Gullfoss (The Golden Waterfall) in the river Hvítá is probably one of the best-known landmarks in Iceland. The Icelanders, being keen travelers themselves, will insist it is the most beautiful waterfall in the world. That is, of course, debatable but, beautiful it is and has made it to many lists of the most beautiful waterfalls on the planet. Hvítá river is a glacial river. Its source is in Hvítárvatn by the Langjökull glacier in the Icelandic Highland. The river rushes 40 km from the Highlands before cascading into a two-step gorge at the Gullfoss waterfall; with one step being 11 m high and the other step 22 m high.
Like many places in Iceland Gullfoss has its folklore
Upriver from Gullfoss, you'll find beautiful and dangerous rapids that only the foolhardy will try to cross. And some have. One of them was a young man who was overseeing his father's livestock on the river's west bank. On the opposite site, a young woman had the same duty to her family. By and by they started communicating by shouting to each other over the water's cacophony. As fate would have it, they fell in love, and the young man shouted a proposal across the river. The young woman accepted on one condition: that he crosses the river to seal their engagement. That he did, and they lived happily ever after.
The farmer's daughter that saved the waterfall
In the 20th century, a farmer who held the Hvítá water rights contracted Gullfoss to an English firm with a plan to build a hydroelectric power station. The farmer's daughter became so incensed that she threatened to throw herself into the falls if her father didn't withdraw the contract. She fought this impending disaster alone until a young lawyer – who later became Iceland's first president – joined her. Together they managed to save the waterfalls. In 1978, the farmer's daughter was commemorated by a monument by her much beloved Gulfoss.
Access is easy and part of the popular route Golden Circle
As Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland and with Þingvellir and Geysir is part of the popular route Golden Circle. Gullfoss is usually quite crowded during high season in summer, at least during the day. There are two parking lots, and both give a good view of the waterfall. Our preference for viewing is the lower parking lot. A great place to get good photos and probably the best angle for photography. Walking near this powerful waterfall requires caution, especially during winter when the walking paths are slippery as well as the area near the waterfall. From Reykjavík, you drive to Mosfellsbær village on the Ring Road Nr. 1. When passed Mosfellsbær you turn east on Þingvallavegur Nr. 36 all the way to Lyngdalsheiðavegur Nr. 365 to the tiny village Laugarvatn. From Laugarvatn you take the road Nr. 37, Laugarvatnsvegur to Road Nr. 35 that will get you to Gullfoss waterfall.