If you ever have researched Iceland and its natural sights, you have without doubt encountered recommendations on the number one sightseeing route in the country – the Golden Circle in Iceland.
The route presents travelers with some of the most stunning natural sights the country has to offer. Staggering views over waterfalls, hot springs and unique landscapes is a promise that will not be broken by the Golden Circle in Iceland. Moreover, there are multiple hidden gems around the route, which we of course are going to tell you all about.
If you currently are at the stage of looking for hotel recommendations and planning what to see on the Golden Circle in Iceland – we have you covered, just keep on reading!
6 reasons to stay at a hotel on the Golden Circle in Iceland
You may be asking yourself: why stay at a hotel on the Golden Circle in Iceland?
Choosing to stay in a place on the Golden Circle route is not a bad decision, on the contrary – it poses quite a few benefits.
- Comfortable distances to sights of the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle in Iceland is a bucket-list activity for many travelers and they more often than not choose to make the Golden Circle a one-day excursion. Meanwhile a day probably is enough time to see the three main sights of the route, there is so much more to the area. By staying at a hotel on the Golden Circle in Iceland you will minimise the time you spend in the car and also have time over to visit some of the more unknown sights of the area.
- Stay ahead of the tourist streams from Reykjavík
By staying in the Golden Circle area of Iceland you are certain to get a head start on your day. You will be able to avoid the travelers deciding to reside in Reykjavík, as you enjoy short distances and quick drives to the sights. Thus, allowing you to experience the natural wonders of Iceland in a less crowded state, and not to forget – how much nicer your photos will look!
- High concentration of natural phenomena representative of Iceland
An advantage of the Golden Circle in Iceland, likely to be one of the main reasons behind its undeniable popularity, is that many natural sights are here found in one concentrated area. Around the Golden Circle you will find waterfalls, lava fields, geysirs, hot springs and beautiful landscapes – all in close proximity to each other. This is the primary reason why the Golden Circle is warmly recommended to travelers who are limited in time, but still want to experience a bit of everything that Iceland has to offer. Choosing to stay at a hotel one the Golden Circle will thus save you time and perhaps also enable you to see additional sights of the country.
- Optimal conditions for seeing the northern lights
The Golden Circle in Iceland is possibly the best location, closest to Reykjavík, to see the northern lights, as the area is not affected by light pollution. Torfhús Retreat is a hotel on the Golden Circle that lends itself particularly well to this activity, as it is secluded from the crowds but still in close proximity to the main route. Imagine immersing yourself in the warmth of your own private geothermal pool on a cold winter’s night and watching the northern lights swirl across the sky above you… Read our guide to finding the northern lights here.
- A good starting-point for exploring the rest of Iceland
Another popular excursion among tourists is the south coast of Iceland. The Golden Circle also in this case provides a preferential starting point as distances are shorter than from Reykjavík. Located at a more central location of the country, staying at a hotel on the Golden Circle in Iceland generally is beneficial regardless of which direction you may be going.
- Luxury hotels like Torfhús Retreat are an experience in themselves
The Golden Circle in Iceland offers a variety of accommodation types; everything from serene camping sites to more niched luxury hotels. In other words, there is something for everyone. At Torfhús Retreat luxury meets remote nature. Conveniently located, but away from the masses, guests of this hotel stay in their own traditional torf house with a private basalt stone hot pool. Interested in trying out life as a modern-day viking? Read more about the Torfhús experience here.
The iconic sights of the Golden Circle in Iceland
You’re not sure what the Golden Circle in Iceland actually is?
The Golden Circle is the most popular route among tourists in Iceland as it includes three of the most famous sights of the country.
The route is around 300 kilometers long and can be done as a self-drive or as part of a guided tour. There are pros and cons to both; driving it yourself will allow for maximum flexibility as you can stop wherever you want, as well as make it as long or short as you like.
With a guide you will not have as much freedom of choice as to which sights you are going to visit, but you will not have to bother with driving directions. Furthermore the tour guides usually know a lot of interesting facts about the sights, which they are more than happy to tell you about.
The three main sights of the Golden Circle in Iceland are:
- Thingvellir National Park
- Geysir Geothermal Area / Haukadalur Geothermal Valley
- Gullfoss Waterfall
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir, or Þingvellir, national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can be found about 40 kilometers northeast of Reykjavík. Many historical events that are of significance to the Icelandic heritage have taken place in Thingvellir.
Beyond history, the national park is also a must-see due to its geological features; did you know that Iceland is the only location worldwide where the rift in tectonic plates is above sea level? The rift is clearly visible in Thingvellir and a must-see when visiting the national park.
Sights to visit in Thingvellir National Park:
- Silfra Fissure
- Öxarárfoss Waterfall
- Lögberg Law Rock
- Almannagja Gorge
- Thingvallakirkja Church
Geysir Geothermal Area – Haukadalur Geothermal Valley
The famous hot spring named Geysir has given name to the phenomenon geysir, and thus essentially named all geysers in the world. Meanwhile Geysir itself currently is in an inactive phase, it is located in the geothermal area of Haukadalur Valley with multiple other geysers and hot springs.
Among the geysers, Strokkur is the most powerful and shoots water 20-40 meters up the air every 5-10 minutes.
“Photos don’t do it justice.”
These are all common comments made by visitors of Gullfoss waterfall.
Fed by glacial water from Langjökull glacier through Hvítá river, this raw natural creation takes the water through two drops. The first fall measures 11 meters, and the second to 21 meters. At the bottom the water flows into Gullfossgjúfur canyon, the walls of which at its highest points are 70 meters.
Hidden gems and additional stops around the Golden Circle in Iceland
Thingvellir National Park, Haukadalur Geothermal Valley and Gullfoss Waterfall are certainly beautiful sights, however if you have time, there is so much more than that to see on the Golden Circle in Iceland.
11 additional stops worth visiting on the Golden Circle in Iceland are:
- Brúarfoss Waterfall
- Faxi Waterfall
- Skálholt Historic Site
- Fridheimar Greenhouse and Restaurant
- Solheimar Eco Village
- Drumbo River Base
- Efstidalur Farm
- Kerid Crater
- Secret Lagoon
- Fontana Spa
- Gjabakkahellir Cave (BlueBerry Cave)
We recently gathered all information you might want to know about Brúarfoss Waterfall and Faxi Waterfall in separate posts, including directions on how to get there.
The hotel you stay at on the Golden Circle can tell you more about the surrounding area and are sure to have some aces up their sleeves regarding how to get away from the large crowds.
Activities on the Golden Circle in Iceland
Some may prefer experiencing the natural surroundings by participating in some kind of activity. No matter if you are a thrill-seeker or you are looking for relaxation – there is something for you.
The following are some of the activities available in the Golden Circle area of Iceland:
- Snorkeling between the tectonic plates
- Jet boating
- River rafting
- Glacier snowmobiling
- Bathing in hot spring water
- Local food tasting
- Horse-back riding
- Volcano visit
Hotels like Torfhús Retreat are happy to help you find the activity most suited to your personal preferences.