Everyone that visits Iceland cannot miss the Golden Circle tour. But the ultimate question is whether you should visit the Golden Circle with a tour company, or self drive the Golden Circle in one day yourself? I highly recommend doing the latter.
And if you want to self drive the Golden Circle then hopefully these travel tips will help you on your next adventure to Iceland.
How to Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day
Tour companies can be great. But being herded onto and off a bus all day as you try to get around all the sites along the Golden Circle route just seems ridiculous. Wouldn’t you rather have the freedom to stop whenever you wanted to take some photos, go toilet, or just chill out staring at a waterfall?
What kind of rental car do I need in Iceland?
Depending on the time of year you go, and what your travel plans are, you should be fine just getting a small sedan. We hired the cheapest car from Hertz and it worked out perfectly. Since we were covering a huge distance during our entire trip, we wanted to make sure it was fuel efficient and comfortable.
If you are heading there in winter (November – March) you may want to consider picking up a 4×4. This is because some roads can be closed and the roads very icy/snowy. Just check the Iceland road conditions on this official website before you head out.
What is the best Golden Circle route I should take?
There is no set routes if you self drive the Golden Circle. You either head clockwise, or anti-clockwise. But the best part of the Golden Circle route is that you will have to try really hard to get lost. That’s not saying it can’t be done, because we some how missed the turnoff coming out of Reykjavik, but you do have to ignore all the big signs pointing out the attractions along the way.
Starting from Reykjavik head in a clockwise direction towards your first stop which will be the Continental Divide between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. You can go diving here as well as wander around for a good hour exploring the many pathways.
Or if the wind is howling and it is freezing like it was the day we did it, run around for 10 minutes grabbing some photos then bugger off again.
The next major stop along Highway 35 on your Golden Circle route is the geysir minefield, aptly known as Geysir.
Stinking like rotting eggs, the sulphur and steam rise up from the ground as you pull up to the information centre and cafe. This is a perfect stop for a bit of coffee and a late brunch snack. If you do stop to warm your insides then this also gives you time to judge your visit between any tour buses that might show up. Just wait half an hour and they will all be herded back onto their diesel belching coaches and you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity by yourselves.
The final major stop around the Golden Circle is the cascading Gulfoss Waterfall.
To be honest we were a little under whelmed as we were there at the end of the winter season and a lot of the water was still trapped beneath the frozen lakes and glaciers to the north. Still, it was beautiful with the ice creeping up the frozen canyon walls from the bitter northerly winds, while dripping icicles hung precariously over the waterfalls lips.
Make sure you take the steps down into the canyon and walk along the river pathway too. Well worth the mini-hike and you can feel the spray from Gulfoss as you explore the path.
While these are the three major stops along the Golden Circle, these shouldn’t be the only reasons you stop.
Around every bend, along every straight and over each hill there are a plethora of photographic opportunities to snap. I couldn’t get enough of the landscape. So while Adela was quite happy to keep her toes warm under the car heater, I was busy running around the car like a photography loony.
Plus have you seen how adorable the Icelandic horses are?
What time should I leave on my self drive around the Golden Circle?
Luckily as you are your own boss today, you get to have a sleep in and a leisurely start to the day. Most tour companies will leave before 8am so that they have enough time to make it around all the sights, and still be back in Reykjavik by 5pm.
We left at 10am which was perfect because it meant that most tour buses were a couple of hours ahead of us. This allowed us to have a lot more space at the major attractions and not have to jostle elbow to elbow trying to get the best photographs. We also didn’t return to Reykjavik (see below) so we could take our time at each stop.
Where to stay if you self drive the Golden Circle in one day
While most people will base themselves in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, we decided we wanted to stay further along the South Coast as that was where we were headed next. Our choice was simple, the beautiful Vatnsholt Hostel in Selfoss. Plus it is also one of the best places in the world to see the Northern lights.
