Whether you're looking to immerse yourself in the natural phenomena of the Golden Circle or discover local culture and folklore, the region's best hotels exemplify different aspects of this favorite Icelandic route. Some offer amenities like private hot springs, others have international food halls, and many have saunas and hot tubs to relax under the northern lights after a long day of exploring.

Torfhús Retreat

Tap into your inner Viking (photo courtesy of Torfhús Retreat)

Relax in your private basalt hot tub at Torfhús Retreat, a luxury hotel where traditional Icelandic style is given a modern twist. The hotel is just outside Selfoss, allowing you to enjoy a sense of remote peace after exploring the sites of the Golden Circle. Those sites aren't too far off either, as you can reach Gulfoss and Geysir within a 20-minute drive, and Þingvellir National Park is just 40 minutes away.

The hotel consists of grass-lined houses that evoke Viking history with their rustic style, although smaller suites are available, too. Wood-paneled rooms, animal skin rugs, and leather furniture create a sense of coziness, while repurposed items like a canoe-turned-couch and horse carriage-turned-counter add a whimsical sense of the past in common areas. Houses have kitchens and can sleep up to four on multiple beds. Perhaps the most appealing feature is the basalt hot tub that comes with each home and which is shared between three units among the suites.

While you'll have your pick of restaurants in nearby Selfoss, you may not feel the need to leave once you try the food at Torfhús Retreat. The locally sourced and international menu changes weekly based on the chef's whims, guests' tastes, and what's in season. If you're looking for an adventure closer to home, head to the stables to meet some of the hotel's Icelandic horses or ask the staff about hiking trails nearby.

Read kimkim's review of Torfhús Retreat

Hotel Geysir

This eco-friendly hotel blends into the landscape (photo courtesy of Hotel Geysir)

Hotel Geysir is a sustainable family-run hotel just across the street from Geysir, one of the main attractions on the Golden Circle that's so significant it gave us the word "geyser" in English. You can take your pick of famous geysers to see: Geysir is less than five minutes away, as is Strokkuer, which erupts about every five minutes. If you're looking for a different kind of gushing water phenomenon, the massive Gullfoss waterfall is just 10 minutes away, making this modern hotel an ideal base to explore the area.

Rooms are contemporary, using Scandinavian design of neutral tones, clean lines, and cozy textiles to create calm spaces that showcase the landscape. In fact, this glass-covered building nearly blends into its surroundings, so you get the sense that Iceland's nature is never too far away. Some rooms have extra amenities like French balconies and bathtubs, and for something extra exclusive, check out the Geysir Suite with its living room, dining room, and balcony with mountain views.

The hotel is committed to sustainability, working with local farmers to supply the restaurant and rooftop bar. The entire building is run on renewable energy, and guests are encouraged to talk to the staff about making stays more environmentally friendly. The effect is a warm and welcoming atmosphere, most evident in cozy common areas like the restaurant, lobby lounge, and rooftop terrace.

Read kimkim's review of Hotel Geysir

The Greenhouse Hotel

Have a drink at the cozy bar (photo courtesy of The Greenhouse Hotel)

Situated in the geothermal town of Hveragerði, The Greenhouse Hotel is more like a self-contained complex than a traditional hotel. Step inside this modern building, where you'll find not only a hotel but a food hall with seven restaurants and a range of international fare, a shop selling local products and brands, and a few homey bars where you can decompress after traversing the Golden Circle. Hveragerði is known for its hot springs, which you can walk to in just over five minutes, and several Golden Circle sites like Þingvellir National Park and Geysir are within an hour's drive.

As its name indicates, plants are a theme of the hotel, and you'll find them everywhere, adding a sense of life and warmth to the modern spaces. Rooms are bright, with a minimalist Scandinavian design softened by hanging plants and pops of colorful linens. Family rooms are great for larger parties, and there are accessible options for those with limited mobility. 

