The Golden Circle Route is the most popular route and activity when visiting Iceland.
My husband and I did a Drive-it-Yourself (DIY) trip. We had a rental car from Guide to Iceland complete with all the insurances (Gravel Protection and Super Collision Damage Waiver Insurance) and Satellite Navigator (GPS).
The helpful team of Guide to Iceland explained to us the route that we can take and the highlights of the Golden Circle route. There are some routes in Iceland that only large types of vehicles are allowed. Always plan your route ahead of time.
(RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Awesome Things to do in Iceland)
Things to remember if you are planning to do a Drive-It-Yourself (DIY) trip in Iceland:
- Driving Off-road is forbidden.
- Check if you have the valid license to drive in Iceland. Driving license holder issued in EU are permitted to drive in Iceland.
- Watch your speed. There is an expensive fine if you get caught by the police and speed cameras.
Speed limit in Iceland
90 km/h on Paved roads
80km/h on Gravel Roads
50km/h on Urban area
- Headlights should be on all the time while driving.
- Some roads are only accessible to 4×4 vehicles.
- Always use your seatbelt.
- Familiarise yourself with the different Icelandic Road signs. Most of the signs don’t have any English translations.
- Bring a handy map and mark all the destinations you want to visit. There are some areas in Iceland where you won’t get any signal.
- This is very important: Majority of the petrol station in Iceland are self- service and most likely they only accept card payments. Choose the exact amount of money in Icelandic Kronas you want to spend in topping up or filling up your petrol. I suggest do not choose the FILL UP option as this will authorise your card up to a maximum of £130 or equivalent amount in your own currency per transaction. This authorization will hold your money for the next 10 days regardless on how much you’ve spent on petrol!
Iceland’s natural landscape is beautiful and interesting. The major roads are well kept, however still be cautious as some of the roads can have uneven terrain. Better to be safe than sorry!
The Main Highlights of the Golden Circle Route in Iceland
Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park
Considered as the most historical and important place in Iceland and for the Icelandic people. This is where they built their first general assembly, known as the Alþingi (Althing) around 870 AD. It is of the oldest parliaments in the world. The general assembly took place every summer in Thingvellir which was the most accessible place from all the corners of Iceland.
Althing was Iceland’s legislature and highest law. This is where all the chieftain would discuss all the issues of the country and make resolutions. Lögberg, (The Law Rock) was the main highlight of the general assembly and it was facilitated by the law speaker. Everyone got a right to speak up during the general assembly. The Law Rock lost its importance when the Icelanders swore an allegiance to the King of Norway around 1262.
Around the 17th Century, the Icelanders swore their allegiance to the King of Denmark and the whole government was taken over by the Danes. Thingvellir became the meeting ground to regain Independence from the Danish Monarchy. Iceland regained their independence from Denmark in 1944. In 2004, UNESCO included Thingvellir National Park in their World Heritage list. This is also one of the shooting locations for the famous TV series Game of Thrones.
Another reason why Thingvellir National Park is so special is because of its natural topography. Thingvellir is situated within the northern part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the crack between the American and the Eurasian tectonic plates meet here and they are slowly moving apart each year. In Silfra fissure is one of the main activities and natural highlights in Thingvellir, divers and snorkelers can enjoy the pure water from the Langjökull glacier that normally takes about 30 years to reach to the fissure. The water here is naturally filtered by the underground porous volcanic rocks that give it the crystal clear water!
We did the Snorkelling activity in Silfra courtesy of Guide to Iceland! YOLO moment! You have an option of wet suit or dry suit snorkelling. You will meet up in the Thingvellir coffee shop and then set off to the diving site. The dive master will brief you of the do’s and don’ts and the whole plan of your activity. We chose to do the Dry suit snorkelling (all snorkelling equipment was provided). Layers of clothing are very important to keep yourself warm in this activity if you are wearing a dry suit. The water in Silfra has a constant temperature of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius. Remember to bring spare clothes when you want to do this activity. Please watch our video:
If you want to try this awesome Snorkelling tours in Silfra, check out this link for information from Guide to Iceland.
Running across the Thingvellir National Park is the Öxará river the main source of fresh water in the park. Öxará river flows to Lake Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland around 1,300 sq. kilometres and 114 metres deep.
This is the second main stop in the Golden Circle Route. This is a rare natural landscape that is a product of volcanic and earthquake activity underneath the earth’s crust over a long period of time. The Great Geysir can explode up to 60 – 100 meters of hot water. The Strokkur (The Churn) is another geyser that is now the main attraction of the geothermal park. The geysers water are erupting between every 8 – 10 minutes. There are different forms fumaroles in Iceland, One type is the one you can see in the Geysir Geothermal Park. Some fumaroles only emit sulfuric steam and boiling water, another type is the mud pot.
This majestic and beautiful waterfall is the third stop in the Golden Circle Route. Gullfoss means the “the Golden Waterfall” which is located along the Hvítá river that runs from the Langjökull glacier thru to the South of Iceland. The Gullfoss waterfall is so powerful and massive, be prepared to get wet from its mist in the air. The waterfall has been a popular feature for filming some music videos and movies.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Gullfoss Waterfall.
After visiting the 3 major stops of the Golden Circle, we headed back towards Reykjavik via Route 35. Always use the designated area if you want to pull over to take some photos.
Alternative ways to explore the Golden Circle is to join bus tours from Reykjavik. Guide to Iceland also offers The Golden Circle Classic Tour and if you want to do other variations of the Golden Circle tour you can check out this link.
Watch our Drive-It-Yourself (DIY) Golden Circle Route In Iceland Video:
Would you like to visit Iceland now?
Two Monkeys Travel Group would like to thank Guide to Iceland for the complimentary car and the Silfra Fissure Snorkelling activity. Opinions in this article are my own.
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About the Writer
Ryazan Tristram is named after a Russian city near Moscow. The Miss Zan-shine of Everything Zany – A Photography, Lifestyle and Dual Citizen Travel Blog. She likes to travel, history, meet people & try exotic foods! Planning to explore more countries with her D.I.Y trips as a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina). Follow her travels on Facebook and Instagram.
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