Gullfoss Rainbow on a Golden Circle Self-Drive

Explore Iceland in Style: A Golden Circle Self-Drive Travel Guide

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With my golden circle self-drive travel guide, you can explore some of Iceland’s best sites in style. Exploring Iceland in the comfort of your own car is a great way to take in the captivating scenery and traverse some of the most interesting spots in the country in just a few hours.

With the help of my travel guide, you can explore popular sites like Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, and Geysir without the worry of getting lost or missing out on the highlights. You’ll gain insight into the top photo locations of Iceland as you make your way around the route in an effortless yet stylish manner.

Let this golden circle self-drive travel guide be your gateway to the wonders of Iceland and explore the beauty of the island in an unforgettable way.

golden circle self drive route map
The Golden Circle Route

What to Expect on a Golden Circle Self-Drive

The Golden Circle Route is a classic Icelandic self-driving experience that takes you to some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. From geysers and hot springs, to volcanic craters and powerful waterfalls, this tour offers something for everyone. So if you’re looking to explore Iceland in style, here’s what you can expect from the Golden Circle Tour.


Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park is one of the most popular attractions on any self-drive Golden Circle Tour. Located in the Southwestern corner of Iceland, it stands as an awe-inspiring natural monument to the geological history of this rugged island. This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts incredible landscapes, including hot springs, canyons, fissures, and flowing streams.

There is deep historical significance at Thingvellir. The first parliament was formed here as well as the official adoption of Christianity. Thingvellir National Park is a jewel in Iceland’s cultural crown.

Öxararfoss waterfall is the best attraction for photographers with it’s dark rock and boulder strewn river, it is worth the small hike from the carparks on the lower level.

Oxararfoss waterfall
Öxararfoss waterfall

Visitors can also explore the park’s many hiking trails, which provide amazing views of the surrounding area. As an important place of Icelandic cultural heritage, Thingvellir National Park is a must-see for anyone touring the Golden Circle.

Silfra Fissure Diving

Quite close to Öxararfoss waterfall, on the banks of Thinvallavatn lake, there are diving tours on offer. The Silfra fissure is one of the world’s top ten freshwater diving sites. Both novices and qualified divers can dive along the fissure between tectonic plates.


There is no entrance fee to Thingvellir National Park, but there is a $5 daily parking fee.

Kerið Crater Lake

Kerið Crater Lake is a striking volcanic lake located in Grímsnes, Iceland. The lake sits within a 3,000-year-old caldera, a cauldron shaped depression created by the collapse of the magma chamber after a volcanic eruption. As one of the most popular attractions in the country, Kerið offers a stunning display of colors, ranging from blues and greens to oranges and reds.

The lake is 160 feet wide, 270 feet long and up to 55 feet deep. There is a walking path that surrounds the lake, allowing visitors to take in the breathtaking scenery. Numerous other geological features can be seen on the lake’s rocky edge, including basalt columns. These columns were formed by the cooling of molten lava, and they create a surreal canopy around the lake.

Kerd Crater Lake
Kerið Crater Lake

Kerið has been used as a filming location for numerous movies and television shows, making it a popular tourist spot. In addition to its natural beauty, the lake has cultural significance; legend has it that the area was once a favorite haunt of the alfar or elves. Visitors to Kerið Crater Lake can now explore its mystical history while taking in the gorgeous views.

Kerið Crater Lake is one of the only nature spots along the Golden Circle route to have an entrance fee. They charge around $3 per person.

Geysir geothermal area

Geysir geothermal area is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland and a must-see stop on any self-drive Golden Circle tour. This unique area is home to the original geyser, Geysir, which may not be erupting as frequently as it once did, but is still an impressive sight! The area is filled with hot springs, bubbling mud pools, and various other thermal features, making it a truly magical experience. Visitors can explore the area on foot and experience the beauty of this geothermal wonderland for themselves. After the eruption of Geysir, the area was named after it and the name was adopted from the Icelandic verb ‘geysa‘, meaning ‘to gush’.

Strokkur eruption at Geysir
Strokkur eruption.

The Geysir geothermal area is a great place to take stunning photographs, with bright blue springs and vivid green moss-covered rocks. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, and visitors are likely to see birds, foxes, and even arctic hares as they explore the area. The ground may be very hot in some areas, so be sure to take care when walking around and always heed the warning signs.

Other attractions in the area include the Strokkur geyser, which erupts every five to ten minutes and is a real highlight of the Geysir geothermal area. There is also the Blesi crater lake, which is fed by the heated groundwaters and is a beautiful body of water surrounded by rocky hills. The Smidur and Litli-Strokkur hot springs are also worthy of exploration and provide a great way to relax and observe the area.

Blue pools and geothermal landscape.

