Driving The Golden Circle: Iceland’s Popular Day Trip

Golden Circle Iceland
Driving the Golden Circle in Iceland
Golden Circle, Iceland

Self-driving the Golden Circle is a popular day trip for visitors to Iceland. The 300 km (190 mi) route covers many beautiful landmarks, perfect for those on a layover.

If you can’t spend a full week driving Iceland’s Ring Road (which circles the entire country), renting a car and driving the Iceland Golden Circle Route on your own is a great shorter alternative.

What’s the Golden Circle you ask? It’s a 190-mile driving loop from Reykjavik into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. But the best part is you can do the whole trip in a single day.

It’s ideal for people on a short layover flying to Europe without much time.

Self-driving the Golden Circle in Iceland allows you to go at your own pace.

Stop for photos anytime you want, or head off to explore different side roads too. Spend an hour petting Icelandic horses, or wait patiently for the next hot-water geyser eruption to go off!

There’s no rush when you’re driving through Iceland on your own terms.

Basing ourselves out of Reykjavik, my friend Kiersten and I rented a car to spend the day driving the Golden Circle (Gullni hringurinn in Icelandic) hitting all its best attractions.

In this golden circle travel guide I’ll help you get the most out of a self-drive adventure. Learn how to prepare, where to stay, and the best things to see!

This Golden Circle itinerary is completely free! I’ve worked hard putting it together for you. If you find it useful, I’d appreciate if you use my affiliate links when you book hotels, rental cars or activities. I’ll get paid a small commission, at no extra cost to you!

Golden Circle Iceland Map

How To Use This Map

Above you’ll find a map of my itinerary for Iceland’s Golden Circle. Click on the top left of the map to find separate layers marking the route and points of interest. You can hide and show different layers, or click icons on the map to see the names of places I mention in this travel guide. “Star” the map to save it to your own Google Maps, or open the map in a new window for a larger version. Enjoy!

Driving The Golden Circle In 2020

Golden Circle Iceland Self-Drive
A Little Snow in October

Depending on when you’re visiting, driving in Iceland isn’t too difficult if you follow certain guidelines. But the golden circle road is well maintained.

You do not need a 4×4 vehicle to drive the golden circle.

As tourism has exploded in recent years, traffic on the popular Golden Circle can be busy during the summer high season. It’s better to get an early start to avoid traffic.

Renting A Car In Iceland

The best site to book your car is with Discover Cars. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car in Iceland.

In the winter Iceland’s roads are icy. Weather changes quickly, 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.

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 credit cards may need to be charged inside rather than at the pump.

Top Golden Circle Highlights

1. Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park Golden Circle
Tectonic Rift at Þingvellir National Park
Golden Circle Silfra
Snorkeling the Silfra Fissure

Once we left Reykjavik, we started driving the Golden Circle going NE on Route 36 towards our first stop, Þingvellir National Park.

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.

2. Pet Icelandic Horses

Iceland Horses on Golden Circle
Friendly & Fuzzy Icelandic Horses

A fresh snowfall dusted the mountains as we drove between beautiful valleys and large farms — with hardy Icelandic horses and sheep lining both sides of the road.

The small fuzzy horses in Iceland may look like ponies, but don’t call them that in front of locals! Iceland’s horses have a long and proud history dating back to the 9th century.

You’ll find many friendly horses on farms throughout Iceland.

As long as you find a safe parking area to pull over (don’t stop on the edge of the road, it’s dangerous!) you can walk up to the fence and pet these guys. Don’t forget a horse-selfie!

3. Geysers At Haukadalur

Geysir Iceland Golden Circle
Strokkur Geyser Erupting

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 actually named after this particular one in Iceland. It reminded me of this inspiring quote:

“Life leaps like a geyser for those who drill through the rock of inertia.” ~ Alexis Carrel

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 restaurant/gift shop where you can warm up with soup.

4. Gullfoss Waterfall

Golden Circle Highlights
Powerful 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.

Gullfoss means “gold waterfall” in Icelandic, and when the sun hits it just right, it certainly fits the description!

The wide & fast-moving river turns a corner and falls 100 feet into a crevice in the earth, producing thick mist & frequent rainbows. The dramatic scenery at Gullfoss makes it one of Iceland’s most popular attractions.

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.

Gullfoss waterfall is located off the main road, so you have to backtrack a bit to continue the normal Golden Circle route back to Reykjavik.

5. Kerið Crater Lake

Volcanic Crater Iceland
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 Golden Circle attractions, Kerid Crater is definitely worth a quick stop if you have the time.

