Drive it yourself: The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is the ultimate tourist trail in Iceland with its waterfalls, geysers and beautiful national park vistas. Although I’m not a great fan of this area myself, due to its many visitors and the fact that I’ve seen it not only a thousand times but more like a million times, I understand you may feel differently.


The Golden Circle is a convenient place to start when you first visit Iceland. It has a lot to offer, the roads are usually well maintained any season and there are tours in abundance to take you there. Today I’m going to be talking about driving the Golden Circle in your own rental car but if you would rather join a tour you might want to check out the Golden Circle and Traditional Tastes that is a bit more than your standard Golden Circle tour. You might also want to consider a private taxi tour but they are more affordable than you would think and give you more flexibility than the bigger bus tours.

But back to the driving yourself part.

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The Golden Circle, like I mentioned before, is relatively easy to drive yourself because the roads are well maintained and there are a lot of people driving it every day. So if you decide to drive it in more challenging conditions in winter, which you shouldn’t do unless you feel comfortable with doing it and/or you have some experience with driving in snow and such, and something goes wrong there are enough cars driving that route that help should never be far away. Just take care and be safe!

First things first

The first thing you need to drive the Golden Circle is a car. As you have probably noticed there is a plethora of car rental agencies in Iceland and there can be a vast difference in price between them. The best advice I can give you, and this is especially important in winter, is to rent from a reputable car rental agency where you can be sure the cars are in good condition, with the right tires and insurances and such. If you are going out driving for a few days you also want to make sure the agency you’re dealing with has proper service and service stations around the country so you don’t get stuck somewhere unable to carry on with a broken down car that can’t be replaced or fixed.

The stars of the show: Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir


You can take as long as you want driving the Golden Circle and if you just want to do the highlights version you can probably get through it in 4-5 hours. Keep in mind though you wouldn’t do much more than just driving that way. With selective stops, you  Golden Circle tour can last anywhere from 6-10+ hours.

On the map below you will find directions for Golden Circle Basic Route. According to Google Maps this is 237 kilometers and it will take you 3 hours and 21 minutes to drive. This route will take you to Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall. For more information about each place see the map below.

You can also download the step-by-step directions for the Golden Circle Basic Route from Google Maps on PDF here.

Optional additions to your Golden Circle Tour


If you have a little more time to spend for your your Golden Circle adventure you can expand the route by adding a few extra stops (and actually make it into a circle). You can for example go snorkeling in Silfra at Þingvellir National Park or you can enjoy a yummy tomato soup in the greenhouses at Friðheimar.

On the map below you will find directions to the Optional Additions to the Golden Circle. I’ve marked in some places of interest on the way but these are just places I can personally recommend and think are worth doing, This addition will add about an hour to hour and half to your driving time, not taking into consideration the stops you make along the way. For more information about each place see the map below.

You can download the step-by-step directions for the Additional options to the basic Golden Circle Tour from Google Maps on PDF here.

Off the beaten path


For the final modification to your Golden Circle tour I want to mention the beautiful Nesjavallaleið and Hengill. If you do the Golden Circle in the reversed order, ending in Þingvellir National Park, you can drive the so-called Nesjavalllaleið back to Reykjavík. This is a beautiful route and although it doesn’t have any highlights or stops along the way it’s well worth driving. It’s good to keep in mind though that this road is not well maintained during winter and parts of it are quite steep so you should probably stay clear of it in winter when there’s a lot of snow out. Actually, it’s often impassible anyway so make sure you check before you head out.

The landscape on Nesjavallaleið is otherworldly and you almost feel like you’ve arrived at a different planet. If the conditions are OK this will add about 40-50 minutes to your drive back to Reykjavík and you will end up in Suðlandsvegur where you started your journey towards the south

You can download the step-by-step directions for the Nesjavallaleið back to Reykjavík from Google Maps on PDF here.

Instructions on how to use this map (viewing it larger is advised):

There are five layers on this map. To see all the layers click on the button in the top left corner. The first layers contains points of interest in the area. The second layer contains places, restaurants, pools and such that might be worth visiting in the area. The third layer is driving instructions for the basic Golden Circle tour. The fourth layer is driving instructions for an optional addition to your Golden Circle tour. The fifth and final layer is driving instructions for an alternative way back to Reykjavík if you do the Golden Circle the reversed way and end in Þingvellir National Park. To hide and show different layers click on the boxes next to the names of the layers (if they are visible there’s a little check mark in the box).

To make the map bigger click the bracket (next to your profile photo) in the top right corner of the map. 

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224 thoughts on “Drive it yourself: The Golden Circle”

  1. Pepper says:

    THANK YOU so much for this! It is exactly what I have been hoping for!

    1. hokkaido888 says:

      Are there tickets required for the Golden Circle? If so, where can I reserve enty, please?

      Thank you.

      1. mm Auður says:

        No there you don’t have to pay entrance fee but you pay a parking fee at Þingvellir

  2. Trisha Courtney says:

    Thankyou for writing this blog, I’m visiting early feburary 2015, and this is invaluable information 🙂

  3. Lisa Gibson says:

    This is amazing. Thanks so much for sharing. Can’t wait to visit in February. Happy New Year!

  4. Magda says:

    Hi, thanks for this post! Are there many people who cycle the Golden Circle route please? I’m planning on visiting Iceland for the first time in April but would prefer to cycle around the country instead. I also wonder if the weather in April is kind to cyclists…? Or should I put my plans back to July/August? Regards!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I don’t know if there are a lot of people that cycle this route but people do it. April is a little bit too early for a tour around Iceland on a bike – July/August would be better.

  5. Sam Jonson says:

    I plan on visiting Iceland in two weeks. I have been a little hesitant about renting a car in Iceland during the winter months as I’ve read many horror stories on the web. Is the Golden Circle a safe and non-threatening ride during the winter months? We are two young Americans who are not so savy with breaking down along side the road. =)


    1. mm Auður says:

      First of all it of course depends on the day – you might be unlucky and the roads are really slippery or you can be lucky and the roads are empty. You don’t really know until on the day.

      Having said that if you go slowly and you don’t do things that you are not comfortable with you should be fine. The road around the golden circle is probably one of the most traveled roads outside of Reykjavík and because of that it’s well maintained. And don’t drive on top of a rock like I saw some tourists do in Þingvellir this weekend 🙂 They probably didn’t see it because of the snow. Or that’s what I would imagine.

  6. Theresa says:

    Hi, I am really enjoying your blog and I am finding it really informative. I am coming to Iceland with my 2children & a friend for 2 weeks at the end of July, we are thinking of using the youth hostels around the country as they seem good value, are we better booking the hostels &car hire through the international hostel site or booking each hostel & the car hire separately. We are really excited about visiting Iceland as it looks an amazing place.
    Thanks Theresa. Xx

    1. mm Auður says:

      My guess would be that you get a better price if you book the hostels and cars separately, especially if you do it now when you can still get good deals on cars. You can also book all the hostels on the website and then pay a deposit for the whole thing at once, if you book the package you have to pay everything in advance. You also have more flexibility changing your schedule if you book it on your own since the cancellation policy is is more flexible for each individual hostel. However, there is of course a certain comfort in having someone take care of everything for you and the booking agents can suggest alternatives and such that you might not find on your own if the hostels are full.

  7. Mandy says:

    Such a helpful blog post! I just wanted to post to say thanks & keep up the posts! We’re visiting Reykjavik for 7 days in November and your posts are incredibly helpful and informative 🙂

  8. Mark says:

    I have only a day in Iceland as part of an extended stop over in June, and intend to rent a car from the airport. I would like to see Gunnuhver, the Nesjavallavirkjun power plant, Strokkur, and Gullfoss. Is Seljavallalaug worth a 3-4 hour side trip in the evening?

    1. mm Auður says:

      Only you can answer that, depends on how bad you want to see it 🙂 On the way you can see Seljalandsfoss too if that helps you make a decision 🙂

      If it’s somewhere to soak you are after, why not check out the Secret Lagoon which is closer to Gullfoss and Geysir:

      1. tina schmidt says:

        Or stop off in Laugarvatn and go to the city pool for 500isk instead of 3490isk. We just did it and it was the perfect day.