Vatnsholt Hostel Review
Vatnsholt is located just over an hour from Reykjavík off the main Highway 1. It is a perfect location after you have driven the Golden Circle as you don’t have to go back into the city.
Our room was private inside their old home which has been renovated. There are other rooms in there, with a giant shared kitchen and lounge, but we were the only ones staying in Vatnsholt Hostel at the time.
The kitchen inside our apartment was perfect and they had this crazy fancy shower with about 40 buttons inside. We spent ages just trying to figure out how to make it work! They also have free WiFi and one of the best restaurants that I have ever eaten at. The breakfast buffet selection in the morning is never ending (get the waffles) and make sure you eat dinner there at least once.
The owners are incredible friendly and went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable and well looked after. Make sure you ask Johann and Margret to show you the dancing goat video.
There wasn’t much of a social atmosphere as it was the end of the winter season. A bus load of tourists did show up around midnight to watch the Northern Lights one of the evenings but we didn’t really chat to them.
$60 US for a private room for two people.
We fell in love with Vatnsholt Hostel and would have stayed longer if we had the time. Unfortunately we had to buzz off along the coast for a few days, but it would be the perfect base if you had an extra week or two in Iceland. The owners have also lived in the area for years so have plenty of local knowledge that you should use, such as finding the secret geothermal hot pools up in the hills…
It is definitely the best place to stay if you are planning to self drive the Golden Circle in one day, and then explore the south coast afterwards.
Disclaimer: We were guests of Vatnsholt Hostel and thanks to HostelWorld for organising, but as always our thoughts are always our own.
Have you drive then the Golden Circle before? Or did you take a tour bus? What were your highlights?
Amsterdam Food Guide
If you think of Amsterdam you don’t think of food. However if you try the food here in our Amsterdam food guide you might get lucky.
We are total foodies and our travelling has allowed our passion for food to grow considerably (not to mention our waist lines)! We love trying new food when we visit foreign countries and always make a huge effort to eat the local cuisine. Check out some of the food we ate below in our cheap and delicious Amsterdam Food Guide.
We had heard from a number of people that the Amsterdam food was nothing to rave about. To be honest food was not really our main interest in visiting but then again neither was an Amsterdam Peep show and we ended up enjoying that!
However we were pleasantly surprised. I think the people whom we had talked to had it wrong. Sure Holland doesn’t really have a local cuisine but once we got over this fact we realised there is still some damn good food to be had from the various Amsterdam Restaurants.
The best meal we had was actually next door to the Red Light district in Chinatown. Crossing the canal to the east away from the neon lights your nostrils are attacked and your mouth begins salivating from the delicious smells wafting along the narrow cobbled streets.
As we walked into Bird Thai restaurant the enticing aroma hit us instantly leaving us drooling in anticipation. It was definitely up there with some of the best Thai food we have had. We went for the classic Green curry, fried rice and duck combo.
The Green curry was so flavoursome with the richness of the coconut milk blending perfectly with the traditional spices. The duck was cooked to perfection and for the first few minutes of the meal all you could hear was the crunching of the crispy outside layer as we devoured the duck in minutes. Needless to say the fried rice was a taste explosion too!
Cheap and delicious Amsterdam food is easy to come by. With hangovers and munchies affecting your hunger it is no surprise that there are an abundance of Fast Food chains and takeaways in Amsterdam. In fact it was actually more the way that the fast food was served that surprised us as you could buy it out of massive vending machines at Febo!
Hidden workers stand behind the vending machines churning out burgers, fries and sausage rolls so all you has to do is insert a Euro and “hey presto” you have a hot meal in your hungry hands.
Then there were the frites stores which seemed to be on every corner. The first thing you noticed about these was the tantalising smell. There is nothing like the smell of chips straight out of the fryer and covered in salt to get you tummy rumbling. Served in a triangle cardboard carton and covered in mayo which meant that that you couldn’t reach the chips at the bottom without covering your greedy fingers in sauce. Just a tad annoying!
But there is nothing like hot chips to warm you up on a cold day.
