Complete Guide to Iceland’s Golden Circle Stops (with Map!)

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by Michael Rozenblit

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Only a short distance from the capital of Reykjavik, taking in the Golden Circle stops is one of the top things most travellers want to do on a short trip to Iceland. Boasting incredible biodiversity and jaw-dropping scenery, the Golden Circle in Iceland is truly one of the most spectacular areas in this already stunning country.

Though it is a popular route for visitors and many sites can attract large crowds, there are several stops that are lesser-known but nonetheless impressive. So if you’re looking for a holistic tour around the Golden Circle that includes the well-known highlights along with some more off-the-beaten-path stops, this is a great list for you!

The Popular Golden Circle Stops

The best way to get around on the Golden Circle is by hiring a car. We recommend browsing on to find great deals as they aggregate prices across many major providers.

If you don’t have a car or aren’t keen to try driving in Iceland but still want to visit the highlights of the Golden Circle, then you need to organise a guided tour. As Iceland is an extremely popular tourist destination, we strongly recommend booking a tour in advance, particularly if you only have a couple of days in Iceland.

I suggest either this this full-day tour that includes the top Golden Circle attractions along with the Kerid Crater or this day tour which includes Þingvellir National Park, the Strokkur Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss Waterfall. Both are excellent Golden Circle tours if you can’t go independently.

1. Þingvellir National Park

The first stop on most tour operators’ Golden Circle route is Þingvellir National Park, located about 40km from Reykjavik.

The national park can feel quite crowded near the entrance as many tour operators only stay here for an hour or so, however, it’s quite easy to get away from the crowds by walking further into the national park.

You could easily spend a full day just in the national park, walking one of the main hiking trails, going horseback riding or even scuba diving! If you do plan to only make a short stop here, I suggest arriving early as the front of the national park can get quite busy throughout the day.

Entrance to the park is free of charge however you do need to pay a parking fee and to use the bathrooms at the entrance of the park. There is also a small exhibition called ‘Heart of Iceland’ in the Visitor Centre that explains some of the history of the national park.

Þingvellir National Park on Iceland's Golden Circle
Þingvellir National Park

2. Strokkur Geysir

One of the most popular sites to visit if your doing the Golden Circle in one day is the Strokkur Geysir which is located in the geothermal pools of the Haukadalur Valley.

The geyser erupts every 10 minutes or so and shoots boiling water over 70 metres into the air! It only takes a few minutes to walk here from the car park and there are also a number of smaller geysers that erupt in the area.

It’s an amazing site to see however you don’t need to spend a long time here if you only want to see the geyser erupt once!

 Strokkur Geysir
Strokkur Geysir

3. Gullfoss Waterfall

Located just a short drive from the Strokkur Geysir, is the powerful and massive Gullfoss Waterfall.

Gullfoss falls in two stages at a total height of 32 metres and combined with the large gorges that surround it and the deep valley below, provides travellers with a spectacular site! There is a reason why Gullfoss is the most popular waterfall in Iceland and it’s certainly worth seeing despite its popularity.

There several wooden paths that you can take around to get great views of the waterfalls and you can easily spend an hour or two walking around and taking in the sheer power of Gullfoss!

Gullfoss Waterfall
Gullfoss Waterfall

4. Kerið Crater Lake

While probably not as popular as the above three stops, the Kerið Crater Lake still receives countless visitors due to its easily accessible location on the Golden Circle route.

The crater lake is surrounded by red volcanic rock and is over 55 metres deep, giving travellers a great vantage point from above. I recommend spending about an hour here as it’s worth walking both around the crater lake as well as taking the stairs down to the bottom of the lake to give yourself another perspective on this amazing site.

There is a small entrance fee of 400 ISK (approximately €3) to enter the crater lake.

Kerið Crater Lake
Kerið Crater Lake

The Less Visited Golden Circle Stops

5. Bruarfoss Waterfall

Located between Þingvellir National Park and Strokkur Geysir, Bruarfoss Waterfall is a great off-the-beaten-path stop if you’re self-driving the Golden Circle. These bright blue waterfalls are some of the most spectacular on the driving route and it doesn’t attract nearly the number of crowds as Gullfoss.

To reach Brurafoss, simply direct yourself to the “Brurafodd Parking” on your maps app. Note that entry to the falls is free, but there is a 750 ISK (roughly €5) parking fee. From the car park, it’s only about a 5-minute walk to be able to view the falls.

Like elsewhere in Iceland, the short trail can get muddy or slippery, so it’s essential that you have good shoes when visiting!

Bruarfoss Waterfall
Bruarfoss Waterfall

6. See Icelandic horses

If you self-drive the Golden Circle then there will be a number of opportunities to stop along the route and say hello to some beautiful Icelandic horses!

Some of the stops even have food that you can buy for a nominal amount to feed the horses! Don’t worry if you don’t have time for this however as if you drive further along Iceland’s South Coast there are no shortage of opportunities to see these magnificent animals!

Patting Icelandic Horses!
Patting Icelandic Horses!

7. Faxi Waterfall

Another one of the less visited stops on the Golden Circle is Faxi Waterfall located only 20km from Gullfoss.

While certainly not as spectacular as some of the other waterfalls you can see in Iceland there is something about its surrounding peaceful landscape that makes this a lovely stop along the Golden Circle route.

