What is Iceland’s Golden Circle?

Iceland is a magical and all-encompassing land; it’s been the inspiration for TV shows like Game of Thrones and is on most people’s bucket lists! Of course, this is no surprise to us here at Your Friend in Reykjavik, as we’ve made it our business to showcase everything our wonderful country has to offer.

Have you always wanted to visit Iceland but aren’t sure where to start? Then, start your journey in the Land of Fire and Ice by taking part in one of our Iceland guided tours. If you’d like to find out more about the tours we offer, please get in touch.

Now, without further ado, let’s discuss the jewel in Iceland’s landscape: The Golden Circle.

The Golden Circle is a 300km route to three of the most popular natural attractions in Southern Iceland. These famous attractions are The Geyser Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Þingvellir National Park.

Driving along Iceland’s Golden Circle is a wonderful way to see some of Iceland’s best sights. Stop at some of the most beautiful spots in a short period — although we recommend spending as much time as you can taking in the wonders of Iceland!

Let’s go through each section of Iceland’s Golden Circle so you can learn more…

The Geysir Geothermal Area

Pay a visit to one of Iceland’s most fascinating natural wonders at the Geysir Geothermal Area. The original Geysir for which the area is named is dormant, but there are other active geysers in the area.


The Geysir Geothermal Area is believed to have come into existence around the end of the 13th century when an eruption of Mount Hekla caused strong earthquakes.

We recommend spending an hour or so at the site to ensure you’ll see a spurt! If you’re feeling like being particularly decadent, why not visit the nearby Fontana Thermal Baths or The Secret Lagoon for the ultimate pampering session?

Fontana Steam Bath Iceland

Want to learn more about our incredible natural hot springs? Check out our list of the best hot springs in Iceland.

Did you know? The word geyser is derived from the Icelandic verb gjósa, which means “to erupt”. (Keep this in mind for your next trivia night!)

Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss waterfall Golden Circle Small

Next on our journey around Iceland’s Golden Circle is Gulfoss Waterfall, which translates to Golden Falls.

It’s rumored that it got its name from an old Viking who hid his treasure in the waterfall. Another suggestion is that it earned the title of Golden Falls from the rainbows that form over the waters on sunny days.

Maybe there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, after all!

Gullfoss Waterfall is located in Southern Iceland, about two hours away from Reykjavik. But don’t let that put you off making the trip — it’s worth it!

While many waterfalls require a hike to get close, Gulfoss is easily accessible for most visitors. Just beware: it can be slippery!

Gullfoss is also one of the largest volume waterfalls in Europe; imagine standing near this epic rush of water, the spray hitting your face and the sound of 1400 metric tonnes plummeting to the jagged rocks below.

If you want dramatic scenery, Gullfoss Waterfall has it in bucket loads. Literally.

Top Tip: Another one of Iceland’s famous waterfalls is Seljalandsfoss. Not only can you bask in the glory of this magnificent force of nature, but you can also stand behind the waterfall. It makes for a great IG post with your silhouette against the backdrop of the rushing water!

Þingvellir National Park

Thingvellir Öxarárfoss Golden Circle Small

Þingvellir National Park is a place of geographic and political importance along Iceland’s Golden Circle.

Geographically, the park covers 190 miles and is the only place in the world where you can stand between two tectonic plates. The park comprises valleys, rifts, crystal clear waters, and so much more…but you’ll need to find out for yourself!

It’s free to enter the park, but you have to pay to park. Why not avoid the parking stress and join us on one of our day trips to The Golden Circle instead?

Did you know? You can see the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates, most notably in the Canyon Almannagja. How amazing is that?!

A Place of Political Importance

Þingvellir National Park was also politically important as the place where the Althing would meet. The Althing was an Icelandic open assembly that would meet for two weeks every year to set Iceland’s laws. This practice took place from 930 AD to 1798.

That means that Þingvellir National Park is the site of the oldest existing parliaments in the world!

Top Tip: Keep an eye out for arctic foxes and minks while you’re visiting the park!

Thingvellir overview Golden Circle Small group

Take a Dip in Silfra

Þingvellir National Park is also home to a world-famous diving site: Silfra. As is the tradition in the Icelandic landscape, the Silfra fissure was born from an earthquake in 1789, which opened up several fissures in the area.

However, what makes the Silfra fissure different is that it was cut into an underground spring and is filled with the glacial meltwater from the nearby Langjökull glacier.

Can you imagine anything more magical than swimming through these crystal-clear waters? If it couldn’t get any more awe-inspiring, you also would be floating between two tectonic plates!

Did you know? The water in Silfra is so clear due to the temperature — the cooler the temperature of the water, the more glasslike the water gets!

We hope you enjoyed learning about The Golden Circle in our beloved Iceland. The Land of Fire and Ice cannot wait to welcome you! Explore our many Iceland day trips to start trip planning, and please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about visiting Iceland.

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