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Iceland’s Golden Circle: The Best Day Tour from Reykjavik

Everything people say about Iceland is true – its beauty is out of this world. Despite the unpredictable weather, the stunning landscapes, and raw, untouched beauty of the Land of Fire and Ice make it an unforgettable experience. One of the highlights of our trip was Iceland’s Golden Circle, arguably the most popular day tour from Reykjavik. Here’s a recap of my experience and what you can expect from this tour.

What is Iceland’s Golden Circle?

Iceland’s Golden Circle is a 300-kilometer loop that typically includes three main stops: Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir), the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. The Golden Circle is easily accessible from Reykjavik, making it a popular day tour for tourists. Whether you choose to drive the route yourself or join a guided tour, visiting the Golden Circle is a must for anyone traveling to Iceland.

Is Ring Road same as Golden Circle?

The Ring Road (Route 1) and the Golden Circle are different routes in Iceland. The Ring Road (Route 1) is Iceland’s main highway that circumnavigates the entire country, covering approximately 1,332 kilometers. It typically takes around 5-7 days to complete the full Ring Road loop, depending on number of stops.

The Golden Circle, on the other hand, is often seen as a precursor to exploring the Ring Road. Many travelers use it as a starting point for exploring further along Iceland’s South Coast.

Gulfoss, the last stop of our Golden Circle day tour from Reykjavik
closer look of Gullfoss Waterfalls

Should I drive or take a tour in Iceland?

Deciding whether to drive or take a tour in Iceland depends on your preferences and travel style. Exploring on your own with a rental car offers flexibility and the freedom to explore at your own pace. You can create a personalized itinerary, make spontaneous stops, and linger at sites.

Joining a group tour is another enjoyable and hassle-free choice. You simply book the tour, show up on the day, and enjoy the ride. My friends and I chose Golden Circle Day Tours due to their excellent reviews on Google, and I must say, it was a perfect start to our adventure. We were all quite tired from our 9-day trip in Finland, and appreciated the convenience of the group tour.

Highlights of Iceland’s Golden Circle

I didn’t want to rush straight to the Ring Road and deal with any fatigue while exploring. So, when planning our itinerary, I made sure to include the Golden Circle at the beginning, giving us some time to adjust and rest. If you’re traveling from a long distance, I highly recommend starting in Reykjavik to acclimate to the time change before tackling the Ring Road. This way, you’ll be well-rested, adjusted, and ready for adventure!

Þingvellir National Park, the first stop of our Golden Circle day tour from Reykjavik
Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir)

Reykjavik, Iceland’s vibrant capital

Reykjavik is the capital city of my dreams. It is the largest city in Iceland and the world’s northernmost capital of a sovereign state. Upon arrival from Keflavík International Airport, I immediately noticed how Reykjavik seamlessly integrates modern sophistication with the stunning Icelandic wilderness. Even while walking along the main shopping street, I could easily get a glimpse of the Faxaflói bay and the surrounding mountain range.

On the day of our tour with Golden Circle Day Tours, I woke up feeling refreshed as we didn’t need to wake up super early. Hallgrímskirkja, the most photographed church in Iceland, was the pick-up point for our guided tour. It was a short walk from our accommodation, so we got to explore the church while waiting. Our pick-up was scheduled for 9:30 AM, allowing us a relaxed start to the day without the need to rush.

Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

Thingvellir National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Our first stop on the tour was Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir), about 40 kilometers away from Reykjavik. It’s an incredible spot which sits right on top of the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Historically, this is where the old Icelandic parliament used to meet. When you visit, you can literally walk on a pathway between two continental plates, known as the Almannagjá trail.

As a Game of Thrones fan, I couldn’t believe how many filming locations in Iceland we were able to visit on this trip. For instance, this park features the pathway leading to The Bloody Gate, the gateway to the Eyrie, the principal stronghold of House Arryn located in the Vale near the east coast of Westeros. Þingvellir is definitely a must-visit for GoT fans and anyone who loves history.

Like the Almannagjá trail, the Silfra fissure formed as the tectonic plates drifted apart over the years and is now filled with some of the clearest water on earth. If you’ve got a rental car, some free time, and are looking for another cool way to experience the rift between tectonic plates, be sure to add Silfra snorkeling or scuba diving to your itinerary. Since we were on a group tour, we didn’t get the chance to do this, but when I come back to Iceland in the summer, I’m definitely signing up for it!

Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir) offers not only stunning landscapes and rich history but also a unique experience even in its comfort rooms. The toilets provide a panoramic view that you can enjoy while taking a break. Imagine looking out at the magnificent scenery of the park, with its rift valleys and lava fields, right from the restroom. It’s genuinely the best view from a toilet I have ever seen. When you get to Thingvellir National Park, don’t forget to take a little bladder break!

