A ride along the Golden Circle in the south reveals the breathtaking Gullfoss (Golden Waterfalls) where traversing a narrow path provides close-up views of the massive, two-tiered waterfall below. In winter the view is spectacular when the waterfall freezes over into undulating waves of glistening ice. On sunny days visitors are treated to thousands of rainbows, a natural reaction with the clouds of spray from the tumbling falls.

Gullfoss is situated in the upper part of the Hvitá river. The water cascades down in two stages, one 11 m (36 ft) high, and the other 22 m (69 ft), into the 2,5 km (1.6 mi) long crevasse below. This crevasse was created at the end of the Ice Age by catastrophic flood waves and is lengthened by 25 cm (9.8 in) a year by the constant erosion from the water.

In the early 20th century there was much speculation about harnessing Gullfoss for electricity. Foreign investors, who rented Gullfoss indirectly from the owners, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson, wanted to build a hydroelectric power plant, which would have destroyed Gullfoss forever. Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of Tómas Tómasson, was fiercely against this as she loved the waterfall so much. She took on many long and difficult journeys, walking all the way to Reykjavik (120 kilometres one way) to further her cause. When all else had failed she threatened to throw herself in the waterfall in protest. Fortunately it did not have to come to that. With the help of her lawyer, Sveinn Bjornsson who later became the first president of Iceland, they managed to have the contract annulled and Gullfoss became the property of the people of Iceland. 

Sigríður’s memorial, by sculptor Rikharður Jónsson, sits by the waterfall and is visited each year by thousands of tourists.


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