Read kimkim's review of The Greenhouse Hotel

Hotel Rangá

Spot the aurora borealis from the hotel or its observatory (photo courtesy of Hotel Rangá)

Hotel Rangá offers a combination of tranquility and convenient access to the Golden Circle from its location in Hella, a small town 40 minutes from Selfoss. Þingvellir National Park and Geysir are just over an hour away, so this is an ideal base for those who want to soak in Iceland's epic landscape with longer drives along the Golden Circle route. Hella has a handful of restaurants and shops and the mysterious artificial Caves of Hella, so you can get your fill of local culture and experiences here as well.

The rustic rooms combine a traditional cabin style of wood-paneled walls and handwoven textiles with modern amenities like jetted bathtubs and WiFi. Painted murals and artwork add character to the rooms, and since you're in prime northern lights-viewing country, you can request an aurora wake-up call to ensure you don't miss the greenish-blue dancing lights in this remote location.

This hotel's common facilities are really what makes it stand out, as it not only offers a gourmet restaurant, outdoor hot tubs, and game room, but it has what few other hotels do: its very own observatory. If you're visiting in the winter, be sure to check out the observatory, where you can stargaze and hopefully catch sight of the northern lights.

Read kimkim's review of Hotel Rangá

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Frost & Fire Boutique Hotel

The Varmá River passes just under the hotel (photo courtesy of Frost & Fire Boutique Hotel)

Experience Iceland's diverse range of hot and cold elements at Frost & Fire Boutique Hotel, a warm modern hotel just 45 minutes from Reykjavík and Þingvellir National Park. This riverside property overlooks the town of Hveragerði, known for its geothermal springs, although you don't even have to make the quick two-minute drive to get there since the hotel has its own hot springs where you can relax and even try boiling an egg. The "frosty" Golden Circle sites, like the Gullfoss waterfall and the ice-blue waters of Brúarhlöð Canyon, are about an hour away.

The contemporary rooms channel the volcanic landscape with a mix of gray tones, while soft lighting and Scandinavian-style furniture add a sense of warmth. Book a river view room for something extra special. Most options have balconies or patios, so you can immerse yourself in the peaceful landscape, and room types can accommodate families, larger groups, and those with limited mobility. Amenities like blackout curtains are a welcome bonus if visiting during the midnight sun season.

The shared facilities emphasize the beauty of the natural surroundings, as you can have a meal at the on-site restaurant with wraparound windows overlooking the river and hills or head to the spa, which includes a pool, sauna, and treatment rooms.

Read kimkim's review of Frost & Fire Boutique Hotel

Farmhotel Efstidalur

Enjoy a rustic yet modern stay (photo courtesy of Farmhotel Efstidalur)

Discover life on a traditional farm at Farmhotel Efstidalur, ideally located just off the northwest section of the Golden Circle near the bright blue waters of Brúarfoss. Gullfoss is a quick 25-minute drive, as is Þingvellir National Park, so this historic family-run property is a great jumping-off point to explore some of the most known (and lesser known) sites of the Golden Circle. Farmhotel Efstidalur has been in the same family of dairy farmers since 1750. The hotel is attached to a working farm, where you can watch cows get milked from viewing windows in the breakfast room or take a horseback riding tour.

This intimate hotel has just 10 rooms that combine a rustic farm style of wooden slats and handwoven textiles with modern touches like leather furniture. Some options have shared bathrooms, and family units include patios or outdoor seating areas. All guests can partake in one of the relaxing outdoor hot tubs, where you can soak under the starry night sky. The ice cream barn offers fresh ice cream and cheese, while the on-site restaurant lets you indulge in an authentic farm-to-table experience.

Read kimkim's review of Farmhotel Efstidalur

Hotel South Coast

Relax in comfortable modern rooms (photo courtesy of Hotel South Coast)

Hotel South Coast offers a simple and contemporary stay in Selfoss, the gateway to the Golden Circle and Iceland's South Coast. Situated just off the Ölfusá River, this hotel puts you within easy reach of some of the area's most desirable sites. The rainbow gradations of Kerið Crater are just a 15-minute drive, while Þingvellir National Park and the Secret Lagoon of Flúðir are around 30 minutes away. Most of the Golden Circle attractions are within an hour's drive of this prime location.