  9. Caitlin says:

    Thanks for the self-driving map… I’m thinking of doing the reverse route and spreading it out over 2 days, with the start of the second day a dive trip in Silfra. However, it doesn’t really look like there’s much lodging near Thingvellir that is any closer than Reykjavic. Does it just make more sense to do two day trips out of Reykjavic or is there somewhere out on your extended loop where I could stay in order to maximize nature rather than driving? Thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      There’s plenty of options to stay on the route, like in Laugarvatn for example. You could also look into booking a summer house through

  10. Julius says:

    Do I need a 4WD car to drive the Golden Circle in April?

    1. mm Auður says:

      You shouldn’t need it. However it’s been really snowy and windy this winter (and winter is still here even though it’s April) and it does help to have a 4WD in the snow.

      1. Rachita Bhatia says:

        HI, I’m planning on going via Nesjavallavirkjun on my way back to Reykjavik. Do I need a 4WD in August to go there, since the roads are not as well maintained as the basic Golden Circle roads?

        1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

          Hi Rachita,

          you should be fine in a smaller car if doing this in August, just keep in mind that this will be a slow drive and be careful. It is a great route though, and slow is good anyway!

  11. AJ McNary says:

    Thanks for your blog – we followed your Golden Circle advice. Three cautions – we tried to get to the greenhouses at Friðheimar. It’s only open from 1200 to 1600, so plan for lunch. Also don’t go to the wrong Reykholt! (there are two towns with that name). And, the info people in Rek told the restaurant was in Fluðir. (so we were near the right Reykholt) We had a great meal at Mika’s instead, so the day was just as wonderful.

  12. Sally says:

    Is there a way to download the map on an IPAD so that I won’t need the internet?

    1. Jones P Erckle says:

      It is also possible to buy a physical map of Iceland’s road network made of paper, a substance derived from trees available widely. You may find this paper map quite handy and useful whilst out in the Internet-less, wildernesses of the World where your IPAD may lose power,or quit working suddenly.

      Good luck out there.

  13. Sarah says:

    We are coming for a few days the third week of October. What can we expect as far as road conditions go? Is this considered Winter yet?

    1. mm Auður says:

      It’s impossible to say – usually you wouldn’t run into any serious problems with the road conditions in October, maybe a storm that might delay your trip a little bit or something like that, but it tends to be quite mild. However, there hasn’t been anything usual about the weather for the last few years so we might have a lot of snow for all I know. Last year winter didn’t really arrive until November when the weather was pretty bad for three months (with breaks of course) but before that it had been unusually warm. Maybe this post will help you:

  14. Lena says:

    Just wanting to say thanks – this is exactly the information I’ve been looking for, served on a silver tray. Thanks for making the efford!!

  15. brandusa says:

    Hi, We are planning on driving the Golden Circle counterclockwise, stopping at the destinations below and coming back via Nesjavallaleið . We will be there mid to end of August. Do we need a 4WD or all wheel drive or a mini car 2 wheel drive is fine? Our desired destinations: Reykjadalur, Kerio, Enji, Slakki, Gamla Laugin, Faxi, Gullfos, Geysir, Oxararfoss, Flosagja, Pingvellir, the geothermal plant.
    Also, is this loop doable in a day? We are going to start early. And is there any disadvantage of seeing some of the latest destinations in the late afternoon as opposed to in the morning? Thank you for your advice. And for the blog and map, very useful!

    1. Mark says:

      The loop is doable in a day, but you’ll have to keep up a reasonably quick pace if you want to spend time at all those places. The geothermal plant has limited hours and it’s on the near side of the loop, so you may want to get there right when it opens. The total driving time for the loop from the airport is 4-5 hours. I would plan to get food in Reykjavik; the stores in Keflavik aren’t open early as I learned.

      I managed to do the loop with a side trip to Gunnuhver (pretty awesome, but don’t touch the yellow sulphur as I learned lol), a swim at the beach in Reykjavik, a detour along 435/360 (the bit through the mountains was worth the trip — and so many sheep on 360 heading north!), and ended with a four hour side trip to Seljalandsfoss (beautiful in twilight at 2 am), in a one day stopover, but I also did not get back to the airport until 5:30 am. I did all that in a 2-wheel drive Ford Ka. Everything was paved, except for the last bit of road to Gunnuhver, which was a half hour hike each way.

      The only disadvantage to travelling at night was that toilets were impossible to find after 9 pm, except at Seljalandsfoss. I tried to visit Gamla Laugin but it was closed when I got there at 11:30 pm. All of the waterfalls/geysirs were easily accessible at night. The flood of tourists also dried up around 6 pm, so it was easier to get pictures after then.

      Also, I really must thank Auður for this page. It made my whirlwind tour a success!

  16. Fiona Kennedy says:

    Hi we are travelling to Iceland on Christmas Eve staying in Reykjavik in an apartment for 4 days. We were going to hire a car and drive around to the tourist areas which seem open over the Xmas period but where wondering what car to rent for the roads and what about shops and restaurants, will there be normal trading over the Xmas season. We have 2 teenagers with us so any recommendations for doing something special would be appreciated thanks

    1. Fiona Kennedy says:

      Thanks for responding regarding the driving. Could you left me know any shops and restaurants opening at Xmas time?

      1. Mark says:

        A lot of stuff will be closed. Here is a list of things from two years ago. I imagine this year will be similar:

        1. Fiona Kennedy says:

          Thank you so much for replying. This should help us prepare for our trip a bit better. We are staying at apartments belonging to one of the hotels which is open over Xmas so at least we can get food there until everywhere opens again.

  17. Patty says:

    Hi! My wife and I are making our first visit in September and only have four and a half days so we’re renting a car to get to as much as possible starting in Reykjavik. One recommendation was for us to head Southeast to Vik and the glacier park in that area. We recently went to Patagonia and hiked the glacier there so I want to make sure we get in new and extraordinary experiences. Is there more to do in South/Southeast Iceland or should we shoot for another area like the West Fjords or the North.

  18. Carla says:

    I have been looking at the golden circle route and the alternative/additional routes you suggest and I was thinking my best option would be to go from Reykjavik to Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station then up to Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall…. My question is, by going this route will I be missing anything amazing/noteworthy/”a must see,” by skipping the first part of the 36 that leads you to Þingvellir and taking the route through Nesjavellir instead? Hopefully that makes sense 🙂 Thanks so much for your all your insight!

    1. Mark says:

      While I can’t say what you’ll miss, I can say I was very glad I took the same route you are proposing. The scenery along 435/360 was more interesting than what I did see of 36. That’s not to say what I saw of 36 wasn’t beautiful — it was — but 36 is basically flat, while 435/360 takes you through sheep-covered mountains (the whole golden circle route is flat, so I’d take advantage of the side trip!). To me, 435/360 felt more wildernessy than other parts of the golden circle, and I’m glad for that experience, too. I would avoid 435 in winter though.

      1. Grazyna says:

        Hi Mark
        thanks for your comments all very useful…i’m planning an Rv trip next week and was thinking also about going via Nesjavallavirkjum…do you think that would be ok in an RV?

        1. Mark says:

          That depends on the RV. Some of the hills on 435 are steep and it might have trouble. The part of 360 I drove was much flatter, but I only drove that road between the 435/360 junction and 36 to the north. The rest of 360 looks flat in satellite imagery, so I’d skip 435 and drive only 360 if it were me in an unfamiliar RV. The sheep were mostly along the west side of 360, if that’s what you want to see. If you’re heading to Geysir/Strokkur/Gullfoss, you could detour on 360, which connects to 36 on both ends. You would miss Þingvellir doing that, but there is always the option of backtracking.

    2. Natalie says:

      We have just done this route. It was awesome. The road was actually supposed to be closed as we found out as we reached the barrier but as we checked our map for an alternative, two cars drove through…so we did too! Much more exciting road…in our little Toyota Yaris!

      Today we drove to the Glacier Lagoon, Jökulsárlón…stopping at one of the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss on the way. We also stopped at the remains of the bridge (destroyed by lava), Skaftafell, a national park where the glacier moves about 20 cm a day (or you can hear another glacier – we didn’t have time for that one unfortunately). We stopped at Seljalandsfoss on the way home too as it was all floodlit.

