The 5 Best Golden Circle Tours In Iceland [2022 Reviews]

There’s a ton to see in the unique island of Iceland, though one of the most consistently popular routes is the Golden Circle.

The Golden Circle is the most comprehensive route to take if you want to see all kinds of geothermal activity, volcanoes, waterfalls, an UNESCO world heritage site, and so much more!

While you can definitely take it yourself, if you want to make the most of your experience, we highly recommend taking a tour. The tours are put on by locals who know this area very well, and are incredibly knowledgeable about the culture and history.

So, without further ado, we bring you the top Golden Circle tours available!

Best Golden Circle Tours From Reykjavik

 Private Tour of the Golden Circle from ReykjavikPrivate Golden Circle Tour from ReykjavikGolden Circle Private Tour
editors choice
Private Tour of the Golden Circle from ReykjavikPrivate Golden Circle Tour from ReykjavikGolden Circle Private Tour
Departure Point:Hotel pickup and drop-off includedHotel pickup and drop-off includedHotel pickup and drop-off included
Departure Time:Variety AvailableCheck with tour operatorCheck with tour operator
Duration:7 to 8 hours7 hours1 to 10 hours (variety available)
Includes:Hotel/port pickup and drop-off in the capital area, private driver/guide, pure Icelandic bottled water, 4G WiFi in vehicle, Thingvellir National Park entryPrivate transportation, air-conditioned vehicle, bottled water, WiFi on boardBottled water, air-conditioned vehicle, private transportation, fees and taxes

Tour Information & Booking

Tour Information & Booking

Tour Information & Booking


Quick Answer: The 5 Best Rated Tours of the Golden Circle for 2022

  1. Private Tour of the Golden Circle from Reykjavik
  2. Private Golden Circle Tour from Reykjavik
  3. Golden Circle Private Tour
  4. Golden Circle Iceland Tour
  5. Private Golden Circle Tour by Superjeep from Reykjavik

Golden Circle Tour Reviews

1. Private Tour of the Golden Circle from Reykjavik

Private Tour of the Golden Circle from Reykjavik

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 7 to 8 hours
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off
  • Departure Time: Variety available
  • Includes: Hotel/port pickup and drop-off in the capital area, private driver/guide, pure Icelandic bottled water, 4G WiFi in vehicle, Thingvellir National Park entry

The first tour on our guide offers an incredible time for everyone, regardless of age or background. If you’re looking to really see some of the most impressive natural wonders and learn about local history, then do yourself a favor and check this one out.

The Private Golden Circle Tour from Reykjavik has everything covered for a convenient and memorable experience.

Lasting anywhere from 7 to 8 hours depending on traffic and weather, you’ll start off early in the morning. Hotel pickup is offered, so there’s no need to book transportation. They’ll come to you, so just be ready in the hotel lobby when they indicate.

The private guide is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, telling you all about the area as you pass by. Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

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The comfortable transport also comes with high-speed 4G wi-fi onboard, so you’ll remain in contact with others who aren’t on the trip and can upload photos and videos in real-time.

As this is a customized experience, you will tell your guide what your specific interests are so they can tailor the tour to them. You’ll start off driving through the magnificent Thingvellir National Park, which is famously the site of the world’s first democratic parliament, back when Vikings ruled.

Make a stop at Geysir, where you may even get to see Strokkur erupting! Have your camera ready for this show of electric-blue spray! Gullfoss, which is one of the largest waterfalls in the world, is next. After the natural wonders, stop at Skálholt, where Iceland had its first Episcopal See in 1065.

At this point, you’ve surely worked up an appetite, so stop at the Fridheimar greenhouse for a tasty local lunch.

 

Tour Information & Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience


2. Private Golden Circle Tour from Reykjavik

Private Golden Circle Tour from Reykjavik

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off included
  • Departure Time: Check with tour operator
  • Includes: Private transportation, air-conditioned vehicle, bottled water, WiFi on board

No need to go renting a car and driving around the winding roads of Iceland to see all the beautiful nature it has to offer.