Faxi Waterfall is also easily accessible from the car park meaning it’s an easy stop for all travellers!

Faxi Waterfall
Faxi Waterfall

8. Town of Skálholt

The town of Skálholt is a short detour from the Golden Circle and about a 15-minute drive from Faxi Waterfall.

The town has historical importance as the centre of Christianity in Iceland for over 700 years until the 18th century. Today, the town is visited to see the newly built cathedral and traditional turf roof huts.

During summer there are also often free concerts and other cultural events that travellers can attend.

Turf roof huts in Skálholt
Turf roof huts in Skálholt

9. Reykjadalur Hot Springs

If you don’t fancy paying a small fortune to visit the Blue Lagoon, then a great alternative is to hike to the Reykjadalur Hot Springs. The hiking trail begins about a 40-minute drive from Reykjavik and can make for a great last stop on your Golden Circle itinerary!

It’s approximately a 3km hike to the natural hot springs and there are great scenic views along the way. There are no changing facilities at the hot springs however there are spots where you can find some privacy before or after taking a dip in the hot springs.

Reykjadalur valley
Reykjadalur valley

Golden Circle Iceland Map

Check out the map below to see all the popular and less visited stops plotted on a handy map of the Golden Circle!

How long does it take to drive the Golden Circle?

If you want to see all the stops listed in this article then I suggest allocating at least 1.5 days and preferably 2 full days to experience the route at a leisurely pace. If you only have time for a day trip, then I suggest picking about 4-5 stops.

That being said, some stops take a lot longer than others! For example, you could spend a whole day hiking through Þingvellir National Park as there are so many hiking trails to choose from. Alternatively, something like Faxi Waterfall can be seen and experienced in about ten minutes as you can see the waterfall from close to the car park.

When we visited the Golden Circle, we spent 1 full day visiting Þingvellir National Park, Strokkur Geysir, Gullfoss Waterfall, Bruarfoss Waterfall and Faxi Waterfall. We then visited the remainder of the attractions on the way to see some of South Iceland’s other attractions!

Places to eat on the Golden Circle

There aren’t many options to stop for lunch along the Golden Circle, particularly if you’re trying to minimise your Iceland trip cost, so it’s best to buy groceries and snacks from Reykjavik.

If you do want to stop somewhere for lunch then Friðheimar Farm serves its famous tomato soup, as well as other dishes. It is located quite close to Faxi Waterfall so make sure to plan your day accordingly if you want to stop here for lunch! It’s advisable to book ahead to make sure you get a table.

What to wear when visiting the Golden Circle

In order to make sure you can enjoy all of the Golden Circle stops to the fullest it’s important that you are adequately dressed! Some of the important gear you should have includes:

Warm, waterproof boots with a good grip are necessary when visiting Iceland

Where to Stay Along the Golden Circle

Héradsskólinn Guesthouse – Located between Þingvellir National Park and Gulfoss, this guest house is perfect if you want to visit those sites before the day trippers arrive. Rooms are clean and basic and there is the option of staying in rooms with shared bathroom to reduce costs.

Úthlíd Cottages – These cottages are located within a 15-minute drive of the Strokkur Geysir and offer guests rustic cottages complete with their own hot tub! Staff here can help arrange tours and there is also an optional breakfast.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels along the Golden Circle!

Don’t let the popularity of the Golden Circle stop you from experiencing the amazing sites in this part of Iceland. Not only are the popular attractions worth visiting and busy for a reason but there are many great lesser-visited places that make it possible to get off the beaten path! 

Are you driving the Golden Circle? Have any questions about this route? Let us know in the comments!

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Both solo and with his partner, Maggie, he has travelled to over 50 countries across the globe and has a particular affinity for the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He’s lived in numerous countries worldwide but currently resides in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Read more about Michael


  1. Hi Michael, I need your honest opinion on this timeline: We will be staying in Reykjavik (center) and are thinking of heading out on the Golden Circle at 7:00am (morning after the day we arrive), arriving at Thingviller national Park then leaving there by 9:00; Next head to Bruarfoss falls, leaving there by 11:00am; next to Strokkur Geysir, then on to Gullfoss Falls by noon; Leave there by 1:00-1:20 and head to Feidheimer Farm by 2:00 (making reservations). Leave there by 3:30 then head to Kerid Crater; leave there by 5:00 then on to Reykjadalur Hot Springs. Leave there by 7:00 and head back to Reykjavik. Is this schedule doable or would you advise taking some things out? Am I trying to cram too much into one day? We’re hoping on a cruise ship the next day. We do have a rental car already lined up. This will be in June 2023.

    • Hi Susan, I think it’s probably too much to do all in one day and I would suggest cutting out at least one of Thingviller or Bruarfoss Waterfall if you want to have a more relaxing trip and time to explore each place.

  2. Hi Michael
    Firstly, let me say how much we enjoy your site with all of the tips and recommendations! We are reading everything you have on Iceland, Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro for our upcoming vacation.
    Should we drive the Golden Circle clockwise, or does it not make any difference – scenic wise?
    Thankyou, Colleen

    • Hi Colleen, thank you for the kind words! I don’t think it makes much of a difference which way you drive the Golden Circle – hope you have a great trip!

  3. Can I do golden circle in the first half of the day and while retuning back can I go to blue lagoon and enjoy at least 2-3 hrs .
    Is it possible in same day ?


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