6. Nesjavallaleið Geothermal Plant

Nesjavallaleio Route Golden Circle
Nesjavallaleið Geothermal Plant

If you decide to drive the Golden Circle in a counterclockwise direction, starting at Kerio Crater Lake and ending in Þingvellir National Park, then there’s a beautiful backroad you can take to one of Iceland’s geothermal power plants.

There is nothing special out there except the drive itself. A lonely road driving through pretty Icelandic landscapes. You can take this route right back to Reykjavik, and it’s a lot less busy than the normal way back.

This route will add an extra 45 minutes to your trip, and the road can be covered in snow in the winter, as it was in October when we did the drive. It was pretty scary, and not recommended when covered with snow!

There’s also a very cool luxury hotel out there called ION Adventure. It looks like a spaceship!

7. Hiking Kerlingarfjöll Mountains

Hiking the Strange Volcanic Formations
Hiking Kerlingarfjoll Geothermal Area

Located deep within Iceland’s central highlands, the strange alien landscape of Kerlingarfjoll Geothermal Area is not part of the typical Golden Circle route. That’s because it’s pretty out of the way…

To reach Kerlingarfjoll, you need a 4X4 vehicle and the confidence to drive for 2-3 hours on Iceland’s F-Roads, rough jeep trails that go into the highlands. These roads are only open during the summer.

It’s not possible to fit it into a day trip with the Golden Circle, you’d need to spend a night out there too. Either by camping or renting a mountain cabin. But it’s quite an adventure!

Golden Circle Hotel
Where to Stay on the Golden Circle

Where To Stay On The Golden Circle

Most people base themselves out of Reykjavik to drive the Golden Circle, as it’s a great day trip that can have you back in the city by evening to experience some of Iceland’s famous nightlife.

But if you plan to continue to the Ring Road, the town of Selfoss is a good place to spend the night. Here are some great options for where to stay nearby.

Staying In Reykjavik

Staying On The Golden Circle

Golden Circle Iceland Travel Tips

  • While technically driving the golden circle is only 3 hours round-trip, the reality is a 6-8 hour day depending on how long you spend at each stop.
  • If you want to experience some of Iceland’s stunning landscapes but don’t have a lot of time (for example, a one-day layover), the Golden Circle is a wonderful option.
  • The area around Gullfoss Waterfall gets pretty windy, so a waterproof jacket (and maybe even pants) is recommended if you plan to get close.
  • The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable. We were visiting in October, and it started snowing at the beginning of our drive! Always pack warm layers no matter what season you’re visiting.

Travel Video: Iceland Road Trip (Golden Circle)

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new Adventure Travel Videos!
(Click to watch Iceland Road Trip (Golden Circle & Ring Road) on YouTube)

Travel Planning Resources For Golden Circle

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip.

Book Your Flight

Ready to fly? Here’s how I find the cheapest airline flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find a deal.

Cheap Accommodation

Learn how I save money booking hotels & vacation apartments.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

Enjoy This Post? Pin It!

Driving the Golden Circle in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Driving the Golden Circle in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com


I hope you enjoyed my guide to the Iceland Golden Circle! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Have any questions about driving Iceland’s Golden Circle? Are you planning a trip? Drop me a message in the comments below!


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
Join 20,000 others who receive exclusive email updates!

7 Reasons To Subscribe →
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I'm also a member of other affiliate programs. For more info please read my policy page.

Leave a Comment

Comments (132)

  1. Hi, Thanks for all this great information.
    I have a question about parking when arriving at the different places. Will I need cash or is everything contactless to play for the parking?

  2. Thanks a lot for this great post, i hope I will manage to do all that when we’re in Iceland in July.

  3. I don’t know what am I waiting to see Iceland with my own eyes 👀. Beautiful pictures 🙂
    it seems really cool! Iceland is great, no matter what time of year. Hope i get to tick that item off my bucket list soon. 👍
    is there an entrance/admission fee to see the Gullfoss Waterfall/ Pingvier National Park? Thank you so much.

  4. Wow, you’ve done a great lot of stunning places in a single day. That’s cool.
    I’m concerned about the ever-changing weather. My friend warns me against the abrupt winds which can easily break your car door if you don’t hold it properly. Naturally, in that a case you have to cover the repairs. He visited in February, and I’m planning a trip in late September–early October. Hope, it’s less severe in autumn. But my question is about the type of a vehicle to rent—should it be a new one and stronger, or old but probably more likely to break down? Again, a new car will cost more if anything happens. What would you advise? Thanks in advance.

    • You can actually get add-on insurance that will cover this from the rental car place. Just be super careful, and keep the wind in mind before opening your doors, and you should be ok.

