Golden circle road trip plan – see essential Icelandic destinations

The Golden Circle is the most popular area to visit in Iceland

The Golden Circle is the most popular area to visit in Iceland, and for a good reason. This area has many of Iceland´s trademark attractions, such as the Gullfoss waterfall, the geyser field at Haukadalur, and the historic and beautiful site of Thingvellir. There is a good selection of hotels and other forms of accommodation on the Golden Circle. However, since demand is high, I recommend booking accommodation early. By subscribing to my newsletter here below👇🏼, you can save on renting a car or camper van rental.

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Map of the Golden Circle road trip plan

Part 1 – Golden Circle road trip plan – Start in Reykjavik

Most people pick up their rented car at Keflavik airport and then drive to Reykjavik. Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, is home to the world’s oldest parliament and offers beautiful views of mountains and the ocean. Reykjavik and its satellite towns are essentially Iceland; 2/3 of the country’s population lives there. Don’t miss the main street, Laugavegur, known for its shops and cafes. I would also take care not to miss the adjacent Skólavörðustígur road, which also has a lot of great design shops. If you are into architecture and culture, you want to check out the impressive Harpa concert and conference center downtown.

The Harpa in Reykjavik. Photo by Laila Gebhard on Unsplash

You will be spoilt for choice of tours, restaurants and cafés. One recent feature of Reykjavik is its bustling food halls. Check out the food halls at Hlemmur and the more upmarket Hafnartorg Gallery.

Grótta lighthouse looking pretty great.
Grótta lighthouse is looking pretty great.

Check out my section on Reykjavik; Reykjavik is a family-friendly city with many great places and activities.

Quick tips for things to do in Reykjavik

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There is also a great selection of Reykjavik tours.

There is also a great selection of Reykjavik tours.

Þingvellir is one of the stops on the Golden Circle guided tour from Reykjavik Sightseeing.
Thingvellir

Head towards Thingvellir

Explore Thingvellir which is hallowed ground for us Icelanders. This is the Althing which was founded back in 930. It is not only a site of historical significance, it is simply really beautiful. One popular activity there is to dive into the Silfra gorge with its icy and clear water.

They geyser field of Haukadalur is an essential stop on the Golden Circle tour by Reykjavik Sightseeing.
They geyser field of Haukadalur is an essential stop on the Golden Circle tour by Reykjavik Sightseeing.

The geysers of Haukadalur valley

Next order of business is to head up the famous Geyser fields of Haukadalur. Watch the geyser Strokkur spew out massive plumes of steam and water and explore the rest of this impressive geyser field.

Gullfoss waterfall

Drive to the impressive waterfall of Gullfoss. This two tiered waterfall never fails to impress and has become nothing less than an icon for Iceland.

Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland in winte
Gullfoss waterfall in winter.

Next stop is Friðheimar restaurant and tomato farm

Friðheimar is a lovely restaurant that serves wholesome locally made food. Almost everything on the menu, food, and drink contains the tomatoes grown there.

Tomato farming at Friðheimar restaurant in Iceland
Friðheimar is a fully working tomato farm.

Stop on the Secret Lagoon

I recommend soaking in the wonderful Secret Lagoon.

The Secret Lagoon is always a great place to visit.
The Secret Lagoon is always a great place to visit.s

Head towards Hveragerdi town and then to Reykjavik

Drive towards the town of Hveragerdi.  On the way to Hveragerði, you have the option of stopping at the wonderful Secret Lagoon in Flúðir, also in Flúðir there is the Ethiopian restaurant Minilik, check out the Kerið, a unique 3,000-year-old crater. I recommend grabbing a meal at the new food hall in Selfoss or the Hveragerði food hall.

Important! Stay safe when driving in Iceland!

Icelandic roads are narrower than roads in Europe so keep your speed down and your eyes open.

NEVER, EVER STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD TO PHOTOGRAPH SOMETHING.

If you are renting a car for use in winter please consider renting a 4×4 vehicle. When driving in Iceland in winter the car and yourself must be ready to handle slippery roads, snow, darkness, low (or zero) visibility heavy rain, gale-force winds, and frost.

Always follow the weather forecast and be mindful of road conditions. Go on the site www.sitetravel.is, study and follow the advice given there.