Visiting the Geysir geothermal area is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Iceland up close. It’s a must-see during a self-drive Golden Circle tour and a part of the country that anyone wanting to explore Iceland in style should not miss!

Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss, which translates to “Golden Falls” in the Icelandic language, is the stunning centerpiece of Iceland’s Golden Circle. It is one of the most iconic and photographed waterfalls in the world — and for good reason!

This massive multi-tiered waterfall reaches a height of 32 meters (105 feet) and drops into a deep canyon below. Even when it’s raining, Gullfoss’ mist rises high into the sky, creating a magical display of rainbows and clouds. You can get up close and personal with the waterfall from several viewing points, or even take a short boat trip to get a unique perspective.

Gullfoss waterfall
Gullfoss waterfall on a summer night

When visiting Gullfoss, it’s important to dress appropriately. It’s usually much cooler near the waterfall than the surrounding area and there is usually a lot of wind and mist. Also bring waterproof shoes if you plan on getting close to the edge. For best results, try to visit during the summer months when the water is crystal clear and the sunsets are beautiful.

The Gullfoss area is also popular for activities like hiking and biking, making it a great spot to explore and appreciate Icelandic nature. This beautiful waterfall can be enjoyed all year round and is the perfect addition to any self-drive Golden Circle tour!


At Geysir and Gullfoss, you could get very wet while you are taking great photos, so always pack waterproof gear whatever the weather.

In addition to these main highlights, you’ll also have numerous opportunities to explore the rugged Icelandic countryside, and take in the breathtaking views of mountains, glaciers, and rivers. Vist the geothermal green-houses in Hveragerdi or bathe in luxury at Laugarvatn Fontana geothermal baths. The Golden Circle Tour is a must-do experience for any traveler looking to explore the wonders of Iceland in style.

Faxifoss Waterfall

Faxi is a smaller waterfall than Gullfoss, but it is still impressive. The salmon waterfall can be seen from the upper carpark viewpoint, or you can drive or hike down to get really close.

Luoine at Faxi Waterfall
Luoine at Faxi Waterfall

Tips for a Successful Golden Circle Self-Drive

Exploring Iceland’s Golden Circle by car is one of the best ways to experience its stunning beauty. Whether you’re an experienced driver or a beginner, you’ll need some tips for a successful self-drive tour of the Golden Circle. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

Firstly, make sure to plan your route before you start your journey. Research the best roads to travel on, and consider the type of vehicle you’re using (small cars may be limited in certain off-road areas). Also, remember that most roads on the Golden Circle are open all year round, but weather and road conditions can change quickly.

Make sure to check the forecasts and alerts before you set out. Always visit the Icelandic Roads website before every trip to check Realtime road conditions. The Icelandic Weather Website also publishes storm warnings, which must be taken seriously. I ran hundreds of Golden Circle tours , but would never set off if the roads are very slippery or a storm is forecast.

Another important tip is to take the time to stop often along the way. The route is fairly short, so you can take your time. The Golden Circle is home to many stunning landmarks like Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Hot Springs, and Thingvellir National Park, to name a few. Stop to admire the beautiful landscapes and get some amazing photos. Just make sure you park off the main road especially if it’s icy.

Finally, consider budgeting a reliable onboard navigation system. This will allow you to find the best routes and navigate any unknown roads or detours. It’s also a great idea to carry extra drinking water, snacks, and a spare tire in case of emergency.

Overall, a successful Golden Circle self-drive tour requires proper planning and preparation. By following these tips and keeping a few other safety considerations in mind, you’ll be sure to have an amazing and memorable experience.

What is the cost of a Golden Circle Self-Drive?

The Golden Circle is a popular route that takes visitors through some of the best attractions and experiences Iceland has to offer. The cost of a self-drive Golden Circle tour will depend on the duration of the tour, as well as the type of transport used.

If you plan on renting a car, prices start at around $55-$110 per day for a small economy car, which includes basic insurance. If you choose a more luxury model, such as an SUV, the price may be closer to $100-$200 per day.


Auto Europe Car Rentals

You may also need to factor in other costs such as fuel, food, and entrance fees to attractions, like Kerið Crater Lake. Usually though, these expenses don’t add up to much unless you intend on doing a lot of sightseeing. All in all, a self-drive Golden Circle tour is an affordable way to explore Iceland and its many attractions.

Where to Eat on the Golden Circle

There are places offering cafe services at most of the main attractions. In Thingvellir National park, there is coffee and tea available at the visitors centre and a cafe near the main road on the lower plateau. Geysir has two food providers in the souvenir shop complex. There is a fried food cafe offering cheap snacks and a restaurant offering, hearty Icelandic meals. Gullfoss waterfall has a cafe with light food and a large seating area on the upper level.

Where To Stay on the Golden Circle

Geysir Hotels

Use the sponsored links below to book a hotel close to Geysir & Gullfoss.


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