A Guide To Driving Iceland’s Golden Circle

Golden Circle Iceland

Driving the Golden Circle

Iceland

Driving the Golden Circle is a popular day trip for visitors to Iceland. The 300km route covers many beautiful landmarks in a short period of time.

If you can’t spend a full week driving Iceland’s Ring Road (which circles the country), renting a car and driving the smaller Golden Circle route on your own is a perfect option. Especially for people on a short layover flying to or from Europe, or if you simply don’t have much time.

Self-driving the Golden Circle rather than joining an organized tour allows you stop for photos anytime you want or head off to explore side roads.

There’s no rush when you’re traveling at your own pace. Spend an hour petting Icelandic horses if you want, or wait patiently for perfect clouds to move into your camera frame.

That’s just what Kiersten and I decided to do. Basing ourselves out of Reykjavik, we rented a cheap used car from a fun company called SadCars and spent a day driving the Golden Circle hitting all its best attractions.

In this guide I’ll share some tips, highlights, and photography from our trip.

Need a place to stay in Iceland? » Click Here For Deals On Accommodation «
Rental Car Iceland

Our Sweet Ride from SadCars

Rental Car Iceland

Golden Circle Cairns in the Snow

Driving In Iceland

Depending on when you’re visiting, driving in Iceland is relatively stress free. There aren’t many people living in the country, so traffic is nonexistent once you’re outside of the city. In the summer, you’ll have to keep an eye out for herds of sheep crossing the road.

In the winter, roads can get icy. Weather changes quickly in Iceland, and a sunny morning can easily turn into a snowstorm later that day. But Iceland has a fantastic website to check real-time road conditions called Vegagerdin. They even have a handy smartphone app.

Wind can sometimes be an issue depending on where you are — strong enough to throw your car door open and dent things if you’re not careful.

Gas is expensive in Iceland at about $2 USD per liter ($7.50 per gallon), however a full tank should be plenty for the Golden Circle. Some foreign cards may need to be charged inside rather than at the pump.

Þingvellir National Park Iceland

Tectonic Rift at Þingvellir National Park

Horses Iceland

Friendly & Fuzzy Icelandic Horses

Þingvellir National Park

We started driving the Golden Circle going NE on Route 36 towards our first stop, Þingvellir National Park. A fresh snowfall dusted the mountains as we drove between beautiful valleys and large farms — hardy Icelandic horses and sheep lining both sides of the road.

Thingvellir National Park is the location of Iceland’s first Parliament, started back in 930 AD. At the Lögberg people could step forward and give speeches about important matters. An assembly of 48 chieftains gathered here to discuss laws & engage in court proceedings on behalf of the country’s citizens.

This is also where the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly splitting apart from each other, creating deep fissures in the ground. One of these, called Silfra, is full of icy glacier water where some people go snorkeling or scuba diving.

Strokkur Geyser Iceland

Strokkur Geyser Erupting

Geyser Bubble Iceland

This Bubble is About to Blow!

Geysers At Haukadalur

Next stop on our Golden Circle road trip was Haukadalur, a geothermal area about 60km away from Þingvellir National Park. There are two famous geysers here called Geysir and Strokkur. In fact the general term “geyser” was named after this particular one in Iceland.

The Earth churns up boiling hot water that smells like rotten eggs, with steam rising from vents in the earth next to mud pools, fumaroles, and mineral deposits.

The original Geysir no longer erupts after an earthquake shut it down, but a second one called Strokkur constantly explodes with scalding water shooting 100 feet into the air every 10 minutes or so. Haukadalur has a gift shop & restaurant where you can warm up with hot soup.

Gullfoss Iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss Waterfall

The mighty Hvítá river abruptly disappears into a ravine at a spectacular waterfall called Gullfoss, the next major highlight on Iceland’s Golden Circle. This wide & fast moving river turns a corner and falls 100 feet into a crevice in the earth, producing thick mist & frequent rainbows.

