Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

The Golden Circle Self Drive Tour


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Angelia Kwiatkowski



Welcome to the land of fire and ice! Iceland’s stunning landscapes, from majestic waterfalls to erupting geysers, make it a dream destination for adventure seekers. And if you’re looking for an epic road trip that combines natural wonders, cultural experiences, and the freedom to explore at your own pace, then the Golden Circle self-drive tour is perfect for you.


The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route in southwestern Iceland, covering about 190 miles. It’s a circular journey that starts and ends in Reykjavik, the country’s vibrant capital city.


This self-drive tour allows you to immerse yourself in Iceland’s captivating beauty and discover some of its most iconic sights. From the cascading waters at Gullfoss waterfall to the awe-inspiring landscapes of Thingvellir National Park, each day of the trip promises a new adventure.


One of the great advantages of a self-drive tour is the flexibility to set your itinerary. You have the freedom to spend as much or as little time as you want at each location. Whether you’re a photography enthusiast looking for the perfect shot or someone who wants to soak in the natural hot springs along the way, the Golden Circle self-drive tour gives you the freedom to make the trip your own.


It’s essential to plan your trip accordingly, taking into consideration the weather, road conditions, and the length of your stay. The best time to embark on this adventure is during the summer months, from June to August, when the weather is mild, and the days are long, allowing you to make the most of your time exploring Iceland’s beauty.


Now, let’s take a closer look at the route overview of the Golden Circle self-drive tour and the exciting places you’ll encounter along the way!


Route Overview

The Golden Circle self-drive tour takes you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Iceland. Here’s a brief overview of the route and the highlights you can expect along the way:

  1. Reykjavik: Start your journey in Reykjavik, the vibrant capital city of Iceland. Explore its charming streets, visit iconic landmarks like the Hallgrimskirkja Church, and indulge in the local cuisine at one of the many restaurants and cafes.
  2. Thingvellir National Park: Just a short drive from Reykjavik, you’ll find the stunning Thingvellir National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site is known for its unique geological features, including the rift valley that marks the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
  3. Geysir: Your next stop is the Geysir Geothermal Area, famous for its erupting geysers. Witness the powerful Strokkur geyser shooting hot water and steam into the sky, and take in the surreal beauty of the surrounding geothermal landscapes.
  4. Gullfoss: Prepare to be mesmerized by the spectacular Gullfoss waterfall. This massive two-tiered waterfall is a true natural wonder, as water cascades down into a deep gorge, creating a dramatic display of raw power and beauty.
  5. Skógafoss: As you continue your journey, you’ll encounter the magnificent Skógafoss waterfall. With its 60-meter drop, this waterfall is a sight to behold. Climb the stairs to the top for a spectacular view, or take a walk along the nearby hiking trails for even more scenic vistas.
  6. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Prepare to be awestruck by the surreal beauty of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Marvel at the floating icebergs as they glide across the crystal-clear waters, and keep an eye out for seals lounging on the ice. This otherworldly location is a photographer’s paradise.
  7. Vatnajökull National Park: Explore the vast wilderness of Vatnajökull National Park, home to Europe’s largest glacier and a diverse range of flora and fauna. Take a guided glacier hike, explore ice caves, or simply enjoy the stunning views of the glacier from various viewpoints.
  8. Reykjavik: Conclude your Golden Circle self-drive tour by returning to Reykjavik. Take this opportunity to revisit your favorite spots, indulge in some last-minute shopping, or relax in one of the city’s geothermal pools.

Each stop along the Golden Circle self-drive tour offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you’re captivated by the raw power of waterfalls, the mesmerizing beauty of glaciers, or the geothermal wonders of Iceland, this adventure is sure to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.


In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into each day of the journey, providing you with more details on the incredible sights and activities you can enjoy along the way.


Day 1: Reykjavik

Your Golden Circle self-drive tour begins in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. Reykjavik is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, offering a mix of history, culture, and natural beauty. Spend your first day exploring this charming city and immersing yourself in its unique atmosphere.


Start your day by visiting the iconic Hallgrimskirkja Church. This towering landmark is one of Reykjavik’s most famous landmarks, offering stunning panoramic views of the city from its observation deck. Marvel at the striking architecture inspired by volcanic rock formations and take a moment to appreciate the serene ambiance inside the church.


Afterward, take a stroll through the streets of downtown Reykjavik and discover its vibrant art scene. Admire the colorful street art, visit galleries showcasing works of local artists, and perhaps even pick up a unique piece of Icelandic artwork as a souvenir.


