Gullfoss Waterfall is one of Iceland’s most popular and most visited attractions. Along with Þingvellir National Park and Geysir, Gullfoss is part of the Golden Circle, a popular sightseeing tour for many Iceland tourists. Gullfoss is the farthest point on the Golden Circle and is about an hour and a half drive from Reykjavik.
Gullfoss, translated Golden Falls, gets its name from the golden hue of the falls that is often present. The golden hue comes from the many sediments churned up by the river and massive falls. The enormous amounts of water at the falls come from Langjökull, Iceland’s second-largest glacier.
There are two sections to Gullfoss, an upper section, and a lower section where the water falls into the dramatic Gullfossgjúfur Canyon on the Hvítá river.
The waterfall is the site of one of Iceland’s most successful preservation efforts. In the early 1900s, foreign investors sought to harness the powerful waterfall for hydroelectric power. But a local farm girl, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, tenaciously lobbied against the efforts. At one point, Sigríður even threatened to throw herself into the falls. In the end, her efforts were successful and she is now regarded as the nation’s first environmentalist.
Despite the cold, howling wind on my visit, I really enjoyed Gullfoss. With both an upper and a lower falls, and a prominent viewing point in the middle, you can really get close to the action. And the view down the canyon is epic. Of the three major attractions on the Golden Circle, I visited Gullfoss last, after Geysir. The timing worked out well. It was the middle of the afternoon and the sun was shining bright. Afterwards I headed to Efstidalur Farm (highly recommended) for my overnight stay in the area.
Gullfoss Waterfall Photos
There is a shop and restaurant at the falls, but no ticket booth as admission to Gullfoss Waterfall is free. The waterfall is open to the public 24/7. The shop and restaurant are open most of the day (check Google for current hours).
The waterfall is about a ten to fifteen minute walk from the shop. The path includes a raised boardwalk, stairs and a paved walkway.
There is a natural viewing area between the upper and lower falls.
You can look straight down Gullfossgjúfur Canyon from the viewing area.
Water repellent clothing is recommended due to the mist and spray from the falls. On the day of my visit there was a freak summer wind with winds gusting perhaps 30mph or more. In fact, it was the windiest place I have ever visited. Not sure if wind is always a factor at Gullfoss, but be prepared for wind and cold.
A close-up shot of the upper falls shows the massive power of Gullfoss.
“Gullfoss is like no other!”