After descending a long staircase from the parking lot, a concrete pathway allows visitors to walk along the edge and look down into the roaring cascade of water. The area around the falls gets pretty windy, so a waterproof jacket (and maybe even pants) is recommended if you plan to get close. The dramatic scenery at Gullfoss makes it one of Iceland’s most popular attractions.

Gullfoss waterfall is located off the main road, so you have to backtrack a bit to continue on the Golden Circle route. There is a road that continues past, but it’s one of Icealand’s notorious F-roads that requires four-wheel drive.

Volcanic Crater Iceland

Kerið Crater Lake

Kerið Crater Lake

Our final big stop on the Golden Circle was Kerid Crater Lake. We pulled into the parking lot as the sun was beginning to set on this red volcanic crater covered in green vegetation. Once a typical cone-shaped volcano, the top has since collapsed into an empty magma chamber.

The bottom is filled with a deep blue shade of water that sets off the red & green colors on the crater itself. Hiking down to the bottom of the crater only takes 5 minutes.

Not as well known as the other attractions featured here, Kerid Crater is definitely worth a quick stop if you have the time.

Iceland’s Golden Circle

While actual driving time is only 3 hours, with stops along the way you’re looking at 6 – 8 hours depending on how many places (or how long) you explore.

If you want to experience some of Iceland’s stunning landscapes but don’t have a lot of time, driving the Golden Circle is a wonderful option. ★

Watch Video: Adventures In Iceland

(Click to watch Iceland Adventures with LifeProof on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Golden Circle Route, Iceland [Map]
Car Rental: SAD Cars
Accommodation: Click Here For Deals in Iceland
Useful Notes: Always check weather & road conditions before driving in Iceland. The Golden Circle is paved so four-wheel drive is not needed, and rental cars will have studded tires in the winter. There are many short hikes you can do on this route too.
Iceland Travel Guide: Lonely Planet Iceland

READ NEXT: Iceland: Land Of Fire & Ice

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Hi, I'm Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for over 5 years. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and useful tips from my travel adventures. Join thousands who receive exclusive email updates and click the green button below...

Comments & Questions

88 Comments

  1. Stravos
    June 16, 2016

    Hey, Matthew!

    I just booked a trip to Iceland from Nov. 24th to Nov. 28th.
    It will be my second solo-traveling journey and I’m nervous but excited.
    Nov.24) Reykjavik, Grotta lighthouse, walk around and explore
    Nov.25) My golden birthday! Golden circle road, Icelandic Horse Park, if time permits hit up Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Sleep wherever.
    Nov.26) Solheimasandur, Vik, Seljavallalaug
    Nov.27) Fjaorargljufur, Svartifoss, Hof, Jokulsarlon. Start to head back to Reykjavik.
    Nov.28) Free day, return rental car and head to airport!

    I’ve been researching for several days now and was under the impression that snow would be covering everything but after digging a little deeper, it seems like the south won’t really have much snow on the ground. What kind of car would you recommend? I have quite a bit of experience driving in snow/ice (from Chicago).
    Does my itinerary seem too cluttered? Or am I not giving myself enough to do every day?
    Let me know your thoughts!

    Reply
    • Julia
      June 21, 2016

      Hi,

      Random person living in Iceland here. Impossible to tell what the snow situation will be. Last year, around the same time as your trip: http://grapevine.is/news/2015/12/04/do-not-travel-across-south-iceland-this-afternoon/

      Icelandic weather is no joke. On that day (named The Snowpocalypse by people online) everything closed early and people were dismissed from work and school. You’ll need to monitor road.is and vedur.is when it gets closer to your stay. TREAT THOSE WARNINGS SERIOUSLY.

      On the other hand, the weather could be completely calm and the roads could be easily passable. I went on a road trip to Akureyri the weekend before Christmas last year and I was fine in a small two-wheel drive car.

      Again, there’s no way of telling half a year beforehand (or sometimes even the week before, to be honest).

