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I've purchased a ticket with a long stopover in Iceland on June 18th. I'm planning to travel the "Golden Circle" by car, sleeping in a tent at camp sites.

Just how crowded can I expect Iceland to be at this time?

  • While this doesn’t answer your question, be prepared to spend a ton of money on food! The prices for even a simple sandwich is ridiculous. – TravelLikeBeaker Nov 20 '18 at 4:53
  • @CodeLikeBeaker I saw they now have a Costco, might just stock up for the whole trip there :) – JonathanReez Nov 20 '18 at 4:59
  • Nice! Wish I had known that while I was there LOL . Safe travels! – TravelLikeBeaker Nov 20 '18 at 5:02
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(Note to readers: some of the following answer is based on my personal experience in July 2018, things may have changed over time.)

How many tourists are there?

According to this report from Icelandic Tourist Board (page 11), there are roughly 200k-250k visits to Iceland (more specifically, departures from KEF) in June 2017, where roughly 50-60% of them went to main attractions on the Golden Circle including Geysir/Gullfoss and Þingvellir (based on a 2015 survey, page 18).

The number above translates to 3-5k tourists visiting a main attraction at any given day, assuming a tourist only visits a attraction once and disregarding variations within the month. That can lead to a huge crowd squeezing through narrow footpaths at times.

Are there any way to avoid the crowd?

The good news is, the crowding is heavily time-dependent. The peak hours for these attractions is roughly between 10am-6pm from my observations, which coincides with the time a local tour / guided tour is active covering various attractions on the Golden Circle. If you can avoid these hours, the attractions can feel pretty natural (read: empty). To give you an idea, I arrived at Gullfoss at nearly 11am, and there were 100 people max. around there. Two hours later the number shoots up to nearly a thousand.

The crowding is also location-dependent. The length of the Golden Circle is around 300km. If we spread the 5k tourists of the day evenly along the route, you will probably see a minibus-worth of people every kilometre. Given the majority of the tourists will only visit the handful of main attractions, this means the rest of the Golden Circle is pretty empty. Focusing your visit on minor attractions (or visiting them during peak hours and do the main ones at off-peak) will also make your visit more pleasant.

Given you are heading to Iceland in mid-June, where the sun rises at ~2:45am and sets at around midnight (but the sky does not go dark), and sleeping in a tent at camp sites, it should be easy to beat the crowd if you have a car (you didn't mention if you are renting one) and wanted to do so.

  • Is everything open at "night" hours though? Or do some natural attractions close after business hours? – JonathanReez Nov 18 '18 at 1:29
  • I am aware Gullfoss (the waterfall itself) opens 24/7. While I can't find authoritative information, I do not recall seeing gates or signs saying the opening hours in Geysir or Þingvellir, and hence will assume nothing still stop you getting in at late hours in June. The manned facilities closed during the night though, e.g. the service centre in Þingvellir opens between 9am and 10pm only. – B.Liu Nov 18 '18 at 10:42
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    Here comes the question: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/125913/… – B.Liu Nov 18 '18 at 11:18
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As of June 2019, the answer is that you can completely avoid overcrowding by simply arriving to all the tourist sights after 5PM. In June and July the sky is always bright so there's no reason why you couldn't enjoy the beauty of Gullfoss at 11pm and then watch the Geiser explode at 1am.

I've started my days at 4pm while I was in Iceland so unfortunately I can't comment on how busy things get during business hours.

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