Gullfoss, or Golden Falls, is perhaps Iceland's most famous waterfall. And for good reason as it is amazing - comparable to Niagara in terms of size and power. It is part of the popular Golden Circle route, so it tends to be crowded. We visited Gullfoss with Iceland Guided Tours on the Golden Circle Tour. Gullfoss is actually two waterfalls, with the upper falls being 11 m and the lower falls 20 m. Past Gullfoss, the river Hvítá runs through Gullfoss Gorge, which is 2.5 km long and 70 m deep. Gullfoss is fairly easy to get to for a day trip from Reykjavík and really a must-do for anyone visiting Iceland. It located right off Route 35 just a few km past Geysir in a protected Nature Reserve. There are two parking areas. The lower lot is closest to the gorge and has great viewing spot of both tiers of the falls from a distance. Since it's so big, its hard to see the whole thing close up. A trail from here runs along the gorge to the falls where a rock outcrop sticking out in between the two tiers of the falls provides another viewing spot that allows visitors to get an up-close view of the power of the falls. Be warned that you will get wet. There is a lot of mist from the falls, but its definitely worth it to get a good view. Also, be careful as the rocks on the outcrop will be wet and slippery. The upper parking lot has a gift shop, restaurant, and restrooms as well as an upper trail with two more viewing spots of the falls. If you visit on a sunny day, you may be lucky enough to see a rainbow. We visited on an overcast day and didn't get to see it, but the falls were still amazing.
Faxi is a waterfall near Gullfoss and Geysir on the popular Golden Circle route. We visited this waterfall on our tour of the Golden Circle with Iceland Guided Tours. When we stopped, the tour guide told us this is the "small" one. Faxi is quite wide, but not real high - maybe 5 m or so. But nonetheless, it didn't seem like a small waterfall to me. After visiting Gullfoss later on, I understand why this one is considered small. As such, it's probably best to visit this one first, before seeing Gullfoss, or it won't seem nearly as impressive. And unlike Gullfoss, this one gets a lot less traffic, so you won't see the crowds of people. Anyway, Faxi is a very nice waterfall and definitely worth the stop on the Golden Circle route.
Gullfoss, or Golden Falls, is Iceland's top tourist attraction, and with good reason. Trails take you up close and personal to the Upper and Lower Falls. The volcanic nature of Iceland is visible in the outflow valley of the falls with sides of columnar basalt. It is an easy day trip from Reykjavik. Many travellers will combine this with Thingvellir national park as a part of the Golden Circle. We did this as a part of a cruise ship excursion.
From the upper parking lot by Gullfoss restaurant and Sigríðarstofa you have a good view of Langjökull glacier which is 1355 m and the second largest glacier in Iceland.
You can get guided tours on the glacier. Never go unaccompanied on Langjökull glacier, there have been fatal accidents there. And even experienced Icelanders have had trouble there. In the year 2010 one of my schoolmates fell into a crevasse there with her young son. He survived but she died and a rescue team had to go into the crevasse to get them out. This is extremely dangerous and due to global warming the glaciers are changing.
Immediately when you pass the lower waterfall there is a big sill from where you reach the upper waterfall. That waterfall is beautiful as well as you are so very close to it. The cascade is not big, but still the closeness to it and the lower waterfall make this a breathtaking experience.
I have added a photo from above of the sill and people on it in my 3rd tip here.
There are two parking lots by Gullfoss, take the first right turn for the falls themselves, and follow the road for the upper level where Sigríðarstofa and the restaurant are located. If you arrive at the upper level there are steps leading to the lower level.
There is a breathtaking view from the lower parking lot. And there is a path leading straight to the waterfalls from the lower level, and in parts it is slippery and one can get soaked by the drizzle from the falls (see my last photo). But a lot of people go down to the falls and it is easy walking there, and a breathtaking experience.
The falls are divided into two, but the lower falls are the most impressive ones. When you get closer to the falls you can watch the lower level from above, that is my absolute favourite view fo the falls. I have been here so many times, but Gullfoss never ceases to amaze me.