Instead be picked up from your accommodations and roam around in comfort, with a luxury 4WD vehicle complete with wi-fi, air conditioning, and bottled water. If that sounds like fun to you, check out the Private Golden Circle Tour from Reykjavik.

Lasting around 7 hours, this tour packs in a whole lot of sightseeing and learning about this interesting culture!

After being picked up, you’ll start heading towards Thingvellir National Park. As you travel, your guide will offer an educational commentary about everything you pass by as well as the park.

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Once you arrive, you’ll already have a pretty good idea about what it holds. However, seeing it in person is something else!

Head to the edge of the North American plate, where it sits on one side of a valley opposite the Eurasian plate and Þingvalla Lake. Check out the spot where Icelandic parliament initially assembled, as well as other prevalent historical landmarks.

Next, you’ll see two impressive natural wonders: the exploding geothermal Geysir, as well as the towering Gullfoss Waterfall and the nearby canyon. Further on, sits the gorgeous Faxi waterfall, as well as the impressive Kerid Crater.

You’ll have the chance to walk down into it if you’d like, to get a better glimpse of the lake that sits in the bottom.

After all that trekking around, take a load off at the Efsti-Dalur 2 farm, where you’ll even get to try out the process of making ice cream. It’s harder than you’d think!

 

Tour Information & Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience


#3 Golden Circle Private Tour

Golden Circle Private Tour

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 1 to 10 hours (variety available)
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off included
  • Departure Time: Check with tour operator
  • Includes: Bottled water, air-conditioned vehicle, private transportation, fees and taxes

While there are plenty of Golden Circle tours you can take in Iceland, many of them involve big groups of people. One of the best ways to see the area is by taking a private tour, such as the Golden Circle Private Tour.

This way, you get the guide all to yourselves for any questions you may have, and get to personalize it according to your top interests.

This one in particular is one group fee, and you can have up to 5 travelers included. This makes it wonderful if you are traveling with little ones or just want you and your family to go. The air-conditioned vehicle is very comfortable and has more than enough room for everyone.

This tour is so convenient because you get to choose your start time, within reason, of course. After all, this tour lasts quite a while and you don’t want to be driving around in the middle of the night.

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Not only that, but they’ll pick you up from your hotel accommodations so you don’t have to do any driving.

Head to the fabled Thingvellir National Park, where you’ll see an old parliament site which is quite possibly the most important in all of Iceland. Also within the park are the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, where you even get to see the fault line between them!

Depending on your interests, your guide will also take you to various stunning natural wonders. The Gullfoss Waterfall should be on your agenda for the day, which is crystal-clear and enormous! As you check it out, your guide will fill you in on its history and how it came to be.

Geysir geothermal hot spring area is also fantastic to see, where the Strokkur hot spring lets loose an enormous jet of boiling water to fall through the air!

 

Tour Information & Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience


#4 Iceland Golden Circle Tour

Iceland Golden Circle Tour

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 6 to 8 hours
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off included
  • Departure Time: Check with tour operator
  • Includes: Bottled water, WiFi on board, private transportation, parking fees, coffee and/or tea

No matter the time of year, the Golden Circle Iceland Tour is always a good idea! One of the reasons why it’s such a popular one, is due to their staff.

With an incredible attention to detail, great communication that begins right after booking, and vast knowledge about the country, you’re bound to have a great time.

Hotel pickup is included, so there’s no need to plan ahead in order to meet up at some other point beforehand. Lasting anywhere from 6 to 8 hours, it’s important to have a comfortable mode of transportation as you won’t always be walking around.

There’s quite a bit of sitting in-between different sites, so you’ll appreciate the padded/spacious seats. Air conditioning, bottled water, and wi-fi are all included as well so you’ll always be able to stay in touch and share your adventuring on social media.

