Southwest Iceland is home to Gullfoss, also known as the Golden Waterfall, which was designated as a nature reserve in 1979 and shines amid an untouched natural landscape. This awe-inspiring cascade is fed by Langjökull, the volcanic island’s second biggest glacier, and flows from the White River into a craggy canyon formed by a massive flood during the last Ice Age. Read on for a closer look at this captivating landmark—one of the most famous falls in all of Iceland.
The brownish water of this glacier-fed “Golden Waterfall” is the source of Gullfoss’ popular nickname: on nice days, the sunshine transforms the breathtaking cascade and makes the sediment-filled water look golden.
Gullfoss provides a mineral-rich water supply that sustains lush vegetation for sheep to graze on, and is noted as a popular highlight of Iceland’s Golden Circle. Other must-visit spots along this famous sightseeing route include Thingvellir National Park and the Great Geysir Geothermal Area.
This fast-flowing waterfall descends over 100 feet in two tiers—it falls for 36 feet, then abruptly turns 90 degrees and falls for 69 feet over a second tier. The average rate of the water can get as high as 5,000 cubic feet per second in the summer, and its impact on the soft rock at Gullfoss’ base has created deep depressions called “plunge pools.”
If you visit this spectacular waterfall, take a peek at the monument erected for Sigriður Tómasdóttir. She was the daughter of a farmer who owned the site in the early 20th century. As the story goes, her quest to save Gullfoss from development for hydroelectricity by foreign investors opened people’s eyes to the importance of preserving this natural wonder.