Did you know? The Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland has topped the list of the best 10 waterfalls on the planet!
Think I am kidding? Well, absolutely not!
Gullfoss is, without a doubt, the ultimate showstopper of nature’s never-ending work of art.
Its source is the Hvíta River, which slams over two distinct decks before plunging into the bottomless volcanic fissure.
Nevertheless, the waterfall’s power is so robust that it spews out a dust-sized golden mist that gives it another name, the Golden Waterfall.
During summer, the fine mists get struck by the sun’s sizzling rays, creating tiny rainbows that will amaze you!
However, the landscape transcends beauty even during winter. It transforms into rock and ice to treat your eyeballs with an entirely new perspective.
So, it’s time to awaken your senses with a roar of the Gullfoss Waterfall as we venture into the landscape and keep you updated on how to sojourn there in your upcoming vacation!
Close the blinds and grab a cup of coffee to take a journey into the heart of nature, where the wild meets the serene at the Gullfoss in Golden Circle!
1. Okay, What’s so Special About Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall?
The Gullfoss is one of the popular destinations in Iceland.
No matter what time you visit this iconic landscape, you will surely have an awe-inspiring journey at the falls.
Being an incredibly powerful waterfall, the Gullfoss has a flowing speed of 140 cubic metres per second during summer.
As a result, a misty cloud arises out of it, giving birth to a magical rainbow.
Additionally, you have a higher chance of getting wet… very wet if you take a trip there during the summer months.
On the other hand, the flowing speed of the mighty waterfall reduces to 109 cubic meters per second once the Langjökull glacier is highly frozen.
You can watch the frozen falls beneath the Northern Lights as the frozen water meets the crevasse underground.
Each season is so stunning so much that your heart will pound your wanderlust, again and again, to come back to the falls!
Now, this is not a single stretch of waterfall. They comprise two unique steps falling at a 90-degree angle on the other.
The first step, or the upper tier, cascades at 41 feet and spans around 800 feet in width along the waterfall crest.
This tier has two types of water flow. One is the cascading type found on the left side, and the other plunges into the narrow throat down the canyon.
Subsequently, the second step or the lower tier falls at 69 feet.
It flows across a 400 feet narrow reach, with a small island-like segregation separating it into two unique channels.
So, the gorge beneath the waterfalls is significantly narrower than the upstream. And you cannot look at the base as it’s hidden from the developed viewpoints.
Ultimately, it’s undeniable that the sight of this natural wonder leaves you awe-struck at how these forces shape our planet.
2. Plunging Deep into Gullfoss: Once Upon a Time…
Okay, take a deep breath as it’s time to tumble into the breathtaking history of the creation of Gullfoss…!!
It was during many thousands of years ago that gave birth to this tremendous waterfall.
According to Geologists, it’s stated that the waterfall must be an end product of the glacial floods at the end of the last Ice Age.
The subsequent flow of water resulted in the erosion of many parts of the land, which is a significant reason for the creation of this waterfall.
2.1 Legendary History of Gullfoss
The tale explains the reason why Gullfoss was named the Golden Waterfall.
It is a similar story with two versions with two different protagonists, an old Viking and a rich farmer.
There was once an old Viking who dumped his treasure into the falls that no one should enjoy after his death. That’s the same case with the obsessed rich farmer.
Some say that due to this, the waterfall got such a name.
Another tale is that the rainbows forming from the mist spray over the waterfall on sunny days give birth to this name.
So, these two stories show the Icelanders’ rooted cultural origin in the legend of the pot of gold at the rainbow’s end.
Ultimately rehearsing to outsiders about their mixed cultural heritage from Viking and Celtic origin.
2.2 The Daring History of Gullfoss
For many centuries, the Gullfoss tumbled without threats or disturbances. Unfortunately, it was during the 20th century that the English businessman Howell wanted to utilise the waterfall’s power to fuel a hydroelectric power plant.
This, in turn, would destroy the natural beauty of Gullfoss.
2.3 Sigríður Tómasdóttir
Sigríður was the second eldest daughter of the farmer Tómas Tómasson and Margrét Þórðardóttir.
She had one brother and eleven sisters and lived on the Brattholt farm all her life since February 1871. You can find the farm even today.
It is said that the Gullfoss Waterfall was owned by her family.
After her parents passed away and her elder sister and brother left the farm, she took over as the family’s leader.
Also, she became an active guide for tourists to get a glimpse of beautiful falls, even if it was challenging to access.
Here, some say that her father, Tómas Tómasson, allowed foreign investors to use the waterfalls to construct hydroelectric dams.
Another version says that Gullfoss was rented to foreign investors without any clear-cut reasons.
But no matter what, this is what Sigríður did to save it…
2.4 Bravery of Sigríður
Since the day she heard about the installation in this project, she vehemently protested and rejected the idea.
She shouldered the responsibility of saving the alteration that would happen at Gullfoss all by herself.
As a sign of protest, she took a 120 km walk barefoot from Reykjavík until her feet became bloodied and sore, showing how the waterfall was important to her.
Also, she threatened to throw herself into Gullfoss to save it from destruction.
This legal battle lasted for years and famously stated:
Ég sel ekki vin minn
Or “I will not sell my friend.”
However, fortunately, the investors could not raise funds for the property, and it was taken over by the Icelandic Government.
And she later died in 1957. This action made Sigriður the first environmentalist in Iceland.
Interestingly, Sveinn Björnsson, the lawyer she hired to spend her savings, became the first president after Iceland became independent in 1944.
What a twist…!!
But there remains a skepticism about whether this shady past of Gullfoss is really true.
If you actually go there, you must not miss peeking into the commemorating memorial of Sigriður.
You can find a sculpture of hers chiselled out by Richard Jonsson on the banks of Gullfoss that is admired by over a thousand tourists annually!
