A ride along the Golden Circle in the south of Iceland will show you the breathtaking Gullfoss Waterfall. There you traverse a narrow path providing 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 you are treated to thousands of rainbows, a natural reaction with the clouds of spray from the tumbling falls.
Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland and part of the Golden Circle. Many people consider the waterfall one of the most beautiful in Iceland. The water cascades down in two stages, one 11 m (36 ft) high, and the other 21 m (69 ft), into the 2,5 km (1.6 mi) long crevasse below. Catastrophic flood waves created this crevasse at the end of the Ice Age. Constant water erosion lengthens it by 25 cm (9.8 in) a year.
If you visit Gullfoss during winter time, please be careful. The narrow path can freeze over, and we strongly recommend that you stay on the path.
Did you know that there were plans to harness Gullfoss waterfall for electricity?
In the early 20th century there was much speculation about harnessing this beautiful waterfall for electricity. Foreign investors who rented Gullfoss indirectly from the owners, Tomas Tomasson and Halldor Halldorsson, wanted to build a hydroelectric power plant, which would have destroyed the waterfall forever. Sigridur Tomasdottir, the daughter of Tomas Tomasson, was fiercely against this, as she loved the waterfall so much. She took many long and difficult journeys to protest in Reykjavik, walking all the way (120 kilometres / 75 miles each way).
When all else 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), she managed to have the contract annulled. That’s how Gullfoss became the property of the people of Iceland.
Sigridur’s memorial by sculptor Rikhardur Jonsson sits by the waterfall and receives thousands of visitors every year.
Gullfoss is a popular photo stop during winter, since it offers a great setting for a beautiful photo of the majestic Northern Lights as they dance across the sky. The waterfall has also been a shooting location for some films. Gullfoss even featured in the American band Live’s music video for their song Heaven.
How deep is the crevice that Gullfoss plunges into?
You can see both the waterfall and the 32 meter (105 ft) deep crevice that the river plunges into from the many view points along the marked trail. From the road and the parking lot, however, it is as though the river plummets into the very earth itself, disappearing from the surface. Be careful and stay within the marked trails, since it is fatal to fall into the crevice. If you are travelling with children, we recommend holding their hands at all times.
How to get to Gullfoss Waterfall?
Gullfoss Waterfall is a part of the famous Golden Circle Route in Iceland. You will find the waterfall is in the Haukadalur Valley, in the river Hvita (the White River), along with Geysir. Since Gullfoss is one of Iceland‘s most popular waterfall the route is well marked.
From Reykjavik, you need to follow the Ring Road east for about 54 km (33 miles), then turn onto Road 35. Follow that route until you reach the big Gullfoss parking lot next to a visitor centre.
Facts about Gullfoss Waterfall
- In Icelandic, Gullfoss means “Golden Waterfall”, because on a sunny day, the water takes on a golden-brown colour. This is due to the fact that it is glacial water and therefore carries lots of sediments that glacial ice has carved off the earth throughout the years.
- The two-tiered waterfall has a total cumulative height of 32 metre (105 feet).
- Gullfoss is the largest volume waterfall in Europe, with the average flow being 1400 m³/s in the summertime and 80 m³/s in the wintertime. The highest flood measured is 2000 m³/s.
- Gullfoss was pronounced as a nature reserve in 1979, in order to permanently protect the waterfall and allow visitors to enjoy this spectacular area.
- Gullfoss was named as one of the world’s top ten waterfalls by world-of-waterfalls.com.