Although Iceland has many waterfalls that tumble from cliffs and thunder over rocks, Gullfoss is known as the king of them all. Its grandeur has made it the backdrop to blockbuster films and draws thousands of tourists every year. Most Golden Circle tours in Iceland include a visit to Gullfoss, and it would be a shame to visit Iceland without seeing this magnificent waterfall.
Gullfoss is a waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river canyon in Southwest Iceland.
Facts about Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland
To clarify, Gullfoss is made up of two falls: the first one is a smaller cascade that is 11 metres (36 feet) tall, followed by the larger and more dramatic drop that people visit to see, which measures 21 metres (69 feet) in height.
The amount of water that flows over the falls varies greatly between the winter and summer months. During the summer, the highest flood of approximately 140 cubic meters (459 cubic feet) of water per second, caused by glacier melt, rushes down the falls. In the winter, the amount drops to about 109 cubic meters (358 cubic feet) per second due to less glacier melt and some frozen river water.
When you arrive, you may recognize Gullfoss as it has been featured in many blockbusters and popular TV series. It was used as much speculation as a filming location for Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga and as the other-worldly backdrop for the new TV series of Lost in Space. Additionally, you can spot it as a location in the popular Vikings TV series.
History of Gullfoss waterfall
According to geologists, Gulfoss was created approximately 5,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. The flooding caused by the run-off from Langjokull, Iceland's second-largest glacier, resulted in the creation of the river Hvita and the waterfall that cascades into the ravine.
For centuries, Gulfoss tumbled undisturbed until the early 20th century when an English businessman noticed its raw power and proposed harnessing it to fuel a hydro-electric power plant in 1909.
Although the farmer who owned the land where Gullfoss was located refused to sell, the Englishman found a way to proceed with his plan to dam the ravine by leasing the land through a legal loophole. Over the course of many decades, the farmer's daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, saved money to hire a lawyer and fought against the Englishman's plan to develop the area.
After numerous 100km journeys made by foot from Gullfoss to Reykjavik, Sigríður was finally successful in terminating the lease in 1929, leading to the return of Gullfoss to the Icelandic people. Sigríður is widely regarded as Iceland's first president and inaugural environmentalist.
During the first half of the 20th century and some years into the late 20th century, there was much speculation about using Gullfoss to generate electricity. During this period, the waterfall was rented indirectly by its owners, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson, to foreign investors. However, the investors' attempts were unsuccessful, partly due to lack of money.
The name “Gullfoss”
The name of the waterfall is Gullfoss, which means "golden waterfall". There are different possible reasons behind this name. According to one legend, a Viking threw his treasure into golden waterfalls the pool at the bottom of the waterfall to ensure that no one could enjoy his riches after his death.
One person suggests that the name of the place may have been inspired by the rainbows that appear in the water mist the white river on sunny days, which relates to the ancient Celtic belief that a pot of gold lies at the end of each rainbow. However, it is possible that the water flowing over the rocks may simply turn a golden-brown hue on sunny days as it carries sediment from the glacial valley.
The popular Golden Circle route in Iceland, which covers the country's biggest natural wonders, has been named after the Golden Falls. Therefore, this impressive and beautiful sight is highlighted as a prominent feature most popular tourist attractions on the route, regardless of the reason behind its name.
Where is Gullfoss waterfall?
As mentioned before, Gullfoss waterfall is a popular destination on the Golden Circle Route, which takes you from Reykjavik to Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, and the Geysir geothermal area. Gullfoss is typically the main attraction on this route. It's located in the Haukadalur Valley, on the Hvita River, and is approximately 107km (66 miles) away from Reykjavik. If you drive straight from the capital, it should take around 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Gullfoss.
How to get to Gullfoss waterfall?
If you're renting a car, you can easily drive on the well-maintained ring road to reach the waterfall from Reykjavik. The Golden Circle route, which is a famous day trip from Reykjavik, follows this route.
Driving in Iceland can be stressful during the harsh winter months when there is a lot of snow and blizzards can limit visibility. Consider joining an organized tour from Reykjavik to visit Gullfoss instead. Gullfoss is often included in Golden Circle tours, which offer a variety of other authentic Icelandic experiences. You could also try the Golden Circle and Lava Tunnel tour to fully embrace Iceland's "Land of Ice and Fire" persona.
There are two stages and many guided tour options available to visit Gullfoss, which is a popular sight in Iceland. You can choose to combine it with a snowmobile experience on a glacier, or opt for a slower-paced tour that includes a visit to the Fontana Wellness Centre.
