really is a win-win situation.

The whole tour requires about 4-hours of driving time and after you add the time which will be needed to enjoy each attraction, you really do need to put aside a full day. To give you an idea of the driving route I’ve created a little map of Southwest Iceland showing the main attractions of the Golden Circle. Some tours only go to Thingvellir, Geyser  and Gullfoss, but for those hiring a car I would definitely suggest making time for Kerid crater, it also means it’s distinctively lacking in large groups of tourists. In fact, Alex and I were the only people there!

Golden Circle route map, Iceland


Stop no.1: Thingvellir National Park


As you walk into Thingvellir National Park, you are walking through area that’s part of a fissure zone running through Iceland, being situated on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. You can see the rifting of the earth’s crust through many faults and fissures in the ground’s surface. But Thingvellir is not just a site of geological importance but a cultural and historical one, being the founding home to Althingi, the parliament of Iceland in the year 930AD – for this reason it was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994.

Golden Circle route, Thingvellir

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland


Stop no.2: Geyser area


“‘Geyser’ from the Icelandic verb geysa, ‘to gush’, the verb itself from Old Norse.

Strokkur Geysir (the Icelandic’s spelt ‘geyser’ with and ‘i’) and The Great Geysir are both located by the Hvítá River in Southwestern Iceland, and is the second location visited on the spectacular Golden Circle Route.

Upon arriving at the Geyser area, the smell of sulphur in the air is what hits you at first! Pong! And multiple bubbling hot pools are in every direction, and a low steam meanders around your feet. Suddenly in the distance, a huge jet of water appears, 20m high spraying upwards, and the sound of gasps and people clapping can be heard – welcome to Strokkur Geyser – the sheer power of nature exposed in all its glory.

Strokkur Geysir, Geyser, Iceland

Strokkur (Icelandic for ‘churn’) is a fountain geyser, erupting every 4 to 8 minutes, sometimes more frequently. Before Strokkur erupts, the pool of water begins to churn and bubble, turning in and out of itself.

On the Golden Circle tour in Iceland you'll see the power of Stokkur Geyser

People stand around in great anticipation in silence with their cameras prepared. The pool begins to turn and toil, like the witches cauldron in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and then it erupts, propelling a great jet of water into the air. Sometimes it catches you off guard and shoots out an even bigger jet immediately after shown on this short video clip I managed to capture:

The Great Geyser is located approximately 50m away from Strokkur. The Great Geyser is the first geyser to have been described in printed source and the first known to modern Europeans, and has been active for 10,000 years! Unfortunately, the Great Geyser now remains fairly dormant, and has done since 1916, however, earthquake activity in the area in the year 2000 briefly brought it back to life, but now only erupts every few days or so. Perhaps you’ll be one of the lucky few who see this happen!


Stop no.3: Gulllfoss Waterfall


Just as I thought seeing Skrokkur Geysir erupting couldn’t be surpassed, then came the almighty Gullfoss. Walking down towards the waterfall, you first hear it before you see it, and watch in wonder as the water vapour floats upwards along the canyons edge.

At first, all that can be made out is the ferocious waters that seemingly disappear into the abyss below, but as you carry on walking, the entirety of the falls comes into view. A huge cavern of water, 61ft wide, engulfs the water from above, as it crashes and churns down into it. To describe the waterfall as powerful would be an understatement!

Gullfoss waterfall, Golden Circle, Iceland

For the thrill seekers among you, I highly recommend walking down to the viewing platform that runs alongside the waterfall to see the greatest views, but beware, bring waterproofs as you’re going to get wet!

Gullfoss waterfall during winterExtreme sheets of ice can be found surrounding Gullfoss during the winter.


Stop no.4: Kerid (or Kerið) Crater

Kerid is a 55m deep caldera of a volcano that erupted approximately 3000 years ago and is now filled with water. Its appearance of steep circular slopes reminded me of an amphitheatre so when I heard that Iceland’s most well-known musical export, Björk, had once held a concert on a floating raft here my observation was obviously not the first time someone had thought of it!


