It's no secret that Iceland is drawing more and more visitors every year. If you're joining the ranks, skip the crowds at the most popular Golden Circle attractions and visit the area's lesser-known (but equally stunning) sights, restaurants, and lodges instead.
Best of the Golden Circle
Beyond the highlights, the Golden Circle is packed with surprises. You can relax in the Secret Lagoon, which is fed by warm natural springs in the village of Fludir, or take a hike amid the lava fields and rhyolite mountains of the Highlands of Iceland. There’s also the surreal site of the Kerið Crater, a blue crater lake surrounded by red volcanic soil.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Golden Circle Essentials
Iceland's hot springs are world-famous, as many travelers flock to the country to soak in the hot and healing geothermal pools. You'll find hot springs in every corner of the country, including popular baths like The Blue Lagoon and Fontana near Reykjavík. Or, you can venture out of the west and visit unique pools like Vök Baths and GeoSea. If you want a true adventure, you'll also find baths that require hikes, like the scenic Seljavallalaug pool.
Many travelers visit Iceland for its unique terrain, volcanic activity, and geologic history. Known as the Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland has many volcanoes, with some covered in ice caps. You can hike atop an active volcano, walk across lava fields and steamy valleys, or visit lava tunnels and museums. Learn about the inner workings of Iceland's volcanoes and discover how they connect to the glaciers and mountains that surround them.
With over 250 glaciers, Iceland's famed ice caps draw the crowds. You can enjoy various activities, including hiking across glaciers, exploring ice caves, snowmobiling atop volcanoes covered in ice, kayaking in glacial lagoons with icebergs, and boat tours. You can also visit the non-icy products of Iceland's glaciers, including its river canyons carved out by the receding ice long ago.
Iceland's famed Golden Circle features some of the country's most beloved natural attractions, including Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area (with the Great Geysir and Strokkur Geysir), and the one-and-only Gullfoss Waterfall. Opt for a day trip or spend more time in the region, snorkeling between tectonic plates, hiking through geothermal valleys, rafting along white-capped rivers, soaking in hot springs, and more.
Route 1—known as Iceland's famed Ring Road—loops around the entire country, allowing you to see all the sights, east to west, north to south. A road trip along the Ring Road features some of Iceland's most popular destinations, like the Blue Lagoon, the canyons and glaciers of the South Coast, the famous Gulfoss waterfall, black-sand beaches, and geothermal areas. In addition, the route is packed with excursions like glacier hikes, river rafting, hiking, and (of course) soaking in hot springs.
Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital, is an excellent hub for exploring some of the country's famed natural surroundings. From the city, discover wildlife like seal colonies and whale populations or explore inside and outside the active Geldingadalir volcano. Relax in thermal waters and thoroughly enjoy the vast and diverse Icelandic landscapes, all while returning to a vibrant and artsy city each night.
Although Iceland offers a diverse range of activities to enjoy, its natural environment is one of its main draws—and with that comes a nearly endless assortment of active outdoor excursions. Experience kayaking through a glacial lagoon or hiking to the country's many waterfalls. Go ice climbing up one of the glaciers or ride horses along the coast. Snorkel between tectonic plates and zip line over river canyons. You can do all this and more in beautiful Iceland.
Golden Circle Itineraries
Starting in Reykjavik, this 6-day Icelandic road trip lets you visit classic highlights along the country's south coast including waterfalls, black sand beaches, basalt columns, massive glaciers, and icebergs at your own pace. You'll then join the popular Golden Circle route where you can see Gullfoss waterfall, the geothermal area of Geysir (watch Strokkur erupt like clockwork), and Thingvellir National Park where tectonic plates meet. Finish the adventure with a soak in the Blue Lagoon before your return flight home.
This 7-day itinerary will take you to the north, away from the crowded south coast. On this trip you will enjoy the volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the scenic and remote Westfjords.
This chilly, scenic self-drive tour is perfect for nature lovers and adventure fiends alike. Visit the famous Golden Circle, explore vibrant Reykjavik, and get off the beaten path for tours of ice caves and craters, snorkel trips between tectonic plates, and walks behind ice-covered waterfalls.
Make the most of your limited time by driving one way from Egilsstaðir to Vík to Reykjavík—without retracing your steps. On this six-day road trip, take in the dramatic landscapes of the Eastern Fjords, from Seyðisfjörður to Vatnajökull National Park, and enjoy more time seeing new places along the South Coast (Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Skógafoss, and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls) and Golden Circle (Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir National Park), rather than doubling back. You can embark on this route in either direction, but a domestic flight to Egilsstaðir at the beginning of your trip is more efficient, without large crowds, to explore remote areas on your own terms.