      Good luck,

      Julia

      Reply
  2. Veronica
    June 15, 2016

    We did the Golden Circle last year and I get a pinge of nostalgia in my heart looking at your beautiful photos.

    Reply
  3. christina
    May 20, 2016

    Hi Matthew ; )

    Great site!! So helpful…I’m planning a trip and wondering what month you were there to take these photos and if during that same trip you took the footage of the northern lights…? trying to pick the best time of year that isn’t freezing, roads are open, and can see the AB ; ) tall order??

    thank you!
    christina

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      May 22, 2016

      Hi Christina, I was in Iceland for 3 weeks in October/November. Good time for lights, not many tourists, just a bit of snow, but you still have to get lucky with clear weather. Not always easy.

      Reply
  4. Koa
    March 7, 2016

    Did you have to do the Silfra day tour or can you do the snorkerling on your own time?

    Reply
  5. Kinjel
    March 3, 2016

    We are going to Iceland in June and are thinking of the following itinerary:

    1. Blue Lagoon/Reyjavik
    2. Golden Circle-spend night in Arborg
    3. Seljalandfoss/ Skopgfoss-Spend night in Vik
    4. Vik to Snaefellnes Peninsula
    5. Peninsula to Reyjavik
    6. Reyjavik and fly out

    Thoughts? Also, any recommendations on renting a car that is automatic?

    Reply
    • Jae
      March 5, 2016

      u have same plan like i will do in early May… I am from tropical country so it will be totally different experience drive in such country like iceland..

      Reply
      • Pawel
        April 13, 2016

        I’m so excited to fly on Iceland for two days, with my wife we’ll spend two weeks there :) Six days with a car, and then travel to Westfjords and stay there second week.

        Reply
  6. John
    February 23, 2016

    Matt, Thanks for this great post. My fiance and I are starting our honeymoon here in September. I was wondering if there are any costs associated with the Golden Circle other than fuel. Are there entry fees into any of the sites or parks?

    Also, do you have a hotel recommendation?

    Cheers!
    John

    Reply
    • Alex
      March 3, 2016

      Its just the tour operator fee. You will have to buy your own food though. If you are talking a rental-car you should be ok. Just that gas is pretty expensive.

      Reply
  7. aftab chaudhry
    February 14, 2016

    great information.We are planning to go to Iceland in mid June and staying for 1 week.we are planning to do the golden circle in one day and then go around ring road in 3 days. we will spend rest of the time in Reykjavík, Is it possible to do that?

    Reply
    • Alex
      March 3, 2016

      The drive might be longer than 3 days unless you just want to drive around the whole time.

      Reply
  8. Heidi
    February 10, 2016

    Hi Matthew.

    Thank you for your excellent article. May I know when were those photos taken (which month)? I am planning to go to Iceland end of March this year. Would it be like in your pictures? Would the greenery be there already? Wondering if the waterfalls would still look so majestic in winter..

    Hope to get some advise from you. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      February 10, 2016

      I took these photos in October. Not sure about March, however my guess is there will still be snow on the ground.

      Reply
      • Tanja
        March 7, 2016

        Hello Matt and Heidi,

        First of all: Thank you for that great article and pictures, I am really excited for our upcoming trip in a few weeks. We will be there in the end of March as well and wanted to take that route, however I just found this link which says that the route 35 will be opened at the earliest in June: http://www.road.is/travel-info/condition-and-opening-of-mountain-roads/

        That means from Reykjavik we could only go as far as the Þingvellir National Park or a few km away from Geysir and Gulfoss. Kerid is also on the route 35 and therefore not reachable in March. I just wanted to share that with you, we will also have to redo our plans- unfortunately…

        All the best from Germany,
        Tanja

        Reply
  9. Connor
    January 6, 2016

    Hey Matthew – In the video at 0:26, where is it that you are jumping into?

    Reply
  10. Ivan S
    January 6, 2016

    I will be going to Iceland with a group of others late May and was thinking of staying a few extra days to take in this route hence the reference to the car etc is very useful. I will most likley rent a smaller car for myself as I drive the same generation RAV4 as you rented as my main vehicle.