How long is the walk to Gullfoss Waterfall?
If you're planning to visit Gullfoss waterfall, it's common for visitors to take the short, paved track to reach the viewing point where you can enjoy the main falls. It takes approximately five minutes to walk from the carpark to the viewing point, and the sight of the waterfall is truly breathtaking. Please note that there are some steps on the path, and it can be slippery during winter. Therefore, when choosing your footwear for the day, keep this in mind.
If you like longer walks, you can check out the viewing points of the upper and lower falls. There are 2.1 miles of trails that go past different parts of the waterfall. It would take approximately 30 minutes to explore every part of this route.
Is Gullfoss waterfall free?
Accessing Gullfoss waterfall is free of charge and there is also free parking available in the carpark. It is situated in the middle of the Golden Circle route and serves as a popular lunch spot. You may want to bring money for the café, which offers traditional Icelandic soups and sandwiches. Additionally, there is a shop on site that sells knitwear, outdoor gear, and souvenirs.
Do you get wet at Gullfoss waterfall?
Gullfoss is different from other popular waterfalls in Iceland as it falls into a ravine or canyon and can only be viewed from above. It is not visible from a distance and seems to disappear into the earth until you reach the canyon bottom edge. Unlike other waterfalls like Skaftafell and Skogafoss where you tend to get wet from water mist, visiting Gullfoss is unlikely to make you wet.
It is important to be prepared for Iceland's unpredictable weather, even in the summer when it can still rain. Bring a waterproof jacket, sturdy walking shoes, and something with a hood to avoid getting caught in a shower.
How much time do you need at Gullfoss waterfall?
If you only want to see the main falls and take a few photos, you can spend half an hour at Gullfoss. However, if you want to fully explore the area including the upper and lower viewing points, walk along the 2.1 miles of pathways, and grab some food at the café, you should plan on spending an hour or an hour and a half.
When is the best time to visit Gullfoss waterfall?
Gullfoss can be visited throughout the year and each season has its own advantages. During the summer months, the waterfall is even more impressive as it has a higher volume of water spilling over the rocks and into the ravine. Additionally, the lush green moss and wildflowers make for a beautiful summertime view. If you visit during the summer in Iceland, you'll experience the warmest weather and could even catch a glimpse of the midnight sun.
Visiting Gullfoss in winter can be just as dramatic as in other seasons. The surrounding landscape is frozen and covered in snow, which creates an ethereal view with icicles hanging from the rocks. However, be aware that the paths may be slippery and dress warmly.
Tours to Gullfoss waterfall and the Golden Circle in Iceland
Reykjavik Excursions offers tours to explore the sights of the Golden Circle in Iceland without the hassle of driving on your own. One of the tours is the Golden Circle Direct, which is ideal for those with limited time and covers the Þingvellir national park, Gullfoss, and Geysir, spending only 30 minutes at each location and returning to Reykjavik in just 6 hours.
For a more relaxed experience, you can opt for the Golden Circle and Friðheimar greenhouse tour, which offers more time at each stop and also includes lunch at the famous tomato greenhouse.
For those seeking adventure, it's recommended to add a monster truck experience on Langjokull glacier to their Golden Circle excursion. Witness the glacier that created the powerful Gullfoss ages before. Alternatively, a visit to Iceland, one of Iceland's main natural wonders can be a memorable experience combined with a leisurely dip in the Sky Lagoon.
There's nothing more delightful than finishing the sunny day off with a warm bath while admiring the wild Atlantic Ocean after an enjoyable day of hiking, waterfall spotting, and waiting for geysers to erupt.
A visit to Iceland is not complete without stopping at the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall. This natural wonder is over 5,000 years old and adds to the wild and beautiful landscape of Iceland. It has been featured in movies and even became a legal battle. Seeing the powerful waterfall cascade into the deep ravine is truly awe-inspiring.
A tour of the Golden Circle can include Þingvellir and Geysir in addition to these waterfalls, and it is easily accessible from Reykjavik. During winter, tours to see Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland can be more convenient than driving on snowy roads and provide a great opportunity to witness the famous falls firsthand.
Quick Tips For Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall
Any Time Of Day Is Perfect For Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall.
The best thing about Gullfoss Waterfall is that it's convenient to visit at any time of day. So, make sure to check it out whenever you have time. Additionally, the falls are positioned in a way that allows for unobstructed photography.
You don't have to arrive very early in the morning. When planning to photograph Gullfoss Waterfall, be sure to check the weather for the day of your visit. If it's going to be cloudy, you can visit at any time of the day. However, if there won't be any clouds, it's best to go during "golden hour," which is either during sunrise or sunset.
