A ride along the Golden Circle in the south of Iceland reveals the breathtaking Gullfoss Waterfall. There you traverse a narrow path that 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 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 attraction in Iceland and part of the Golden Circle. The waterfall is by many considered one of the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland. You can find the waterfall in the upper part of the Hvita river. 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. 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.
If you visit Gullfoss during winter time, please be careful, since the narrow path can freeze over. We strongly recommend that you stay within the path.
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 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. That’s how Gullfoss became the property of the people of Iceland.
Sigridur’s memorial, by sculptor Rikhardur Jonsson, sits by the waterfall and is visited each year by thousands of tourists.
Gullfoss is also a popular photostop during winter, since it offers a great setting for a beautiful photo of the majestic Northern Lights as they dance across the sky. Gullfoss has also been the location for some films and even music video, as it features in the music video “Heaven” by the American rock band Live. You can see both the waterfall and the 32 meter deep crevice that the river plunges into.
This is how you 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 (e. White River), along with Geysir. Since Gullfoss is one of Iceland‘s most popular waterfall the route is well marked.
Its distance from Reykjavik is about 113km (70 miles) from Reykjavik. From Reykjavik, you need to follow the ring road east for about 54km (33 miles), then turn for route 35. Follow that route until you reach a big 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’s 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 metres.
- Gullfoss is the largest volume falls 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.
- The area around the waterfall is about 200 meters above sea level.
- Gullfoss was pronounced as a nature reserve in 1979, in order to permanently protect the waterfall and allow visitors to enjoy this spectacular area.
- Along with Thingvellir and Geysir, Gullfoss Waterfall forms one of Iceland‘s most popular tour, The Golden Circle.
- Gullfoss was named as one of the world’s top ten waterfalls by world-of-waterfalls.com.
Check out our complete guide to the Golden Circle and West Iceland.