If you’re traveling between North America and Europe and have some time to spare, there’s one very interesting thing you can do. Iceland lies conveniently on the way between those two continents. Even more interesting, its two airlines, WOW Air and Icelandair, offer travelers the chance to break up their flight and visit Iceland without any extra flight costs. If you want to do that—you should!— this fantastic two-day Reykjavik road trip is strongly recommended.
Experience Iceland on the Ultimate Two-Day Reykjavik Road Trip
One of the most popular short Reykjavik road trips is the Golden Circle. This hugely popular drive is no longer than 250 kilometers in total and can be done in under four hours. Many people don’t even make it a full loop, rather backtracking once they’ve seen the three major highlights on the way.
In this post, we’ll discuss the entire circuit and take a closer look (with photos, of course) at all the places that are worthy of a stop. To fully appreciate the sheer beauty of this small region in Iceland, it is recommended that you set aside more than one day. There are a few superb historic sites, hikes and photo opportunities you will want to take your time for. Let’s get to it!
Day 1: Reykjavik to Gullfoss (via Þingvellir National Park and Haukadalur)
Pick up your rental car at the Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik and head north on Highway 1 until you get to the turn off onto Highway 36. The drive to the first major attraction is only 40 kilometers long, taking you about 35 minutes.
Þingvellir National Park
One of the most important historic sites in all of Iceland, Þingvellir National Park is the very spot where the ancient Icelandic AlÞpingi Parliament was founded in 930. This is also where the Republic of Iceland was established in 1944. Set on the shore of a beautiful lake, this national park is of such cultural and natural importance that UNESCO designated it World Heritage.
Just north of the park, you’ll find a wonderful waterfall named Öxararfoss, which makes for a great photo opportunity.
Continue following Highway 36 until the intersection with Route 365, where you’ll turn left. When you hit Highway 37, turn left again and follow the road until you reach the Haukadalur Geothermal Area. This 60-kilometer section takes around 50 minutes. Consider stopping at the small but scenic Bruarfoss on the way.
Haukadalur is the name of a valley home to one of Iceland’s most renowned attractions. In this geothermal area, you can see two huge geysers: active and very reliable Strokkur and dormant Geysir, which is where the word “geyser” comes from.
Strokkur shoots boiling hot water dozens of meters into the air every five to ten minutes and is truly a sight to see. It’s one of the absolute star attractions in Iceland and one of the main focuses on this two-day Reykjavik road trip.
The next attraction lies only ten minutes down the road…
Iceland has more than its fair share of spectacular waterfalls and Gullfoss is one of the greatest. Its name meaning “golden waterfall”, this natural attraction is sure to blow your mind. Falling for more than 30 meters into a river-carved gorge, Gullfoss is one of the most photogenic places in the country and the crown jewel of the Golden Circle Route.
You can admire the waterfall from two vantage points—the observation platform near the Gullfoss café and the Gullfoss Parking area.
Spend the night in this area, allowing you to catch a sunset and sunrise at the waterfall. If you’re lucky, you might even see the northern lights dancing in the sky above at night (note that you’ll need to do this in winter, late fall or early spring for the best chances).
Day 2: Gullfoss to Reykjavik (via Faxi waterfall and Kerið crater)
Take one last look at Gullfoss and continue your two-day Reykjavik road trip on Highway 35.
Known as Vatnsleysufoss in Icelandic, the Faxi waterfall lies twenty kilometers southeast of Gullfoss. Although this is by no means the largest or most spectacular waterfall in Iceland, it still makes for a nice stopping point.
Jump back into your car after snapping a few photos and continue following Highway 35 for about 35 kilometers until you arrive at the…
Around 3,000 years old, this volcanic crater is 55 meters deep and completes your two-day Reykjavik road trip. After seeing this, you’ll have visited the birthplace of Iceland, a massive geyser, a spectacular waterfall and a volcanic crater—Iceland in a nutshell, if you will.
From the Kerið Crater, it’s less than an hour back to Keflavik Airport, where you can drop off your rental car and continue with your flight to Europe or North America.