      It’s easy to forget if you’re not used to worrying about it, like most tourists. So make it a habit, or just buy the extra insurance to be safe.

  5. Hi .. I was planning a trip to Iceland from 27th March to 30th March 2018.
    Would love your expert advise as what should be our best route . 27th ION HOTEL then day trip to golden circle .. what should be next best thing on agenda for 28th & 29th & where to stay .. chasing Northern lights all along >>.

  6. Hi,
    Me and my wife are planning to visit in Mid-March for the first time.
    Do you think March is a good time or are the landscapers more scenic in the summer? We are coming all the way from Dubai.
    Hope the weather is not grey and gloomy..

  7. Hello can you tell me my daughter and I are going to Iceland in may at the beginning we want to see many of these great things but I’m a bit nervous of driving. I’m afraid of heights and then read about these sand storms. We r there for 8 days any insight you have is wonderful. Also is ther a place to stay along golden circle that we could split up the drive ?

  8. Hi Mathew ,
    Glad to have hopped on to your site . You have amazing content . I am planning for a visit to Iceland in Feb mid for 5 days . What car and route would you suggest ? I was thinking of Golden circle [ would you suggest silfra snorkeling or is it too much to handle in peak winter ? ] Jokulsarlon Lagoon [ Ice caves ] and catch the northern lights if we get lucky . Have you visited during peak winter ? Any tips is appreciated .

  9. I will be going to Iceland in November for a week. I have no plans of doing the Ring road in a week, but wanted to cover mostly the golden circle, I just wanted to know If i will need a 4WD car to do the golden circle ?

  10. Hi. Quick question. Heading there in Oct. getting in early and getting our rental car. Can’t check into the hotel until the afternoon. Someone suggested going to the blue lagoon straight from the airport. They said it would help jevuninate after our flight. What is your thought? I appreciate any input

    • The Blue Lagoon is pretty close to the airport, and they have a bus that can take you there. I’d say that sounds like a good idea. Many people visit the lagoon right after or right before their flights.

  11. Hi Matt, is there any attraction in the Golden Circle that is paid and needs to pre book in advance? For instance, if travelling to this area by car, will I find parking spaces (free?) and will I have to pay entrance fees when I get to the attractions on the Golden Circle route? Also, could you please briefly say what to expect in terms of tolls in Iceland? Many thanks. Mariana.

  12. Hi! We ( wife and two girls) are wrestling with renting a car or doing a bus tour of the GC. After reading this, I think we will rent a car in July. Is it easy to drive to all the places on the circle ? And like someone else asked, are there obvious places to park and go hike, or are busses/shuttles necessary for any of them? Since we are there a short time, we are looking at renting car right from airport , do the Circle and drive back to Rejkavik to a pre-booked guesthouse. Is that doable ???Thanks!

  13. Hi! I am going on my own little version of this road trip in October of this year. We are renting a car and I am wondering how easy it is to drive up to all of these locations? Are there obvious places to park and go hike, or are busses/shuttles necessary for any of them? Also, we plan on sleeping in our rental car and taking our time- spreading the trip out over a few days. Is it easy to pull off and park for the night? Thank you!

    • Very easy to park and see the sights, everything is well marked. Hiking trails are somewhat less obvious and more accessible with local knowledge–for the next trip I’ll get a book on hiking in Iceland.

      No you cannot just pull over and sleep anywhere you want. That is illegal. And dangerous as the roads don’t have shoulders. More tourists are abusing the rules (and doing their business wherever) so they are cracking down. Designated campgrounds only. They are plentiful especially in October. They are also the one thing in Iceland that is cheaper than NA–figure $15-20 a night. Most have showers. A good old-fashioned paper map will show them. There are also hiking huts (some as large as townhouses) that have showers and cooking facilities and are also cheap. Everyone speaks English. Have fun!

      Inspiration pics here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1bV8DS

  14. GREAT post. This broke down the Golden Circle perfectly for our upcoming trip with our four young kids. Thanks a lot!

  15. Thanks for the tips! I’m headed here in a week and your article really helped me plan my nine days in Iceland. The website for road conditions will prove invaluable as I am driving by myself, but I have to tell you, the “handy smartphone app” is not so handy. It’s not in English and even after I subscribed, it never goes past the subscribe page! Not sure what I’m doing wrong, as there is not a word of English! LOL!

  16. Hi Matthew,

    Great write up, and reminded me of a break back in 2007 when we toured the Golden Ring – and that Rav 4 looks just like the one that nearly killed me. (Interesting incident with a toffee and the hole in the floormat where the throttle stop goes! But I digress.

