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Gullfoss in Iceland - The Golden Circle and its waterfalls

Gullfoss in Iceland is an incredibly dramatic waterfall that is best seen during the Golden Circle tour. The waterfall was actually once converted into a hydroelectric plant, but was saved at the last moment. Lucky for us that today we can experience Iceland's magical nature!


The Golden Circle in Iceland

The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route in south-west Iceland. Its popularity is perhaps not surprising! In a reasonably long day trip from Reykjavik, you can see some of the biggest sights in Iceland. The route is about 25 kilometres long, and you can travel by coach or your own car.

Island vägar

3 stops along the Golden Circle

There are three stops that are almost always included in a trip around the Golden Circle:

  1. Gullfoss waterfall is an impressively large waterfall, located at the far end of the so-called 'circle'.
  2. Geysir and Strokkur geysers is located in a geothermal area in the Haukadalur valley. Geysir has given its name to the "geyser" phenomenon, but today it is Strokkur that can be seen erupting. Strokkur erupts about every 5-7 minutes.
  3. Þingvellir National Parkor Tingvalla as it is sometimes written in Swedish, is located in the area where the continental plates meet. As well as the dramatic scenery, this is also the place where Iceland's parliament, the Alltinget, met between 930 and 1798.

In addition to these three, there are several other stops along the way. We stopped at the smaller waterfall Faxi, at the farm and restaurant Efstidalur II (the dot between Geysir and Þingvellir) and at the Laxness horse farm (the dot between the national park and Reykjavik). We had great weather and have soooo many photos from the trip, so we'll start by telling you about Gullfoss waterfall.

Golden Circle by minibus

We were a group of about 10 people (Swedish and Finnish travel bloggers) and made the trip with a minibus. We started by driving the longest distance towards the waterfalls Faxi and Gullfoss. This bus journey took about an hour, but you really don't get bored. It is completely fantastic to look out at nature through the windows.

Island natur
Island berg
Iceland mountain

Faxi waterfall

The Faxi waterfall was a perfect "warm-up" for what was to come. Located about 12 kilometres from Gullfoss, this waterfall is full of salmon. In other words, it's popular for fishing!

Vattenfallet Faxi

Gullfoss waterfall

Then we arrived at the big waterfall! Gullfoss is a waterfall in the river Hvítá in Suðurland, Iceland. The waterfall has a total height of 32 metres and falls in two stages, first 11 metres and then 21 metres into a gorge that is 20 metres wide and 2.5 kilometres long. Tourist attraction or not, it's cool to stand next to this mighty waterfall!

På väg mot Gullfoss
vattenfallet gullfoss
gullfoss vattenfall

17th century love story

It is not possible to wade across the waterfall, nor is it possible to cross with a horse. Nevertheless, there is a 17th century story about a bondson from Brattholt, who in summer guarded sheep on the river Hvítá.

On the other side, a girl from Hamarsholt sheep, and they could watch each other across the river. Eventually the girl plucked up the courage to ask the boy to cross the river for her. He managed to wade across (!) and the couple is said to have married and had many children.

Vattenfallet Gullfoss

Sigríður saved the waterfall

Around 1920, a hydroelectric power station was about to be built at Gullfoss, and we can thank Sigríður Tómasdóttir from the Brattholt farm for the fact that the waterfall still exists. A British company had leased Gullfoss from Sigríður's father for the purpose of construct a power plant dam. Sigríður hired a lawyer, Sveinn Björnsson, who later became President of Iceland, to cancel the lease and stop the construction.

Gyllene cirkeln

Sigríður used her own savings to fund the legal process and even threatened to commit suicide by jump into the waterfallbut despite all her efforts, she lost the case. Eventually, before construction began, the contract was cancelled because the British company had waited so long to pay the rent. Maybe they didn't want Sigríður's life on their conscience either?

In 1940, Sigríður's adopted son acquired Gullfoss and later sold the waterfall to the Icelandic state. In 1979 Gullfoss and its surroundings became nature reserveand now the waterfall is protected from exploitation. How lucky that this fantastic natural area never became a power station! Phew!

island gullfoss

Some tips for your visit

The Golden Circle and the Gullfoss waterfall are major tourist attractions in Iceland, and it's good to be prepared for the fact that you can not will be alone in nature. Although these places may be considered classic "tourist traps", they are certainly worth visiting! The least crowded, of course, is in the low season. Some tips:

  • Check the weather forecast if you are driving yourself. There are times when the wind is so strong that you should not go out.
  • It is often rainy and windy in Iceland. Pack a hat, mittens and wind and rainproof clothing!
  • Don't stop in the middle of the road to take pictures of cute horses, but make sure to pull over so you don't get in the way of traffic. Accidents happen sometimes.
Helena och Peter vid Gullfoss
Helena and Peter at Gullfoss in Iceland
All our top tips about Iceland. Click on the image!

Facts about Gullfoss

  • Find here: Gullfoss in Iceland is located in the Hvítá River in Suðurland, 116 kilometres from Reykjavik. You can get here by tourist bus or by hire car. There are regular roads all the way, and you don't need four-wheel drive.
  • Opening hours: The waterfall is part of nature and does not close. The opening hours of the visitor centre including the café may vary.
  • Prices: There is no charge to visit the waterfall, nor is there a parking fee. There is a café at the waterfall where you can shop. The toilets outside cost money, but the toilets in the visitor centre are free.
  • Accessibility: It's a few minutes walk from the car park to the waterfall, on a wooden walkway. The surface was slippery when we were here. There are toilets, unclear if these are accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Read more: You can find more information at Gullfoss website

This trip was a press trip, organised by Icelandair and the Food and Fun Reykjavik festival. All texts, photos and opinions are, as usual, our own.

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