Bonus sighting – beautiful Icelandic horses!

Icelandic horses
Icelandic horse All in all, the Golden Circle tour is not to be missed, the vast tundra, explosive energy and the brute force of Gullfoss really left a lasting impression upon me.


Extra Information

Recommended Hotels

101 Hotel Reykjavik: If you’re looking for Reykjavik’s swankiest boutique hotel, this is definitely it. Recommended for those with a higher budget looking for luxury.
Hotel Reykjavik Centrum: This centrally positioned hotel is located in a beautifully restored historical building with lots of character. The rooms are spacious and the breakfast is superb! Recommended for those with a medium-sized budget.
Fosshotel Reykjavik: I recently stayed in this newly opened hotel and it surprised me in a good way. It’s Reykjavik’s biggest hotel but it still manages to maintain a cosy atmosphere with cleverly curated design features and good lighting. It’s a modern Scandinavian hotel with a great atmosphere and some of you may be excited to know the bar has a wide range of Icelandic beers! This hotel is not as centrally located as the other two so for that reason you should find it more reasonably price. It is however, only a 10-minute walk away to the centre via the picturesque waterfront.

Further reading

An Epic Iceland Road Trip – Travel Itinerary and Tips
What to Wear in Iceland and the Arctic Regions
10 Things You Should Really Do in Reykjavik


Have you been on the Golden Circle tour? Or would you like to?

A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.

'What can you see on Iceland’s Golden Circle tour?' have 57 comments

  1. July 1, 2013 @ 7:09 am jenny@atasteoftravel

    Everyday I’m being tempted to visit Iceland as it becomes more and more popular with photographers and tourists alike. I think you may have just convinced me that it is quite easy to see the main sights with your great driving guide and fabulous photos.


    • July 5, 2013 @ 6:33 pm admin

      I’m happy this post has managed to convince you that it’s very easy to see some of Iceland’s greatest natural wonders in one route! In addition to the Golden Circle tour, I recommend driving along with Reykjanes peninsula – only a short distance from Reykjavik – it is such an incredible feeling being near the ocean and stopping off to see lots of volcanic activity!


      • August 23, 2016 @ 10:19 pm Edwin Price

        In 1988 I went to Iceland for 18 months and went on a Golden Circle Tour departing from the U.S. Naval Air Base. On the tour, we visited a little Church, but I don’t remember the name. The tour guide took us into the basement and showed us a mausoleum/tomb where the first Catholic priest was entombed. The guide said the priest was sent by the Vatican to start a parish for prospective Icelandic participation – he told us they rejected the offer and the priest was beheaded and entombed in the basement of this Church. What was the name of this Church?


        • August 25, 2016 @ 1:50 am Ed

          it was the Skalholt Church where the Bishop Arason and his two sons were executed in 1550 and it proved to be the end of Catholicism in Iceland !


      • March 29, 2017 @ 2:30 pm Gray Smith

        Hi, I’ve just booked up for next February and the Golden Circle tour is included, I cannot wait.
        Thanks for the info.



      • July 17, 2017 @ 5:14 am John Cayce

        I am in town for two days, and would like to take the peninsula route the second day. Are there places to eat on the circle route and how are the roads?


  2. July 1, 2013 @ 8:58 am Savi

    The Kerid Crater looks AMAZING. Can’t wait to go to Iceland


    • July 8, 2013 @ 7:38 pm admin

      Go go go! You guys will love it! I fell in love with Gullfoss and all the weird volcanic activity running down the Reykjanes peninsula. Kerid Crater is a quirky little stop-off and great because it’s not busy like the other attractions on the Golden Circle.


