You can book a Iceland Golden Circle Tour with several tour companies, but we decided to do our own Golden Circle Tour by rental car. We flew in from North America to Keflavik, where we had already reserved a rental car. Make sure to reserve your rental car before you get there, because the boom in tourism has caused a shortage of rental cars. When you come from North America, you arrive very early, but the rental car agencies are open 24 hours. So, we went straight from our over night flight to our own 8 hour Iceland Golden Circle Tour by rental car.
Iceland Golden Circle Tour – Thingvellir
The first stop on our Golden Circle Tour was Thingvellir, called Þingvellir in Icelandic. This area is on the mid-Atlantic Ridge. The landscape is volcanic rocks with an impressive split between the rocks which marks the separation between the plates for Europe and North America. The weather was sunny, clear and calm, which made for a pleasant walk at Thingvellir. Since it was very early, there were only a couple other people there when we started. The first tour bus arrived just as we returned to the visitor parking lot.
Next we drove to a nearby spot that the tour buses skip. From a small parking spot along the highway, a short walk put us in a tight canyon. This spot really makes you feel like you are right between separating continents. From there we drove to the other side of the rift and then we took the short hike to Öxarárfoss Falls. Öxarárfoss is a small waterfall with beautiful clear water. We finished of our visit to Thingvellir by driving past Silfra. As we drove by, we could see nearly 40 tourists in wet suits who were waiting to scuba dive into the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Iceland Golden Circle Tour – Geysir
The second stop on our Iceland Golden Circle Tour was Geysir. Geysir is an area of volcanic hot springs. The geyser that used to erupt regularly is now inactive, but a new geyser has taken over only a few feet away. The geyser erupts every 5 to 10 minutes, but its schedule and the height of each eruption is very irregular. You can also see some hot pools and bubbling mud here, but Yellowstone lovers won’t be overly impressed.
Iceland Golden Circle Tour – Gullfoss
A few minutes away from Geysir on the Golden Circle Tour is the Gullfoss waterfall. You can park in the large visitor parking lot above the falls or a small lot below which is closer to the falls. Walk down from the upper parking lot to enjoy the views from different angles. Then walk out on the rocks at the falls. Gullfoss is interesting because the waterfall changes direction in two tiers. At the second section of the falls, the river then turns 90 degrees as it leaves the falls.
Kerið Volcanic Crater Lake
Iceland Golden Circle Tour – Kerið
We finished our Iceland Golden Circle Tour by stopping at the Kerið volcanic crater on our way back to our B&B in Reykjavik. The parking lot for Kerið volcanic crater is right along the highway. You have to pay a small fee to walk a few short steps to the point where you can see the lake. I’m not sure I’d recommend the stop, but at least the price of the entry fee is about right for the experience.
We really enjoyed doing the Iceland Golden Circle Tour on our own, but it’s a challenge to stay awake for 8 hours after you arrive at the Keflavik airport. You will find it’s worthwhile to do this day tour very early in the morning to avoid the hordes of tourists who visit every day.