The Golden Waterfall of Iceland: Gullfoss

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February 20th 2011
Published: February 20th 2011
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Gullfoss, referred to as Golden Falls is perhaps the most famous waterfall in Iceland because of its size, volume and accessibility.  The Hvita River, coming off the Langjökull Glacier, falls 32 meters into a deep canyon that is hidden by a wall of mist.  The power of the falls is incredible, yet it is not the most powerful waterfall in Iceland, or even all of Europe – that would be Dettifoss.  The volume of water that spills over Gullfoss is 80-140 cubic meters/second. The sun shown on the day of our tour and dimmed right about the time we were arriving at Gullfoss, nonetheless, we caught two incredibly beautiful rainbows, providing an unparalleled spectacle of color and motion. I was as excited as a child gets when they see candy. The might of the falls could be felt far off to the rim of the viewing deck as the wind blew sending the water spray across the viewing points. Up close you can see the water is not all that clean, the discoloration is caused by sediments carried down as a result of carving of the earth by glacier ice. A safe walk way has been built for people to walk right up to the falls, while at the top of the falls is another viewing deck where a different vantage point is available for great photo opportunity.

The history of the waterfalls is an interesting one. It is said that the waterfall was once privately owned by Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of Tómas Tómasson in the first half of the 20th century. She is said to have lived at a farm nearby and loved Gullfoss with everything in her soul. About the same time there were rumors and speculation about the possibility of using the falls to harness hydro electric power. The building of a hydroelectric generator would have closed the fall to the public and changed the falls forever. Sigríður Tómasdóttir is said to have declined the purchase of the falls, protesting feverishly to the point of threatening to take her own life in favor of the falls remaining untamed. Thanks to her people like me were able to see the majesty of this beautiful wonder many centuries later.

There is a visitor center, restaurant and gift shop by the falls where you can get refreshments, purchase souvenirs, and eat the original Icelandic lamb soup. If you travel as part of the Golden Circle Tour, your ticket entitles you to a 10% discount on the lamb soup. I highly recommend you try it if you are not a vegetarian.

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