  3. July 1, 2013 @ 12:59 pm TheTuscan

    I see two Italian lovers left their lock on the Golden Circle… 🙂


    • July 8, 2013 @ 7:43 pm admin

      Ahhhh you Italians fill the air with romanticism wherever you go 😉


  4. July 2, 2013 @ 8:23 pm memographer

    Iceland is on my To-Do-Go List for a while… Thanks for sharing your story. Awesome photos! Love the video! Btw, I’ve waited 🙂 the second shot of the Geyser was much better 😉


    • July 8, 2013 @ 7:45 pm admin

      Haha I’m glad the commentary on my video prompted you to ‘wait’! The second Geyser is much more impressive isn’t it?! Thanks for stopping by 🙂


  5. July 20, 2013 @ 10:45 pm Arianwen

    This looks so beautiful, especially that last crater! I’d love to go to Iceland one day!


    • July 21, 2013 @ 9:41 am admin

      Iceland is a really weird and magical place – I hope you make it there soon! Thanks for visiting my blog 🙂


  6. July 30, 2013 @ 7:08 am Mary {The World Is A Book}

    Love this, Shing! Thanks for showing me it’s just as beautiful in winter as it was when we visited during the summer. Beautiful photos and an awesome video that brought back great memories. So glad you enjoyed your tour. I totally agree on getting your own car vs the tour. I think it took us 10 hours to go around though. We stopped a lot 🙂


    • August 7, 2013 @ 5:47 pm admin

      Thanks Mary! Reading your posts really got me into an Icelandic state of mind! I loved winter, but I would still love to go in summer too… as well as more sunshine, there would be the added bonus of seeing puffins which I would love, love, love to see!


  7. September 24, 2013 @ 1:18 pm Sarah

    Thanks so much for this post + your other Iceland blog posts! We are going in October and are currently feeling vindicated in spending the extra money to get a 4×4 based on your ‘dos and donts for driving’! All pages have been bookmarked for future reference as well 🙂


    • September 25, 2013 @ 7:18 pm admin

      Hi Sarah! I’m pleased you’ve found my posts before your trip, and feel free to send me a direct message if you have any questions or would like any more tips!

      In regards to the car, you don’t need a Jeep or anything, but you do feel a little more secure with a four-wheel drive instead of the front wheel drive which we had. However, if you stick to decent roads then you should be absolutely fine with just a front-wheel drive. October is still usually dry too so hopefully this gives you peace of mind!

      Driving in Iceland is such an amazing experience, you’ll love it. And remember to visit the South West peninsula – it’s absolutely stunning (Gunnuhver and Seltun are a must!)

      Have fun, and I hope you see the Northern Lights too!


  8. November 1, 2013 @ 7:08 pm Andrew

    Thanks for this post, it was the most useful article on the Golden Circle I could find! I’m heading to Iceland in December and can’t wait. If only there were direct flights from London City airport!

    One question – if someone is doing this route in December, would it be hard to do it all in daylight hours? Or, if so, what bits most benefit from being done in daylight?



    • November 2, 2013 @ 9:25 am admin

      Hi Andrew I’m happy you found this post helpful! Will you be flying to Reykjavik and hiring a car? Or doing a tour? If you’re hiring a car then I would suggest setting off early(ish) so by the time you reach the first place on the Golden Circle Route (Thingvellir) it will be light. You should definitely have enough time to see everything before it gets dark (presumedly it’s dark by 4pm in December) and the sun will start setting at about 3pm, so if you aim to be at your last destination at about 3 o’clock then you should have enough time to see it in the light (it’s better to check these times with your hotel receptionist when you arrive).

      Due to the short hours, I would probably make Gullfoss your last stop because in my opinion it is the most impressive and would be the ideal place to watch the sunset.

      You’re going to have an amazing time – and even thought it gets dark early this doesn’t stop Reykjavik from being a really fun and lively little city where restaurants and bars stay open late. Or head over to the Blue Lagoon as it closes at 8pm! If you haven’t seen it on my blog, here’s the click: http://www.theculturemap.com/soaking-blue-lagoon-iceland/

      Have fun and stay warm! 🙂


  9. June 30, 2014 @ 11:57 pm Reykjavik: It’s Quirky, But Is It Affordable? - eTramping.com

    […] would be a shame to go to Reykjavik without doing the Golden Circle Route, or at least a tour of Southwest Iceland, but hiring a car is often expensive for solo travellers […]


  10. August 14, 2014 @ 5:08 pm Sagar

    Hi there,

    Thanks for this blog and info, it’s very useful! We’re planning to go to Iceland in November and hire a car too! What were your experiences of parking around the golden circle sights, and more generally in the cities? Thanks!



