We booked a hire car in advance of our trip to Iceland and spent the first day driving around the famous Golden Circle. We had read various reports of how driving in Iceland can be a bit nerve wracking and that the roads are tricky to say the least - have no worries if you want to explore the Golden Circle yourself by car, the roads are all fine, everything is well signposted and we had absolutely no problems. We had a 2 wheel drive vehicle and were fine with that. One tip though, do take out gravel insurance when you hire the car - the roads were fine, but very gravelly and apparently some tourists get hit with big charges for gravel damage to the car chassis when they return it. Better safe than sorry!
The Golden Circle actually comprises Thingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir - unique sites and some of Iceland's major tourist attractions. This is a great day out combining a roaring waterfall; a huge spouting hot spring and the most important historical area in Iceland. It is manageable in one day without any problems.
We were headed for Thingvellir first of all - plugged this destination into the sat-nav and off we went. After about 20 minutes on main roads, we were well clear of Reykjavik, had left the main Route 1 and seemed to have the whole road to ourselves. We barely saw another car. Everything I had read beforehand said how touristy the Golden Circle route was. I expected lots of buses and other vehicles, but this was absolutely not the case.
The drive from Reykjavik to Thingvellir takes just under an hour. Allow yourself a bit more time though - you will want to keep stopping the car, pulling over and photographing the spectacular scenery. It is so amazing.
We passed lots of little farms, churches and rolling fields. The snow capped mountains framed every scene to perfection. We took lots of photos and stopped almost every opportunity we got - you could never get tired of these views.
After you drive through the little town of Mosfellsbaer, you take the first right at the roundabout onto road 36 which goes to Thingvellir.
Look out for the fields full of stone piles - these were everywhere, apparently you see them all over Iceland. Our 9 year old couldn't wait to get out of the car for a closer look and add his own creation to the field.
We stopped for a short while at Thingvallavatn - this is Iceland's largest lake, the water is unbelievably cold and unbelievably clear. You can actually sip water straight from the lake, there is no pollution here and it is pure glacial water. The lakeside area is amazing - still, calm and stunning views. There is a little picnic bench right by the lake, we sat for about 20 minutes and just soaked up the views and atmosphere at this very special place.