Driving the Golden Circle in Iceland – Self-Drive Guide With Map!

Your Guide to Driving the Golden Circle in Iceland

The Golden Circle is a must-see for anyone visiting Iceland. With dramatic landscapes, hot springs, and a giant crater, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular Iceland road trips.  If you’ve made the decision to self-driving the Golden Circle in Iceland, I have you covered!

Below, I am covering tips for driving the Golden Circle, best stops, and more! First time in Iceland? Check out these Iceland Travel Tips!

Iceland horses driving the golden circle

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How Long Does it Take to Drive Iceland’s Golden Circle

Driving the Golden Circle in Iceland takes about 3 hours with no stops – not to be confused with self-driving Ring road, which is the road trip that goes around the entire country of Iceland. With that being said, this will be a full-day trip! Since the Golden Circle is extremely popular, make sure to get an early start to avoid the crowds.

We drove Iceland’s Golden Circle in Spring, however, you can drive the route during any season. If you decide to self-drive the Golden Circle during winter, you will want to have 4 Wheel Drive and tires with studs. Additionally, you will want to make sure to dress extra warm in layers. 

Some positives of driving the Golden Circle in winter are the better possibility of seeing the Northern Lights, fewer crowds, and everything looking like a winter wonderland! Check out these Northern Lights tours. 

Below is our Google map route of the best stops along the Golden Circle.

Now all you need to do is just type these Golden Circle stops into your GPS, and you are off! You can also find a screenshot of our Google Map route for driving the Golden Circle at the bottom of this post.

Haven’t rented your car yet? Check Discover Cars for the best deals.

Iceland Tip: If you are starting in Reykjavik, remove Selfoss from your Golden Circle itinerary. Also, be prepared to pay for parking at some locations. We stayed in Selfoss during our trip to Iceland, so I wanted to include it. 

Kerið Crater Lake

We stayed in Selfoss, which is considered one of the best places to stay in Iceland when driving the Golden Circle, so we made Kerið Crater our first stop. However, from Reykjavik, Kerid Crater lake might be your last stop on your Golden Circle route. This 3,000-year-old volcanic crater lake is quite impressive!

During your visit, you have the opportunity to walk fully around the crater, as well as, hike down to the pool of water (weather conditions permitting). We visited Iceland during the spring, therefore, everything was open.

Visit Kerið Crater Lake in Iceland
Kerið Crater Lake. Can you see the specs of people down below?

Secret Lagoon

Next, we stopped to look at the Secret Lagoon. Thinking that the Secret lagoon would be similar to the Blue Lagoon, we only intended to be there for a short time. However, the Secret Lagoon is a small hot spring minus the milky blue water.

If you plan on adding Secret Lagoon to your Golden Circle route, I would suggest getting here very early or making this a separate day trip.

The Secret Lagoon offers a nice seating area and a place to order food, however, we walked in for about 5 minutes and then continued to the next stop on the Golden Circle.

Geysir Geothermal Area

Next, make your way to one of the most popular stops on the Golden Circle the Geysir’s! There is free parking, can you believe it?! From the parking lot, you will walk across the street to the entrance.

Just be warned, the smell of rotten eggs permeates the air all around you! What you are actually smelling is the sulfur in the Earth’s water.

The main attraction, Strokkur (giant Geysir), shoots out water about every 10 minutes or so! We stood and watched in anticipation while the water boiled.

 We watched for about 3 bursts because I thought it was so cool! While here, this is a great time to grab something to eat and use the restroom.

Geysir in Iceland on the Golden Circle route
Strokkur Geysir

Eating by the Geysers

Walking back across the street, there is a gift shop, bathrooms, and food. One thing I learned is if you can find a free bathroom in Iceland, use it. Otherwise, you will probably have to pay to pee!

We went here to eat, and believe it or not, the food was pretty reasonably priced for Iceland’s prices, and is a major tourist attraction. You have your choice of fast food and/or soup, or further down by the bathrooms, there is a nicer spot that has assorted sandwiches, beer, gelato, and other desserts.