    • August 18, 2014 @ 7:44 am admin

      Hi Sagar, great to hear you’re hiring a car, I think that’s the best way to explore Iceland. In regards to parking around the Golden Circle route, there are places to park for free in the car park and in November it shouldn’t be busy. It’s also easy to pull up on the side of the road in places in between (highly recommend!).

      Parking in the centre of Reykjavik is a little trickier, usually you have to pay. However, it’s often free parking between the times of 7pm-9am (ish) so you could stay in a hotel slap-bang in the middle for free as long as you get to your car before 9am. We did that with one hotel. However, we stayed at the Hotel Bjork for one night which has free space to park your car on the surrounding streets. And if you want to go to the Blue Lagoon and spend a while in that area, discovering South-West Iceland (highly recommend, check out this post for more details http://www.theculturemap.com/seltun-walking-mars-iceland/) then I suggest the Northern Light Inn, it has a car park free of charge for guests. It’s a good quality hotel with great food and there is also a hotel dog that might greet when you arrive (it’s the small touches :)).

      If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask.


  11. September 24, 2014 @ 2:52 pm Henry

    Great article, going to Iceland this weekend with some friends. We’ll be driving to Jokulsarlon and then doing the Golden Circle before heading back to Reykjavik for 2 nights. Going to go to the blue lagoon too. Can’t wait for it 🙂 Is there anything that’s a must do in Reykjavik?


    • October 1, 2014 @ 8:56 am admin

      Hi Henry, I’m really sorry for the late reply! The ironic thing is that I was away in Iceland too when you commented! I know my reply will be of no use now but just in case anyone else is reading this and has the same question then I will refer to this Top 10 post I wrote here: http://www.theculturemap.com/10-things-you-should-do-reykjavik/

      How was your trip? Where you blown away by Iceland’s awesomeness?! How amazing is Jokulsarlon?? I went there on Friday and it blew my mind!


  12. October 7, 2014 @ 9:21 pm Peggy

    Just wanted to thank you for your detailed Iceland info. I’m just starting to plan a trip and your blog has been the best source so far!


    • October 10, 2014 @ 8:27 am admin

      Hi Peggy! I’m happy to hear that you’ve found my site useful in planning your trip to Iceland. I’ve just recently come back from Iceland again so you can also expect to see more articles over the next few weeks. Also, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate ask!

      P.S. If you fit it in, Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon is a must!!


  13. December 21, 2014 @ 2:34 pm Ioana

    Hey! your posts are amazing! I`m planning a trip to Iceland this year and your articles have been most helpful! how long were you in Iceland? were you staying in just one hotel?


    • December 22, 2014 @ 7:37 pm admin

      Hi Ioana! I’m happy to read you’ve found my posts on Iceland useful.

      I’ve been twice to Iceland and stayed in different hotels in various areas of the country, if you would like any recommendations just ask and I will try and help you. To get the best out of Iceland I would recommend hiring a car if you can.


  14. January 21, 2015 @ 11:28 am Patrice


    Reading your article has made me very excited to visit Iceland at the end of this month. We are doing a NL tour, Golden Circle tour and going to the Blue Lagoon. We are hoping to get the lay of the land and return in the future and hire a car and do out own touring around in the meantime we have booked the above with tour groups.

    As we are going in January I was wondering if you could suggest what suitable clothing to bring. Would you be able to advise on what best to pack and wear while outside exploring Iceland and going on the Golden Circle tour etc.?

    Many Thanks!



