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Golden circle by car or bus tour

Hi All,

We are a family of 6 and we have 1 day allocated to seeing the golden circle. Is it an easy drive, or is it better to just take the tour? I have a couple active seniors with me and a 7yr old.

Thanks, Sue

Posted by
14601 posts

I took a tour. No worries about parking or where to go, there was a guide who told us what we were seeing, and I could sit back and enjoy the scenery rather than have to keep my eyes on the road. I never felt rushed.

With a party of six, why not contact the tour company and see how much a private tour would cost. This way they would pick you up at your hotel and could customize it regarding time spent at each location.

Posted by
264 posts

Hello, Sue,

My friends and I drove the Golden Circle in December of 2021. There were 6 of us, so we decided on two small cars, rather than one vehicle which could accommodate six (as the cost of two smaller vehicles was drastically less expensive). I had been there twice before, so I knew the roads. I drove the lead car, with an experienced driver following behind. We chose this option mainly because we didn't want to be rushed at the attractions (or forced to spend time in giftshops waiting on others), but also because we wanted to add lunch and an Icelandic horse demonstration at the Friđheimar greenhouse. Of all the things we saw that day, by far, the greenhouse visit was the favorite for all of my friends. You didn't say what time of year you were looking to travel, but if it's in the summer, I would say that self-drive is an easy option, assuming you had sufficient willing drivers. But, I do love Frank IIs idea, because it takes away any stress. But, please, consider adding a visit and lunch at Friđheimar to your itinerary! You won't regret it.

Posted by
641 posts

If this is your first time to Iceland, taking a tour of the Golden Circle is a great way to learn about the geology and history from your guide. Otherwise, you'd just be driving around seeing stuff but not really knowing what you are looking at.

Frank has a great idea to try to do a private tour. Especially with the 7 year old in your group.

Posted by
1881 posts

Either way is good, as points have been mentioned. Driving yourself is very easy, but a tour takes all the stress off.

I agree that Fridheimer is not to be missed! You could add in a soak at the Secret Lagoon after that as they are quite close together.

We did an organized day tour of the GC on our first trip in 2015, which was a 3 night stopover. We don't normally do tours, but this was really good and it gave us a lot of information regarding the country. We have been back several more times since then and still visit the GC, or parts of it. The tour is nice for the information, but being o your own timeline is also nice.

So I am pretty much saying that there is no wrong answer here for you. Enjoy!

Posted by
2324 posts

The tour is very nice and stress free. But with 6 it will be quite expensive. I would consider the car if you feel up to driving

Posted by
1075 posts

We are renting a car for five days in Iceland cheaper than doing one day of touring on the Golden Circle for four people. It is not cheap to do the tours. I own the Rick Steves Iceland book and he claims it is very easy to do the Golden Circle and the south coast trips on your own so we are going to hold him to it! ;) (if you have not read his Iceland book, it is really good) (also, edited to add… I’d much rather drive with a seven-year-old than do a tour, that way you can stop whenever the child wants to)

Also, regarding the tomato restaurant other people are mentioning, if you want to eat there, make sure you make reservations ASAP. The reservations often fill up a month or more in advance. https://www.fridheimar.is/ (if you view on Google Chrome, the option to translate into English will pop up)

Posted by
1881 posts

We did this as a tour on our first visit and used Reykjavik Excursions, but that was back in 2015 when there were very few tour operators. If I were to do it on a tour now, I would use Troll and go for a small group.

Posted by
62 posts

Sorry to piggy back on this, but a few people mentioned on a tour there is someone to tell you what you are seeing. Are there not signs at important stops to explain things? Thanks!

Posted by
1075 posts

Hi, I was in Iceland last week and did both the Golden Circle and the South Coast. Both are very easy to drive and with 6 people, it will cost you a fortune to do a tour. (Like $150/pp/per tour, so possibly $1,800 if you did both GC and SC). Our rental car for 5 days, plus full coverage insurance, was $450, which was cheaper than one tour for 4 people. You'll have to pay more for a larger SUV or van, but I still think it would be less than $900-$1,800. Plus you have freedom and flexibility to stop when you want. We did Friedheimer and we booked it for 3:30pm, leaving Keflavik at 8:30am (we stayed near the airport), and this was good timing. Make sure to get a reservation as they book up weeks in advance. Rick's advice about timing is very good, although I'd allocated more time to the Thingvillir part than he suggests. Also, having done both, our family thought the South Coast was more scenic than the Golden Circle, but if you've never seen geysers (aka Yellowstone) that is a unique appeal to the GC.