In one week, enjoy three of Iceland’s most beautiful regions. Explore the black-sand beaches, cliffs, and fishing towns along the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the geothermal geological highlights in the Golden Circle, and the stunning waterfalls and glaciers along the South Coast. The trip closes out with a visit to Reykjavik and a tour of the Reykjanes Peninsula highlights, including several opportunities to soak in natural hot springs and lagoons.
This five-day, self-drive trip is a great way to experience the best of Iceland without driving too far from Reykjavík. Begin in Snæfellsnes Peninsula to tour the Djúpalónssandur black-sand beach, Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, and more. Then, visit the Golden Circle's Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, along with Þingvellir National Park. Next, stop at the South Shore's Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls and Reynisfjara Beach, before reaching Vik. The trip concludes with sightseeing in Reykjavík and a taste of the dining and nightlife scenes.
This fast-paced Icelandic trip spans three regions—the Golden Circle, South Coast, and Thorsmork—and offers plenty to see over the course of five days. Explore Þingvellir National Park and snorkel in the Silfra Fissure in the Golden Circle. Then, view beautiful waterfalls, like Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, along with black-sand beaches in the South Coast. Next, take a bus to Thorsmork to embark on a day of hiking trails through the valley, and end in Reykjavik to discover the best of the capital city.
If you are short on time, or perhaps you are looking for an extended layover on your way from Europe to North America or vice versa, your options in Iceland are limited to closer to Reykjavik. Here is a 3-day itinerary that will still let you experience some of the spectacular beauty of Iceland.
This fast-paced itinerary combines popular Icelandic highlights with off-the-beaten-path gems for a fun road-trip adventure. After a day in Reykjavik, you'll head west for hiking, lava fields, and small fishing towns along the rugged and remote Snaefellsnes Peninsula (called "Iceland in miniature"). You'll then hit the blockbuster sights of the Golden Circle before finishing with your choice of lesser-known natural attractions on your way to the airport.
Explore the wintry side of Iceland on this nine-day, snow-filled adventure. Take in the spectacular frozen waterfalls en route to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Explore several glaciers—go snowmobiling around Langjökull, ice walking in Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and hiking in Sólheimajökull. Stay in the countryside, where there’s minimal light pollution, and enjoy great views of the Northern Lights, while setting aside some time for illuminated, warming soaks in hot springs and lagoons along the way.
Embark on a quick and eventful winter road trip through some of Iceland’s most popular destinations on this five-day itinerary. Go sightseeing in downtown Reykjavik, and enjoy the snowy views all around. Head out on glacier adventures at different destinations, from snowmobiling to hiking, and relish the frozen falls, including Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skogafoss, during wintertime. Along the way, take in the Northern Lights, which are especially amazing while soaking in geothermal areas and lagoons.
Drive Iceland's south coast for a memorable family adventure in just under a week. After getting to know Reykjavik, you'll check off blockbuster natural sites in the Golden Circle like Thingvellir, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall. Finish the self-guided tour with two nights among glaciers and black sand beaches in Vik and the Skaftafell area.
This 6-day itinerary includes three key areas of Iceland for a spectacular, fast-paced road trip. Spend your first day getting a taste of downtown Reykjavik before you head to the volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula with a bit of everything (and a fraction of the crowds). You'll then spend a night in one of Iceland's most-popular regions, the Golden Circle, and visit the best sites after the bus tours are long gone. Wrap it up with a day along the south coast exploring massive waterfalls and black sand beaches.
Explore the Golden Circle on this well-balanced, self-drive itinerary featuring both popular stops and hidden gems. First, drive to Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall, followed by a relaxing soak in the Secret Lagoon. Next, head to the South Coast to stunning waterfalls—Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss—and visits to Reynisfjara Beach, Vík, and the otherworldly Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Then, explore the glacial areas of Skaftafell, Svartifoss, and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, followed by a day to discover the lesser-known Westman Islands. Return to Reykjavík for some sightseeing and tour the Reykjanes Peninsula—plus a stop for a final soak in the Blue Lagoon—before your departure flight home.
Explore some of the most popular highlights of Iceland on this five-day, self-drive trip. Visit Geysir, the meeting of the tectonic plates, and Gulfoss in the Golden Circle. Then, drive the South Coast to explore the waterfalls, black-sand beaches, and cliffs all around. Next, discover a few glaciers, including Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón. On the way back to Reykjavik, stop at a hot springs river and an ancient pool, along with another waterfall and a crater. Take in the highlights of the Reykjanes Peninsula on your way out, along with a comforting soak in the Blue Lagoon.