      Glacier Lagoon was fabulous…well worth the 5 hour drive from Reykjavik. We caught a bit of the Northern Lights on the way back (not enough though unfortunately!)

      Regards car hire…having checked prices, I booked in the UK through Topcashback, had a bigger car and free GPS – still cheaper than the most basic on offer from anywhere local/online. Having worked out prices for two of us for transfers, Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon as well as Glacier Lagoon…I think the car has paid for itself. (I took extra insurance – it’s been a while since I drove abroad…but it was £220, in 3 days we’ve done over 1000 km, and I’ve put approx 11000 isk in, in petrol.

      1. mm Auður says:

        I’m glad you had such a nice experience Natalie but I have to address this:

        “We have just done this route. It was awesome. The road was actually supposed to be closed as we found out as we reached the barrier but as we checked our map for an alternative, two cars drove through…so we did too! Much more exciting road…in our little Toyota Yaris!”

        I’m sorry to be negative Nancy but this is not smart. If a road is closed, there’s a reason for that even though you don’t see what the reason could be. Doing so in a Yaris is even less smart! Just a few days ago there were five cars that got stuck there and the rescue squads had to be called out. On the same day, three buses went off different roads around Reykjavík and 20+ people were injured, 2 of them seriously and I believe they are still in the ICU. The conditions changed really quickly that day and it surprised everyone, including the locals who were driving those buses. So if a road is closed, find an alternative route.

        1. Natalie Smeal says:

          The car rental chap had actually given us the route and we took it steady. To be honest, if the weather had been awful we wouldn’t have done it but the actual road was fine, we met several cars on the way.

          On the way home yesterday from the Glacier Lagoon, I was doing 90 kmh and was passed by many minibuses for tour companies (to be fair they looked like they had no passengers).

      2. Rebecca Todd says:

        Thanks for the replies that’s really helpful. I’ve read up on the blue lagoon but I’ve not heard of the glacier lagoon ?? Is there anywhere else you would recommend we are staying at the kruines hotel that is not in the centre but we are having one night in a hotel in the center too x

        1. Natalie Smeal says:

          We’re staying at Guesthouse Pávi…it’s cheap, clean, warm and very near the harbour in Reykjavik. It also has free parking just outside and seems very secure. That’s the plus side. On the negative side, it could do with a bit of upgrading but my view was, we’re only sleeping here…we want to be out as much as possible. In view of the cost of living in Iceland, that might explain a lot though.

          Glacier Lagoon is a lagoon filled with huge pieces of ice that wash through and onto the beach. The beach is black sand too. Photos with the sun and remains of the ice on the beach came out brilliantly. Was it worth 10 hours drive…to me, yes!

  19. Juliana Ayu Yahya says:

    I’m lgoing to do this driving route on Wednesday. Thanks for all your tips and I’m looking forward to do your walking tour on Friday.

  20. Sara Meyers says:

    Thanks for all this great info! I used so much of this for a fantastic self drive of the Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon last week! (LOVED The Secret Lagoon; so much better than the Blue Lagoon, IMO). One thing of note — I really tried to go to the Ethiopian restaurant for lunch on Friday, October 10 however it was closed, sadly! It was only open for dinner. Something to note if people may attempt to incorporate it into plans for lunch. THANK YOU AGAIN!

  21. Enja says:

    Do I need a 4wd car to drive to the secret lagoon?

    1. mm Auður says:

      No, it’s paved roads all the way

  22. dayton says:

    Hello my wife and I will be travelling to Iceland at the start of January 2016. We have rented a volkswagen golf but are wondering if we need something bigger for the main roads? We are use to driving in harsh canadin winters with a lot of snow but are just wondering?

  23. Stuart Worley says:

    First, thanks for the info. I am considering stopping over in Iceland on my way back from London (to Portland, Oregon) in late August 2016. I am an avid landscape photographer and I would like to slef drive around the Circle (and extras?) . I guess I would would want to spend no more than three nights.

    Any suggestions on how to break up the trip and where to stay along the route. Or, set up a “basecamp” in the middle? Idon’t need much, just a quiet, safe room that is not too expensive.

    Thanks in advance,

  24. Daria says:

    Hello, love your blog and all your travel advice. I am coming to Iceland in the beginning of March with my partner and am curious if hiking to Reykjadalur is possible in winter without a guide. Thank you in advance for your insight.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Yes it’s possible, you just have to be careful to follow marked paths.

  25. Esra says:

    Hello, the best blog I ever read, thanks for it.We are coming to Iceland end of January and wondering if that is possible to combine golden circle and south coast. My plan is travelling from Reykjavik to Gullfoss and from there to Jokulsarlon, then overnight close to Jokulsarlon and next day ice cave experience and back to Reykjavik. Is it a good plan, the roads are okey in this route? Thanks a lot.

    1. mm Auður says:

      This is a really hectic plan and I cannot in good conscience recommend it. You need a day for the Golden Circle and at least a day for the drive to Jökulsárlón, preferably two days.

  26. Bob says:

    First: this is an awesome blog. Second: If you had a choice, would you travel to Vik along the south coast or travel north west to Hellnar (visit the National Park and see Snaefellsjokull) ? I have to choose (I will be visiting in early July 2016. I have already reserved one day to do the Golden Circle.

    1. S., Clare says:

      Bob, just wondering if you got a reply and what you decided to do. I have the same question. We are going in March and are considering doing 1-2 days at Snaifeelsjokull and then going south east and along the coast to Jokusalron. Any thoughts?

      1. Stacy says:

        Sue…what did you end up doing? Thanks!

  27. Hasmukh Hirani says:

    Am planning to travel by self drive in the end of October. Do I need to pre book any tickets for anything?

    1. mm Auður says:

      Just if you are going to do tours that have limited availability

  28. Tandy says:

    Great site…but I’m wondering…. you said you weren’t a great fan of the golden circle, is there other places to visit in a day that you would recommend?

    1. mm Auður says:

      I’m not a big fan of going there myself because I’ve been there a 1000 times and it’s quite busy. There’s plenty of other areas you can visit: The south coast, Snæfellsnes and Reykjanes for example.

      1. Tandy says:

        Thank you for your response. We are only there for a day April 10th and leaving the next morning, is there one place that would be better than the others at that time of year, or one your would recommend? I saw you had a drive it yourself for Snaefellsnes, do you have one for Reykjanes?
        Thank you so much fro your help

  29. Andrew Emmet says:

    Thank you for the map but I’m having trouble seeing the different layers. I’ve tried everything but I just cant seem to figure it out. Is there some other way to see the map? Thank you!!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Sorry, for the time being this is the only way to see the map.

    2. Pat says:

      Realize this is late but may be helpful to others. If you click on the box in the upper right corner, “View Larger Map,” it loads in Google Maps and is much easier to control.

  30. Rebecca says:

    Does driving through Nesjavallaleið require a 4×4 in June? Or is a compact car suitable?
    Thanks a lot!!!

    1. mm Auður says:

      You shouldn’t need it but it all depends on the weather and the conditions.

  31. Toni says:

    This is so informative!!! Just one question: what kind of vehicle is recommended for driving the Golden Circle? Is a vehicle that has highland/F Road capabilities required for this route? We plan to drive to Vik, as well.

    1. mm Auður says:

      You don’t need a 4wd for the Golden Circle.

  32. Toni says:

    I should have added that we will be there beginning of September!

  33. Mimi says:

    Thank you so much for putting all of this information together! My boyfriend and I will be traveling through Iceland September 30 to October 10. Based on information I’ve found on the internet and through your awesome blog, I’m thinking of spending the first 2 days in Reykjavik, next full day driving the Golden Circle, then traveling to Vik to stay overnight, and followed by a visit to Jokulsarlon. I’d like to add the Blue Lagoon and end the final day back in Reykjavik.

    A few questions: Are there any other must-see landmarks or towns that you’d recommend? It seems that we’d still be able to fit a few more visits to other towns along the way. How do you think the weather will be in early October? Would this trip be a feasible drive? *** Crossing my fingers that we’ll be able to experience the northern lights sometime during our road trip ***

    1. mm Auður says:

      Just read through the blog – you’ll find a lot of information here.