    Your great shots of the country have now got me diving into Lightroom to pull our my own gallery. We’re planning on returning in early 2018 earlier in the year in the hope of catching the Northern Lights. Think I’ll give myself a little more time for the next trip though.



  17. Wow what a wonderful photos and information! So useful.

    Travelling to Iceland in mid Feb for 4 days/3 nights looking to hire a car, spend one day in Reykjavik, navigate the golden circle ourselves and head to the blue lagoon. Any other suggestions bearing in mind we have a relatively short visit planned?

    Will most likely stay in Reykjavik for one night then head out for the other 2 in the hope of catching the northern lights. Any suggestions for accommodation please? Thanks

  18. Hi, I travel to Iceland next month for 2.5 days. Is it possible to do golden circle and blue lagoon in one day? We are renting s car. I understand days are short in the winter months.

  19. Hi i’m travelling with friends and thinking of driving the golden circle. Are most of the sites free? Can you advise which things you had to pay for admission – and how much?
    Thank you

  20. Hey, thanks for the review, My girlfriend and I are planning our first visit to Iceland next year so reading up on a lot of reviews and places to see. Can’t wait to see and experience it all.

  21. Hi Matthew! I will forever be indebted to you for all the fantastic pictures and info! I’ll be going there in January for 5 days. The only thing I’m concerned about is driving a normal passenger car around the Golden Circle with my husband and 11 year old daughter… I understand the ease of driving largely depends on weather conditions. And those can change rather quickly. I will download the weather app you mention but still wondering what happens if you don’t get enough time to get back home (Minni Borg in our case) safe and sound… any reassuring tips?! Thank you!

  22. Some interesting and useful information there, thank you.

    I’ve just planned a solo fly/drive for November. Was also thinking of doing the Silfra snorkelling and Blue Lagoon. Was this something anyone can comment ?


  23. Hi,
    We used your ring road idea back in January and there aren’t enough words to describe the journey!! It was awe inspiring. We had to squeeze it into 6 days, but managed it – along with a knuckle clenching 8 hour blizzard howling drive!! Absolutely amazing trip, country and tips from your blog.
    Thank you so much for your tips. They were perfect.
    Next time, we’re going to do it in summer to see the difference and check out some of the places that even 4x4s are banned from in winter. Can’t wait!
    Thank again.
    Pete & Matjaz

  24. Mat, thank you for all the info and impressive photos! My husband and I will be there in September for 6 days and 5 nights, arriving very early at 4:30 a.m. Is it possible to drive straight from KEF to go site-seeing around the Ring Road on Day 1-4 and then drive around the Golden Circle on Day 5 and 6? Our flight out is still at 3:40 p.m. Thinking of reaching Akureyri by Day 2 to chase the Northern Lights. Is it worth it to cramp the tour in 6 days? Will we need a 4X4 for the Ring Road? Thank you!

  25. Hi Matthew!

    I’ve used most of your blog to plan my 10 upcoming days in Iceland! Your pictures are great and your descriptions are very helpful! I was only wondering how I could get to Gullfoss Waterfall if I don’t have a 4×4. Would it be possible for me to walk to the waterfall from the mainroad?

    Again thank you so much for the info and looking forward to hearing from you!


    • no four wheel drive is necessary to get to the falls. I’m reading the blog and just drove to the falls ten minutes ago. everything is paved and no four wheel drive is needed.

  26. WOW! your trip looks amazing!

    I am planning my honeymoon there for March. If anyone knows how the weather is normally around march that would be a great help as I seem to be getting mixed reviews, which is making me think of changing the date to April.

  27. 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!

    • 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,


    • I’m going from Nov 9 to Nov 16. I live in canada where i drive in -30C with a camry, I am gonna rent a 4×4, we are unfamiliar with iceland road, they don’t seem to salt their roads… this is a huge risk for us city drivers. no need to risk this for a extra 200-300 bucks.

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

  29. 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!

    • 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.

  30. 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?

    • 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..

      • 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.

  31. 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?


    • 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.

  32. 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?

  33. 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.

      • 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,

  34. 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

    • 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 :)

      • 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

  35. 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 ?

  36. 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

  37. 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!

  38. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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!!

  39. 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!

  40. 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!

  41. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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

    • 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

  42. 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 :)

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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!

  43. 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.

    • 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.

  44. 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!

  45. 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.

  46. 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

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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?

  50. 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!

  51. 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!!

  52. 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 ?

  53. 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?

  54. 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!

  55. 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!

    • 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.

  56. 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?

    • 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.

      • 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!

      • 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 ?

  57. 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!


    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

  58. 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.

      • 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!

  59. 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.

    • 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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?

    • 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!”. :-)

  64. 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!

  65. 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!

    • 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!