    Thanks for posting this blog

    Reply
    • Jenny
      May 5, 2016

      Hi Ivan, I will be in Iceland late May also and looking for travel buddies to share rental car cost. If you need someone to help lower your cost / keen for another adventure buddy let me know. No pressure though if you already have your own plans :)

      Reply
      • Pia
        May 23, 2016

        Hey Jenny,
        My girlfriend and I will be in Iceland May 31st-June6th. Drop me a line if you’d still like to share a car with us. We are still looking at accomodation along the southern coast towards East. Cheers! Pia

        Reply
  11. jeremy
    January 2, 2016

    amazing website.

    im definitely basing my trip around a lot of your information and sites. its a great base to start without having to dig to deep on google.

    im an experienced traveler and am looking at hiring a car/4×4 on a 7 full day long trip to iceland start of april. i am seriously considering the full ring road. i figure each day will be 3 hrs of driving each day (leaving a good 5-7 hrs a day to explore everything each day). As if we stop in 6 difference places dotted around the ring road. too much to aim ?

    Reply
  12. Jessica
    December 8, 2015

    so glad I found this page! I’m going at the end of January and was a bit scared about renting a car because of the weather but it just seems like a much cheaper way of doing things and I’m only there for 1.5 days so seems perfect. I just have a few questions I hope you can answer:
    1) where did you drive to to see the Northern lights and were the roads there worse to drive on than the Golden circle?
    2) where were you at 0:12 seconds in the video? it looks stunning!
    3) what time of day were you at the Blue Lagoon, looks like I’ll be heading there around 3:30pm but I don’t want the day getting darker to affect my pictures which I will probably be taking on my 8MP Go Pro, any tips for getting the best pictures that still make the water look its lovely blue colour when its getting dark?

    sorry to bombard you with questions! You’ve made me so much more excited for my trip!
    Thank you x

    Reply
  13. Callum & Leah
    November 30, 2015

    Hi Matthew,
    Just a quick note to say we are so glad to have found your blog on the golden circle. We went yesterday and had an epic day! Iceland has just had the largest snow fall in recent years and it made for a very picturesque setting at all the landmarks. we are so glad we rented a car as we visited each site at our own pace, allowing us to stop whereever we saw a cool photo opportunity.
    Thanks again for the great blog!

    Reply
  14. SJ
    November 10, 2015

    Matt,

    Glad I ran across your blog. Thanks for all the helpful info. Me and my friend will be traveling to Iceland Dec 25th – Jan 2 2016 and we would really like to do the ring road drive. Given that its the middle of the winter would we be okay? We are looking at renting a camper. Given as it will be dark most of the time, will it still be worth it or should we consider doing the golden circle and checking out cities? If that’s the best option any recommendations on what cities to check out? Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Chris
      November 22, 2015

      I went over last year in October. I originally thought I could drive the ring road in a couple days time, but as you’ll find driving 90 km/h it will take a lot longer then expected, and when you are going the weather can be very bad especially in the north. The Lonely Planet guidebook I read beforehand advised against it.
      On my trip I did the golden circle on one day, then spent two days driving along the south to Jokulsarlon/Iceberg Lagoon and back to Reyk.. Mind you I had sun from about 830am till 6pm, but that route had more to see then I could process, all the popular waterfalls and a huge variety of landscapes.

      Reply
    • Jesse
      March 24, 2016

      Hey Matthew, SJ

      I’ve got zero experience driving in the snow and the other side of the road for that matter.
      But I’m planning to do a slow 12 day self drive with a 4×4 SADcar around the Ring Road around the same time as SJ, but at the end of this year. I’d like your opinion on the optional insurance for car rental.. What is usually a must get? Gravel Protection? Sand & Ask Protection? Anything else i should be buying?
      And SJ, did you manage to do the ring road this past winter? Were the roads on the ring road well maintained during mid-late dec? Thank you both!!