    • January 30, 2015 @ 5:06 am admin

      Hi Patrice, sorry for the late reply, I’ve just got back from a country with bad wifi connection!! Since you are going at the end of this month my reply might not be of much use now (in fact you might already be there). The weather must be very cold and snowy in Iceland at the moment (I’m currently in Malaysia so I can’t imagine snow right now!) but I would suggest taking a lot of thermals for layering, synthetic ones are the best in winter – light but highly insulating, and waterproof trousers/shell pants that you can pull over leggings are highly suggested, such as: http://www.thenorthface.co.uk/tnf-uk-en/women-resolve-trousers/p46021.html they are great for unpredictable weather.

      I like materials that are light and thin but highly insulating, they are usually more expensive but they last a long time and can be justified as an investment, especially if you plan to go to North again (or even to survive the British winter!!). For a jacket, I have this Down parka: http://www.thenorthface.co.uk/tnf-uk-en/women-upper-west-side-parka/p83192.html and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. It’s extremely light but extremely insulating. Once you put it on you won’t want to take it off! (some of the colours are currently in the sale too…).

      Sorry again for the late reply, I hope you have an amazing time and stay warm! If you decide to go to Iceland again, head in the summer when the days are light and long.

      P.S. As it gets very dark early in winter, taking a torch will probably come in handy!


  15. February 18, 2015 @ 9:24 pm Jed H

    Hey there, Shing!

    I just visited Iceland last week and did the Golden Circle Tour. It was an amazing time! Our route was a reverse of the route you described, We traveled via Gray Line’s Golden Circle Classic tour which went first to Hellisheidi to visit a geothermal power plant where they offered a brief lecture/film presentation and tour of Iceland’s geothermal history and power industry.
    Next, we visited Skálholt Church which offered more beautiful views. Next was, the amazing Gullfoss Waterfalls, which I wasn’t aware are Europe’s largest waterfall. We stopped there for about an hour to enjoy some delicious lamb stew and brave the cold to take pictures of the fall. We stopped after at Geysir and saw the geyser Strokkur erupting at almost every 5 minutes. Þingvellir National Park was the final stop before we headed back to Reykjavik. The park is situated on the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates so as we crossed the fault line our guide joked that we were crossing for Europe directly into the US. We were able to walk down through the fissures in the rock which was quite dramatic with walls of rock rising on either side. This is one of the location where they filmed Game of Thrones, apparently.

    Overall, an amazing day! We began the day kind of doubtfully as the weather was pretty much a snow storm that greatly reduce visibility. But as I came to learn about Icelandic weather, it kept changing nearly every 30 minutes from cloudy to sunny to white-out snow storm back to sunny, all day long.

    I can’t overstate how much I enjoyed Iceland. Every person we encountered was kind and generous, with a great sense of humor. Reykjavik is a small city but with a very modern, international culture. And everyone speaks English. I will definitely be returning perhaps in the summer season to see the more green landscapes.

    I can’t wait!



  16. April 4, 2015 @ 10:30 am Ticking the Bucketlist

    We went here during summers and did not see the crater. I guess it was buried in snow…but what colours! Impressive!


  17. July 5, 2015 @ 12:48 pm Jude

    My husband & I just booked a trip to Iceland to celebrate our 40th anniversary in December & are so excited 🙂 – our vacation package includes flight, 3 nights hotel & the blue lagoon & northern lights tours – after reading your article I believe we must somehow explore the golden circle – but will we have time ? I am a vegan & animal rights activist & have seeing a wild Icelandic horse on my bucket list, would I be able to catch a glimpse of one on the golden circle tour ? Can you suggest any vegan resturants ? Thanks so much.


    • July 30, 2015 @ 6:00 pm Shing Yoong

      Hi Jude, sorry about the delay in getting back to you. Iceland is a fantastic place to celebrate your 40th anniversary, congrats! Although you’re on a short break, you will still have time to explore the Golden Circle if you wish to (I definitely recommend you do!). In regards to the the horses you are more likely to see them if you hire a car as you have the freedom to pull up if you do spot one which you probably won’t be able to do on a a coach tour. However, the real highlight of the Golden Circle is the powerful Gullfoss waterfall!

