You’ve no doubt heard of Gullfoss Waterfall as part of Iceland’s larger Golden Circle route. Along with Thingvellir National Park and Haukadalur Geothermal Valley, this beautiful Iceland waterfall is considered one of the Big Three. Iceland’s golden waterfall is one that you definitely do not want to miss. And because it’s so close to the country’s capital, it makes a perfect day trip from Reykjavik.
This is one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls and when you visit, you’ll understand why. Its first unique feature is that it has not one but two drops. The Hvítá river flows from Langjökull glacier before reaching the first cascade of 36 feet (11 meters). It takes a dramatic right turn and then continues its journey another 230 feet (70 meters) over the edge into the massive Gullfossgjúfur canyon.
The Hvítá river canyon houses one of the few of Iceland’s 10,000+ waterfalls that has this special double drop structure. Geologists believe that glacial activity during the last Ice Age formed this stunning natural wonder in Southwest Iceland.
It’s especially beautiful in the winter on the frozen landscapes that make it look like something out of a snow globe. When it gets cold enough, Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland actually freezes, which leaves it in an awe-inspiring state of suspended animation.
Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland: What’s in a Name?
Let’s take a look at some Gullfoss Waterfall facts. You’ve no doubt heard people call Gullfoss “The Golden Waterfall”. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with buried treasure hidden around its flowing waters. Gullfoss translates to Golden Falls (gull = golden + foss = falls) due to its color.
When you visit Gullfoss Waterfall in the summer, you’ll notice something unusual. As the sun’s rays shine through its water, there’s a bit of a golden tint. This is thanks to the sediment and other sand particles that give Gullfoss its particular glow.
It has a strong current, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting sprayed by the mist of the water. This also causes the waterfall to have rainbows, so be sure to pack your camera and waterproof protection. You want to go up close but you definitely don’t want your phone or expensive photography equipment to get drenched by the spray.
How to Get There
The 72-mile (116 km) drive to Gullfoss Waterfall from Reykjavik takes about one hour and 45 minutes. This assumes that you haven’t stopped beforehand at Thingvellir National Park or Strokkur and Geysir. As Gullfoss is the last stop of the three, this is more to give you an estimate about how long it will take you to arrive in general.
You’ll follow a series of roads out of Reykjavik (Route 49, Route 36, Route 365, Route 37, and Route 35). Eventually, Route 35 is the one that leads you to Gullfoss Waterfall parking. It’s a paved road and although it’s not well signaled, you will see other cars parked in the lot, so it’s hard to miss. There’s a small restaurant and visitor’s center with information and tours. Find a spot to park and then just follow the people walking toward the falls.
The Gullfoss Waterfall opening hours are from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm and you can visit any day of the year. That being said, on holidays like Christmas or New Year’s, they may close as early as 4:30 or 5:00 pm. It’s considered a free, public open space so you can technically visit 24/7, but it’s best to stick to the publicized opening hours. You never know if you might run into trouble when there is no staff on site.
Like many of Iceland’s natural wonders, the Gullfoss Waterfall entrance fee is zero. In some places, you have to pay for parking but access to the falls themselves is absolutely free.
Most of the visitors coming to Iceland’s Gullfoss Waterfall will be visiting as part of the Golden Circle route. But that doesn’t mean those are the only three things to do in the area. because you’re so close to Langjökull glacier, why not take a visit? You’ll find some exciting activities like ice tunnel trekking or snowmobiling across the glacier’s icy surface. It’s an out-of-the-way destination that offers many of the thrills of more frequented locations like Skaftafell glacier.
There are also all of the additional detours along the Golden Circle like Kerid Crater and Laugarvatn Fontana Spa and Wellness center. There are just under a dozen stops in total on a comprehensive Golden Circle tour.
Gullfoss the Golden Waterfall
Whichever stops you decide to make while driving this spectacular tourist circuit in Iceland, Gullfoss should be on the top of your list. This is one of the many picturesque waterfalls that you’ll see in Iceland. So soak up every minute and try not to get too wet from the spray.