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Overall, you don’t have to worry about ever being uncomfortable or thinking, “are we there yet?!”. Your first stop of the morning will be at the gorgeous Kerid Crater/Selfoss. This crater, depending on the season, sports an array of colorful shades like dark red and green.

Sitting at the bottom is a beautiful turquoise lake, to perfectly contrast the surrounding tones. In the wintertime it is a bit more barren, but still impressive!

You’ll then see the Haukadalur valley which holds 1 of the 5 existing geyser fields on the entire planet! A wide variety of landscapes decorate the place, surrounded by steam and various hot springs full of pure Icelandic water. Some shoot water up to a whopping 30 meters high every few minutes!

After all that trekking, take a break for some local eats like their famous kjötsupa meat soup made with lamb. On a cooler day, this soup just hits the spot and recharges your adventuring battery right up.

After this, check out the impressive Gullfoss Waterfall/Golden Falls. As one of the most famous landmarks in the country, it sits in the middle of a mountain range, on a cliff. Walk through the clouds of water for the best view of the falls at the natural observation deck.

 

Tour Information & Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience


#5 Private Golden Circle Tour by Superjeep from Reykjavik

Private Golden Circle Tour by Superjeep from Reykjavik

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 8 to 9 hours
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off included
  • Departure Time: 8:30 am
  • Includes: Private tour, freedom to customize, National Park fees, transport by Land Rover Defender 4×4 Super Jeep, Jeeps equipped with leather seats, WIFI, GPS

We would be remiss to make a guide consisting of the best Golden Circle tours and not include this next gem. The Private Golden Circle Tour by Superjeep from Reykjavik is unlike any other you’ll find out there.

While you’ll get to see many of the same landmarks, traveling in a Super Jeep and with this crew is something special! Start off the day with a pickup at your hotel or accommodations. When you step out of the lobby, you’ll surely be a bit impressed at the unique form of transportation!

These well-maintained Jeeps involve massive wheels that move easily over the rugged (and often icy) Icelandic terrain. This means that your safety will never be put at risk, nor your comfort. Not to mention, they just look plain awesome!

Lasting 8 to 9 hours, you’ll get to see the Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss Waterfall. We’ve already spoken quite a bit about these spots, so we won’t keep repeating the same thing.

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Make sure to look out your windows and enjoy the views of rolling hills, rivers, and local wildlife. After you check out the Golden Circle’s main attractions, you’ll all make a stop for some local cuisine and have some time to relax.

After this, you’ll get to see a spot not many tourists see: the Langjökull ice cap! This is the second-largest ice cap in the country. Follow it up by seeing the small-but-pretty Faxi waterfall.

As this is all customizable, make sure to tell your guide about your specific interests and what you’d like to see most.

 

Tour Information & Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience


Iceland Travel Guide

Best Iceland Golden Circle Tours

There are many reasons the Land of Fire and Ice has seen an explosion in tourism since 2019. Not only can you see the Northern Lights, active volcanoes, glaciers, and puffins, you can also relax in a geothermal spa and even bake bread inside a pot buried underground.

What you decide to do in this fascinating country is your choice, but you should take the time to do some research before you go. This guide is here to inform you where you can go, what you can do, and how you can get there, because we want you to have the best vacation of your life in Iceland.

Airports & Entry

Most visitors to Iceland arrive at Keflavik International Airport (KEF). Although Iceland only has a population of 359 thousand people, in 2018 this busy airport handled 9.8 million passengers. Despite the number of visitors, there is only one terminal. You will find the check-in times minimal, with an average 20-minute waiting time at the security check.

Inside the terminal, you will find everything clearly signposted in English. Charging points for cellphones and laptops are provided in the waiting area along with free Wi-Fi.

Strollers are provided for children, and there is a dedicated kids’ play area. The usual selection of food outlets and shops are found on the upper floor of the main building. Manned information stands are located throughout the airport.

