The Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland is one of the most famous locations on the island.
The falls are a two-step 32m drop on the Hvítá river: impressive even with bad weather!
Below is my guide to help you plan your visit with map, photos and tips.
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Why visit the Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland?
The Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland is one of the iconic Icelandic waterfalls.
Located on the Hvítá river which is fed by the country's second biggest glacier, the Langjökull.
Some people compare its beauty to the Niagara Falls. I recognize that its shape is more intriguing and the fact that it is surrounded only by nature is better. However it is not as impressive.
With Thingvellir and the geysers of Haukadalur, it forms the Golden Circle Iceland.
This article about Gullfoss in Spring, Summer and autumn. For information about visiting Gullfoss in Winter, head to this article.
The river rushes southward but about one kilometer above the falls it turns sharply to the right and flows down into the 32m crevice (105 ft) in two stages (11m and 21m). The average amount of water running over this waterfall is 140 m³/s in the summertime and 80 m³/s in the wintertime.
Its 20th century history is considered as the first environmentalist fight in Iceland: protecting the waterfalls vs generating power from it. Its area was designated as nature reserve in 1979.
Planning tips & Map - Gullfoss, Iceland
Where is Gullfoss located - map
- On the Golden Circle, north east of Reykjavik.
- From Geysir, continue east on Route 35 for approximately 8.5 km.
- Reykjavik to Gullfoss = 2h drive
- Thingvellir to Gullfoss = 1h drive
- Below is a map to help you get oriented:
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How to get to Gullfoss carpark
It is one of the main touristic road in the country. So it is very easy to access.
It is very well indicated. You can't miss it!
It remains accessible in Winter, this is one of the main roads to be cleared when it snows.
0.5km before arriving you can either turn right to the lower parking or continue on 35 to the main parking.
If you don't want to drive, Guided day trips can take you there on a Golden circle tour - See options and availabilities
Need to rent a car in Iceland?
directly see the best deals on my favorite platform
- From the upper carpark: easy walking paths to 2 viewpoints
- From the lower carpark: easy path leads up close to the big drop and to the higher part of the waterfall. Be careful with the mist it can be slippery. The lower viewpoint is open, but the path is closed during winter
- At the upper carpark there is a visitor center with toilets, food and souvenirs.
- There are steps between both levels.
- Don’t forget to bring protection gear for your camera, it can get very misty
- On a sunny day, you can be lucky and see rainbows
- More info on the official website for Gullfoss
Where to stay?
You can find nice options South of the lake and on the Golden circle.
- I personally stayed at the Geysir Cottages next to the Haukadalur geothermal area (not far from Thingvellir on the Golden circle) . The food was tasty in a room with atmosphere. The room was comfy and clean. It allowed me to go early to the geyser before all the tourists arrived - Check out photos and book
- Or you can have a look at the best rated accommodations on the Golden Circle
- Or head to Selfoss, if you are on your way to the South Coast after the Golden Circle - see best rated accommodations
- Or head to Fludir near the secret lagoon - see accommodations
View of Gullfoss - Lower section
This is the view of the waterfall from the lower carpark.
You can see the path getting up close to the Gullfoss waterfall Iceland and the silhouette of people to give you an idea of proportions.
The sound of the rushing water is impressive.
Walking path to get close to the waterfall
As you walk closer to the waterfall the noise becomes impressive.
The path is easy and well-maintained (but not accessible in Winter).
The path comes really really close to the big 21m drop. Be careful the mist makes it slippery. This was my favorite spot on the path where you realise the power of this waterfall.
End of the path
Continuing on the path, you arrive close to the rapids section of the waterfall. This is prettier but not as dramatic.
By the time I got there the light was bad and I was not able to get a good image...
Staircase between carparks
That's the staircase between the 2 levels. This picture was taken in Winter, sorry, I forgot to take a picture during Summer... but it is the same staircase...
Upper viewing platforms - Sigridur trail
The most visited is the upper viewing platform. It is on the trail called Sigridur.
It is named in memory of Sigridur Tomasdottir. You can enjoy this view today thanks to her. She lead a long fight to preserve and protect the Gullfoss waterfalls.,The plan was to harness the power of the falls with an hydraulic plant was built but she did all she could to block it. And the area became a nature reserve in 1970.
View from the platform
In the picture below is the view you can enjoy from the platform.
You can see the upper flow cascading at the top in the canyon.
The flow starts in the second biggest glacier Langjokull, creating the Hvita river.
Gullfossgljufur - Canyon view
Now, let's head to my favorite view.
Many people don't go further that the platform on the upper cliff. They turn around and head to the staircase.
Don't make the same mistake!
Keep walking for a few minutes and then you look right and discover the canyon.
I love how narrow it is at its base, like a deep cut in the Earth.
At some point the walls of the canyon Gullfossgljufur reach 70m in height (230ft). According to geologists, it may have been created by glacial outbursts during the last Ice Age.
And if you walk to the really end of the path you can see the Hvita river before it drops into the falls.
When the sun shines, it sparkles!
Gullfoss in Winter
Gullfoss and the Golden Circle remain accessible in Winter.
The walking paths are cleared as much as possible. The main difference is that the trail to get closer to the waterfall is closed in Winter for safety reason.
You can see my photos, tips and video in my article about Gullfoss in Winter.
Want to see more of the best Iceland has to offer?
- All my favorite things to do in North Iceland - read article
- Tips to plan your Iceland road trip - read article
- Tips to rent a car in Iceland - read article
- Tips to drive around Iceland - read article
- Itinerary suggestions - read article
- 45 Most beautiful landscapes in Iceland in pictures - read article
- The best stops on the Ring Road - read article
- The best locations off the beaten path around Iceland - read article
- 21 Most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland - read article
- Top 5 places to see around Myvatn - read article
- 5 best Lava Fields in Iceland - read article
- The 10 best lava caves in Iceland - read article
- The 5 most beautiful black sand beaches in Iceland - read article
- The Snaefellsnes peninsula - read article
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