Get Up Close With Icelandic Horses

Want to see the Icelandic horses up close? Then you will want to make sure to add this stop to your Golden Circle itinerary. This is marked as Brú on the Google map above.

You will find a box full of “treats” for the horses with a cup to put money in. The box is not regulated, but the owner trusts people will pay.

The second we walked up, the horses came right up to us, reaching for our hands. Clearly, they were only interested in their treats, but that was fine with me! We stood there a while, gently petting the horses.

Right as we got there, a tour bus pulled in, so this is likely a popular stopping spot.

Gullfoss Waterfalls

Gullfoss waterfalls is one of the best waterfalls in Iceland, making it a very popular Golden Circle attraction! When we arrived, the wind almost knocked me off my feet. It was incredibly cold, but also incredibly beautiful.

There are several theories on how Gullfoss (translated as Golden Falls) acquired its name. One theory is because of the golden evening hue that often colors the glacial water. Another is from the rainbow that appears when the sun hits the spray.

The last theory is really a legend of a farmer named Gygur who owned a ton of gold, and because he didn’t want anyone else to possess it, he put it in a coffer and threw it into the river. Thus the name Golden Falls.

Visit Gullfoss Waterfalls while driving the Golden Circle

Þingvellir National Park – Thingvellir National Park

Last but not least, head to Pingvellir National Park. Rich in history and breathtaking scenery made it another must-see on your road trip. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers tons of hiking trails, waterfalls, and the largest natural lake in Iceland.

One of the most popular activities to do in Þingvellir National Park is swimming at Silfra which is between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. I also believe this is the only place in the world you can experience this.

Unfortunately, this was one of the mistakes made in Iceland since we did not plan ahead to set up a tour, however, I’ve heard from others that it is an amazing experience! Check Golden Circle tours here.

Address: Thingvellir, 801 Selfoss, Iceland

Þingvellir National Park in Iceland's Golden Circle

Golden Circle Iceland Self Driving Guide Wrap-up

This summarizes the best stops to see when driving the Iceland Golden Circle. I hope you have the most amazing experience self-driving the Golden Circle! Did I miss any spots you think should be added, or do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below! 

More Iceland Resources: Iceland 4 Day Ultimate Itinerary | Blue Lagoon First-timer Guide | Glacier Lagoon Road Trip Guide | Iceland Photo Inspiration

Where to Stay in Iceland: Iceland is a very popular destination, so the best accommodations book up fast. Here are some of the best places to stay. Midgardur by Center Hotels $$$ | Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina $$| Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre $$$$| Loft – HI Hostel $| Vrbo Home Rentals

Iceland Tours: Find some of the best Iceland tours, including whale watching, volcanoes, and more on Get Your Guide and Viator.

Golden Circle Iceland Road trip Stops review:

  • Kerið Crater Lake
  • Secret Lagoon
  • Geysir Geothermal Area
  • Get Up Close With Icelandic Horses
  • Gullfoss Waterfalls
  • Þingvellir National Park – Thingvellir National Park
Map for driving the golden circle in Iceland
Map with points for driving the Golden Circle

Did you find this Self Driving Golden Circle Iceland Itinerary helpful? I’d really appreciate it if you could share it below!

Driving the Golden Circle Iceland
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Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

7 thoughts on “Driving the Golden Circle in Iceland – Self-Drive Guide With Map!”

  1. Great pictures! I would love to go to Iceland, in fact it’s on the top of my list after I move out of Asia. I’ll definitely bookmark your post for a great drive while I’m there 🙂

  2. I am probably the biggest failure of a blogger! When we went to Iceland we didn’t see anything on the Golden circle (Oops!) We do reeeeally want to go back though, so I will do better next time. 😉

    Gullfoss is ridiculous! The waterfalls in Iceland are simply stunning! I LOVE your photos!!


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