      1. grazyna says:

        Hi jusrt back fro a wonderful holiday in Iceland.

        We hired an Rv and did the Golden Circle…no problem. Any normal car will be able to do the road. We even saw a unicycle o it!!!
        If you are travelling from Reykjavik, go via Nesjavallavirkjun, rather than the boring 36 road. It’s spectacular!
        enjoy…envious already!!!

        1. Mimi says:

          Thank you for the tip! I will definitely keep that in mind.

    2. Mark says:

      As Auður suggested to me above, be sure to stop at Seljalandsfoss. It’s on the way to Vik. I’ve seen a thousand waterfalls during my travels and that one is special.

      1. Mimi says:

        Thank you for the response Mark. It’s very helpful and much appreciated! I will definitely add that one on the itinerary. Cant wait to see it!

    3. Stacy says:

      Hi Mimi – curious as to what you decided to do on your timeline! Thanks!

  34. Ron Leach says:

    Thank you so much for all of this valuable information. I am visiting in August with my two sons and you have been very, very helpful as we prepare for our visit. Thank you.

  35. Pierre says:

    Thank you for this blog, I’m finding everything I need to plan my trip!

    I have one question : how are the roads of the golden circle (basic route and the one with additional stops) ? Is a simple car appropriate?

    Thank you 🙂

    1. mm Auður says:

      The roads on the Golden circle itself are fine for a normal car – the addition is also fine in the summer but in winter, if there’s a lot of snow, you will need a 4×4

      1. Pierre says:

        Great, many thanks! I’ll be there in September so it should be fine, but I’ll check the weather before.

  36. Predrag says:

    Much appreciated for taking the effort to write such an extensive and detailed blog. Many THANKS!!!

  37. Kaylin says:

    Hello! Thank for you the invaluable information. My hubby and I are going to be there in a couple weeks and we can’t wait! I was hoping you could help me a little if possible: We are planning on driving the Ring Road and have 7 days to complete that. Our campervan will be available for pick up at 1600 and we hope to head out of Reykjavik at that time. I assume the most logical route would be to do the Golden Circle as we leave town, but I would live to snorkel in Silfra on this trip! Are there places to camp in the Golden Circle area, so we could snorkel the next morning? If so, do you know of any beautiful campgrounds around there? And then in the morning is there a best route to head out onto Route 1 toward Vik? Does this sound like a logical plan? Or would you do it a different way?

  38. Cherishia says:

    Hi, My flight arrives KEF by 9am. How long does it take to finish immigration as I have to arrange for the car pick up.
    Incase I start from KEF airport at 11am it is possible to do the Golden Circle and then proceed to hotel in Hvammstangi.
    If I am doing the Golden Circle which attraction should I do first considering my hotel in hvammstangi.


    1. mm Auður says:

      It shouldn’t take you much more than 2 hours from when you land until you’re on the road, if everything goes according to plan. Whether this plan is sensible completely depends on when you are traveling but it’s not very logical:

  39. Menashe says:

    Hi, thanks for the very infrmative blog its a great help, talking about using road 435 is there a special reason why only on the way back to Reykjavik? Or its possible also to use it going from Reykjavik to thingvellir? Tnx

    1. mm Auður says:

      you can drive it either way – it just made more sense to me to do it this way as I was writing this post.

  40. Troop Leader says:

    Help! I’m being my girl scout troop over seas in the summer of 2017. I just found out that we have a 10 hour layover at the airport in Iceland. Is there anything around the airport area that we can go see? I don’t think these teens want to sit in an airport for 10 hours.

    1. Troop Leader says:


    2. mm Auður says:

      It’s possible that you could do a short tour of the Reykjanes peninsula (depends a little bit when you arrive and when you have to leave and such). You could also visit the Blue Lagoon or one of the local pools in Reykjanesbær.

  41. Rebecca Todd says:

    we are two women coming to iceland for the first time and are trying to decide whether it will be more expensive to rent a car or pay for the indivdual trips? i want to see the natural geysers (either blue lagoon or secret lagoon ) and some generally nice scenery. We are staying at a hotel named kruines??
    could you recommend anywher else to visit and which option would be best?
    We are coming in april 2017 for 4 days thanks Rebecca

    1. mm Auður says:

      For two people it’s probably cheaper to rent a car. Also, most tours won’t pick you up at Kríunes since not in Reykjavík so you would spending extra money to get into Reykjavík to get the tours.

  42. TheGreenPick says:

    Self driving is indeed a great way to experience the golden circle and if you’re not travelling in winter you don’t even need a 4×4 and can go with the smallest-cheapest car on the rental card=)

  43. carlos says:

    thinking of going on january with my wife, I never drove in the snow or ice but i’m a quick learner and normally good at anything but maybe this is too risky to try even if I rent a 4×4 to drive around? I feel confident that it shouldn’t be a problem but you as a local what do you think? I apprecite any tips

    1. mm Auður says:

      If there is no snow on the ground and you are only going to the Golden Circle, then you should be fine with a normal car.

      We’ve been driving a 2WD for a few years and there’s not a lot of weather conditions that stop us from going where we want (mind you, we are used to these conditions). Recently though we’ve changed cars and are now driving a 4WD small jeep and in some terrible weather and heavy snow in the north a few weeks ago I thought a lot to myself: “I’m so happy we’re driving THIS car and not the old 2WD). So there’s that.

      1. Carlos says:

        Thank you, we will be driving around the ring road for 7 days through the country

  44. Aine Bennett says:

    Going to Iceland in mid January for 4 days. Planning to rent a Toyota Yaris. Hope to drive from the airport to the Blue Lagoon, then onto Reykjavik. Then the next day drive the golden circle route. Then the following day drive from there drive to Blaföll ski resort and finish in Reykjanesbaer. Is all this possible in an economy car?

    1. mm Auður says:

      Should be possible but it all depends on how much snow we have. So far we don’t have a lot but we never know what’s going to happen in January.

    2. Mark says:

      Just a thought: in mid January you’ll only have 5 hours of sunlight (11 am to 4 pm), so you will want to plan your schedule carefully the day you do the golden circle route.

  45. Sarah says:

    Going to Iceland w two little ones in a week for 7 days – we are staying in Reykjavik at the Hilton the entire time but heard renting a car and doing golden circle ourselves was preferable to signing up for a tour w young kids. We also wanted to venture out one night to try to catch the northern lights – do you think we should rent a car our entire stay or just a few days?

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you want to see more of Iceland than just Reykjavík or the Golden Circle, then it would be wise to book the car for more than one day. If you plan to spend most of your time in Reykjavík then you don’t need the car the whole time.

  46. Dillan Marsh says:

    I’ve used most of your blog to plan my 10 upcoming days in Iceland! Your pictures are great and your descriptions are very helpful! I was only wondering how I could get to Gullfoss Waterfall if I don’t have a 4×4. Would it be possible for me to walk to the waterfall from the mainroad?

    Again thank you so much for the info and looking forward to hearing from you!

    1. mm Auður says:

      You don’t need a 4×4 to get to Gullfoss.

  47. Cinderella says:

    Hello, my family will be there for only 2 nights and planning to take the Golden Circle tour early morning in on February 9, 2017. Are the roads all covered by snow? We’re planning on renting a 4×4 car just in case. I did research that there is little sunlight around this month. We will be starting from Reyjavik Hotel; according to other blogs I read it is doable in 4 hours but with winter condition give it a full day. What do you think?

    1. mm Auður says:

      It’s impossible to say what the conditions will be like in February but historically we usually have quite a lot of snow. This has been an unusually warm winter so far but it started snowing a little today and it’s supposed to be cold for the next days so maybe it’s turning.

  48. Anna says:

    Is the golden circle mountainous and is there a part of it where there is a cliff?

    1. mm Auður says:

      You drive over a small mountain to get there but it’s small enough that you don’t realize it if you don’t know it. There are no cliffs in the traditional sense on the Golden Circle.

  49. Anna says:

    Thanks in advance.