3. Where is the Gullfoss Located?
The majestic Gullfoss Falls sits at the heart of the Golden Circle, Haukadalur, in the Southern part of Iceland.
But if you wish to travel there, you need to start from the capital city of Reykjavík, which is around 107 km (66.4 mi) away from the waterfall.
Here’s the Gullfoss Waterfall location on Google Maps!
Coordinates: GP N64° 19′ 38.220″ W20° 7′ 8.135″
You must also note that Gullfoss is not the ONLY waterfall in Iceland on the Golden Circle.
Just 12km away from Gullfoss lies the small yet gorgeous waterfall called the Faxi Waterfall.
This is an ideal spot for fishing as the river Tungufljót flows with salmon here. Also, you get a quieter waterfall experience here, giving you ample time to enjoy.
Though Faxi is less powerful than Gullfoss, it’s also worth visiting!
If you have opted for a self-driving Golden Circle tour, don’t miss to add this waterfall to your touring itinerary.
4. The Fastest Way to Reach Gullfoss Waterfall
Take the Ring Road 1 (or Route 1) southeast starting from Reykjavík.
Then, cross the small town of Hveragerði. Take a 10 km (6 mile) drive and take the left to Route 35 before arriving at Selfoss.
Stay on Route 35 to reach the Gullfoss parking area directly.
However, if you are taking a day tour by self-driving to the Golden Circle, you should begin from Thingvellir National Park and stay on Street 36 East from there.
Then drive past Laugarvatn to Geysir and then to Gullfoss.
For self-driving, here is some vital information you must follow while driving in Iceland.
So, it’s up to you to choose…!!
5. The Right Time to Visit Gullfoss
Gullfoss is open to visitors 365 days with its majestic appearance shifting every season.
It roars out in all its glory and power during the summer months. And during winter it stands still with snow and ice, adding extra freshness to the air.
In case you wish to visit during winter, check out http://www.road.is before heading out to know the road conditions.
Also, no matter the season, it’s best to dress properly in that frigid environment of Gullfoss to stand and stare at the waterfall for a while!
Because you will get the top view of the waterfall and get exposed to all the elements. Strong wind is a usual phenomenon in Iceland that drops the air temperature.
So, pick a day with minimal wind speed!
On the other hand, summer flocks crowds at the waterfall. So, hold your cameras tight and be patient to click a picture.
6. Ways to Avoid Crowds
We don’t want you to be like the rest, stuck in crowds and waiting for a turn to click. That’s why we have compiled a few tricks to be alone and capture the dazzling beauty of the waterfall without humans!
Land at Gullfoss before 10 am in the morning since the first tourist buses reach the spot after that.
This is a recommended tip if you tour the waterfall in summer during the high season or even public holidays.
If you make it, you can clearly hear the waterfall’s roar and not talk to people. Also, you can avoid your pictures being filled with others taking a selfie!
Check here to learn more about the Gullfoss weather conditions!
7. At the Gullfoss Waterfall
As you approach the waterfall, take a moment to stop and listen to the hissing sound of the waterfall even before you see it.
Two viewpoints are available to look at the Gullfoss plummeting down into the bottomless crevasse.
Simultaneously, there are two parking lots available. The upper parking lot has a footway that takes you to the upper viewing area.
Similarly, the lower parking lot is quite smaller, but it leads you to the rocky terrace in the middle of the lower and upper cascades of the waterfall.
This is a place just next to the waterfall, and I recommend you get there to see the waterfall just a few inches away from you.
Also, you can get wet as much as you like here from the waterfall’s misty spray!
Mind you! It can be muddy and slippery in summer and extra slippery in winter, so watch your step. If visiting with children, then be extra careful…!!
8. Facilities Offered for Visitors at Gullfoss
It is no surprise that the popularity of Gullfoss has led to the rise of shops around it.
Don’t forget to stop by Gullfoss Café (Gullfosskaffi), a popular stop for eateries. From cakes, and sandwiches to even soups and beer, there is something there for you to enjoy eating and getting a beautiful view of the waterfall.
However, the food here is a bit pricey. A cup of the famous and tasty lamb soup is $20.
But we must admit that Iceland’s travel is more expensive than most other European countries. So, if you’re on a budget bring your own lunch with you!
The remains open between 10 am and 7 pm. However, there are no particular Gullfoss Waterfall opening times as it is open for all to pay a visit.
There are restrooms close to the café and inside it for free to paying clients.
Ultimately the Gullfoss Waterfall entrance fee is free to all visitors.
I am sure that will make you happy…!!
On a budget to Iceland? Click here!
Gullfoss Waterfall Facts: Did you know? Due to its beauty and popularity, Gullfoss has been featured in many movies and TV series.
Some of them include the album cover “Porcupine” by Echo and the Bunnymen, the backdrop of the music video Lives single “Heaven”, the TV series “Vikings” and the animated TV series “Avatar: The Last Airbender”.
Many texts bring out the Gullfoss including the novella The Odd Saga of the American and A Curious Icelandic Flock by E. E. Ryan where it becomes the favourite waterfall of Snorri.
Nevertheless, many artistic interpretations have commemorated Gullfoss for many years.
Accommodations near Gullfoss? Check here!
9. Closing the Cascade
There is nothing that can dazzle you like the Gullfoss Waterfall over the few others you might have come across in Iceland.
With its powerful descents, bold colours, and swirling action, it is irresistible to turn your back on this wild beauty.
It is one of the many high-rated tourist spots in the Golden Circle.
If you are unsure whether to take a trip in summer or winter then go ahead to visit on both seasons!
I bet you are to experience the dazzling beauty of the waterfall and splendours of Iceland as two distinct worlds…!!
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