It is 30 miles from the airport to Reykjavik, the capital city. The speed limit is 55 mph, but the drive usually takes 50 minutes due to traffic. Shuttle bus services link KEF to the city, which you can book in advance online or pay for at the airport.

Some hotels offer airport collection, and you should ask about that when you book your room. You can, of course, jump in a taxi at the airport, but it will be extremely expensive compared to the airport bus service. Car rental is available at the airport, but it is advisable to book in advance.

Planning Tips

With so many exciting things to do and see in Iceland, you’re guaranteed to have a great holiday. However, things do not always go to plan, so here are 5 tips to help you make the most of your visit.

Tip #1: If you want to see the Aurora Borealis, go between September and March

It’s easier to view the Northern Lights when the sky is at its darkest. In Iceland, the nights are especially long between September and March, but the sky doesn’t grow dark enough to view this magical phenomenon during the summer months. However, do not plan a visit around a full moon, because its light can dampen the impact of this natural light display. The best days to go are around the time of a new moon.

Tip #2: Check out the SolarHam website

If you are especially interested in the Aurora Borealis and want to earn your Geek Badge, check out the SolarHam website. This techy site provides a 3-day geomagnetic forecast, which is useful for aurora hunters to select the best time to view the Northern Lights. The same site provides a satellite map of where the natural light show is right now, so you can look up if you’re near.

Tip #3: Take your time to enjoy all the attractions of Iceland

There’s so much to see in Iceland, it would be a crime not to explore and experience as much as you are able in the time you have. While you are there, do not miss the opportunity to see so many unforgettable natural phenomena in one place.

A great way to see all the national parks is with a horseback riding tour! There is nowhere else on the planet where you can see active volcanoes, glaciers, and icebergs, all in one national park. A great way to explore is with an ATV tour of the park.

Tip #4: Book everything in advance, especially in winter

Tourism is on the rise in Iceland, and hotel rooms, tours, and attractions get fully-booked ahead of time.  Don’t miss out on seeing the Northern Lights from the best vantage point possible because all the tours were booked-up before you arrived. Many tours like the ones detailed above offer a 24-hour-in-advance free cancellation, so you take no financial risk booking. Ask about free cancellation when buying your ticket.

Tip #5: Impress your friends with quintessentially Icelandic souvenirs

The budget chain store Bonus stocks many unique Icelandic products, such as Omnom chocolate, Icelandic specialty teas, herbal sea salt blends, and licorice mixed with chocolate. At Bonus, you can pick up great, inexpensive gifts for your friends! Vinbuoin, the state-run liquor store, sells a fine selection of renowned Icelandic spirits, including Iceland’s signature tipple, Brennivin.

And if you like to sort through other folks’ debris for the hidden treasures, a special weekend market is held at Kolaportio in downtown Reykjavik where Icelanders come to sell off their unwanted goods when moving to a new house. You could find anything!

Restaurants & Eating Out

Because of Iceland’s geographical position and climate, vegetables and grains are rare in traditional foods, and many famous dishes focus on preserved seafood or meat. Also, food was scarce in yesteryears, so every part of an animal or fish was eaten. You’ll find many traditional meals involve fish or meat that is salted, smoked, dried, or fermented. Watch out for such culinary delights as baked sheep’s head and fermented shark.

Seafood restaurants are common throughout Iceland, and all serve “fish of the day”, which is usually salmon, monkfish, haddock, or cod. However, if you wish, you can seek out some of the more exotic options. Humar is a kind of lobster caught off the south coast of Iceland, renowned for its tender and tasty flesh.

It is served fried, baked or grilled, though it can also be found as a pizza topping! Plokkfishkur is a fish stew, made to the chef’s specific recipe but usually combining white fish with onions, potatoes, milk, and flour. Harofiskur is a snack you can buy in any grocery store. It is dried stockfish, eaten with butter or straight out of a bag.

Because it is difficult to grow wheat in Iceland, there are many traditional varieties of rye bread, like flatkaka, baked in thin disks on hot stones. One variety of rye bread you should try is rugbrauo, a sweet-tasting, dark bread.