In 10 days, discover the highlights of five areas in Iceland. Prepare for minimal driving, thanks to the close proximity of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, a ferry trip to the beautiful islands, and on-foot exploration in Thorsmork. Embark on a number of great hikes—from breathtaking coasts and cliffs to lava fields, and through lush valleys and scenic glaciers. This trip is a great way to balance out visiting popular areas (including the Golden Circle) with lesser-known destinations (like the Westman Islands).
Experience an entirely different side of Iceland on a winter road trip to explore all the highlights. Grab your coat and head to downtown Reykjavík, which offers incredible views this time of year. Then, head to the Golden Circle to visit the white-washed version of Gullfoss, followed by an action-packed snowmobiling adventure to Langjökull Glacier. Next, discover Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls—complete with frozen fields—and embark on glacier hikes, ice cave tours, and ice climbing excursions at Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. On the way back to Reykjavík, enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot springs of Rekjadalur, followed by a stop at the Blue Lagoon to close out the trip.
This self-drive itinerary includes a mix of off-the-beaten-path gems and Icelandic highlights for the ultimate family adventure. Grab your rental car and head west for hiking, lava fields, and small fishing towns along the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Then, check out a number of blockbuster sights in the Golden Circle before one last night on the town in Reykjavik.
This self-drive tour takes you along Iceland's south and west coasts for those in search of unique family adventure. After a day exploring the capital city, Reykjavik, you'll head west to the volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula, known as "Iceland in miniature" with a bit of everything (and a fraction of the crowds). You'll then continue to the more popular Golden Circle (Thingvellir, Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall), and finish with two nights along the south coast discovering glaciers and black sand beaches.
Enjoy the snowier side of Iceland on this seven-day winter adventure. On arrival, head "Into the Glacier" at Langjökull, on the way to discover the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, filled with basalt columns, black-sand beaches, and beautiful cliffs. Then, go on a snowmobiling excursion out of the Golden Circle, and wind down with a warm lagoon soak. Next, visit the spectacular frozen falls along the South Coast, including Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, and go on glacier walks at Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón. Wind down with some exploration of snow-topped Reykjavik before heading home.
This fun self-drive itinerary provides a mix of popular highlights (south coast, Golden Circle) with off-the-beaten-path gems (Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Reykjanes Peninsula) for a real Icelandic adventure. After a day in Reykjavik, you'll head west for hiking, lava fields and small fishing towns along the Snaefellsnes Peninsula (called "Iceland in miniature"). You'll then hit the blockbuster sights of the Golden Circle before finishing on the south coast with black sand beaches, waterfalls, and massive glaciers.
Spend eight days unlocking the beautiful highlights of Iceland in the wintertime. First, enjoy snow-capped views throughout Reykjavík while exploring the best of downtown. Then, take a tour inside a glacier, and view frozen waterfalls en route to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Continue discovering the lava formations, black-sand beaches, and craters, before heading to the Golden Circle for a snowmobiling tour around Langjökull Glacier. Follow more waterfalls, arches, and cliffs toward Vík, and spend time in the ice caves of Skaftafell and at stunning Diamond Beach at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. On the drive back to Reykjavík, make a few more stops along the South Coast, and indulge in relaxing soak in the Blue Lagoon on Departure Day.
This scenic road trip traverses highlights along Iceland's west and north regions at a more relaxed pace. Starting from Reykjavik, you'll explore the Golden Circle, the lesser-known Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and continue northwest to Akureyri (Iceland's 2nd biggest hub), Husavik and Lake Myvatn for lava fields, volcano hikes, massive waterfalls, and natural hot springs.
Enjoy four, scenic regions of Iceland in just over one week. Upon arrival, head to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to take in your first glimpses of the lava formations, black-sand beaches, and waterfalls that make this region famous. Travel the Golden Circle to discover the tectonic plates meeting, geothermal wonders, and a warm lagoon soak. Ferry to the lesser-known-yet-stunning Westman Islands to visit the sea caves, cliffs, a decorated puffin colony, and more—by boat and foot—followed by additional waterfalls, beaches, and incredible arches and cliffs along the South Coast. Venture into the heart of several glaciers and their accompanying lagoons. Tour Reykjavík and make a few final stops in the Reykjanes Peninsula to close out the trip.
