Visiting the waterfall Gullfoss in Winter is one of the highlights of the Golden Circle in Iceland.
The powerful falls are captivating surrounded by snow.
Below is my guide to help you plan your winter visit with map, tips, photos and a video.
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Why visit Gullfoss in Winter?
The waterfall of Gullfoss is in 2 stages: the top section cascades on rocks over 11m (36ft) while the second section drops 21m (69ft) into a canyon.
I will share the different views of the waterfall you can enjoy, but let's start with my favorite in alignment with the canyon.
The average amount of water running over this waterfall is 140 m³/s in the summer time and 80 to 110 m³/s in the winter time. Quite impressive... This is why it is worth visiting it!
Video - Virtual tour
Below is a short video of my Winter visit to Gullfoss. If you want to see pictures of Gullfoss in Summer, head to this article.
Planning Tips & Map - Waterfall Gullfoss Iceland
How to get to Gullfoss - Map
- Located on the Golden Circle, North East of Reykjavik
- On road 35
- Reykjavik to Gullfoss = 2h drive
- Thingvellir to Gullfoss = 1h drive
- If you don't want to drive, you can book a day trip of the Golden Circle from Reykjavik - see options
- Below is a map of the Golden Circle to help you get oriented and locate Gullfoss:
Gullfoss is included in my Winter road trip guide to help you easily plan your itinerary:
Plan your perfect trip to Iceland in Winter!
- 6 easy-to-plan Maps
- 75+ pre-selected scenic locations
- Winter Accessibility + Planning Tips
- 115+ large photos to decide where to go
- GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
Accessibility in Winter
- This attraction is open in Winter
- The road and both carparks are cleared to allow access - easy to add to your Winter road trip
- Of course road closure can always happen due to snow and wind - check out the status on road.is
- As it is a very touristic spot, they clear the marked walking paths - but it can always get icy, so carry spikes (see options) that you can add on your shoes at any time
- One path is closed: the one going close to waterfall on the lower level.
Need to rent a car in Iceland?
- Option 1 - Local experts - Iceland has a lot of specificities and offerings by local companies are adapted - compare cars and prices of quality local brands on GuidetoIceland.com
- Option 2 - International Brands - compare offers on Discovercars.com - one of the best customer-rated comparison sites!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
- Visitor center at the upper carpark with food and toilets
- There is nothing at the lower carpark
- There are staircases between both levels
Where to stay nearby
There are no hotels or B&Bs right in the National Park. But 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
Gullfoss - Winter accessibility in photos
The Golden Circle is probably the most visited area after Reykjavik. The roads are cleared frequently all the way to both Gullfoss carparks : the upper and lower one.
Sorry I forgot to take a picture of the upper carpark.
At the upper carpark you can find a visitor center. Inside are restaurants, souvenirs and toilets.
Behind is where the path starts to the upper viewing platforms over the waterfall.
At the top, there are clear pathways to the viewpoint. The level of snow will vary from one day to the others, so always carry your spikes with you to add to your shoes if needed.
As you can see below, when I visited it was really easy, although a few area had ice and were slippery.
Between the upper and lower level viewpoints there is a staircase. It is in metal grid so it does not hold the snow. The stairs are quite easy.
But you can also take your car between both carparks.
Main upper platform
And now, let's talk about the views. The most visited is the upper viewing platform. It is part of the trail of Sigridur.
It is named in memory of Sigridur Tomasdottir because she is the reason you can see this view today. She lead a long fight to conserve it, so that no hydraulic plant was built to harness its power. The area became a nature reserve in 1970.
This is the view you can enjoy from the platform.
You can see the upper cascading flow and the top of the top in the canyon.
The water you see flowing arrives via the Hvita river. It is fed by the second biggest glacier Langjokull.
Below are a few pictures of Gullfoss where I zoomed on some features.
You can see how the snow is finding any surface it can stay on but the water is still flowing around it.
Gullfossgljufur - Canyon view
Let's head to my favorite view. Many people don't go further on the upper cliff and head to the staircase.
Don't make that mistake!
You only walk for a few minutes and then you 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.
With the pictures below you can understand why it is one of the top things to do in Iceland in Winter.
In Winter this is the best place to see the rush of the second level of the falls, since the lower path is closed.
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!
On the opposite side that gets less sun, ice has formed on the wall. This is quite a contrast to the rushing water.
Below I zoomed on it:
Gullfoss waterfall in Winter - Lower platform
Then you can head to the lower viewing platform.
I am sorry I forgot to count the steps. As you can see they are quite easy and in stages.
You can admire the waterfall from different angles. Just note that it is a little bit more slippery than the top section.
Below is the view from the lower viewpoint. It is quite similar to the upper viewpoint but with a lower angle.
If you are limited in time, I recommend the 2 upper viewpoints in priority.
On the left on the picture below you can see the walking path that leads closer to the waterfall. However it is closed in Winter as it would be very dangerous.
Closer to the carpark is a different angle where you can see the drop a bit more.
- What does Gullfoss mean?
It means the golden waterfall. However it is not clear why it is called that way. There are 2 theories.
Maybe it is because of the golden hue in the evening. Another story says it comes from a travel journal which states that a farmer had plenty of gold and he did not want anyone to own it after his death. So he threw it into the waterfall.
- Does Gullfoss freeze in Winter?
The waterfall never freezes entirely. There are more or less icicles forming
- How long to visit Gullfoss in Winter?
40min to walk around the 3 different viewpoints, more if you bring your tripod and take a lot of pictures.
- Do you have to pay to see Gullfoss?
Access to the waterfall of Gullfoss is free
- Can you drive the Golden Circle in Winter?
Absolutely. This is a tourist road that is cleared quite quickly. However snowstorms can always come quickly so check out the road status on road.is
Want to see more of Iceland in Winter:
- Best things to do in Iceland in Winter - read article
- 35 pictures of Iceland in Winter - read article
- Iceland Ice Cave Tours and tips - read article
- Tips for visiting Iceland in Winter - read article
- Planning an Iceland Winter Road Trip - read article
- Iceland Winter itinerary suggestions - read article
- Driving in Iceland in Winter - read article
Planning a trip to Iceland in Winter
Check out my travel guide to help you plan:
Plan your perfect trip to Iceland in Winter!
And keep track of your own trip!
Want to see more of ICELAND IN WINTER
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