      Reply
  15. Rob
    October 29, 2015

    So I am going next year to Iceland. Plan on being there for 14 days, 12 days traveling around the circle and some places off the beaten path. Are there any places that you think are a must see? I know of the popular places as I am looking online but I am more looking for places that are not so well known and you need a 4×4 to get there. We plan on being there late August, early September of 2016. Thanks!

    Reply
  16. Lois
    September 28, 2015

    Thanks for the good tips and photos. We are going to be there for 4.5 days, leaving later this week. Plan to do the Golden Circle. What would you suggested adding? We will definitely spend a day in Reykjavik, and are looking for other destinations to add. Also, since it’ll fall and a quiet season, we haven’t made room reservations, thinking we can be flexible. Do y’all think that will be a problem? Thanks!

    Reply
  17. Aanchal Karnwal
    September 22, 2015

    Hi Matthew

    I am travelling to Iceland in mid Nov for 5 nights and staying in Reykjavik. We are on a budget trip and wanted to a self drive. I was just wondering what can we expect on the road in terms of weather. What type of car we will be required?

    On 1st Day – Airport to Blue Lagoon and then to our b&b
    On 2st day – Golden Circle
    On 2nd Day – South Shore
    Still thinking what to do on 3rd and 4th day? Could you please help me what possibly can be done on both the day.
    4th day & 5th day – I am keeping half a day on both the days to tour Reykjavik.

    Does it sound reasonable? I want to make most out of the trip in these 5 days.

    Please let me know your suggestions.

    Reply
    • Kenny Eicher
      December 30, 2015

      Wondering how your trip was. I am going in late February for the same amount of time and am planning a very similar itinerary.

      Day 1: Blue Lagoon and Hotel Check-in. Maybe city in evening.
      Day 2: Golden Circle
      Day 3: South Shore / Vik / Skogafoss and Glacier
      Day 4: Reykjavik all day
      Day 5: Free day to either explore or go back to a favorite sight again.

      Reply
      • Ray Prescott
        January 20, 2016

        we are going for 5 nights / 6 days early Feb and have planned a similar trip.
        land early Tuesday, drive to Blue Lagoon, then head to apartment in Reykjavik.
        Wed – drive south coast for overnight in Hofn, to see Jokulsarlon, driving back on Thursday – apartment in Reykjavik for 3 nights. Friday – golden circle and back for happy hour and long Friday night drinking. Saturday will be a slow day, maybe check out the flea market etc. and local stuff. Sunday back to airport for lunchtime flight. any thoughts / opinions? is any of the golden circle on the way to/from Jokulsarlon? or on the way to the airport? maybe just to save us some time on the Friday? anything we should do on Saturday afternoon/evening? cheers Ray

        Reply
    • Samir
      February 17, 2016

      Hi
      Am planning a 5 day trip as well in May. Did u manage it in 5? Please give me some tips/feedback , as the ring road seems to take much longer

      Reply
  18. Kev Lloyd
    September 17, 2015

    Great blog, It’s inspired me to plan my route.

    I’m flying to Iceland on the 27th and have 12 days, 9 of which I will have a camper to tour the ring road (with countless de-tours)

    Thank you for this blog, it’s really inspired me :)

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      September 19, 2015

      Sweet Kev! I hope you have a great time, and good luck with aurora spotting! Remember to look up as much as possible when you’re driving at night in the camper, that’s a good way to see it.

      Reply
    • Scott Kelly
      May 10, 2016

      Hi Kev,

      I will be driving the ring rd. in late September 2016. Was your trip a success? I will be with 3 others in a motor home built for 6. We will be in Iceland 10 days.

      Reply
  19. Crystal
    September 12, 2015

    Hi! Love your photos, what did you shoot these with? Any tips for exposure etc?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      September 16, 2015

      Hi Crystal, I shot these with the Sony A7. As for photography tips, I’m actually working on an article about that. Too much to include in a single comment unfortunately!