      In regards to vegan restaurants, I cannot personally recommend any but I’ve had a look on the internet and this seems to be the best list for vegan & vegetarian restaurants in Reykjavik http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/2014/04/vegetarian-reykjavik/

      Furthermore, because you’re an animal rights activist I think you might like to also choose a restaurant from this site: http://icewhale.is/whale-friendly-restaurants/

      Let me know if you have anymore questions!


  18. August 6, 2015 @ 6:55 pm linaj

    What month were you there? My husband and I are planning a trip for February and I’m wondering if driving will be difficult in the winter. Thanks


    • August 8, 2015 @ 3:46 pm Shing Yoong

      Hi Linaj, I’ve been in February/March and also hired a car (it’s the best way to explore the country!). You shouldn’t have any problems, a lot of the main roads are heated by geothermal energy but the smaller ones aren’t and therefore require more care. I recommend hiring a four-wheel drive. The first time I went in February we hired a front-wheel drive and felt we needed a four-wheel drive after getting stuck! You can read more tips about driving in Iceland here: http://www.theculturemap.com/dos-donts-driving-iceland/

      Have fun and let me know if you have any more questions.


  19. March 12, 2016 @ 2:35 am david cardamone

    I cannot drive a car, and I want to be able to visit many sites in the Golden Circle, do I have to buy a tour or will I have access to most of the sights if I stay at a hotel in Laugarvata?)


    • April 28, 2016 @ 12:44 pm Shing Yoong

      Hi David, I’m really sorry for the late reply, I hope it might still be useful for you. Do you mean in Laugarvatn near Fontana geothermal baths? If so, how will you get there as it’s over 100km away from Keflavik airport? If you haven’t already booked your accommodation, I would suggest finding somewhere in Reykjavik of its easy access, then you’ll be able to join a tour of the Golden Circle Route. Let me know if you have anymore questions.


  20. April 10, 2016 @ 10:57 pm Sally

    We are planning on a 2 night layover in Iceland on our round trip vacation to the UK from the US. Two adults traveling with a 14 year old and an 8 year old. In September 2016. Will we be able to see the Northern lights? Will there be things to do to keep the kids interested?


    • April 29, 2016 @ 8:33 am Shing Yoong

      Hi Sally, in September the Northern Lights would already have started to appear, so good luck spotting them. Hopefully it’s not cloudy during your 2 night layover as that’s the main factor in whether or not you’ll see them.

      In regards to your children, they’ll love the Blue Lagoon. If you book in advance you’ll get a better price on the website than if you rock up at the door. You should also definitely do a tour of the Golden Circle with your kids too .

      Enjoy the UK!


  21. August 14, 2016 @ 2:59 am Rashmi Ravishankar

    Hi Shing,

    Thanks for the awesome tips! We’re planning a trip in September and are renting a car for a week long stay. Had some queries and would be really grateful if you could revert:

    1. We’re thinking of visiting more place towards eastern Iceland. Does it make sense to keep Reykjavik as our base and make day trips everywhere and return to our hotel in Reykjavik every night, or should we look for accommodation in the farther places and stay the night there?

    2. Northern lights. Sigh. They’re a big part of my reason for the trip and I understand that it’s unpredictable. But since you’ve been to Iceland so many times, any specific places or tours that you’d recommend where you’ve had luck with sightings?

    Thanks again and keep up the good work 🙂


    • September 12, 2016 @ 7:49 am Shing Yoong

      Hi Rashimi, firstly I’m sorry for the late reply, I initially missed your comment. Just in case an answer might still be useful to you (or others) I’ll go ahead with this reply.