Finally, while hot chocolates are not typically food I feel they still deserve a mention especially because the usually come paired with waffles! Ahhhh the perfect breakfast.
We loved nipping into a cafe or bar like Cafe Bar Eddy in Amsterdam to warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate. It literally tasted like they had melted chocolate down and added cream. Heaven in a cup. And the choice of waffles was daunting as you could have whatever you wanted. Fruit, chocolate, syrups, cream or all of the above!
If you are heading here then don’t expect to find an array of traditional Amsterdam food. Instead treat yourself to a hot chocolate and waffle for breakfast, grab a quick bite from a vending machine and sample some of the different cuisines found near the Red Light District.
If you stick to this Amsterdam food guide then your taste buds will have a great holiday too!
If you have visited before then what did you think of Amsterdam food?
How to smoke weed in Amsterdam
Check out our guide for the first timer in Amsterdam visiting a coffeeshop.
Before getting started I just want to clarify that we are not drug users. We don’t condone using illegal drugs. And we are not telling you to go and smoke weed in Amsterdam. BUT, our goal of this travel blog is to help advise, educate and provide travel tips for ALL situations. So if you are headed to Amsterdam then we hope our guide to smoking weed in Amsterdam will help you out.
And check out this smoker friendly accommodation for your next trip.
When you tell people that you are visiting Amsterdam then they immediately think of one thing and one thing only. Weed. Dope. Herb. Buds. Spliff. Whacky Tobbacky. Pot. Marijuana. Cannabis.
Call it what you will but just know that the biggest name for it is “ILLEGAL”.
Yes it is actually illegal to smoke weed in Amsterdam. But for now the Netherlands government do tolerate smoking in designated “coffeeshops”. This is slowly changing as the Government tries to moderate the tourism drug trade and in 2013 there will be new laws which we won’t go in to now as they are continuously changing.
In the meantime if you obey the rules, are not a moron and use our guide to smoking weed in Amsterdam then you are going to be fine.
How to smoke weed in Amsterdam
Don’t smoke weed in Amsterdam in public such as on the streets. There are over 300 designated coffee shops where you are tolerated to smoke weed. These places are regulated and everything is done in the open.
Don’t get confused and try to smoke in a koffiehuis (coffee house) which sells coffee and light meals or a café that is a casual restaurant and/or bar.
The coffeeshops are super easy to spot with marijuana leaves in the windows and Bob Marley paintings on the doors. Not to mention the smell wafting through the cold breeze. There will also be the usual tourists that have stupidly over-indulged and are glassy eyed.
We visited one of the five Bulldog coffeeshops when we were in Amsterdam and had no complaints. We even enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate while we were there!
Buying weed in Amsterdam
As long as you are over 18 then you will be allowed to buy up to 5 grams of weed in the regulated coffeeshops. Plus you have the added security knowing that your marijuana is not going to be laced with anything else if you are attempting to buy it off someone on the street. And who knows, they might be setting you up to get busted.
We were (and are) total amateurs and had no idea what to do once we actually stepped foot in the coffeeshop. But quickly sussed it out. There will generally be a “dealer bar” with full menu’s and everything for you to choose. So if you are an expert you will probably know what to order! Prices will of course vary by quantity (grams, bags, individual joints) and quality.
For a beginner ask lots of questions. Don’t be shy like we were. Ask the staff what they recommend and what effects each type has. They will know then that you are a newbie and will guide you. Just know that they are very accustomed to tourists who don’t know exactly how to go about the whole process.
What we found out is that it is actually perfectly fine for you to visit other coffeeshops and smoke weed that you have already purchased somewhere else. However, it is considered rude not to at least buy a hot chocolate or coffee if you do this. Coffeeshops do also have some of the best coffee in Amsterdam.
Don’t be an idiot
Number 1 rule: Don’t smoke too much weed in Amsterdam! Even if you are a pot loving hippie from a commune you are probably going to find the marijuana really strong in Amsterdam. Just take it slow.