      Reply
  20. Swabarna mukherjee
    September 10, 2015

    Hi,
    I am planning to do a trip to Iceland in February and was wondering to stay at Vik in south Iceland. Is it worth staying there for a full day? Also, in February although it will be icy, do I really need a 4X4? I have relative experience in driving on ice but sticking to highway 1 as I wouldn’t be venturing out to ring road much apart from golden circle and vik.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      September 11, 2015

      Some parts of the Ring Road are still pretty remote and may not get plowed after a snowstorm right away. There were a few tricky areas for me in November after it snowed.

      As for Vik, the town is small, but there’s lots of cool stuff to do nearby. You could spend a day in that area for sure.

      Reply
  21. Hope komatz
    August 28, 2015

    Hi Matt, your article is exactly the what my daughter and I needed. We fly to Iceland for a two day layover end of August to September 2nd. She’s headed to Austria for a semester and I’m accompanying her to one of our dream destinations. She and I have been dying to visit Iceland. We are renting a car and just didn’t know the best things to squeeze in one day. Thanks to your article now we know!

    Reply
  22. Toni
    August 27, 2015

    Doing a short stopover in Iceland and plan to do the Golden Circle. Do we need an international driver’s license to rent and drive a car.

    Reply
  23. Patrick
    August 19, 2015

    Hi Matt,

    Found you thru Google Iceland Ring Road, and so glad we did. Your site is full of useful information not found elsewhere. For instance, after much debate we are going to decline all insurance on the car and trust our credit card (as it says,) will cover any incidental damage. Also going to do the Ring Road in 8 days. We will continue to follow your posts. Thanks

    Reply
  24. jillian
    July 28, 2015

    hi im renting a two wheel drive car from sadcars for 5 days, but now im worried that i wont be able to drive to many of the places youve mentioned .im hoping you will tell me that they can all be done in a 2 wheeled car.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      July 29, 2015

      The Golden Circle is a well-traveled road in very good condition. You can drive the whole thing in 2WD.

      Reply
  25. Eija
    July 27, 2015

    Thank you so much from this blog. It helped tremendously to plan our 18 hour layover i Iceland. We will rent a car with our two teenage boys, drive the golden circle and in the end of the day relax in blue lagoon…Our trip from Washington D.C to Finland will have a great start and lots of great memories…Thank you.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      July 27, 2015

      Sounds great Eija! Yeah the Golden Circle is a perfect short road trip for a layover in Iceland. Enjoy!

      Reply
  26. Ligia
    May 25, 2015

    Very nice post! I went to Iceland in 2011 and simply loved it! Can’t wait to come back.

    Reply
  27. Jennie
    May 13, 2015

    I see in your video there is something similar to the glacier lagoon, where is this? Is it on the golden circle or are the pics from other trips too? Also did you hike on the glacier during this trip or another?

    Reply
  28. Sheri
    April 23, 2015

    Great video and post! Is it weird that out of all those sites I’m most excited about those moss covered lava fields? They look magical! I always knew the gas was expensive, but $7.50 a gallon. Yikes! Iceland is my huge budget drainer, but I think it will be worth it. I’m doing the ring road in June. This post has got me excited!

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      April 23, 2015

      If you camp out on the journey, your expenses can drop quite a bit. Have fun in Iceland Sheri!

      Reply
  29. Celeste
    April 22, 2015

    Hi Matt – thanks for this – I’ve found it very helpful (not to mention beautiful!). My husband, son and I are visiting Iceland this August. Question for you was whether you also drove or visited the South Shore (and Jokulsaron)? We’ve definitely decided to take the tour to Landmannalauger (Super Jeep) but are trying to decide if we should do the South ourselves or take a tour bus. Thanks so much, in advance, for the help!!

    Reply
  30. Mike Stephens
    April 19, 2015

    Hi Matt,

    I’m thinking of attempting a self-drive golden circle trip in July 2105 – BUT my flight from the UK arrives about 3PM. Given luggage and getting a rental car – I’m figuring 4:30pm earliest on the road. I know the sun doesn’t set until midnight at that time of year – but will the parks be open or would there be other reasons that I should consider doing something else with our time ?

