Self-driving is the most popular option for travelers looking to explore Iceland's famous Golden Circle route, however, it's not the only option for exploring the area. International travelers arriving into Keflavik (KEF) can easily make the Golden Circle their first Icelandic venture. Bus day tours and private transfers are also possible, departing right from the airport as well.
The Golden Circle is comprised of three major natural attractions in Iceland, the route creating a 186 mile (300km) loop. Hike between tectonic plates in Thingvellir National Park (a UNESCO world heritage site), watch the Strokkur geyser shoot into the air, and marvel at the waterfall giant, Gullfoss.
For those with enough time, this article features the best stops on a 7-9 day driving tour of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Southern Highlights, and Golden Circle.
Duration: 3-5 hours
Although driving directly to your first stop in the Golden Circle will take a little under an hour (depending on the first destination), it's wise to allow for extra time to explore all the gorgeous scenery that this area has to offer. Snorkeling enthusiasts will have the opportunity to explore the Silfra fissure in Thingvellir National Park during the summer months. Relax in the secret lagoon near Flúðir, and discover smaller geysers in the geothermal area as well.
For travelers looking to explore this well-traveled area like a local, this article has plenty of ideas. Venture off the beaten path and see the Kerið Crater or hike to the Reykjadalur hot springs. There is plenty of opportunity for detours in this region.
By Group or Private Tour
Duration: 4-6 hours
Many group tours departing directly from Keflavik's airport are available to spend a good portion of the day in the Golden Circle. Multi-day tour itineraries that include other amazing regions like the southern coast and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula are possibilities too. These can easily be done during a long layover as well for a glimpse into the stunning landscape of Iceland. For more flexibility to tailor the route to your preferences, a private tour is a solid option, although more expensive.