Let's discover the highlights of the Golden Circle in Winter. The famous Iceland touristic loop is accessible during the Winter months and offers stunning landscapes. Below is my guide to help you plan your stops and visits, including the geyser of Haukadalur, Thingvellir National Park and the Gullfoss waterfall.
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What are the best stops of the Golden Circle in Winter?
In Winter, as in Summer, the Golden Circle is a circuit for tourists taking you to 3 main attractions :
- The Thingvellir National Park with its giant fissures in the Earth's crust
- The geothermal area of Haukadalur with the Strokkur geyser erupting every 3 to 8 minutes
- The giant and powerful waterfall of Gullfoss
Below are pictures of the 3 highlights of the Golden Circle in Winter:
If you are planning a trip in Summer, better to check out my other article.
Below is a video introducing those 3 locations in Winter. It is much better to see the geyser and waterfall in action 🙂
You can understand what it is often considered one of the top things to do in Iceland, especially in Winter. This is a must stop for most people as they plan their itinerary.
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning Tips - Golden Circle Iceland, in Winter
Can you drive the Golden Circle in Winter?
- Yes, you can drive the Golden Circle in in Winter. It is a very touristic area and roads are frequently cleared of snow.
- The access road, carparks and walking paths are also cleared for visitors
- Of course road closures can always happen due to snow and wind - check out the status on road.is
- Note that if you visit early, you will enjoy the attractions with much less tourists, but the roads might be icy as not many vehicles will have driven on them yet.
- You can find the GPS coordinates and visit tips of my favorite locations in my eBook to facilitate the planing of your road trip:
Plan your perfect trip to Iceland in Winter!
- 6 easy-to-plan Maps
- 75+ pre-selected scenic locations
- Winter Accessibility + Planning Tips
- 115+ large photos to decide where to go
- GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
Can you do the Golden circle in one day in Winter? Driving times
- Yes, you can easily do the Golden Circle in one day from Reykjavik
- Reykjavik to Thingvellir = 1h drive
- Thingvellir to Haukadalur = 1h drive
- Haukadalur to Gullfoss = 10min drive
- Gullfoss to Reykjavik direct = 2h drive
- Gullfoss to Reykjavik via the Kerid crater = 2h drive
Need to rent a car for your road trip in Iceland?
- You can choose from some great local companies - Iceland has a lot of specificities and their offerings are adapted - you can compare cars and prices of quality local brands on this expert Icelandic website
- Otherwise you can compare offers from international companies on RentalCars.com
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
How to get to the Golden Circle - Day trips if you don't want to drive
- If you do not want to drive on the snow, there are plenty of options to enjoy a day trip around the Golden Circle from Reykjavik
- I recommend choosing a small group tour to have more time to spend at each location and also because they can stop at more locations
- Some combine the 3 main attractions either with the Kerid crater, the Secret lagoon, the Blue lagoon, snowmobile or with the Northern lights
- See some options
- Considering these are a very touristic spots, the marked walking paths are maintained - but it can always get icy, so carry spikes (see options) that you can add on your shoes at any time
- There are visitor centers at all 3 major attractions with food courts and toilets
- Some carparks require paiement
- The famous Silfra dive or snorkeling (e.g. inside a fissure in Thingvellir) is also possible in Winter - check out the details
- Note: most tours start with Thingvellir, so if you want to avoid crowds you could start with the further location: Gullfoss
Accommodations - Where to stay around the Golden Circle
- You can stay overnight on the Golden Circle. This is allow you to enjoy the sunset or sunrise at those famous locations. Sunrise with the Strokkur geyser is a wonderful combination - Check out the available accommodations around Haukadalur
- If you are on a road trip and making your way to the South Coast, you can sleep at Fludir, where you will find the Secret Lagoon - Check out accommodations
- Selfoss is another practical option: it has a large choice and it is on Road 1 - Check out accommodations
- If you are on a road trip and heading to the Snaefellsnes peninsula, the town of Borgarnes is a practical option - Check out accommodations
Golden Circle - Winter driving
As I said, the area is very touristic. The roads are cleared quite quickly after a snowfall.
However a snowstorm or strong wind can change conditions abruptly, so roads may be closed for short period.
If you are driving yourself, always check the status of the roads before heading anywhere. The official website is road.is.