The reason rugbrauo is so interesting for visitors to Iceland is that a common baking technique is to bury a dough-filled pot near one of the many hot springs, such as Fontana Hot Springs, and use geothermal heat to bake the bread. Rugbrauo baked that way is also called hyerabrauo (hot-spring bread).

Icelanders don’t only eat fish and rye bread. Sheep are the most common livestock in Iceland, so lamb is often on the menu. Sheep wander freely around the countryside, eating seaweed, grass, and berries, which tends to make lamb tender with a mild flavor.

Smoked lamb is called hangikjöt and is often served boiled during the winter holidays. Also watch out for varieties of meat you won’t see in most other countries, like puffin, horse, and whale. Despite international concern over puffins and whales, they are still commonly consumed in Iceland.

A meal on vacation isn’t complete without dessert. Popular local sweets include rugbrauosis (rye bread ice cream), pönnukökur (Icelandic pancakes), and snuour (cinnamon bread covered in caramel or chocolate). A dairy product unique to Iceland is skyr.

It is a kind of sour milk cheese eaten like yogurt and often sweetened and flavored with fruit or vanilla.

Nightlife & Entertainment

With long, cold nights throughout the winter, it’s no surprise Icelanders love their nightlife, and much of it is centered where most of the people live—Reykjavik. Because the capital is so small, most of the clubs and bars are within walking distance of one another. In fact, many are along one street, Laugavegur, the commercial artery of downtown.

Most social venues are informal and entrance fees rare. When Icelanders go out for the night, they tend to begin late, and many clubs and bars don’t get busy until after midnight. This is in part because alcohol in bars is expensive, so locals drink at home before setting out.

Many clubs and bars stay open as late as 5 am. Cocktail bars are a recent addition to Iceland’s nightlife, but with the booming tourist trade, they are rapidly expanding.

And don’t worry too much about safety at night. In 2019, the Institute for Economics and Peace in Sydney ranked Iceland the most peaceful nation on Earth for the 12th year running. Crime rates in Reykjavik are probably lower than anywhere you have ever lived.

Getting Around

Iceland is a small country covering an area slightly smaller than Kentucky. If you wanted to drive from Reykjavik on the west coast to Faskruosfjorour on the east coast, the 425 miles route would take only 8½ hours.

However, because of its small population outside of the capital, you cannot rely on public transport to go sightseeing around the country or reach the best place to view the northern lights. This leaves you with two options: hiring a car or booking a coach tour, like the 3-day Golden Circle tour detailed above.

Within the capital and its immediate area, you do have more options: bus, taxi, bicycle, or walk. The public bus service is inexpensive and efficient, and you can ask for help to find the right bus from your hotel reception. Given that Reykjavik is so small a city, taxis are affordable.

If you want a little exercise, bicycle rentals are available in many hotels, and the city is crisscrossed by dedicated bicycle paths. If you decide to walk, make sure you wrap up well. The weather can deteriorate rapidly in Iceland.

Accommodations

Over the past few years, Iceland has seen a huge expansion in tourism. With a 378% increase since 2010, hotel rooms fill up quickly. Through Christmas and summer, hotels are usually fully booked. Since 228 of Iceland’s 359 thousand citizens live within the capital and its immediate hinterland, settlements throughout the rest of Iceland are small and rooms for visitors limited. Most hotels are in the capital.

You will probably find it most convenient to stay in Reykjavik. You will find a broad range of hotels there, it is near the airport, and many of the attractions along with most of the nightlife are found there or nearby. Many organized tours to other parts of Iceland and major tourist attractions set out from Reykjavik, such as most of the Northern Lights tours detailed above.

Within the downtown and central area of Reykjavik you will find a choice of luxury hotels, like the Hotel Borg downtown and The Icelandair Hotel Marina, overlooking the harbor. If you head a little more out of the center, you’ll find more affordable hostels, such as The Capital Inn and Bus Hostel Reykjavik.

