The golden waterfall of Iceland
Gullfoss waterfall is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland mostly because of its location in the Southwest of Iceland in the Golden Circle route, a famous sightseeing route that many tourists choose to follow when they come to Iceland.
The waterfall is enormous. It has formed by floodwaters that forced their way through basalt lava columns and it has two falls, the smaller one is 11 meters (36 feet), and the second and the bigger one is 21 meters (69 feet). The water flow is different depending on the seasons. Therefore, during the summer the water flow is about 140 cubic meters (459 cubic feet) every second and during the winter the water flow drops to about 109 cubic meters (358 cubic feet) every second. Knowing this, you will not be surprised by the power of this waterfall and the water spray, of which you will need a rain jacket if you get too close.
Before flowing into the Hvítá river canyon, the Gullfoss waterfall is fed by the river with the same name as the canyon. Both walls of this canyon reach up to 70 meters in height (230 feet). Then the waterfall descends into the great Gullfossgjúfur canyon.
The origin of the Gullfoss waterfall name has three stories: one says that the waterfall has its name from the golden hue that shines in its glacial waters under the sun.
The other story says that the name of the waterfall was given because of the rainbow that forms due to the water spray of the waterfall.
The third story of the waterfall’s name says that the name Gullfoss was found in a travel journal belonging to Sveinn Pálsson. According to gullfoss.is, in the travel journal was written that: “Once upon a time, a farmer named Gýgur lived at Gýgjarhóll. He had plenty of gold and could not bear the thought of someone else possessing it after his lifetime. To prevent this, he placed the gold in a coffer and threw it into the waterfall.”
The history of the Gullfoss waterfall is very interesting. There is a story about a girl named Sigríður Tómasdóttir is considered to be the protector of the Gullfoss Waterfall. “She was born 24th of February 1871 and she died in the Autumn of 1957, aged 87. She lived all her life in Brattholt, a farm that still exists today, and was the second eldest of 13 children born from Margrét Pórðardóttir, a housewife and Tómas Tómasson, a farmer on that same farm.” Gullfoss.is
Tourism around the Gullfoss waterfall started as far back as 1875 but access to it was difficult. Sigríður and her sisters often guided the tourists to the waterfall and also build the first trail to the waterfall. At that time the waterfall was owned by Tómas Tómasson, Sigríður’s father. The waterfall becomes famous and because of its power, some foreign investors wanted to buy the land and use the waterfall as a power generator. When Sigríður found out about this, she took the investors to the court and she fought to protect the waterfall, even threatening to throw herself in the river. She was helped in the court by a lawyer that later became the first president of an independent Iceland in 1944. Their fight in the court against the investors had success and the investors gave up on their plan of buying the land and using the waterfall as a power generator.
After her efforts to protect the waterfall, Sigríður Tómasdóttir is one of the most famous figures in Iceland’s history. At the top of the Gullfoss waterfall, there is also a stone with a plaque detailing Sigríður’s story.
Gullfoss waterfall is visited on every Golden Circle tour. To get there you have to drive east from Reykjavik for about one hour and a half.
You can visit the waterfall every day from 9:30 to 18:30.