    Reply
  31. Julia
    April 9, 2015

    Hi — thanks for the great & helpful post! Great photos too. My husband and I will be traveling to Iceland in a couple weeks & are planning on driving the Golden Circle ourselves as well. What time of year did you go?

    Reply
  32. Ticking the Bucketlist
    April 4, 2015

    We chose to go with the Grayline tour. We come from a tropical country and driving on snowy roads in winter made us totally nervous. We were surprised how well the tours are organised. The pictures in summer look different and your post inspires us to revisit in summers!

    Reply
  33. Rachel
    April 3, 2015

    Thank you for the post. We’ll be coming to see Iceland this June and we can’t exactly afford tours–your post was really helpful in creating our itinerary and showing us that we can do the tours on our own!

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      April 3, 2015

      No problem, glad you found it useful Rachel. I think the adventure of exploring on your own is more fun anyway, not to mention cheaper.

      Reply
  34. MikeW
    March 26, 2015

    I see a bunch of “optional extra’s” on the SadCars site – but you say they tend to be slightly more used vehicles – is it really necessary to have any/all of those extras?

    Also: any recommendations on where to stay – we may be there for 5 days – or would we be best getting a Reykjavik apartment and taking day trips?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      March 26, 2015

      Na, you don’t need the extras. GPS is very handy, but you can get it on your phone with a local SIM card.

      As for where to stay, there are a bunch of little bed & breakfast type places. It depends on where you’re going. If I had 5 days, I’d probably do 1 day in Reykjavik, 1 day on the Golden Circle, 1 day exploring the waterfalls/glacier on the first part of the Ring Road, drive back to Reykjavik for the night, then go North to Snæfellsnes Peninsula for a day/night. It would keep you busy for sure.

      Reply
      • Davide
        July 31, 2015

        Thank you for this!

        I am planning a layover in Iceland from September 1st to September 8th (leaving at 1am). Any recommendations on how to see as much as possible while keeping costs as low as possible? (I was contemplating renting and driving the full circle, but that seems a little ambitious given the time constraints…)

        Thanks again!

        Reply
      • Pia
        May 23, 2016

        Hi Matthew,
        What an insightful site. Picked up many useful tips. One question, if we have 6 days and we self drive do you suggest we stay in Reykjavik and do day trips back & forth or is it possible to drive towards Golden Triangle then stay around Vik then drive a bit East and spend another night there? Do we come back same way or is there any shorter route? We don’t want to go north on the ring road on this trip.
        Many thanks X here’s to more adventures ahead 😀

        Reply
  35. Katy
    March 18, 2015

    Hi Matthew:

    Love your Iceland pics and the video. Great job!

    My husband and I will be visiting Iceland for the first time from April 3-6. What is the difference from the Golden Circle route vs The Ring Road Route? We only have a few days there (wish we had more) but deciding on which route to take.

    Thank you!

    Best,
    Katy

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      March 18, 2015

      The Golden Circle only takes 1 day, an easy trip from Reykjavik. You see a bunch of stuff in a few hours. The Ring Road circles the entire country, and it takes at least a week to drive it. Depending on how many days you have, you could drive the Golden Circle the first day, then maybe a small section of the Ring Road the 2nd day, driving back to Reykjavik on the 3rd day.

      Reply
      • Katy
        March 18, 2015

        I’m tempted to drive as far as I can on the Ring Route and then head back to Rvk before it gets too dark (or go northern lights chasing as we drive back). I love the sites on this route. We only have 2 full days and a 1/2 day, so we are limited on time. =( So I’m trying to weigh all my options.

        Thank you for the reply! This is def food for thought.

        Reply
      • sassenach
        August 18, 2015

        Driving the ringroad in at least one week…? Uh…It’s 1300 kms and not a highway with speeds of 130/hour. (and sheep on the road)
        1 week driving= see and visit nothing or in a hurry. It’s crazy. People, take your time in Iceland.