When hunger strikes, treat yourself to some authentic Icelandic cuisine. From fresh seafood to hearty lamb dishes, Reykjavik is a haven for food lovers. Try some traditional dishes like Icelandic fish stew or fermented shark to truly immerse yourself in the local gastronomy.


In the afternoon, visit the iconic Harpa Concert Hall. This architectural marvel is an impressive display of glass and steel, reflecting the beauty of the surrounding landscapes. Take a guided tour to learn about its design and history, or catch a performance if there are any scheduled during your visit.


As the evening sets in, relax and unwind in one of Reykjavik’s geothermal pools. The city is famous for its abundance of geothermal activity, and there’s no better way to experience it than by taking a dip in one of the many hot pools. Whether you choose the modern facilities of the Laugardalslaug swimming pool or the more rustic experience of the Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach, you’ll leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.


End your first day in Reykjavik by enjoying the city’s vibrant nightlife. Reykjavik is known for its lively bar scene, featuring a variety of establishments ranging from cozy pubs to trendy cocktail bars. Immerse yourself in the local culture, enjoy some live music, and raise a glass to the start of your Golden Circle adventure.


After a day full of exploration and relaxation, rest up and prepare for an exciting journey ahead. Tomorrow, we’ll hit the road and embark on the first leg of our Golden Circle self-drive tour, visiting the stunning Thingvellir National Park.


Day 2: Thingvellir National Park

On the second day of your Golden Circle self-drive tour, you’ll venture into the breathtaking landscapes of Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This stunning location is not only known for its natural beauty but also for its historical and cultural significance.


Start your day by driving from Reykjavik to Thingvellir National Park, which is located approximately 31 miles northeast of the capital. As you approach the park, you’ll be greeted by a dramatic landscape of rugged cliffs, volcanic rocks, and crystal-clear lakes.


Once you arrive, take some time to explore the park’s most famous attraction, the Almannagjá Gorge. This impressive rift marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Walk along the trails that meander through the gorge, marveling at the unique geological formations created by the shifting tectonic forces.


While in Thingvellir National Park, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the historical site known as the Þingvellir (Thingvellir) Assembly. This was the ancient meeting place of the Icelandic Parliament, which was founded in 930 AD and is considered one of the oldest parliamentary institutions in the world. Wander through the remains of the assembly grounds and soak in the rich history of Iceland.


Another must-see attraction in the park is the picturesque Öxarárfoss waterfall. Located within a short walk from the assembly site, this waterfall cascades down a series of steps, surrounded by lush greenery and stunning rock formations. It’s the perfect spot to capture some memorable photos.


After exploring the park on foot, consider taking a refreshing dip in the Silfra Fissure. This famous snorkeling and diving spot offers a unique opportunity to traverse the narrow gap between the tectonic plates, where the water is crystal clear and provides excellent visibility. It’s a truly unforgettable experience for adventure enthusiasts.


Before leaving Thingvellir National Park, take a moment to soak in the serene beauty of Lake Thingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. Enjoy a picnic by the lakeside or take a leisurely walk along its shores, appreciating the tranquility of the surroundings.


As the day comes to an end, make your way back to Reykjavik. Reflect on the incredible natural wonders and historical significance you encountered during your visit to Thingvellir National Park. Tomorrow, we’ll continue our journey along the Golden Circle, heading to the spectacular Geysir Geothermal Area.


Day 3: Geysir

Welcome to day 3 of your exhilarating Golden Circle self-drive tour! Today, get ready to witness the incredible geothermal power of the Geysir Geothermal Area. This geothermal wonderland is home to spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools, and vibrant hot springs.


From Reykjavik, drive approximately 62 miles east to reach the Geysir Geothermal Area. As you approach, you’ll be greeted by the mesmerizing sight of Strokkur, the star attraction of the area. This geyser erupts with bursts of scalding water shooting up to 130 feet into the air at regular intervals, creating a truly awe-inspiring spectacle.


Take your time to marvel at the power and beauty of Strokkur. Be ready with your camera to capture the perfect shot of the eruption, and don’t be surprised if you feel the ground shake beneath your feet as the geyser prepares for its next display.


As you explore the geothermal area, you’ll also encounter other geysers, such as Geysir after which the area is named. While Geysir itself is not as active as Strokkur, you can still witness the bubbling pools and steam rising from the ground, making it a fascinating sight to behold.


Don’t forget to take a walk around the neighboring hot springs and mud pools. The vibrant colors created by minerals and microorganisms in these pools create a surreal and otherworldly landscape. It’s a unique experience to see the earth’s natural forces at work up close.