For road trip enthusiasts, it doesn't get much better than encircling Iceland along its infamous Route 1 (Ring Road). This quick-paced, self-drive itinerary will take you to the best spots along the 828-mile (1,332 km) route with plenty of detours to work the leg muscles and camera batteries. With a bit more than a week, you'll experience a variety of landscapes, like geysers, hot springs, black sand beaches, volcanoes, lava fields, small fishing towns, and massive glaciers in protected national parks.
This Icelandic self-drive itinerary covers territory on both horizontal coastlines, from Snaefellsnes to Seydisfjordur, with fun detours along the southern portion of the Ring Road. With a bit more than a week, you'll experience volcanoes, lava fields, hot springs, black sand beaches, small fishing towns, and massive glaciers in protected national parks. Start and end the trip in Reykjavík for culture and nightlife in Europe's most northerly capital.
Explore the best of the west and south with this 7-9 day itinerary. Hike through lava fields, along cliffs, and up volcanoes in Snaefellsnes. Walk behind waterfalls, on black sand beaches, and on glaciers in the south, and finish with a tour of the famous Golden Circle with tips to avoid the big crowds.
With 10 days on the road, you can discover a variety of regions and landscapes as you loop around Iceland's famous Route 1 (Ring Road). This moderately paced self-drive itinerary will take you to the best spots along the 828-mile (1,332 km) route with stops in its two biggest cities, as well as volcanoes, waterfalls, lava fields, black sand beaches, small fishing towns, and massive glaciers, as well as major attractions in the Golden Circle. This is going to be one gorgeous ride!
Iceland From West to North: Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Husavik, Akureyri, & More - 10 Days
This 10-day trip covers North and West Iceland and is meant for bypassing the crowded south during the summer months. Enjoy time exploring the geological features of the Golden Circle, the black-sand beaches of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the Arctic Coast in Varmahlid. Discover the best of the Trollaskagi Peninsula and visit the whale watching capital of Husavik. Tour the geothermal wonder of Lake Mývatn, stay in the second city of Akureyri, and go sightseeing in lively Reykjavík.
Discover two sides of Iceland on this 10-day trip. Begin in the Golden Circle, home to Þingvellir National Park, where the tectonic plates meet and go snorkeling in a fissure. Then, explore the waterfalls, black-sand beaches, and cliffs along the South Coast, followed by a day surrounded by stunning glaciers. Next, visit a few notable sites on the way back to Reykjavik, before hopping a bus to embark on the Laugavegur Trek for the next few days. Hike around the landscapes rich with volcanoes, mountains, scenic lakes, and deserts before reaching the iconic Thorsmork Valley. Return to the capital for one last night, and soak in the Blue Lagoon before departure.
On this spectacular self-drive itinerary, you'll hit the four cardinal points of Iceland as you loop clockwise around the famous Ring Road. Stop to explore volcanoes, waterfalls, lava fields, black sand beaches, and glaciers from Reykjavik to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and beyond. Finish the adventure with a rewarding soak in the Blue Lagoon before you depart.
This epic 12-day road trip is a perfect way to absorb Iceland as you traverse all four corners of the country. You'll visit popular spots along the famous 828-mile Ring Road, and head off the beaten path to detour through the Westfjords (great for mountain biking and kayaking). The self-drive loop also includes stops in Iceland's two biggest cities, and numerous natural sites like volcanoes, waterfalls, lava fields, black sand beaches, glaciers, and more.
With 2 weeks in Iceland, you can complete the entire ring road and add some great detours. This grand tour will take you to all the best places giving you plenty of time to hike, explore, and soak it all in. This 14-day itinerary covers all the major regions except the highlands, which you can see with a couple more days or by spending less time in some of the areas below.
Check the spectacular Northern Lights off your bucket list with this quick-hit trip to southern Iceland. In addition to nighttime expeditions in search of the Aurora Borealis, you'll tour some of the country's most dramatic natural wonders and unforgettable landscapes. Visit impressive waterfalls, vast glaciers, volcanic beaches, and more on this exciting winter adventure.
If you want to see Iceland's top natural highlights, a self-drive tour is by far the most popular option. Travel at your own pace with plenty of changes to head off the main road in search of your own adventures. This tour also includes the Snaefellsnes peninsula which many call "mini-Iceland" as almost every natural phenomenon in Iceland can be found there, albeit on a smaller scale than elsewhere.
This 5-day tour of Iceland's South Coast hits the top natural sights. Visit Thingvellir National Park and Gullfoss Waterfall, see the Reynisfjara black sand beach, and drop by the small village of Vik for coffee and local history. Stop and see the Jokulsarlon lagoon and Skaftafell National Park's many glaciers. Enjoy viewing the Northern Lights in comfort.