There are some popular hotels outside of the capital near to tourist attractions, such as Hotel Skaftafell in the Vatnajökull National Park, which offers spectacular views of Iceland’s largest mountain, or Skyrhusid Guesthouse near Lake Jökulsarion in the south. Wherever you decide to stay, the important thing is to book in advance. If you don’t, you will miss out on the best rooms.

Weather

Iceland is not the place to go if you want year-round sunshine and dry weather. In fact, on 22nd December there are only 4 hours of daylight, because that is the shortest day. That’s great if you want to see the Aurora Borealis, since it can only be seen during dark nights, but not so good for other sightseeing. In contrast, the longest day boasts 21 hours of daylight, 21st June.

The “warm” summer period covers June, July, and August, with an average daily high of 550F and a low of 460F. Yes, 550F is their summer high! Summers are short and cloudy. The winter period covers November through March, two months longer than summer, and is cold, wet, windy, and overcast, with frequent snow. The average daily high drops to 350F in January with a low of 270F.

If your main interest is the Northern Lights, you should go anytime September through March, because the sky is dark enough to view those fantastic electromagnetic displays. If the Aurora Borealis does not interest you, you’ll get the warmest weather and longer days from the end of June to mid-August.

Attractions

The Northern Lights are not the only unique and fascinating attraction in Iceland. The Land of Fire and Ice is the best place in the world to see and experience the majesty and power of two extremes in Nature: glaciers and volcanoes.

12 miles from KEF is the world-famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. Here you can laze in pools of hot, milky blue water heated by a lava flow. Nearby stands the Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant, which uses superheated water from the lava flow to generate electricity and also provide heat for a municipal water heating system.

There are geothermal spas like the Blu Lagoon throughout Iceland, so wherever you choose to stay, you can find one near you and experience the power of molten rock.

If you are there in the winter, be sure to see the migrating whales. To have the best chance of see them, that a whale watching tour. The boat captains know the best places to go to see them.

If ice and Arctic landscapes interest you, head 140 miles east from Reykjavik to Vatnajökull National Park, which is centered on Vatnajökull glacier and the surrounding beautiful landscape. This park covers 14% of Iceland and is filled with glacial rivers and active volcanoes. To fully see it, take a tour of the glaciers and be sure to see the ice caves.

Vatnajökull glacier empties into the glacial lake of Jökulsarion in the south, where you can see 100-feet-tall icebergs freshly broken away from the glacier. Jökulsarion served as a setting in several major Hollywood movies. On your drive back to Reykjavik, you can see two beautiful waterfalls around Skogar. The first, Skogafoss, is an impressive waterfall and a popular destination for Icelandic day-trippers.

18 miles west of Skogafoss is picturesque Seljalandsfoss waterfall. A path allows sightseers to pass behind the curtain of water as it falls into the crystal-clear plunge pool.

If it’s man-made cultural and historical attractions you seek, you’ll find plenty to do and see around Reykjavik. The capital’s earliest history stretches back to 874, but it only became a true city in 1785.

Around Reykjavik, you’ll find an interesting assortment of museums and tourist attractions, like the National Museum of Iceland and the Reykjavik Maritime Museum.

A famous landmark visitors flock to see is the Hallgrimskirkja Church, which is the largest church in Iceland. This unique structure was designed by a local architect to resemble the glaciers and mountains of Iceland.

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The Private Tour of the Golden Circle from Reykjavik is our Editors Choice for the best Golden Circle tour

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Robert Baker

Robert is a content writer and editor at World Guides to Travel where he shares his love for the great outdoors. He also writes in-depth travel blogs for other websites around the world. Robert is passionate about the environment and uses his writing to educate people about the advantages and importance of sustainable living. Robert enjoys creative writing. In 2009, his children’s novel Sally Hemings & the Good Associates won the Children’s Fiction section of the You Write On Book of the Year Award.
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