        Reply
  36. dennis
    February 13, 2015

    hi matthew.

    amazing photos! me and my fiance are going to iceland for the first time in october and are super excited about it all! did you stay in airbnb’s while you were there or at hotels? can you maybe recommend some to us? we are planning on doing air bnb’s in reykavik but are also looking for suggestions as we travel around the golden circle.

    Reply
  37. Yushi
    February 12, 2015

    Can a passenger car work for this drive or 4-wheel a must in early June?

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      February 12, 2015

      Hi Yushi! A passenger car is fine for the Golden Circle, the road is paved and maintained well.

      Reply
      • Yushi
        February 12, 2015

        Thank you Matthew. I am taking two teenage kids there for 9 nights, I am thinking 3 nites at Vik to explore east all the way to the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, 3 or 4 nites around Reykjavik, then 2 or 3 nights around Snaefellsnes. We would like to combine some short nature hikes, relaxation and sightseeing together and thought this pace would suit us. Welcome any insider suggestion. Thanks!

        Reply
  38. EuroTripTips
    January 8, 2015

    I was shocked at how easy it was to just drive from one attraction to another in Iceland – my favorite remains walking between tectonic plates in Pingvellir. Such an awesome feeling!

    Gorgeous photos btw.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      January 13, 2015

      Yes! Me too. You can see & do so much in such a short period of time. It’s a bit overwhelming. Glad you liked the photos.

      Reply
  39. Rahman @ Destination Iran
    January 5, 2015

    Gullfoss Waterfall is really something beyond what I expected Iceland’s nature could offer. Thanks for sharing the information.

    A funny comparison: In Iran, where distances are very long and traffic is crazy, you pay one USD for 3.5 liters of gasoline. Yet, many have recently traveled to Iran to explore its historic sights and natural attractions.

    Reply
  40. Vanessa
    December 29, 2014

    Those are nice photos! I dont get tired looking at them. The places are so beautiful but you made them a lot more beautiful with your great skill.

    Reply
  41. Sigurdur Bjorgvinsson @theRedHeadExplorer
    December 26, 2014

    Iceland is pretty awesome, thank you for coming to my home country. Iceland is really beautiful and is great for travel photography, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      December 29, 2014

      It sure is Sigurdur, I can’t wait to return soon experience the summer season.

      Reply
  42. Sasa
    December 26, 2014

    Beautiful photos, I hope to see some of this in the coming years.

    Reply
  43. the.ego.tripper
    December 23, 2014

    SadCars, brilliant. I’ve done the Golden Circle before, the other way around though (if I remember correctly). Very impressive. Isn’t the Blue Lagoon also situated in the Golden Circle?

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      December 29, 2014

      It’s nearby, yes. You can easily make a short detour and stop there too.

      Reply
  44. David
    December 23, 2014

    I noticed the dents in the car door. Was that a result of the strong wind you mentioned?

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      December 24, 2014

      Wind damage is usually on the edge of the door frame I think, so yeah that could be it. Because Sad Cars are older model used cars, many have scratches and dings like this. That’s why they are called “Sad Cars!”. :-)

      Reply
  45. Sarah
    December 23, 2014

    I’ve wanted to go to Iceland for a while now but these pictures look even better than what I expected! Especially the first one.
    So now I’ll HAVE to go next year!
    Thanks for the article, I’ll definitely do one of the round trips!

    Reply
  46. Paula
    December 23, 2014

    Stunning photographs and a trip that looks well worth doing

    Reply
    • Sasa
      December 26, 2014

      As if pictures are from another planet, beautiful.

      Reply
  47. Katrina
    December 23, 2014

    I wish I had known about icelandair’s free stopover when I flew them several years ago. I would love to have seen some of this. Next time!

    Reply
    • Matthew Karsten
      December 29, 2014

      It’s a great deal! Keep an eye out this summer for super cheap flights from the United States through a budget airline called WOW too. Like $150 one way!

      Reply

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