There is a "museum" in remembrance of Sigríður Tómasdóttir (1871-1957), the saviour of Gullfoss, by the upper parking lot by Gullfoss, right next to Gullfoss Café. It is called Sigríðarstofa and there you can read about Sigríður´s heroic act on saving Gullfoss.
Gullfoss was contracted to foreigners by the farmer, Tómas, who owned this land. They wanted to use Gullfoss for a hydroelectric power station!! The farmer's daughter, Sigríður in Brattholt, put on a big fight to save Gullfoss and threatened to throw herself into the waterfall as soon as the first ground would be broken. This is a long story but little by little the contractors lost interest in Gullfoss and stopped paying the rent. We are really thankful to Sigríður for her fight and now Gullfoss belongs to the Icelandic nation. She has now got her monument in the canyon (raised in 1978) as well as Sigríðarstofa.
There is a beautiful view of Gullfoss on the upper level where the restaurant and Sigríðarstofa are located. There is both a platform there and a path leading further alongside the waterfall, i.e. above the waterfall.
I recommend going there as well to see a different view of the waterfall. You can see the sill to the upper level of the waterfall on my 4th photo with a lot of people on it.
These photos are taken at two different times, as you can see on some of the photos the water is blue, but on the photos I took in the summer of 2010 the water is muddy, seeing that the river is a glacial river.
From August 2007:
Gullfoss waterfall is about an hour drive from Selfoss. There are 2 parking lots.
The lower parking lot (the right driveway) is closer to the waterfall. Take the trail to the fall and you will stand right next to it. You can also walk to the right along the fall to see the lower part better.
The upper parking lot (the left driveway) is on the level of the top of the waterfall and has a shop and bathroom facilities.
Gullfoss (The Golden waterfall) is Iceland's most famous waterfall, and one of the natural
wonders of the world. Gullfoss is also Europe’s most powerful waterfall.
The enormous white glacial cascade drops 32 metres into a narrow canyon which is 70 metres deep and 2.5 kilometres long. Gullfoss is actually two separate waterfalls, the upper one has a drop of 11 metres and the lower one 21 metres.
On certain days you might be lucky enough to see the waterfall in colours: often the rainbow(s) colour it in an breathtaking way.
As you make your way down the "low road," you get a better and better view of the lower half of the falls. Obviously, as you get closer, you can't quite see the entire two-tiered falls (or can't photograph it, anyway...), but you get to see more detail in one section; in this case, the lower falls.
If you can draw your eyes away from the falls for a minute or two, turn around and look at the view inland. If the weather is clear, you can get an excellent view of the Langjökull glacier. If you have a telephoto lens, you can probably get excellent shots of it. For me, I had to settle for my 4x Zoom, but the photos still came out OK.
While you can get quite up close and personal with the falls on the lower path, you also get a scenic perspective from the high path. The falls are simply magnificent from this perch; we enjoyed a number of angles, as you can see.
When you get to Gullfoss, you'll find there are two possible paths. If you take the first right turn off the road, you'll find yourself in a lower parking lot, next to a "low" path to the falls. If you take the second right turn, you'll end up in an upper parking lot, next to the restaurant, the park center, and WCs -- as well as a "high" path overlooking the falls. If you do the latter, you can still get to the "low" path via stairs. Along the "low" path are several viewpoints with breathtaking views of the falls as you approach. Beware: the falls can splash on parts of the trail. Be sure to protect yourself (and your camera) from the water.
Gulfoss isn't the largest or the highest waterfall in Iceland, but it is certainly the most famous. The well-known Golden Circle Tour that you can take from Reykjavik gets its name from the Golden Waterfalls that you see here.
I was here on a cold and wet day in April, so I didn't see any "golden" hues here, but I did see a very impressive waterfall, despite the wet weather and biting cold wind. It wasn't the most physically comfortable environment and the wind and rain made it hard to capture any good photos, but these waterfalls are indeed worth the suffering. Some waterfalls are worthy only of a quick look and seem to be picturesque, yet minor, interruptions in the flow of a mighty river. Others are the main attraction and far surpass the beauty of the river itself. Gulfoss is definitely the latter and should be appreciated for its power and beauty.
It was so cold that I neglected walking up to the upper viewing platform, but don't make that mistake. Check it out and take some pictures and then send me an email so I can see what I missed!