Pick between two room types here: Standard and Deluxe, which differ primarily in space, although both are spacious enough. The style is contemporary Scandinavian, with neutral tones and clean lines creating a comfortable place to relax and lay your head down after a day of exploring the Golden Circle. You can relax even further with a trip to the spa, which includes hot tubs, a cold tub, and a sauna that you can enjoy for a fee. 

Read kimkim's review of Hotel South Coast

Bubble Hotel

Sleep in a tree under the northern lights (photo courtesy of Bubble Hotel)

Bubble Hotel offers one of the more unusual accommodations in Iceland: transparent "igloos" or bubbles nestled in the forest of Ölvisholt. You won't get much closer to Iceland's nature than this, and this glamping experience ensures you won't sacrifice comfort while communing with the northern lights or midnight sun from your bed. Selfoss is just 15 minutes away by car, so you can enjoy the conveniences of the gateway to the Golden Circle, which makes up for the lack of an on-site restaurant or facilities. Sites like Kerið Crater, Brúarhlöð Canyon, and Þingvellir National Park are all within an hour's drive.

The bubbles are simple and comfortable, sleeping up to two, although children under six can share a bed with their parents. Each bubble has its own heating and electrical outlets, so you can get cozy during the winter months, and they're spaced out from each other to offer a sense of privacy and remoteness. The bubbles don't have en suite bathrooms; you'll find a main cabin with toilets and showers within a quick walk from your unit. For something extra special, the tree bubble provides a truly one-of-a-kind experience of sleeping in a structure hanging from a tree, where the northern lights hit a bit differently.

Read kimkim's review of Bubble Hotel

Blue Hotel Fagrilundur

Outdoor hot tubs offer a place to chill after exploring all day (photo courtesy of Blue Hotel Fagrilundur)

The modern and family-run Blue Hotel Fagrilundur is a self-service hotel in Reykholt (not to be confused with the historic northern village of the same name), one of the locations directly on the Golden Circle. Ideal for those looking for a simple yet comfortable stay during their exploration of the famed route, Blue Hotel Fagrilundur offers either Double or Twin rooms, and both include options for those with limited mobility. The style is modern, with clean lines, neutral tones, and gray-shaded bathrooms with rainfall showers.

Although there's no on-site restaurant, there's a restaurant right next door where you can get lunch or dinner or head to Reykholt, which has a handful of options. The terrace is also lovely for having coffee or bringing back some snacks. The outdoor hot tubs are a great place to relax after visiting sites of the Golden Circle, like Geysir and Gullfoss, both within 25 minutes of driving.

Read kimkim's review of Blue Hotel Fagrilundur

Panorama Glass Lodges

Wake up with one of the best views around (photo courtesy of Panorama Glass Lodges)

When Sabrina and Andreas Dedler opened Panorama Glass Lodges in 2017, they were meant to be a romantic escape for couples. However, they have since expanded to welcome anyone looking for an up-close-and-personal experience of Iceland. These remote self-service lodges are 20 minutes from Hella, so they're a little farther away from Golden Circle sites, which can all be reached within a 1.5-hour drive. Panorama Glass Lodges overlook Hekla Volcano, an hour away by car, so you can also use this as a base to explore attractions off the Golden Circle.

Each glass-wrapped lodge sleeps up to two, ideal for couples or friends. The cabins, including chic, customized furniture, are made from glass, steel, and organic materials. Watch the northern lights from the comfort of your cozy bed, and don't worry about the lack of curtains if you're visiting in the summer; sleeping masks are on hand. Each self-service unit has a fully equipped kitchen. Perhaps the best feature is the private outdoor hot tub and glass sauna that comes with each lodge, allowing you to soak in the landscape from a number of relaxing locations.

Read kimkim's review of Panorama Glass Lodges