  50. Ana says:

    Your blog is very helpful! Thank you. I will be going mid march. Any info you could give on weather and daylight?

  51. Mickey says:

    Audur – this is a lovely blog!

    I liked your idea of the detour back to Reykjavik through Hengill and Nesjavallalied.

    I’m driving back from Vik to Reykjavik and would like to take this detour then. Google maps shows to turn from Selfoss and then do this route back to Reykjavik. Would that be correct and scenic? I am driving a normal 2WD. This is for May.


    1. mm Auður says:

      Yes, Google maps is probably showing you the road to þingvellir and then you go from there.

  52. Emily says:

    Thank you for everything in your blog! This is amazing. Don’t know if this is a silly question but does it cost to get into any of these areas? Do you have a park service that requires you to pay a fee to see this natural wonders, or can you just drive, park and walk over? I’m trying to see if its worth it to pay for the cost of a rental car vs a tour, and I want to know how much it will cost to drive the Golden Circle.

    I know we’ll need to pay if we want to enter the secret lagoon, but I wasn’t sure of what else!

    1. mm Auður says:

      There are no fees to see these places but some places, like Þingvellir, are now charging for parking. Kerið also charges an entrance fee.

      1. Rebecca Todd says:

        Looking to book one night in Reykjavik before moving to another hotel outside of town. Found two possibilities but one has no parking does anyone know how hard it is to park around Reykjavik ? The hotel I’m looking at is called the nordeuy guest house xx

        1. Emily says:

          Search on her blog. There is an entire article dedicated to parking in Reykjavik!

          1. Rebecca Todd says:

            Thanks sorry thought I had commented on the main blog

  53. Karen says:

    Hi, we are 2 girls planning for a trip to Reykjavik for 5 days 4 nights end of March this year. Is it advisable for only the 2 of us to be driving on our own at that time of the year? Since we’re only 2 people, we’re thinking of renting the small Hyundai i10 (it’s fitted with winter tyres). We plan to drive on the Golden Circle route and maybe daytrips to Jokulsarlon area. We never drive on icy roads before. Thanks for your advice!~

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you are comfortable with driving in winter conditions and you follow advice and the forecasts you should be fine. I would recommend you don’t rent the smallest car though – a size up is probably a good idea.

      1. Rebecca Todd says:

        Hiya thanks for your comment we are two women doing the same in April so any advise after you have been would be great! Was it much difference cost wise for the car to insure u both to drive ?? X

  54. James Robson says:

    just wanted to say this is a great find on the web. We plan on being there first week in Feb and plan on driving the golden circle and some other drives yet to be determined. Renting a 4×4 and from Chicago so I’m comfortable with driving in snow depending on how much. That said thanks for the great site. I haven’t checked the whole blog yet, but M, W, F, Sa, and Su are days we can do some driving. So any other suggestions of must sees that aren’t on the Golden Circle would be appreciated. T we are doing the Glacier Tunnel and Thurs the Glacier Lagoon. Still trying to decide on a Northern Lights tour.

    1. mm Auður says:

      How about checking out the other drive it yourself guides?

  55. Jennifer Vining says:

    This is a lovely tutorial you have provided. I have a trip planned in early June of this year, have a Suski rented and have so many questions! First, we are planning on doing the Golden Circle with all the bells and whistles. Are there places to stay along the trek? I ask because if we want to do the snorkeling and all the activities we may want to make the Circle trip a few days. Any other thoughts or ideas? Have you been horseback riding? Any places you recommend with the best scenery. We are experienced riders and really want to make the best of everything!

    1. mm Auður says:

      All these tours are good to do with the Golden Circle:

      I would just recommend you use to find accommodation on the Golden Circle since it’s already getting difficult to find accommodation in this area for the summer.

  56. Dyana Geddie says:

    As a graduation gift, my son and I are visiting Iceland from April 3-11, 2017. We have rented a 2×2..not the smallest, but not the biggest,,I think a Volkswagen Golf. We have high aspirations to do the entire Ring Road. We are definitely road trip warriors and don’t mind the driving, however, I just wonder if the unpredictable weather might make this trip unadvisable. We would probably start south on the Golden Circle and proceed down to Vik, Hofn, possibly a stop before Akureyri, and then make our way back to Reykjavik. I just wondered if any of those main roads are closed to non 4×4’s? I know it’s a lot, but is it absolutely crazy and undoable?

    1. mm Auður says:

      This should be fine – the weather can be unpredictable in April but you shouldn’t be stuck anywhere for long. You don’t necessarily need a 4×4 but if there’s a lot of snow on the mountain roads for example, you would probably appreciate it. Just follow the forecasts, and local advice and you’ll be fine.

      1. Dyana Geddie says:

        Thank you for your response. I was just looking and I think I will upgrade to a 4×4 just to be safe. Our lives are worth a few extra dollars 🙂

  57. Joanne says:

    Myself and my husband are planning our trip to iceland for 3 days in march. We are going to drive the golden circle and have found this blog very helpful. We are just wondering if you have any recommendations on places to eat along the way?

    1. mm Auður says:

      There are a few recommendations on the map but you can buy something to eat at Gullfoss, Geysir, Efstidalur, Lindin in Laugarvatn and Friðheimar farm – just to name a few.

  58. Robert says:

    My family is coming in March 25 330 pm to march 26 4 pm. We are thinking the blue lagoon when we arrive and we are staying near airport. I have rented a car for the period and would like a suggestion for next day? Do we try that golden circle self drive or wander into Reykjavik? Will we have a chance to see northern lights then also ?

    1. mm Auður says:

      You need 6 hours minimum for the Golden Circle and if your flight leaves at 16:00 you need to be at the airport at 14:00. So Golden Circle is cutting it a little close.

  59. Bolantes says:


    We will be there for only 2 days and hoping to see from reykjavik – the national park, geyser, gulfoss and then after gulfoss, go to seljalandfoss and skogafoss. In one day, were hoping to do all the driving. Do you think it’s doable? We will stop to take photos and then leave then. We are planning to relax and go to Blue Lagoon on our 2nd day. Please advise.

    1. mm Auður says:

      This is doable in summer when there’s plenty of light out but it’s not advisable. It’s a lot of driving and you miss a lot of things this way.

  60. Cinderella says:

    Hello again, I am not sure if I already asked this question. I see a lot of photos of the road and people in the middle, can I stop over by the road and take a quick photo? I would love to get a photo like that. Also, we will do the Golden Circle on our first day, where may we see some Icelandic Horses around the Golden Circle? We are renting a 4×4 car with a GPS, do we have to type the actual address, locations or can we just type the name of the landmarks? Thank you so much.

    1. Mark says:

      The shoulders of the roads are usually not wide enough to stop on. There are plenty of places to stop though.

      When I rented a GPS with the car it was next to useless. You’re far better off buying a sim card and using Google Maps on your phone. Make sure the sim card you get works everywhere; I had reception basically everywhere.

    2. mm Auður says:

      No, you should not stop by the road to take a quick photo – it’s dangerous for you and for other drivers.

  61. Ashgrove says:

    Do you have any recommendations regarding car rentals?

  62. Moniek says:


    We are planning to drive the Golden Circle by ourselves and we were wondering whether we need to rent a 4×4 or not?
    We are also planning to go to Blue Lagoon and the Snaefellsnes area.

    1. mm Auður says:

      You shouldn’t need it if there’s not a lot of snow on the ground.

  63. Juana says:

    Hello, this is a geat post! I have a friend from Iceland and he told me that I should do the circle road but basically he gave me the directions to go across the country in a loop. Basically what he said is that I should visit: Akureyri, Myvatn, Egilsstaðir, Vík, and Selfoss. But reading your post it seems that he gave me a completely different tour. So my question is if you would recommend to do the normal Circle Road or do you think my friend´s trip sounds also interesting and full of different sightseeing. Or maybe I can do a mix of both. I don´t know what to do!!!!


    1. mm Auður says:

      What you are talking about are two different things: The ring road and the Golden Circle. This post covers the Golden Circle and not the ring road.

      I wouldn’t suggest you do the ring road if you have less than a week to do it.

