Gullfoss Waterfall: The Golden Falls of Iceland


Basic Information

Located in the Hvítá river canyon, Southwest Iceland, Gullfoss Waterfall is crowed as one of Iceland’s most iconic falls. Translating directly to ‘Golden Floss’, the waterfall is one of the top three landmarks in the Golden Circle and surely does justice to its name! With the high sediment glacial water making the falls glow, The Golden Floss is a two-tiered waterfall offering a deviating view over the seasons. The summer sees a cascading veil of heavy water flow down from two levels. While the waterfall produces numerous rainbows by the clouds of sprays from the continuously tumbling water in summers, the winter freezes it into glistening waves of ice. The stunning waterfall is a must-see location when in Iceland in any season.

Gullfoss waterfal in Golden Circle

How to Get There and What You Will See

The glory of the Golden Circle, the Gullfoss Waterfall is situated in the majestic Haukadalur Valley, in the Hvítá River, meaning the White River. If you are driving the Golden Circle, you might be arriving to Gullfoss from two directions. From the south if you are coming straight from Reykjavik, or from west if you have visited Thingvellir National Park and Geysir geothermal area first. 

Both routes are well marked so the waterfall will be easy to find. If you are arriving from the south, the route will direct you to the waterfall while following the Ring Road. Around 113 km away from Reykjavik, take a turn for route 35 after driving east for about 54 km. Following the directions, you will find the parking to the waterfall, right next to a Visitor Center.

If you are arriving to the waterfall from Geysir geothermal area, you will simply keep on driving on route 35 for around 10 minutes, or 9,5 km. 

Gullfoss waterfall in Golden Circle Iceland, winter and snow at Gullfoss in Iceland

Dropping from a total of 32 meters, the waterfall gushes down the jagged canyon, in two stages, creating the most beautiful golden hints dancing along the water in the sun.  After a gentle three step staircase, the two grand descents follow, creating a mesmerizing curtain of water and producing spray thick enough to feel like standing in the clouds. A kilometer away from the falls, the river takes a sharp right to flow through a dramatic canyon and further gushes itself through a narrow channel.

Formed by the meltwater of the Lángjökull glacier, the combination of the falls and the river meandering elegantly through the crevasse, Gullfoss makes a majestic point for photography and a serene view. Rather than at the foot of the falls like other waterfalls, Gullfoss waterfall holds more of a magnificent painting from above. Watching the water flow over two layers creates a stunning wonder.

Popular Tours that take you to Gullfoss

Gullfoss waterfall in Golden Circle

History of The Falls

The grand water-body has been considered as a power source multiple times over centuries, but with stories being associated with it, the 20th century lore takes us elsewhere. Tómas Tómasson, the gentlemen whose original property the land was, approached investors seeking to harness power from the gigantic source and after convincing, agreed to it. However, his daughter, Sigriður Tómasdóttir believed otherwise. She was convinced that such developments would lead to irreparable damage to the waterfall and was not the slightest bit in favor of working against nature.

Though her legal means of saving Gullfoss proved incompetent over several years, the lease eventually expired and the family were in no position to take the decision. She vowed to jump into the water itself before watching a damn being constructed on it and soon, her adopted son acquired the falls. Later selling it to the Icelandic government, he took a step towards preserving the Gullfoss Waterfall to see it become what it is today. On your visit, you will see a monument built there to honor Sigriður Tómasdóttir’s efforts towards saving the natural wonder.

Gullfoss waterfall in Golden Circle

Activities in the area

Presently, the glorious waterfall is under state protection and its natural state is maintained at all costs. Becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions, its success gives the state all the more reason to preserve its beauty for visitors to indulge in. The visitor center by the parking lot is made to take care of every visitor query and will make sure you have the most exotic and memorable experience at Gullfoss Waterfall.

Gullfoss waterfall in Golden Circle in winter

Gullfoss waterfall on a map

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