Geysir Geothermal Area: The Geysir that Named All Other Geysers in the World

The next stop on our Golden Circle Day Tour was the Geysir Geothermal Area. Located approximately 100 kilometers from Reykjavík, this area is home to Iceland’s famous geyser, Geysir and Strokkur. The Great Geysir is the one after which all geysers in the world are named, and it is the second largest on Earth.While it has ceased erupting since 2016, Strokkur continues to impress, launching water up to 100 feet in the air every few minutes.

Watching Strokkur’s eruptions is truly incredible and a must-see when visiting Iceland. The steam and crowd of people with phones ready will guide you to this spot. We were lucky to witness several eruptions, though some visitors have missed it or given up waiting due to the cold, even in this geothermal area. When the Great Geysir erupted in the past, it must have been an incredible sight. If you’re exploring the Golden Circle, don’t miss the Geysir Geothermal Area – it’s an unforgettable experience.

bubbling water pools in the Golden Circle
a lot of bubbling water pools surrounding Geysir and Strokkur

Gullfoss Waterfalls: One of the Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Iceland

Iceland is home to numerous breathtaking waterfalls, each unique in its beauty. Some of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls include Dettifoss, Goðafoss, Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skógafoss, yet they represent only a fraction of the country’s stunning waterfall offerings.

The last stop of our Golden Circle Day Tour was Gullfoss, the most beautiful waterfalls that I have ever seen so far. It was absolutely freezing during our visit, despite it being early April, supposedly the end of winter. My photos could not capture its enormity and how fierce the wind was. We were blasted by wind from the moment we stepped off the bus. I had hoped to walk farther to see more of Gullfoss, but the wind was relentless. Nevertheless, even a few minutes on the platform left me with unforgettable memories of this place. I look forward to returning in summer for a different perspective.

the most fascinating sight along the Golden Circle

Final Thoughts about Golden Circle Day Tour

Reflecting on our Golden Circle Day Tour, I can confidently say it was an experience that exceeded my expectations. Our guide, Darren, was exceptional. I wouldn’t have known any of this information about Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir) , the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall if it weren’t for him. I expected the commentaries on a group tour to be boring, but he made witty jokes and shared really interesting and easy-to-understand facts and history about Iceland. Darren even rewarded us with extra time at each site for being on time and surprised us with a bonus stop to see Icelandic horses, including one that was pregnant. He told us the bonus stop was our little secret, so naturally, I must tell my readers! Lol.

Our driver, Helgi, was equally impressive. Navigating the sometimes challenging Icelandic roads with skill and ease, he ensured our safety and comfort throughout the tour. His expert driving allowed us to relax and fully enjoy the stunning landscapes without any worries.

The tour itself ran like clockwork. From the punctual pick-up at Hallgrímskirkja to the well-timed stops at each breathtaking location, everything was perfectly organized. We visited some of Iceland’s most iconic sights without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. The convenience of the group tour allowed us to sit back and soak in the beauty of Iceland, free from the stress of planning and driving. And if you get Darren and Helgi as your guide and driver, you’re in for an even more memorable adventure.

Where to Book your Golden Circle Day Tour

For anyone considering a trip to Iceland, consider booking with Golden Circle Day Tours. They also offer other tours that combine visits to Iceland’s geothermal pools with the Golden Circle tour. We had planned to take the tour that ends at the Blue Lagoon; however, the primary access road has been damaged by lava flows.

If you would like to know the exact tour we booked, it’s called “Best Golden Circle Tour From Reykjavik: Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir.” Here are the tour details:

Price: From ISK 12,080 per person (or PHP 5,080)

Departure: From Reykjavik

Group Size: 20+

Duration: 8 Hours

Staying connected in Iceland

After trying an eSIM for the first time in Europe, I’m officially converted! Thanks to Holafly eSIM, gone are the days of physically swapping plastic SIM cards every time you enter a new country. You can easily purchase it online before your trip and stay connected wherever you go. Plus, you can keep your physical SIM to receive OTPs and calls from home. Traveling has never been so hassle-free!

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And that’s it about my experience in Iceland’s Golden Circle! I hope you found this post helpful in planning your trip to Iceland. If you have any comments, suggestions or questions, let’s chat down below! I always enjoy hearing from you!

Stay connected for more tips, inspiration, and stories! Follow me on InstagramFacebookTikTok, and Pinterest. Have a fantastic day, my dear reader! 

By Project Gora

Hey there! My name is Milet Miranda, and I'm a full-time corporate employee during weekdays and a traveler during weekends (and holidays...you get the picture). I'm a foodie at heart and I love joining food tours. When I'm not traveling, you'll find me walking my dogs or biking around my neighborhood.

One reply on “Iceland’s Golden Circle: The Best Day Tour from Reykjavik”

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