  64. Am booked a rental car at KEF, returning 4 days later.
    Have read some disturbing (albeit OLD) incidents about car rental insurance (search KEF car rental horror).

    Summary – paint damage from sandstorm/gravel storm, major problems during car return at KEF, options call police or pay thousands of dollars. There are multiple stories like this online.

    Would you have any experience on this (although they are all very OLD postings)?

    I am personally indebted to you for providing all the information above and being so patient with repeated questions.


    1. mm Auður says:

      There are many different car rental agencies that operate out of Keflavík and I don’t have a personal experience with all of them. In general though, most of the people (most and definitely not all) that make the most noise online are people that did not read the terms, didn’t get any extra insurances and such plus they only give their side of the story. Judging by how many people rent cars in Iceland I would say it’s a minority that experience problems.

      My advice would be to make sure you rent with a reputable company and make sure you have all the insurances you need.

  65. Glenis Thompson says:

    Thank you so much for such a fantastic post. We are a couple arriving on Saturday 04/03/17 and will be hiring a 4X4 for the first 5 days. We have three nights at Olfus and before heading a little south/south east towards Vik for a couple of nights and then back to Reykjavik for the last two nights. Your post is so informative and inspiring the only thing is that I keep finding links to other things which just give me more and more ideas. I can already feel a second, longer visit is going to be necessary. Soooo looking forward to Iceland.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Glad you find it helpful – we’ll be here also when I’re ready for round 2 🙂

  66. Arthur says:


    Can I check where (roughly) did you take your mountain shot along Nesjavallaleið? Do you have a google map pinpoint that you can roughly recall?

    Thank you,

    1. mm Auður says:

      It was not far from where you turn off the road from Þingvellir but don’t remember exactly 🙂

  67. Cristina says:

    Love your blog and your photos.

    I have a question regarding Geysir. I saw a youtube video of a visitor saying they went to Strokkur Geysir. I checked on Google map and it seemed that it’s quite close to Geysir. Now I’m lost. Which is the one that’s normally covered in the Golden Circle self-drive visit? Is the other one really close by? (I’ve read enough to take Google Map with a grain of salt.)

    Another clarification question. Reynisdrangar are the basalt columns/stacks on the Reynisfjara Beach (or otherwise known as Black Sand Beach). Is that correct? Then where is Halsanefshellir (Basalt Column Cave)? Is that the same as Reynisdrangar?

    I would also like to know if one can drive to Dyrholaey Arch in the summer in a 2WD. I’ve read it’s very windy up there and seemed to be a tough drive. Or would I be able to see Dyrholaey from Kirkjufjara Beach, another black sand beach?


    1. mm Auður says:

      Strokkur is in the Geysir area, which is named after the biggest geyser Geysir which doesn’t erupt often anymore. So you are going to Geysir geothermal area but the main attraction there is called Strokkur.

      Reynisdrangar are three stacks in the ocean which can be seen both from Reynisfjara beach and on the other side of Reynsifjall mountain in Vík. The cave is in Reynisfjara but I would be very careful about going there as the tide often comes in very quickly.

      There are two places people visit in Dyrhólaey – Háey and Lágey. You can easy reach Lágey with a 2wd but the road up to Háey is steep and narrow and not great so I would not go up there in a small Yaris or similar for example. Especially not if it’s been raining or the road is wet.

      1. Cristina says:

        Thank you for the helpful clarification. I will definitely listen to your advice regarding the dangerous tide of the cave and the steep Háey.

  68. David Alexander says:

    Hi, We are here in Iceland right now as I write this, we went with your walking tour and took the Puffin Express tour that you recommended. Both were great, great, great!

    However, nothing we have ever seen can compare to your driving suggestion “Off the beaten path”.
    The route known as Nesjavallaleið is indescribable. Feeling that you have arrived on another planet is a very, very accurate description.

    Saying that some parts of it are quite steep is a real understatement. Outside of maybe a couple of streets in San Francisco I have never seen a road with signs saying: Caution 20° incline. You read that correctly 20°. If you are a fan of roller coasters, then this road is for you. To drive this route in winter, one would have to have something of a death wish. If you are not a very confident and experienced driver, then I would have to say that this route is not for you. And if you are expecting any guard rails you can forget that too.

    It really is a fun experience that you should not miss if you have the chance.

    How the people that work in the geothermal plant at Nesjavallavirkjun get there in the winter is beyond me. Maybe they have beds there and stay the entire winter? Or maybe by helicopter ?

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      I agree – it’s amazing. It’s closed for most of the winter.

  69. Jody Gibbons says:

    Hi Auður,

    Firstly thank you for making this blog post – its invaluable for people like myself visiting Iceland for the first time.

    I’m taking my girlfriend on a surprise 30th birthday to Iceland in late November. She’s always wanted to see the Northern Lights so hopefully we’ll see them. We are only there for 3 nts / 4 days and I’m planning on renting a car to do the Golden Circle Tour, reading previous posts it is possible in a small 2WD car but is weather dependant. Also judging by the time of year there will be a shortened day so I was thinking its probably best to spread this over two days so we’re not rushing about to see everything in daylight.

    Also is there anywhere in particular you recommend for seeing the Northern Lights, accessible by a small car?

    Many Thanks in advance

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Jody,

      There is no place in particular better than others for spotting the northern lights, you just need a clear sky and a bit of luck. Maybe this post of how to use the aurora forecast could be useful for you:

      I hope this helps!

  70. Trinh says:

    Thank you for this amazing blog! My boyfriend have a 16 hour layover in Iceland in early July and wanted to drive the Golden Circle ourselves. We land at 1:30PM and leave the next morning at 6AM. Is it possible to spend the entire time (minus the time getting in and out of the airport) at the Golden Circle? I know that some spots will be closed around 8PM-11PM but are there any attractions to see between 12AM – 4AM? We don’t mind driving throughout the night.

    Also, we wanted to visit the Blue Lagoon but I see that you suggested seeing the Secret Lagoon. Is it way better than the Blue Lagoon?

    1. mm Hrannar - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Trinh

      The Blue Lagoon you have to book in advance but the Secret Lagoon you can go if you want. As long as they are not sold out 🙂 You can definitely wander the circle all night long. The nature doesn’t close down 🙂

      When you head back to the airport, you can go south, to Þorlákshöfn and from there take the south coast road to Grindavík and from there to the airport. A great scenic drive before you fly out again 🙂

    2. Mark says:

      I did basically the same thing a couple years ago in May. Great things to see in the middle of the “night” are Strokkur (store/washrooms open until 9pm, when I was there), Gullfoss, and Seljalandsfoss (has a 24 hour outhouse). Seljalandsfoss is magical in the midnight sun; I also was there at 2:00 am and had about half an hour before other tourists showed up. The Secret Lagoon appeared closed when I got there late at night. The Gunnuhver Hot Springs (near Grindavik, definitely worth seeing, no swimming, no facilities, but fumaroles and spraying water) are close to airport and were also accessible at night, though I visited there in the morning I arrived. Route 39 was also scenic early in the morning.

      Given the amount of time you have, I’d suggest skipping The Blue Lagoon. Save it for another stop over in winter, where the cold weather and heat make a nice combination. If you want to go for a swim, head to Nauthólsvík in Reykjavík. It’s got a hot pool, and a sandy-shore ocean lagoon whose temperature depends on the tides. Check the hours before you go.

      It is really challenging to find facilities at night on the Golden Circle, so plan accordingly.

  71. Kati DeRuiter says:

    Love your blog!!! We’re visiting Iceland for the first time in early November – should we expect full on winter conditions with icy roads or would it still be easy for inexperienced winter drivers to navigate the roads? We’re from sunny, hot Arizona, so we aren’t ready to drive anything too challenging! Thanks!

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:


      We never actually know what it’s going to be like, so it might be super easy and no ice or snow, or might be very challenging! If you are not ready to drive yourselves (and remember, safety comes first) there are plenty of options for excursions and activities to do instead. You could check some of them out here: and then just send us an email at hello at if you need more help planning your stay.