After immersing yourself in the geothermal wonders of the area, take some time to visit the nearby Geysir Center. Here, you can learn more about geothermal activity in Iceland, the science behind the eruptions, and the cultural significance of geothermal energy in the country.


Before leaving, indulge in a delicious meal at one of the nearby restaurants. Many dining options offer traditional Icelandic dishes prepared using the natural geothermal heat, providing a unique culinary experience that you won’t find anywhere else.


As the day draws to a close, begin your journey back to Reykjavik. Reflect on the incredible geothermal power you witnessed and the fascinating insights you gained into Iceland’s unique geological formations. Tomorrow, we’ll continue our Golden Circle self-drive tour as we make our way to the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall.


Day 4: Gullfoss

Welcome to day 4 of your unforgettable Golden Circle self-drive tour! Today, prepare to be captivated by the sheer beauty and power of Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s most iconic and spectacular waterfalls.


From Reykjavik, drive approximately 64 miles east to reach Gullfoss. As you approach the waterfall, you’ll be greeted by the thundering sound of cascading water and the mist that fills the air. Prepare to be in awe as you witness the raw power of nature in action.


Gullfoss, also known as the “Golden Falls,” is a two-tiered waterfall located on the Hvítá River. It plummets down into a massive canyon, creating a breathtaking sight that will leave you speechless. The sheer magnitude and beauty of Gullfoss make it one of Iceland’s most popular attractions.


Explore the various viewpoints and walking paths that lead you closer to the waterfall. Feel the spray of the mist on your face and immerse yourself in the incredible natural surroundings. Take plenty of photos to capture the grandeur and wonder of Gullfoss.


As you stand in awe of Gullfoss, it’s also worth learning about the remarkable story behind its preservation. In the early 20th century, there were plans to harness the power of the waterfall for hydroelectricity. However, local farmer Sigríður Tómasdóttir fought tirelessly to protect Gullfoss, even threatening to throw herself into the waterfall in protest. Thanks to her efforts, Gullfoss remains untouched and continues to mesmerize visitors from around the world.


After taking in the majesty of Gullfoss, consider stopping by the nearby Gullfoss Café to enjoy a warm drink or a bite to eat. Treat yourself to some traditional Icelandic cuisine, such as a hearty lamb stew or a delicious bowl of seafood soup, while enjoying the stunning views of the waterfall.


Take some time to explore the surrounding area as well. Just a short drive away is the Geysir Geothermal Area, where you can witness the spouting geysers and bubbling mud pools. This is a great opportunity to revisit the geothermal wonders you encountered on Day 3 of your Golden Circle tour, and perhaps even witness Strokkur’s signature eruptions once again.


As the day comes to a close, make your way back to Reykjavik, reflecting on the awe-inspiring beauty of Gullfoss and the incredible power of nature. Tomorrow, we’ll continue our journey along the Golden Circle, heading to the majestic Skógafoss waterfall.


Day 5: Skógafoss

Welcome to day 5 of your exhilarating Golden Circle self-drive tour! Today, get ready for another breathtaking waterfall experience as we make our way to the majestic Skógafoss.


From Reykjavik, drive approximately 94 miles southeast to reach Skógafoss. As you approach the waterfall, you’ll be captivated by the thundering sound of water crashing down from a height of 60 meters (197 feet) and the mist that fills the air. Skógafoss is truly a sight to behold.


Upon arrival, take some time to walk up close to Skógafoss and feel the sheer power and magnitude of the cascading water. Stand in awe as rainbows form in the mist on sunny days, adding a touch of magic to the already stunning scenery. Remember to bring a waterproof jacket, as the spray from the waterfall can be quite intense.


For the more adventurous souls, consider climbing the stairs that lead to the top of Skógafoss. This will reward you with a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape and a chance to witness the waterfall from a different perspective. The climb can be challenging, but the view at the top is absolutely worth it.


After marveling at Skógafoss, take the opportunity to explore the Skógar Museum, located nearby. This open-air museum provides a glimpse into Iceland’s cultural heritage, showcasing various traditional buildings and artifacts. Learn about the history and lifestyle of the early Icelandic settlers as you wander through the museum’s exhibits.


As you continue your journey, consider exploring the nearby Skógá River and its beautiful canyon. Take a hike along the riverbank, marvel at the basalt columns and lush vegetation, and enjoy the serene beauty of the Icelandic countryside. The Skógá River also offers opportunities for fishing, so if you’re inclined, you can try your luck at catching some trout.


