The Golden Circle with a Small Camper
Updated: Sep 14, 2019
The Golden Circle is the most popular route in Iceland among tourists who come to visit our country. It starts and ends in Reykjavik which makes it easily accessible as well. It is called Iceland in miniature. If you wish to see the waterfalls, have a walk between the tectonic plates of Europe and America, see the geyser and watch the rainbow coloured crater, and do all of it in one day, this is the route for you. The Golden Circle provides constant things to wonder at. But this is Iceland! Whenever you think that you have already seen it all and nothing is going to surprise or that you will not find anything as enchanting as what you’ve already seen, Iceland will prove you wrong.
Where is the Golden Circle route located and how to get there?
The Golden Circle is located really close to the capital - Reykjavik. This makes it even more popular among the tourists who only have a few days to spend in Iceland and even local Icelanders. You can easily access it by going along the Ring Road which is the main asphalt road that circles the whole island. The route does not contain any F-roads so there is nothing to worry about as far as road conditions.
The main three attractions, Gullfoss waterfall, Geysers and Thingvellir National Park are located close to each other so that means that you can see all three in one full day.
What is the best way to do the Golden Circle route? Tour, Car or a Camper Van?
There are many local companies offering a guided Golden Circle tour; most are located in Reykjavik. The tour starts and ends in Reykjavik. This is a good idea for those who come to Iceland for work or only have few days and do not plan on further trips and that maybe want a visit to the Blue Lagoon.
For those who would like to see a bit more and want to have the freedom to decide, I would instead recommend renting a small camper van from Reykjavik and doing the self drive trip on the Golden Circle route and go a bit further and see additional attractions which are less famous but still worth visiting.
It is easy to get to the attractions as the road that leads there is paved and even unexperienced drivers can easily do it. If you decide to drive the Golden Circle, you will enjoy the trip even more as no one will rush you and tell you when and where you need to go next.
You do not have to worry about where you will leave your car while sightseeing as there is a parking lot just in front of each main stop. There are also no entrance fees for those spots so you will save some coins for lunch later.
Driving from one spot to another is quite straight and you can meanwhile see a bit more of Iceland. From the window of your car you will observe the raw landscapes and if you are lucky you will spot Icelandic horses on the fields. This is definitely the best way to travel around Iceland.
Planning a camper holiday is especially recommended for those who wish to see a bit more than just the Golden Circle. There are RV rental companies that offer amazing camper vans that will meet everyone’s needs and become a home on wheels for the time spent in Iceland.
The main stops on the Golden Circle
-Thingvellir National Park
As its name indicates, this is a National Park. That should already give you a clue that nature will play the main role here. þingvellir is a plain located in a rift valley. This natural wonder has something special inside. Walking through the park is actually walking between two countries. The tectonic plates of Europe and North America meet here. Stroll through the valley, you will be able to see the mid-Atlantic ridge. If that sounds impressive to you, you should go further and check out the Silfra fissure. It is a fissure in Thingvelir National Park, where you can dive in between two continents. Sounds cool right? Immerse yourself in some of the cleanest water in the world!
Thingvellir National Park is not only nature and beautiful landscapes. It is also a heart of the Icelandic political history. Here the first Alþing, the Icelandic parliament, took place in 930 AD. This is also where þingvellir got its name from. Þing -means parliament and vellir means- valley. All clear now!
-Haukadalur Valley Geysers
The greatest attraction of this area is obviously Stokkur geyser. It explodes every 5-10 minutes , throwing water 20-30 meters high into the air. You should always have your camera ready to capture the moment! If you wondered how to find Stokkur, how will you know this is the one, you will know! You will see the crowds of tourists making a circle around it, ready with their phones and cameras to catch Stokkur’s show.
Its water is boiling deep inside. When you see the bubbles, it is the sign that soon it will explode with a stream of hot water. Careful and do not go closer than the designated area. You wouldn’t want to get burnt right?
The whole valley has its own charm and is makes this place amazing. In addition to geysers you will find small boulders here where water constantly boils. Have a walk to relax in this area, it is worth spending a few more minutes here.
Gullfoss is probably one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. It is one of the largest ones as well. It is indeed a breathtaking view. This waterfall consists of two cascades. The first one is 11 meters high and the second one is 20 meters long. Gullfoss is located on the Hvita river in the Haukadalur valley. The glacial water flows into a depth of 70 meters.
The best way to see the beauty of the Gullfoss waterfall is to stand on the observation deck which lets you take a look at his magnitude.
Where should I stop on the Golden Circle for lunch?
Walking, sightseeing, taking selfies; it’s such a busy day. It would be nice to get something to eat right? We’ve got that covered too!
Friðheimar Farm is a greenhouse where the geothermal water is used to grow the tomatoes. With our climate in Iceland it would be impossible to grow plants and vegetables without a greenhouse.
Here you can watch how the production of tomatoes starts from the very beginning. After a little tour, take a seat, it is time for lunch!
We do recommend the tomato soup, which is delicious and will warm you up after a long walk outside. There is basil on each table and little scissors so you can use however much you want. On the menu, the soup of course makes a great appetizer and then, there is home made ravioli pasta with pesto! That dish always make me want to go back there!
The Laugarvatn Fontana and geothermal baths.
What would a tour around Iceland be without a taking a dip in a hot spring or geothermal pool? Laugarvatn Fontana is one of the most famous geothermal baths in this part of Iceland. It is a small but very modern place. It lays just by the lake which you can access it while visiting the baths.
The legend says that about 1000 years ago when Iceland adopted Christianity, the powerful leaders refused to be baptised in the cold waters of Lake Þingvellir, where the Icelandic parliament gathered. They instead chose this geothermal bath with its natural hot springs.
How to find the Secret Lagoon?
Secret Lagoon sounds nice right? It is pretty special indeed. It is an old but a very charming hot spring. It is located near a small town called Fludir, in the Golden Circle area. The water in the lagoon remains close to 38 - 40 ºC as it is fed by the surrounding hot geothermal springs, of which the most active is Little Geysir. The view is even more spectacular during the evening as you will see the greenhouses surrounded by clouds of steam. It’s pretty amazing. And of course you can take a dip in the pool, it’s quite lovely.
Which camper van shall I rent for my Golden Circle route?
As mentioned previously, the Golden Circle route does not require using any of the F-roads and you can use the main road no 1 in Iceland, called Ring Road.
From our previous articles, you already know that this road is paved in mostly. There is of course no need to rent a 4x4 campervan for your trip around the Golden Circle. The simple 2WD small camper van will certainly do. For those who travel with less than 6 people it is a very comfortable way of travelling especially if you do not have much experience with driving bigger vehicles like motorhomes. We explained the difference between the campervan and a motorhome here if you’d like to refresh your memory.
If you’re wondering about the insurance you should add to your rental vehicle, even though you will only use paved roads, we still recommend adding at least the GP (Gravel Protection) and SCDW (Super Collision Damage Waiver).
The Ultimate Guide to the Golden Circle with a Small Camper
The famous Golden Circle route will show you the natural beauty of Iceland. A dip in the Secret Lagoon after the whole day of sightseeing will help you relax and enjoy the raw and unique nature of Iceland even more.