  72. Aarti Longani says:

    Hi, thanks a lot for the information here, we plan to do the Golden circle and the Ring Road on our upcoming Iceland trip in August and this will help us plan the Golden circle drive. We definitely want to visit the Friðheimar Greenhouse and restaurant. It closes at 4pm. At what point do you think we should make the detour and go to the restaurant? We will probably start from Reyjkavik around 10.30am

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Aarti,

      It is only about a 15 minute drive from Geysir, so it depends on which way around you are doing things. If going to Þingvellir first, then I would say after seeing Gullfoss and Geysir. And then the Secret Lagoon, which is close by, would be a good stop on the way back to Reykjavík, after Friðheimar.

  73. Mona says:

    Hi Thank you for the info, Im doing Iceland trip with a few friends in first week of Aug, Do you think it’s cheaper to rent a car to drive to blue lagoon and golden circle in one day rather than tours? and how the roads are driving to BL and golden circle, Is it safe to drive during that time with a small car? Thank you so much

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      It depends on how many of you there are – for 2-3 or more it’s probably going to be cheaper to rent a car. The roads are fine in August, the only thing you have to worry about at that time of year is traffic – especially if you’re traveling the first weekend of August which is a huge travel weekend in Iceland.

      A small car should be fine although I always recommend you don’t book the smallest car available for comfort – but I have a big butt and long legs so that may be why I tend to offer that advice.

  74. Vince from NYC says:

    Hey just want to say thanks so much for the tips and info.
    I’m taking my 8 year old daughter to Iceland the first week of August 2017 for 6 days 5 nights. t’ll be our first time there, we’re staying in Reykjavik and I’ve decided to rent a car. I heard first weekend in August is super busy full of party goers. Do you think that’ll be an issue since this is a family trip? Im only 35 but at my age, my preference is not to be around too many “spring break” type of crowd. We’re going to the blue lagoon the first day and I was wondering how to use your map. I was looking for a live GPS version of your map where I can use during my drive so I don’t get lost. Thanks again!!

    1. Vince from NYC says:

      Edit: the second day I’m planning on driving the golden circle.

    2. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      The traffic is going to be heavy and some campsites might be busy but all depends on the weather actually.

      A lof of the people traveling are family folks like yourself and although they may have a beer or two (or three) with with the friends and families at campsites it’s not going to be rowdy. There are also organized festivals you might want to avoid like in the Westman Islands. But most of them have family friendly elements to them too.

  75. Robert S says:

    Hi, very helpful blog. Thanks.

    We’ll be in Island next May and we can start the Golden Circle tour not before 2pm cause we’re arriving by cruise ship at 1pm. Is this enough time for the tour or should we change our plannings?

    Thanks and Regards.

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Robert,

      You can do a quick tour of the Golden Circle in down to 6 hours or so. Some scheduled excursions during the summer leave late enough to work with your arrival time, but they haven’t opened for bookings yet, so that might or might not be available in May. You can always rent a car or do a private tour though, so there is always a way, and it depends on if you want to drive yourself or what your budget is, what is best. In May we have long daytime hours, so starting later in the day works fine.

      1. Robert S says:

        Hi, thanks for your reply.

        Just checked, in May the sunset will be later than 10pm. So we can rent a car and start the tour at 2pm and will have enough daylight all the Golden Circle.

        The next day our ship leaves at 3pm, is the Blue Lagoon worth a visit? Or better stroll around in Reykjavik?

        Regards, Robert.

        1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

          Hi Robert,

          it all depends on what you are interested in, as well as on your budget. I love Reykjavík, so I would suggest enjoying the city if this is your only time for that, but some people really enjoy the Blue Lagoon, it really is like nothing else.

  76. Rick says:

    This is a great post on the golden circle. I am curious. It looks like everyone does the tour in a clockwise motion, starting with Þingvellir National Park. Does it make sense to go in the opposite starting with Kerið Crater Lake and ending in Þingvellir National Park? It seems like this would avoid a bit of the crowds in the group tours (at least a little bit). I will be there in late July so daylight should not be an issue. Any thoughts or opinions would be welcomed.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      I don’t think it makes a difference when it comes to crowds – there are plenty of tour companies that do it the other way as well.

      The best way to avoid the crowds would be to do this tour at night.

  77. T Rose Clemente says:

    If we go to Blue Lagoon first then the crater and want to follow your route after what roads do you recommend so we can do it in reverse like recommended and take advantage of the scenic route. Thinking of doing the two waterfalls you recommended the and the geyser on the way back.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      You can map it all out if you use the direction option on Google Maps.

  78. Kirke Campbell says:

    I will be in a choir traveling from Oregon to Heathrow via Reykjavík, round trip, end of June 2018. We understand that the airline will allow a few stopover days on the way back, no extra charge, and about 8 of us are considering taking advantage of that. Since we know nothing about Iceland at all, can you help us decide how best to use our time to see what I-heart-Reykjavík recommends, whether we should plan to stay 2 nights or 3 nights? Any further advice will also be appreciated.

    1. mm Hrannar - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Kirke

      I think it’s better to do this conversation through email. Send us a line to hello[at] and we will help you plan.

  79. Khee-Hau, Tan says:

    This blog is really helpful !

    I’m planning a 5-day trip in the last week of Sep and of course would be self driving the Golden circle route. I don’t really want to rush it and so was thinking of doing it over 2 days (maybe half a circle clockwise followed by the other half in the other direction. Is this a good idea ? If so, where is a good place to stay ? Appreciate your advice.


    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      It’s neither a good or a bad idea – it just depends on how you like to travel. If you like to take things slower then this might be a good idea. Personally, I would probably rather spend two days on the south coast for example rather than two days on the Golden Circle but it’s just a question of personal preference.

      It might be good to stay in the Laugarvatn area for example or maybe Flúðir or somewhere around there. The Golden Circle is not a big area so anywhere would be good I think.

  80. Khee-Hau, Tan says:

    Thanks for the quick response. Do you advise staying in downtown Reykjavik itself ?

  81. Adriana Figueroa says:


    We have a long layover we arrive at 7am, our flight leaves 6:15pm. Do you think would have enough time to do the Golden Cirlce and the Secret Lagoon if we pick up the rental by 8am and back to the airport my 4:15pm?

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      It’s pushing it a little bit but if the weather is OK it should be doable.

      1. Rick says:

        That definitely sounds like you would be pushing it. We had a car dropped off at our apartment downtown at 8:00 and we didn’t get to the secret lagoon until 5:00 or so after stopping at the big 3 stops. It could be done, but you will need to carefully manage your time and won’t be able to spend too much time at any stop.

  82. NItin says:

    Very informative blog. I am going to use it as a guide for my trip to Iceland in mid-November.
    I have a question : If I start my day early (7-8 am) from Reykjavik and explore Golden Circle route (6-7 hours), how reasonable is it to think driving from Gullfoss to Vik arriving there by the late evening (8pm)?
    I am not considering to stop at any tourist spot between Gullfoss to Vik. I plan to explore this south coast on my way back from Vik to Reykjavik. Thanks.

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:


      this is doable, but keep in mind that it is a lot of driving, and depending on the time of year, could be a lot of driving in the dark. The daylight is very limited for quite a bit of time during the winter. Also, if you are arriving that morning after a flight, please read this:
      We just want you to be safe!

  83. Tom says:

    Would you suggest driving the Golden Circle route in November in a rental car? Are the roads cleared and de iced daily?


    1. mm Hrannar - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Tom.

      The roads are cleared and de-iced (salted) daily. It all depends on the weather condition. It can be calm and beautiful but we also have pretty bad storms here mostly from November to March. I recommend that you have a good car on studded tires just to be sure.

      You should also always check and before you go driving in Icelandic winter.


