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The History and Sights of Gullfoss Waterfall

Continuing Day 1 of my Highlights of Iceland self-drive tour.

Next stop: Gullfoss Waterfall

Iceland Ring Road

Gullfoss is often considered Iceland’s “most famous” waterfall, which is really saying something, because this country is freaking overflowing with waterfalls, but Gullfoss has the history and beauty to make its fame well-deserved.

Dramatic history

While I was trying to look up the height of the falls, I found some pretty intense history about Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who was the daughter of Tómas Tómasson, the owner of Gullfoss in the 20th century. According to

“At this period of time much speculation about using Gullfoss to harness electricity was going on. Foreign investors who rented Gullfoss indirectly from the owners wanted to build a hydroelectric powerplant, which would have changed and destroyed Gullfoss forever.

As the story goes it’s thanks to Sigríður Tómasdóttir that we still can uplift ourself with the beauty of Gullfoss, because she was the one that protested so intensly against these plans by going as far to threat that she would throw herself into Gullfoss and therby kill herself.”
When I first read it, I thought, surely, it was just a folk legend. Did this girl really use a Kelly Kapoor-style tactic to save Gullfoss?


Sigríður was a total badass

Apparently, this woman and her mission are totally real. She led protests to save the falls, and even walked from the falls to Reykjavik (120km/74.5 miles) barefoot, using her bloodied feet to prove that she was serious. Eventually, with the help of her lawyer, Sveinn Bjornsson (Who later became the first president of Iceland) she won the fight and Gullfoss remained open to the public.

Show some respect. Go see this waterfall

So now that you know that this woman was ready to fling herself into the depths of these falls for the sake of saving them for future generations, you really have to go see them. Seriously, don’t be an asshole. Show some respect.
Gullfoss waterfall

The deal with Gullfoss

Gullfoss’s orgin is in the glacier lake Hvítávatn at Lángjökull glacier. Due to the sediment from glaciers, the water has a brownish color. Gullfoss is sometimes called the “Golden Falls” because when the sun shines on the water, it can take on a golden hue. Sadly, the day I visited, the sun was nowhere to be seen.
Gullfoss is actually contains two waterfalls, the upper fall drops about 11 meters (26 feet) and the second drops 21 meters (68 feet). You can see both of the falls from several different view points at different levels.Just make sure you are ready to get wet from the mist and be careful on the slippery rocks. I saw plenty of people have some pretty terrifying slips while standing precariously close to the edge.

Standing right next to the beginning of the falls.

Standing right next to the beginning of the falls.


The drop!

The drop!


The two separate falls. Notice the people higher up on the left, as well as people walking on the lower path to get to different view points

The two separate falls. Notice the people higher up on the left, as well as people walking on the lower path to get to different view points


Getting There

Gullfoss is a part of the Golden Circle, which is an easy day tour for anyone staying in Reykjavik. Gullfoss only a short drive from the first stop along the Golden Circle, Geysir Hot Spring Area. It’s easily accessible via route no. 35. If you are not based in Reykjavik, it’s still a highly recommended detour off the Ring Road (route no. 1). Seriously guys, do it for Sigríður.

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