All about Iceland’s Golden Circle

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

The Golden Circle is the most well visited route in all of Iceland. It is made up of three incredible natural wonders that no visitor to Iceland should miss. Each one is entirely unique and showcases the forces of nature that have shaped the country. The ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ certainly has its fair share of drama and on this route you get to see these forces in action. The three sights are the Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir Geothermal Area. We will go into them in much more depth a little later.

The Golden Circle (sometimes referred to as the Golden Triangle) is within easy reach of Reykjavik. It is an simple three-hour drive that loops around Southern Iceland beginning and ending in Reykjavik. There are innumerable day tours that you can join from the capital that combine all three sights. If you are visiting Iceland for a short time or decide not to hire a car these are good options.

Orange and red light of sunset over a waterfall and gorge on Iceland's Golden Circle.

However the best way to tour the Golden Circle is with your own rental camper or car. With your own transport you can take your time, camp over night and visit the sights when they are quieter. In this article we will take you through the highlights of the Golden Circle route. We will also cover tips on driving the route and advice on the best time of year to visit.

The three main sights on the Golden Circle

Þingvellir National Park

This is the oldest of the national parks in Iceland and it has real historical importance. This was the site of Iceland’s very first parliament (Althing) dating back to the 10th Century. In those days the parliamentary debates were held outside in the elements. There are a few remnants of buildings in the park but it is mainly a beautifully wild and untouched landscape.

Geologically speaking Þingvellir National Park is very important too. This is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. This meeting of two tectonic plates explains why Iceland is quite so volcanic. Magma rises up from deep inside the earth to fill the spaces created as these plates move apart. The plates meet partly under water in the huge Silfra Lake. Here it is possible to have the incredible experience of diving between them. The national park is vast and most visitors will only see a small portion of it when they visit. If you are on a self-drive camping trip there