If you are enjoying a drink as well then again take it easy with the booze. All the coffeshops won’t sell you beer as well as cannabis.
EAT! Don’t go drinking and smoking on an empty stomach as cannabis lowers your blood sugar level and this can turn a fun day into a disaster if you haven’t eaten recently. Check out our Amsterdam Food Guide for some quick eating tips here.
A final word of warning, please watch out for the spacecake! Eating cannabis will knock you on your ass and is much stronger than when smoked.
Finally, enjoy yourselves and for goodness sake obey the rules, laws and customs while you are smoking weed in Amsterdam.
If you have an addiction to drugs then reach out and seek some help.
Check out these Weed Products for your next travel adventure.
Four Jandals Visits an Amsterdam Peep Show
Have you ever wanted to visit an Amsterdam peep show? We had the chance to go and embraced it with open arms. Check out our experience here
An Amsterdam peep show is a must, just like visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Okay slightly different. But you have got to go!
And if you have ever wanted to visit Amsterdam then more than likely you are going to be interested in checking out a peep show in the red light district. It might be worthwhile checking out this Amsterdam’s Red Light District – The ultimate guide.
There is something about the red light district that draws the punters and tourists alike in. Maybe it is the bright red neon lights that illuminate the darkened alleyways that pull them in like moths to a flame. Or the bars and coffee shops that let a certain smell waft lazily across the glistening canals.
Or maybe it is just the fact that sex really does sell.
When we visited Amsterdam with a couple of friends we actually spent what I now consider an embarrassingly long time in that same area. The fact is that we seriously could not get enough.
Not like that of course!
We just couldn’t believe that everyone is so open and carefree about what is for all intents and purposes, window shopping for sex. The number of guys knocking on windows and being ushered behind the curtains of every room were staggering.
However, we were not enticed ourselves to fork over $50 euros but were intrigued enough to want to check out an Amsterdam peep show. I just want to clarify here that it was actually Adela that was the most keen. I just didn’t want to let her down so went along with it…
Visiting the Amsterdam peep show
Much to our surprise, there is only one Amsterdam peep show left in the whole city back in 2012!
The very originally named “Sex Palace” is situated on the banks of one of the main canals in the heart of the red light district on Oudezijds Achterburgwal street. Walking under the neon flashing lights into the entrance way your senses are assaulted by sights, sounds and disturbingly smell.
All around the walls are posters and screens showing ladies in various states of undress and positions. A white board lists the movies that you can rent out for your viewing pleasure in one of the many private booths. But we were only there for one thing:
The circular structure sitting slightly to the left of the entrance with a dozen small doors along it’s walls.
Each of those small doors lead into equally small rooms no larger than a traditional UK phone box. A small covered viewing window blocks your view forward.
The money box clinging to the wall to operate the viewing window only accepts coins. But don’t worry if you only have notes as they handily have a large coin machine dishing out $2 euro coins for ease of watching.
Once you close the door and chuck in your money, the viewing window pops open for 2 minutes and allows you to view the large, slowly-rotating stage on which a scantily-dressed woman displays herself. With her flexibility she could have represented any country in the upcoming Olympics!
I was cracking up laughing the entire time I was in there because you can actually just make out the rest of the “audience” in the opposite booths. I even got a little wave and smile as the girl slowly revolved past my window.
The Amsterdam peep show was a little bit creepy. But even though we were there late on a Saturday night the booths were doing a roaring trade. Obviously nearly everyone else, from the hens parties to the couples, were there for the same reason as us. To check out one or two rounds before heading back into the night giggling like school girls at a sleepover at what we had just done.
The shifty eyed single men on the other hand skulked away to their respective viewing windows again and again with pockets full of coins.
If you ever get the chance then we actually do highly recommend taking the plunge and visiting an Amsterdam peep show. Just make sure that you are always respectful of the women in the shows and the ones on the streets!
Have you ever been to an Amsterdam Peep Show or Sex show? Tell us about your experience below.
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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