      1. If you’d like to go eastern I would recommend splitting time between Reykjavik and Vik, though if Vik is fully booked (there’s not many hotels in that town) you could look for nearby accommodation, or drive further east to Skaftafell for a couple of nights. I definitely think this is a better choice as you also have the famous Jokulsarlon in South-east Iceland which is a a true highlight of any Icelandic trip. I think you’ll find this post useful in terms of planning things to see and do: http://www.theculturemap.com/iceland-road-trip-travel-itinerary/

      2. You’re right, the Northern Lights are unpredictable as it all depends on clear skies. If you’re driving the best advice I can give you is drive to places devoid of light pollution (get out of the city) and look for clear skies, less clouds etc. Alternatively, you could join a Northern Lights tour, if you have the budget I recommend using a tour company that uses mini-vans instead of big coaches. The overall experience is much better and mini-vans often have the freedom of going off the beaten track.

      If you have any more questions to ask I’ll ensure a speedier reply. And if you’ve already been I hope you had a fabulous time!


  22. September 11, 2016 @ 3:18 pm Jim

    Thanks for this post… your blog in general has been a big help in planning my upcoming trip to Iceland and Denmark, and has given me some great new ideas of places to add to my list for future travel (e.g. Svalbard!).

    I have 2 questions for you.

    I’m thinking of adding Haifoss to my Golden Circle trip, but it’s definitely going to add a good bit of driving time. Do you think it’s worth it if I’m also going to Gullfoss? Do you have a preference of making sure to see one over the other?

    Your picture of the Kerid crater is incredible, however most pictures (but not all) I see of it look drab, and the water doesn’t look blue at all. Do you know if this a time of year thing, or a time of day thing, or perhaps both?


    • September 18, 2016 @ 9:09 pm Shing Yoong

      Hi Jim! So glad to hear you’ve found my blog useful, and better still, it’s given you the idea to visit Svalbard i.e. the greatest place on earth!!

      Hmmmm that’s a good question regarding Haifoss, however in order to answer your question properly I’d need to know the time of year you intend on going? Because if you are going during the summer, you have extremely long hours of sunlight so you should be able to see haifoss (and a nearby place called Gjain) and the Golden Circle all in one day. They’ll be a lot of driving but it’ll be worth it! But if you’re going in darker months I would suggest seeing Gullfoss over Haifoss, they’re both amazing waterfalls and completely different but the velocity and force of Gullfoss has the edge.

      In regards to Kerid Crater, I have slightly enhanced the colours on my photo, but the water definitely was a striking colour. However, as I mentioned, I just called it a ‘bonus stop’ as it’s not as ‘wow’ as the other places I’ve mentioned, and compared to some of the craters you can find in North Iceland, Kerid Crater is comparatively small. However, it’s still worth going.

      You if have a spare day I would definitely suggest driving along the south-west peninsula, the landscape is really wild and rugged, plus you have huge geothermal fields like Seltun and Gunnuhver which are really worth visiting! http://www.theculturemap.com/seltun-walking-mars-iceland/

      I hope this helps. If you have anymore questions, don’t hesitate to ask.


      • September 26, 2016 @ 9:53 pm Jim

        Thanks Shing!
        I actually just went last week. I was there when you answered this question so timing was perfect! I did wind up going to both Haifoss and Gulfoss, and i’m REALLY glad i did. Haifoss especially was incredible… no crowds, and insane views! Although, the drive there was no joke… that last 20 minutes on that crazy rocky road was really difficult to drive on (we didn’t have an off road type of vehicle), but it was really worth it! if it rained that day, it might not have been possible, but a dry day made it not too bad.
        Tried visiting Seltun and Gunnuhver on the last day, but it was just pouring and miserable all day so it didn’t work out, but that’ll definitely be on the list for next time. With the layover deal that Iceland Air does, it could easily be within the next year!

        Thanks again!


  23. September 25, 2016 @ 11:05 am Leona

    Great post! I’m even more excited for my trip in November!
    One question though, what shoes would you recommend for the Golden Circle Tour? I plan to only stay in the city, with a northern lights and Golden circle trip – i’ve been worrying about the terrain. Should i get some hiking boots for slippery rock and ice surfaces?


