Gullfoss

Explore the pathways and history leading to one of Iceland’s greatest waterfalls.

South Iceland
The Gullfoss waterfall in wintertime
The Gullfoss waterfall in summertime
The Gullfoss waterfall in wintertime
Best time to visit
All year
Open
Every day
Parking
Free
Charging station
No

Cascading white water and a fast-flowing stepped river make the Gullfoss falls unforgettable

Iceland has thousands of waterfalls, but perhaps none is as famous as the Gullfoss waterfall. It’s is one of the 3 main stops on the Golden Circle tour in Iceland.

The waterfall is well known for its beauty and power, but also for the history surrounding it. Whichever interests you more, you won’t want to miss on seeing this spectacular feature when visiting Iceland!

With its steep-sided canyon and stepped descent from the top of Gullfoss, the water from the Hvítá river rushes through to create an amazing sight. 

A 90-degree bend in the canyon forces the water to crash down into the valley below. This makes Gullfoss one of the more powerful and famous waterfalls in Iceland. 

Whether you’re visiting in winter or summer, seeing Gullfoss up close is a sight you’ll never get tired of. Book onto a day tour to see the waterfall and you won’t regret it.

Keen to visit the famous golden falls on your trip to Iceland? We’ve answered some key FAQs for you below to help you get started.

Other attractions near Gullfoss

The Strokkur geyser erupting in winter against a sunset

Geysir and Strokkur

Experience the power of nature first-hand when you visit the geothermal areas of Geysir and Strokkur.

10 km (6 mi)

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Þingvellir National Park, Iceland, in autumn colors

Þingvellir National Park

Step back in time and see Iceland’s natural and cultural history up close at this major historic site.

70 km (43 mi)

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The Tjörnin pond in Reykjavík in summer

Downtown Reykjavík

Immerse yourself in culture, cuisine, and heritage at the beating heart of the Icelandic capital.

116 km (72 mi)

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The town of Akranes with mountains in the distance

Akranes

Visit the outdoor folk museum and a historic lighthouse in this cute coastal town.

130 km (81 mi)

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FAQs about Gullfoss

Gullfoss is one of the largest and most famous waterfalls in Iceland. It stands out from others in Iceland with its 2 stepped drops, and a 90 degree turn as the water descends into the valley below.

The name means ‘Golden Falls. The name comes from how light shines down the canyon, with the water spray looking golden on a sunny day.

Gullfoss waterfall can be found in the Haukadalur valley, on the Hvítá river. The valley is part of Þingvellir National Park, and the waterfall is an unmissable stop on any Golden Circle tour.

The waterfall has a visitor center with a café and toilet facilities. You’ll also find clearly marked paths leading to the falls. Some paths are closed in the winter months, so visit in summer if you want to get really up close to the falls.

Like many of Iceland’s waterfalls, Gullfoss and the valley were formed (at least in part) by glaciers and glacial flooding during the last ice age.

When you see how the Haukadalur valley carves its way through the landscape, it’s hard to imagine the sheer volume of water and ice needed to create it!

Gullfoss is split into 2 tiers. The first is a shorter cascade around 11 m (36 ft) tall, and the second part a much steeper 21 m (69 ft), giving Gullfoss a total drop of 32 m (105 ft). The two parts of the waterfall are what give it the distinctive stepped appearance you can see when visiting.

Gullfoss is impressive, and you could easily think it’s the largest waterfall in Iceland. However, the title for that goes to Dettifoss in North Iceland. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and the widest in Iceland, at 100 m (almost 330 ft).

The tallest falls in Iceland are Morsárfoss, standing at 228 m (750 ft) high! However, you can’t reach it easily, and the waterfall has only existed since 2007.

Gullfoss is very well known though, making it Iceland’s most popular waterfall by far.

It is completely free for you to visit Gullfoss! The waterfall is a national landmark and Icelanders are very proud of it. In fact, the falls were fought over to ensure they remained in Icelandic hands and were free for people to see and enjoy.

In the early 20th century, foreign investors wanted to buy the falls from the owner at the time, Tómas Tómasson. He refused, saying ‘I will not sell my friend!’, but did go on to lease the land.

However, a loophole in the lease was exploited. Luckily, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, Tómas’s daughter, realized this, and worked tirelessly to preserve Gullfoss. She even threatened to throw herself into the falls if the contract was not withdrawn.

Her efforts are commemorated with a statue and plaque, and with the free access to the falls for Gullfoss visitors. Make sure you thank Sigríður when you visit Gullfoss!

A good amount of time to spend at Gullfoss is around 1 hour. Depending on the time of year when you visit, you can explore more of the paths around the falls, so you might want to factor in more time.

In the summer you can walk right to the top of Gullfoss and see the two drops and the river rapids too. A visit to Gullfoss in winter brings its own beauty, although you will need to be equipped with snow boots and thermals for safety and comfort.

There’s also a visitor center with more information on how Gullfoss was formed. Here you can learn more about the local history and folklore of the site.

If you’re staying in the capital Reykjavík and want to visit Gullfoss waterfall, you’re in luck! Gullfoss is only around 1 hour, 40 minute drive from Reykjavík. This equates to 116 kilometers, or about 72 miles.

The best way for you to get to Gullfoss from Reykjavík is by road. You can either opt to rent a car or join one of the many guided group or private tours available. Once you park up at Gullfoss, you can walk up one of the marked paths to explore the falls.