Below are a couple of shots taken while driving around the Golden Circle. All roads have one lane in each directions and are identified with yellow poles on both sides:
For more tips check out my article about driving in Iceland in Winter
Thingvellir National Park in Winter
Your first stop will probably be the Thingvellir National Park. In Winter is is also a great place to visit.
The main path is well maintained and you can easily walk in the fissure and admire the view over the area.
The site is famous for its geology but also for its historical importance, considered to be where the nation of Iceland started (this is where the parliament wad established in 930).
This is a Unesco site.
Iceland is created by the drift between the North American and the European plates. This area is where the fault lines are the most visible.
In Winter the contrast of the dark rock with the white snow is wonderful.
You will find boards with explanations along the track.
You can see more photos of Thingvellir in Winter in this article
Thingvellir Winter accessibility:
- Carparks well indicated
- P1 has a visitor center and a viewing platform.
- The main path is between P1 and P2 in the canyon
- The paths to the platform and down the canyon are clearly marked, maintained an easy
- Plan 1h for a return walk between P1 and P2, including the side viewing platforms
- Longer if you go on the less maintained trails such as the Oxararfoss one
Geysir / Haukadalur geothermal area in Winter
The geothermal area of Haukadalur is often a highlight for visitors.
It was made famous by the geyser called Geysir. However it is not very active anymore.
But don't be sad. The Strokkur geyser is very active. It erupts every 3 to 8 minutes. And if you stand above it, you can see the blue bubble forming before the explosion.
A little tip though - if you have one, take a tripod and a remote. Waiting for the geyser to splash while holding your camera is hard on the arms...
Plus, don't stop at the geyser!
I know this is fun to watch... but there are a few other features to go see with transparent boiling water and wonderful views of the area.
Haukadalur Winter accessibility:
- Carparks well indicated along the road
- Large visitor center with foot court, toilets and souvenirs
- Thanks to the heat, the walking paths are mostly cleared - however there are a few locations where there is ice. Be careful!
- Plan 1h for your visit and to take many pictures of the geyser 🙂
- Try visiting early or late. There are not that many paths, but there are many visitors
- Don't miss the view from just above the geyser to see the bubble
Gullfoss waterfall in Winter
The mighty waterfall of Gullfoss falls in 2 stages: the top section cascades on rocks over 11m (36ft) while the second section drops 21m (69ft) into a canyon.
The average amount of water running over this waterfall is 140 m³/s in the summer time and 80 to 110 m³/s in the winter time. Quite impressive... This is why it is worth visiting it!
My favorite view is the one aligned with the canyon. Do not miss it. I have seen many people go to the upper lookout and the lower one, but not walk past the upper lookout (yet, the path is cleared). So head a little further and you could see the view as the picture below.
You can see more photos of Gullfoss in Winter in this article
Gullfoss Winter accessibility:
- Upper carpark next to the visitor center and lower carpark both accessible
- Toilets and food at the upper level
- Easy marked paths to the viewing platforms and easy staircase between both levels
- Plan 45 minutes to enjoy the 2 upper viewpoint and the lower one
- One path is closed: the one going close to waterfall at the lower level
Other Golden Circle stops and activities
Those are the 3 main stops you can enjoy if driving around the Golden Circle during the Winter months.
Below are a few other stops or activities you could enjoy while in the area.
Silfra Dive in Winter
As I mentioned before, you can still dive or snorkel in the Silfra fissure in Winter. It is a famous activity in crystal clear water inside one of the of the giant fault lines in Thingvellir.
Check out the details
Laugartavn in Winter
On the drive between Thingvellir and Haukadalur you will notice a lake. This is Laugarvatn.
It is getting more and more attention because hot water flows into it. A spa is established on its shore.
It is a fun stop to see the fumes rising from the lake.
You can find Icelandic horses in many parts of the country.
A few farms have set up feeding stations where you can buy a little bit of food to feed them. This is the case not far from Haukadalur on the road to Gullfoss.
Kerid crater in Winter
Another stop is the Kerid crater. You can climb to the top.
It is famous in Summer for the colors on the slopes inside the crater and the small lake at the bottom.
It can be a good stop if there is not much snow. But if it has snowed a lot, the view will be mostly white.
If you are heading to the South Coast after, you can spend the night in Fludir. This way you can finish the day soaking in the warms waters of the Secret Lagoon (similar to the Blue lagoon but much smaller and quieter).
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Want to see more of ICELAND IN WINTER
A great variety of landscapes!