Before leaving Skógafoss, don’t forget to fuel up at the nearby Skógafoss Bistro and Café. Refuel with a comforting meal or enjoy a warm cup of coffee while savoring the view of the waterfall.


As the day comes to an end, make your way back to Reykjavik. Reflect on the captivating beauty of Skógafoss and the incredible experiences you’ve had along this self-drive adventure. Tomorrow, we’ll continue our Golden Circle journey as we head to the magnificent Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.


Day 6: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Welcome to day 6 of your awe-inspiring Golden Circle self-drive tour! Today, get ready to witness the mesmerizing beauty of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, a natural wonder that will leave you speechless.


From Reykjavik, embark on a scenic drive of approximately 224 miles southeast to reach the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. As you approach the lagoon, you’ll be greeted by a breathtaking sight: a glacial lake filled with icebergs of various shapes and sizes, glistening in shades of blue and white.


Take your time to explore the lagoon and marvel at the beauty of the floating icebergs as they gently drift across the calm, crystal-clear water. Keep an eye out for seals that often bask on the ice, adding to the magical atmosphere of the lagoon.


Consider taking a boat tour to get up close to the icebergs and sail around the lagoon. This unique experience allows you to witness the sheer magnitude of the ice formations and learn more about the glacial environment from knowledgeable guides. It’s an opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the wonders of nature.


After exploring the lagoon, take a moment to visit the nearby Diamond Beach. This black sand beach is adorned with glistening ice chunks that have drifted from the lagoon and washed ashore, resembling diamonds scattered along the coast. It’s a surreal sight that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale.


Photography enthusiasts will find endless opportunities to capture stunning shots at Jökulsárlón. Whether it’s the reflection of the icebergs in the lagoon, the contrast of colors against the black sand, or the ethereal lighting during sunrise or sunset, this location is a dream come true for shutterbugs.


As the day progresses, you may choose to explore other nearby attractions, such as the nearby Skaftafell Nature Reserve or the Vatnajökull Ice Caves. Keep in mind that access to the ice caves is seasonal, typically available from November to March, and requires a guided tour.


As the day comes to a close, start your journey back to Reykjavik. Reflect on the unparalleled beauty of Jökulsárlón and the unique experiences you’ve had along this self-drive adventure. Tomorrow, we’ll continue our Golden Circle journey as we head to the stunning Vatnajökull National Park.


Day 7: Vatnajökull National Park

Welcome to day 7 of your incredible Golden Circle self-drive tour! Today, get ready to explore the vast wilderness of Vatnajökull National Park, home to Europe’s largest glacier and a myriad of natural wonders.


From Reykjavik, embark on a scenic drive of approximately 240 miles southeast to reach Vatnajökull National Park. As you approach the park, you’ll be greeted by the majestic presence of Vatnajökull, a massive ice cap that covers more than 8% of Iceland’s landmass.


Begin your exploration of the park by visiting the Skaftafell Nature Reserve. This oasis located within Vatnajökull National Park offers a diverse range of landscapes, including glaciers, mountains, and lush valleys. Take a hike along the well-marked trails that lead to picturesque viewpoints and awe-inspiring vistas. Marvel at the contrast of ice against the black volcanic sand and immerse yourself in the tranquility of this pristine wilderness.


Consider joining a guided glacier hike to truly experience the magnificence of Vatnajökull. Equipped with crampons and guided by experienced professionals, you’ll have the opportunity to step foot onto the glacier and explore its icy formations. Learn about the ever-changing nature of glaciers and get a firsthand feel for this frozen wonder.


Vatnajökull National Park is also home to numerous mesmerizing ice caves, a true natural marvel. If visiting during the winter months, you may have the chance to explore these ethereal caves that form within the glacier. Marvel at the vivid blue hues and intricate ice formations as you venture into the heart of the glacier with a knowledgeable guide. It’s an experience that will surely leave you in awe.


As you continue your journey through the park, take some time to appreciate the diverse flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for arctic foxes, reindeer, and a variety of bird species that call this area their home. Explore the different hiking trails and breathe in the fresh mountain air as you revel in the serenity of this remote wilderness.


Before leaving Vatnajökull National Park, consider visiting the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon once more, as it lies within the park’s boundaries. Witness the ever-changing landscape of the lagoon and bid farewell to the mesmerizing icebergs as they make their way towards the ocean.


As the day comes to an end, begin your journey back to Reykjavik. Reflect on the incredible beauty and grandeur of Vatnajökull National Park, and the unforgettable experiences you’ve had along this self-drive adventure. Tomorrow, we’ll conclude our Golden Circle tour as we head back to the vibrant capital city.