  24. November 3, 2016 @ 12:14 pm The Golden Circle – Dreaming Dutch

    […] Golden Circle Tour is a looping 8 hour bus tour to see some of the best natural attractions around Reykjavik. Aka waterfalls, geysers, snowcapped […]


  25. January 4, 2017 @ 12:52 pm fouronaworldtrip

    it’s my dream… maybe a bit later this year 🙂 I am a bit torn between seeing Northern Lights and avoiding the super cold..


  26. March 4, 2017 @ 2:56 am Iceland and the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) - Verainesview

    […] we wouldn't have seen half of what we did. We explored the west side of the Island and the famous 'Golden Circle'.   So I've posted a variety of photo's of Iceland and of course the Aurora Borealis. What a […]


  27. March 24, 2017 @ 10:40 am What you need to know about Reykjavik, Iceland – LET'S BACKPACK

    […] image below from The Culture Map shows the golden circle route below. Although this is a well trodden route, it is difficult to […]


  28. April 15, 2017 @ 8:38 pm Marissa

    This is the exact kind of guide I’ve been looking for! Will be using this for my Iceland trip this fall. Thanks for the tips!


  29. May 6, 2017 @ 12:36 am maria

    What do you wear on this tour? Please be specific… we are heading to Iceland in 2 weeks and I have no idea what to pack.


  30. May 17, 2017 @ 2:14 pm Eddie Freeman

    May 17th 2017. Two days ago we returned from Iceland, our second trip. This time we rented a car rather than take the (expensive) bus trips which we did the first time in 2013. I would recommend this as it worked out much cheaper especially for the four of us.. The cost of the airport return bus fare which we didn’t need paid for 2/3rds of the rental charge for the car. We enjoyed the Golden Circle again but the car gave us more scope. We drove up to Borgarnes on the west coast to meet a Facebook friend and on the way back we drove around the Hvalfjordur rather than take the direct tunnel route, which was very pleasant.
    We visited Gulfoss Waterfall again, the wind was savage, about 60-70mph and icy. Appropriate clothing was essential. Some days it was calm, so it’s as well to make note of the expected weather for your trip. Some coastal roads were closed due to storms.
    Being fairly well travelled in Europe, we found that Iceland was about as expensive as Switzerland, perhaps more so. An average apartment in the Reykjavik suburbs was $1,000 for 4 days/4 people (HomeAway), the rental car was £186 for 4 days (Hertz), we didn’t consider eating out apart from probably the best fish & chips in the Northern Hemisphere at Reykjavik harbour fish & chip shop! Everywhere we went were tourist ‘gift shops’, it was too much and too expensive and we didn’t buy anything. The Icelandic airline ‘WOW’ even charges for cabin luggage, apart from a briefcase sized small bag. We flew back with EasyJet. Driving away from Reykjavik was easy and quiet, in the city you get one or two tailgaters a meter from your rear end.. Speed limits 90kph in the country, 50 or 60 in town. If renting a car, get an automatic if you’re a UK resident, it makes life much easier.


  31. July 24, 2017 @ 8:01 pm MaryLamb

    I am doing some research work in preparation of our tour in Oct…..and voila, I found this perfect piece!!!
    There’s nothing like a vivid description of each stop in this very popular Great Circle tour. The main event though is the Northern Lights. I hope Lady Luck would be on our side for that much anticipated phenomenon. Any suggestions on what appropriate wear to pack in our suitcase?


    • October 20, 2017 @ 9:43 pm Sandie Aguilar

      I hope you are planning on staying outside of Reykjavik. Airbnb has some great places just outside the city. I was just there three weeks ago and stayed in Selfoss. It was amazingly beautiful and we were fortunate to see the Northern Lights twice in the week we were there. As for packing: Smartwool, a rainproof jacket, gloves, if you plan on hiking (which I am guessing you are) some good waterproof hiking boots, thermal underwear, weatherproof socks, a bathing suit if you plan on getting in the geothermal waters. Here is a great site I found helpful: https://iceland.nordicvisitor.com/travel-guide/information/what-to-pack/
      Have an incredible trip!


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