  84. Jessica says:

    Hi, heading to Reykjavík over new year. We are hiring a car and have 3 full days. One we plan to do the golden circle, the second the blue lagoon and a day around Reykjavík itself but for the third I hear you can do a walk to view a glacier, can you recommend one that is driveable in the day?
    Thank you

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Jessica,

      You can do a glacier walk as a part of a South Coast self drive tour:
      Or you can walk up to a viewpoint where you see Sólheimajökull glacier very well, This post might be useful for you:

  85. Symone says:

    Just did this drive today. Knackering but awesome. Picked a few points of interest and stopped by. All pretty much up to date as mentioned on here and just about the right time with a normal car. Any later in the year and we probably would have needed a 4×4 but careful driving with a few patch of ice here and there was perfect.
    Lovely attractions and awesome drive back pass the snowy mountains and through the national park.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Glad you liked it! 🙂

      We did have quite a lot of snow a few weeks ago so you never know with the weather here 🙂

  86. Sarah says:

    This article is awesome -thank you! Is there any restaurant besides the tomato farm and the ice cream barn that is on this route that would be good for about 14 people and is not too expensive for lunch? We are getting married and doing a custom tour with many of these stops you suggested 🙂

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      You could do the soup at Café Gullfoss – it’s not too expensive.

  87. Alayna says:

    I’m visiting Iceland the first two weeks of April and I’m very excited. Do you think driving on our own will be okay for that time? We were planning on renting a car but still not sure what the weather will be like.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      I can’t really answer that question for you. We might still have winter conditions in April or we might have very nice weather. The former is likelier though.

      If you’re a confident driver and you have some experience with winter driving you should be fine.

  88. Hari Srikanth says:

    Hi, this is a great blog. I am planning to drive the Golden Circle in mid March and have already rented a car at Keflavik airport. II just have a one day stopover. I have rented a compact 2WD as I am hoping in mid March the weather conditions will not be too harsh. I am flying in at 6.00AM on a Tuesday and should be ready to drive out by 7.30. I am thinking of heading straight to Reykjavik for breakfast and hang out there for some time and around 10AM start my Golden Circle drive. My plan is to return to Reykjavik around 5PM and get back to Keflavik where I have booked my overnight accommodation in Hotel Keflavik. My flight out is the next morning at 8. I intend to stick to paved main roads and not get too adventurous. Let me know if this plan sounds reasonable. Also since I will be returning to Keflavik after sundown what are the odds of spotting Northern Lights in that area? I would imagine chances would be better than in Reykjavik because I read you have to be away from the city lights. Any vantage points in Keflavik where I can drive to around 8 or 9PM?
    One last query. I am a vegetarian. Does anyone know if there are vegetarian options in the restaurants along Golden Circle like a salad menu? Of course I can always survive on fruits and beverages and ice cream for a day lol.

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Hari,

      As long as the driving conditions are good, this is doable. We never know if we will have snow in March though. And perhaps you should read this post, please drive carefully:
      Keflavík is not a big town, but it would still be better to drive out of the town a bit, to get away from the lights in town, to try to see the northern lights.
      And there will be vegetarian options at restaurants and cafés on the Golden Circle, so you will be fine when it comes to food.
      Enjoy your day in Iceland!

  89. Elaine Hammond says:

    Thanks for your wonderful post. We plan to self-drive the Golden Circle in mid-June 2018. I realize this will be a busy time. Any suggestions for time of day to start or finish to avoid most of the crowds? Also, does it matter which direction we drive it from Hafnarfjordur? Thanks.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Most of the tour buses leave in the morning and are back in Reykjavík around 6 or 7 so the traffic slows down considerably in the afternoon and early evening in most places.

      It doesn’t really matter whether you do Þingvellir or one of the other stops first.

  90. Parth says:

    Hi. Thanks very much for this informative post. I am from Canada and travelling to Iceland in 1st week of April 2018 for a week with my wife and 2 kids and I hope you can provide some guidance. We will be renting a 2WD at the airport and plan to drive to Golden Circle and taking the route suggested in your post sticking mostly to paved terrain. Will this be a good time for self drive? Also can you suggest if a GPS is needed or a paper map would be sufficient.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      In April I think you should be fine with a 2WD but you never know – we often get one good snowstorm after Easter (which is at the beginning of April this year).

      I don’t think you would need a GPS for the Golden Circle – it’s pretty straightforward. If your phone company has a good international plan you can always use google maps if needed. Or you can buy a local SIM if you have an unlocked phone.

      The GPS is mostly helpful within the city and paper maps are not very helpful there.

  91. Parth says:

    Hello Auður,
    Your posts are quite helpful and greatly appreciated. I am planning to travel in 1st week of April and will be renting a 2WD car at the airport. Would like your suggestion on whether Sand and Ash protection is a must have in April ?

    Thank you.

  92. Sarah says:


    I will be visiting Iceland at the end of April. Our plan is to drive from KEF to Reykjavik, drive the Golden Circle, and go to Blue Lagoon. Do you have any recommendations on which type of car rental insurance to get?

    Thank you!

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      I always recommend you add the SCDW. Depending on who you rent with, it either reduces the self-risk considerably or completely.

      1. Anna says:

        How about gravel and sand and ash protection?

  93. Natalya says:

    I’m having difficulty finding info about whether it’s possible to combine visits along the golden circle and to the south island in a rental car without having to go back to Rekjavik in between. Is it possible to start out going clockwise around the golden circle and when you get to the bottom, to cut down to the coast (where we would stay overnight)? I’ll be traveling with two kids so if there’s a way to see both areas in a single two-day trip I’m sure everyone in my family would appreciate it. Thank you!

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Yes, you can do that – it would be good to stay in the Flúðir/Hella/Hvolsvöllur area for example.

  94. Lisa says:


    I am planning my second trip to Iceland! I will be there for approximately 10 days in October. We are renting a car and doing the Ring Road and i am hoping to get to the West Fjords and Snaefellnes Peninsula (this is why it is approximately 10 days). My friend will be meeting me at the airport and she has never been to Iceland, so she would like to see Pingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss. I have already seen them. So I thought I could combine the Golden Circle with a snowmobiling trip from Husafell to Langjokull. I am not sure yet if we will go clockwise or counterclockwise from Reykjavik yet. However, I am looking for a shortcut from Pingvellir to Husafell. I have read not to take 52 to 550 because 550 is for 4 wheel drive vehicles. I looked at Road.IS and it looks like 550 is now paved. Do you know about this? Would this be a safe route (provided no storms) for the 3rd week of October? Any advise is appreciated!


    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Road 550 is not paved, it’s just not an F-marked road anymore. I’m not sure what the conditions will be like on October but the last time I went this route it was in a huge specialized vehicle that hardly managed due to soft snow and muddy roads.

  95. silvanus says:

    Hi, Planning to go for one week in late november. we want to go circling the whole island and stopping by in most places. We really want to see northern light and soak in a hot springs. Any recommendation wih planning? Thanks

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Get a good car (4wd) and make sure you allocate enough time for this as the weather can change your plans quickly.

  96. Joyce says:


    We are planning for a trip in Dec and had no experience driving in snow. Our route starts from Reykjavik to the golden circle with overnight in Laugarvatn. Laugarvath to Vesti Petursey [overnight] via Vik. Vesti Petursey to Kirkbaejarklaustur and overnight at Horgsland. Kirbaejarklaustur to Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon and Diamond beach as day trip then back to Horgsland. The last route will be from Horgsland to Reykjavik. Is there any of the route here considered F road or one we should be extra careful with please.
    Thank you.

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      None of these roads are F roads (more information about the roads in Iceland: but you need to be careful on all of those roads. The south coast is known for being very windy and there are several mountain passes along the way as well.

  97. Sara Wild says:

    Thank you so much for this post! so you do think its possible to leave Reykjavik in the morning (6/7), visit the golden circle and head south and arrive by evening to Vik? Thanks

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      It’s possible but it will be a long day.

  98. Dana says:

    Thank you for the info!

    Which area of Iceland are you the biggest fan of? (if you are not a great fan of Golden Circle Tour)

    I don’t like crowds either, and just starting to plan my trip in August (crowned time)…

    Thank you

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Anywhere else? It’s not that I have something against the Golden Circle – it’s just one of those areas that I’ve seen a million times and every time I would get guests from abroad I would have to take them there so I just choose to go elsewhere if I can. But the sights are still beautiful.

      1. Dana says:

        Thanks Auður, I totally get that. You are suffering from GC fatigue. Lol :p.

  99. Michael says:

    I don’t see 5 layers on this map! I only see one. Where are the layers???

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      They are on the left hand side of the map. If you don’t see it on the page you can go directly to google maps and see it there.

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