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Driving Iceland's Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a popular driving route in Iceland that exemplifies the country’s nickname “The Land of Ice and Fire”. This driving route is one of the most visited in Iceland and easily one of the most impressive. The icing on the cake: three of the country’s most popular landmarks on the route are just a few hours from Reykjavík.


If you just decided to drive The Golden Circle, it would take about 3.5 hours. But who’s doing that?! With so many interesting things to do and see along the way, exploring The Golden Circle takes all day. The route is on good quality, paved roads so there is nothing keeping you from driving the route on your own.


Here’s the lowdown on my recent drive on the route where every moment was a mix of jaw-dropping landscapes, hot springs, and a touch of fancy.


Thingvellir National Park: Nature's History Book

Öxarárfoss Waterfall
Öxarárfoss Waterfall - Photo Credit: Ronda McKnight

After about a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, we find ourselves in the heart of Thingvellir National Park. This place isn't just a park; it's a living, breathing history book. Why? Well, imagine standing with one foot on the North American plate and the other on the Eurasian plate. That's right, you're straddling tectonic plates! Thingvellir is where these plates are doing their dance, slowly pulling apart. As if that's not cool enough, this spot is the birthplace of the world's first parliament, the Alþingi, founded in 930 AD. It's like taking a stroll through time, and people come here not just for the geological wonder but to soak in the rich history.

Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park - Photo Credit: Ronda McKnight
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park - Photo Credit: Ronda McKnight

Geysir: Nature's Hot Springs Rodeo

Strokkur Geysir
Strokkur - Photo Credit: Ronda McKnight

After soaking up the history at Thingvellir, we hit the road for about 45 minutes and arrived at Geysir, a geothermal area that unleashes the earth's heartbeat. The Strokkur geyser steals the spotlight, erupting with a theatrical display every few minutes. The anticipation builds, and then, whoosh! Hot water shoots skyward - a reminder of the raw energy bubbling beneath Iceland's surface. The entire area is like a geothermal playground, with bubbling mud pots, smoking spouts coming from the ground, and other geysers doing their thing. Geysir is like the grandpa of them all, still impressive after all these years.


Fun fact: The name "Geysir" is where we get the word "geyser" in English.

Gullfoss: The Roaring Waterfall


Just 10 minutes after leaving Geysir, the next stop is Gullfoss, the waterfall that's basically Mother Nature showing off. The Hvítá River takes a plunge into a rocky canyon, creating two spectacular tiered waterfalls: the upper one plunges 36 feet from the river, before falling again. The second Gullfoss waterfall falls 69 feet, making the total height of the falls 105 feet.

Gulfoss
Gulfoss - Photo Credit: Ronda McKnight

Gullfoss means Golden Falls, and on sunny days, the mist catches the sunlight creating rainbows that'll naturally make you smile 😊. Don’t miss the pathway at the bottom of the stairs that will allow you to have close-up views of the massive two-tiered waterfall. Just remember to take a rain jacket with a hoodie as it gets pretty wet up close!


Kerid Crater: A Sublime Pit Stop

Jump back in the car, and after driving about 40 minutes into southern Iceland, we reach the surprise package of the Golden Circle—Kerid Crater. Kerid is a serene, otherworldly caldera filled with a captivating turquoise lake. The vibrant colors contrast against the volcanic rock, creating a memorable visual. It's a reminder of nature's artistry, painted over millennia. Scientists believe that Kerid was once a cone-shaped volcano. After eruption, it is widely believed that the volcano’s foundation fell in upon itself and resulted in the formation it has today.

Kerið
Kerið - Photo Credit: Ronda McKnight

Kerid Crater was the least populated stop that we made along The Golden Circle. This pit stop will give you a chance to explore more freely without the crowds.


Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon - Photo Credit: Ronda McKnight

Blue Lagoon: Luxurious Relaxation

Our final destination, just under a 1.5-hour drive, is the grand finale that offers a splash of indulgence—the Blue Lagoon. While the Blue Lagoon is technically not a part of The Golden Circle, it’s arguably one of the most famous attractions in Iceland and is an easy detour from your route back to Reykjavik.


The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa known for its regenerative qualities due to the water being so rich in silica and sulfur. Silica mud is available for guests to enjoy a free face mask. The water is warm and inviting and the view is nothing like you’ve seen! It's the perfect finale to a Golden Circle adventure.


Traveler’s Tip: As you’re driving along the stretch of southern coastline from Kerid to The Golden Circle, make some unplanned stops to take in this beautiful stretch of the island. The views of the ocean crashing against the beaches are spectacular!
Black sand beach
Black sand beach along the southern coastline - Photo Credit: Ronda McKnight
And there you have it…my Golden Circle road trip in all its glory. Hope you enjoyed the ride!
 
Ronda Wright

Hey, I'm Ronda McKnight 👋🏽

I'm the founder of The Wright Getaway. I love all things travel and helping other people experience the world.


Let's chat about your upcoming travel plans!



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