Stay On The Approved Trails And Walkways.
To stay safe while at Gullfoss, it is important to adhere to the caution signs and designated trails. Though deviating from the path for a better photo opportunity may be enticing, risking your life is not worth the photo.
Please exercise caution when visiting Gullfoss Waterfall as the ground can be unstable or uneven, and the power of the waterfall is quite strong. This is particularly true during winter when the snow may seem safe but can be deceiving. Unfortunately, there have been tourist deaths in Iceland, and the trails can become very slippery. It is important to ensure your safety and not put yourself or the Icelandic rescue team in danger.
Dress Appropriately When Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall.
To fully enjoy your visit to Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland, please wear appropriate clothing. The surrounding areas can be slippery and wet during summer and icy or slushy during winter. Many visitors have experienced discomfort due to improper footwear, so we recommend checking out our tried and true recommendations for the best jackets and shoes for Iceland.
Leave No Trace.
It's important to point out that as Iceland becomes more of popular tourist attractions, people tend to leave more trash behind which harms the environment. When visiting Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland, please make sure to leave no trace. If you're hiking, avoid littering, including cigarette butts. When you finish eating a candy bar or drinking from a plastic water bottle, take the trash with you until you find a trash or recycling bin. Let's work together to keep Gullfoss Waterfall clean and beautiful by being mindful of our trash.
You Don’t Have To Drive To Visit Gullfoss Waterfall.
Even if you don't want to drive, you can still visit Gullfoss Waterfall while planning a trip to Iceland. It's okay if you're only stopping over or don't feel comfortable renting a car or spending more money.
Tips For Photographing Gullfoss Waterfall
For those who want to take photos of Gullfoss Waterfall, here are some tips. The best lighting is during sunrise or sunset. However, if it is cloudy or there is inclement weather, any time of day is great for taking photos.
Gullfoss Waterfall is a fantastic photography location that looks stunning throughout the day. However, we recommend visiting when it's cloudy or moody to have the flexibility to take photos anytime without worrying about rushing around in the morning or evening.
In winter, certain viewpoints may be closed but the waterfall is still a beautiful focal point for photography. During warmer months, you can walk to a lower viewpoint that offers a unique perspective right above the beautiful waterfall itself. Gullfoss Waterfall is undeniably one of the top photo spots in Iceland!
5 Things To Know Before Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland
1. Gullfoss Waterfall Is Only 1.5 Hours From Reykjavik On The Golden Circle
2. Visiting Gullfoss Is Unique Because You View The Waterfall From Above Instead Of Below
3. Gullfoss Iceland Is Open Year Round, But Some Viewpoints Aren’t Always Accessible
4. Using The Restroom At Gullfoss Waterfall Costs Money…..But There Is A Hack!
5. Gullfoss Literally Translates To “Golden Falls” And It May Be Marked As Such On Your GPS
Visit Gullfoss With Golden Circle Day Tours!
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Here's our pick for you.
Small-Group Golden Circle Tour
Duration - 8 Hours
Price - ISK 11500 Per Person
The Gullfoss Waterfall is an amazing Icelandic wonder that has captivated people for generations. No matter how many times you visit Gullfoss, you will leave with a sense of awe and admiration each time. Gullfoss is definitely a must-see Icelandic destination that you don't want to miss during your trip! Book your Gullfoss trip right now with Golden Circle day Tours
How long is the hike to Gullfoss waterfall?
Enjoy this 1.4-km trail near Báskagabygg in the south. The easiest way usually takes 29mins.
What makes Gullfoss waterfall special?
Fact of a Gullfoss waterfall. It is because it has been glaciated waters so it contains a great deal of sediments carved by glacial ice over time. This 2-tier waterfall has an average cumulative 32m height (108 feet).
Do you need tickets for Gullfoss?
Admission to visit Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland is absolutely free. Gullfoss is one of the ideal places to visit for travelers travelling to Iceland at a relatively affordable price and there's a free parking option available for them. Toilet costs about 300 SK.
What is the legend of the Gullfoss waterfall?
Gullfoss means "golden waterfall" and has an association between two legends. One claims he dumped his treasure at the river to avoid anyone enjoying his day. The other said its name originated with the rainbows that appear over the pool during sunny days.
Is there an entrance fee for Gullfoss?
No, but there is a parking fee at the Gullfoss visitor center, which is used to maintain the area and facilities. Visitors can pay the fee at a self-service machine in the parking lot. If you are visiting on a guided tour, then the parking fee is included.