Day 8: Reykjavik

Welcome to the final day of your amazing Golden Circle self-drive tour! Today, we return to Reykjavik, where you can reflect on the incredible memories you’ve made and explore more of this vibrant capital city.


Take your time in the morning to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and savor the last moments of your adventure across Iceland’s Golden Circle. Then, make your way back to Reykjavik, driving approximately 240 miles northwest.


Once you arrive in Reykjavik, take the opportunity to revisit some of your favorite spots and landmarks, or discover new hidden gems within the city. Explore the unique shops and boutiques, where you can find souvenirs, handcrafted items, and traditional Icelandic products to bring back home.


If you haven’t done so already, visit the iconic Hallgrimskirkja Church once again. Take a moment to admire its striking architecture and enjoy panoramic views of the city from its observation deck. You can also explore the nearby streets filled with colorful houses and charming cafes, immersing yourself in the city’s vibrant atmosphere.


Indulge in the delightful culinary scene of Reykjavik by trying out some traditional Icelandic dishes or exploring the diverse range of international cuisine offered in the city’s many restaurants and eateries. Don’t forget to sample some Icelandic delicacies like Icelandic lamb, fresh seafood, or the famous Icelandic hot dog.


After satisfying your taste buds, consider visiting one of Reykjavik’s many museums or art galleries. The National Museum of Iceland offers a fascinating insight into the country’s history and culture, while the Reykjavik Art Museum showcases contemporary and modern art. Dive into the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Iceland as you wander through the exhibits.


In the afternoon, take a relaxing dip in one of Reykjavik’s geothermal pools. The city is renowned for its natural hot springs, and visiting one is a must for a truly Icelandic experience. Whether you choose the popular Blue Lagoon or one of the local pools like Laugardalslaug, unwind and pamper yourself in the soothing warm waters.


As the evening sets in, watch the city come alive with its vibrant nightlife. Reykjavik boasts a bustling bar scene, with a variety of establishments offering live music, cozy pubs, and trendy cocktail bars. Enjoy a night out, listening to local bands or reflecting on your incredible adventure over a refreshing drink.


As you conclude your Golden Circle self-drive tour in Reykjavik, take a moment to reflect on the countless memories you’ve made during your journey through Iceland’s stunning landscapes and captivating attractions. Cherish the experiences and embrace the sense of adventure that has accompanied you throughout your trip.


Thank you for joining us on this remarkable journey, and we hope your Golden Circle self-drive tour has left you with a deep appreciation for the beauty and wonders of Iceland. Safe travels, and until we meet again!



Congratulations on completing your extraordinary Golden Circle self-drive tour in Iceland! You’ve embarked on an unforgettable adventure through some of the country’s most breathtaking landscapes, immersing yourself in the wonders of nature and experiencing the unique cultural heritage of Iceland.


Throughout the Golden Circle, you’ve witnessed the raw power of waterfalls like Gullfoss and Skógafoss, marveled at geothermal wonders in the Geysir Geothermal Area, and explored the vast wilderness of Vatnajökull National Park. You’ve also been captivated by the ethereal beauty of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and immersed yourself in the historical significance of Thingvellir National Park.


With the freedom of a self-drive tour, you’ve had the flexibility to set your own pace, spending as much time as you desired at each location and truly immersing yourself in the beauty and cultural experiences along the way. Each day has been filled with remarkable sights, unique adventures, and opportunities to create lasting memories.


From the vibrant streets of Reykjavik, where you first set off on your journey, to the tranquil landscapes of Iceland’s countryside, you’ve experienced a true blend of natural wonders and cultural treasures. You’ve tasted the flavors of Icelandic cuisine, relaxed in geothermal pools, and learned about the rich history and traditions of this remarkable country.


The Golden Circle self-drive tour has allowed you to discover the raw and breathtaking beauty that Iceland has to offer. It has provided you with an intimate connection to the land of fire and ice, leaving you with a profound appreciation for its natural wonders and a yearning to return and explore even more.


As you reflect on your Golden Circle adventure, take with you the memories of misty waterfalls, rugged landscapes, and the warmth of Icelandic hospitality. Let the spirit of adventure continue to inspire you in your future explorations, and may the beauty of Iceland’s Golden Circle forever hold a special place in your heart.


Thank you for joining us on this incredible journey, and we hope to welcome you back to Iceland someday for new adventures and experiences. Safe travels, and until we meet again on another remarkable expedition!