- Best Time to Visit
- All year round
- 64.32714, -20.11967
- Distance from Reykjavík
Experience the best of Iceland with this package of two of the island’s most popular tours in one day! The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Þingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir. After touring the landmarks, soak in the milky blue healing water of the Blue Lagoon.
This best-selling tour of Iceland’s most famous south Iceland landmarks includes a visit to Friðheimar Greenhouse. The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Þingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir. Experience the classic Golden Circle landmarks with a sustainable twist, a stop at Friðheimar!
Nature, culture, and history prevail in this combination tour, which takes you to the sites of the Golden Circle and inside the Lava Tunnel Raufarhólshellir cave. Experience a new world of Iceland's natural wonders -- Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir geothermal region, Þingvellir National Park and the raw beauty of a lava tunnel. This is an easy, guided tour with no caving experience required.
Plan for a fantastic day of seeing the classic Golden Circle landmarks capped off with a visit to the dreamy Sky Lagoon! The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Þingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir. After touring the sights, relax at Reykjavík’s newest luxury bathing experience, the Sky Lagoon.
Snorkel between the North American and Eurasian continental plates in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Silfra fissure in Þingvellir National Park fills with glacial water that has been seeping through underground lava rocks for decades producing the most transparent water on earth. After snorkelling, drive your rental car to the heavenly Laugarvatn Fontana spa to warm up and relax!
Experience the classic Golden Circle landmarks before heading to the healing Fontana Wellness facilities! The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Thingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir. Cap off your sightseeing day with a healing visit to Fontana Wellness.
Experience the landmarks of the classic Golden Circle in South Iceland with an exciting snowmobile ride on this unforgettable day tour. The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Þingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir. Cap off your sightseeing adventure with a thrilling snowmobile ride on Langjökull glacier!
Want to see the sites of the Golden Circle and hunt for the northern lights but have a limited amount of time? Consider this express Golden Circle/Northern Lights tour! Experience the landmarks of the classic Golden Circle in South Iceland on this unforgettable day tour. The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Thingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir. After your return to Reykjavík, a guide will lead you on a search for the elusive northern lights!
Experience the best of Iceland's natural wonders and the charm of its capital city with our Golden Circle & City Sightseeing combo. This tour combines an insightful 8-hour journey through the iconic Golden Circle, with a visit to the Fridheimar Tomato Greenhouse along the way, and additionally, the flexibility of exploring Reykjavík at your own pace on the Hop On Hop Off bus.
Want to see the sites of the Golden Circle but have a limited amount of time? Consider this express Golden Circle tour! Experience the landmarks of the classic Golden Circle in South Iceland on this unforgettable day tour. The Golden Circle encompasses the must-see sights of Þingvellir National Park, the golden Gullfoss waterfall, and the bubbling geothermal region of Geysir.
Visiting Gullfoss Waterfall
The History of Gullfoss Waterfall
Over 5,000 years ago, when run-off from the Langjökull glacier flooded the Haukadalur Valley, the Hvitá River was formed. Over the following millennia, Gullfoss was created as the rock eroded away.
This natural wonder was largely untouched until 1909 when an English businessman wanted to use the power of the falls to fuel a hydroelectric power station. But the falls stood on a farmer’s land, and he refused to sell to the English businessman.
When the businessman leased the land and extorted a loophole in the law, it looked like all was lost for Gullfoss waterfall. However, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the farmer’s daughter, fought the businessman in court, and eventually, the falls were given back to the Icelandic people. She is considered Iceland’s first environmentalist. Now, the waterfall is a public space and can be visited by anyone at any time, all year round.
Observation points and walking trails
Today, the Gullfoss waterfall is one of the most popular sights for visitors to Iceland. Alongside Þingvellir National Park and Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss is one of the main highlights of the famous Golden Circle route from Reykjavik.
When you reach Gullfoss waterfall, it’s just a few minutes walk from the car park to the upper observation deck. This is where you can see the waterfall from above as it tumbles into a deep chasm that runs through the landscape.
There is another observation route taking in every level of the falls. Gullfoss is actually two waterfalls: the smaller falls upstream and the towering second falls that thunder over the rocks.
This trail is closed during wintertime as it is covered in ice due to the high humidity around the waterfall.
Facilities at Gullfoss
At Gullfoss, you’ll find a visitor centre open during the day (usually between 9am and 8pm). Here, you can stop for a comfort break and even have lunch in the café that serves quick bites like sandwiches and soups. There’s a souvenir and outdoor gear shop too, so if you’re visiting in the depths of winter and have forgotten hats, scarves or gloves, you can purchase them here.
Name and legends
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Gullfoss translates as “golden waterfall” in English. One of the legends that surrounds the falls comes from its name. It is said that a Viking tipped his riches into the plunge pool at the base of Gullfoss to prevent anyone else getting their hands on his gold, and so the falls were named “golden” as a result.
Another legend says that the waterfall is named after the rainbows and golden mist surrounding it – after the traditional Celtic myth that there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. The most likely origin of the name is simply that the water seems to shimmer golden when the sunlight hits it, due to the glacial sediment carried down the river.
All About Gullfoss Waterfall
You’ll find Gullfoss waterfall along the well-travelled route of the Golden Circle, within Iceland’s southern uplands. It is in the river Hvítá which passes through the Haukadalur Valley and is a short drive (around ten minutes) from Geysir Geothermal Area – usually the next stop on the Golden Circle itinerary.
Gullfoss is probably Iceland’s most famous waterfall and is certainly the most visited. This is partly due to its convenient location along the Golden Circle, but also because when the sunlight hits the water it seems to glow golden – an image that attracts photographers from far and wide. The two-tiered falls thunder over the rocks, plunging into a ravine in the landscape so, unlike most of Iceland’s waterfalls, you won’t be able to spot the falls until you are a short distance away.
Gullfoss waterfall is one of the three highlights of the Golden Circle and is usually visited in the middle of the route. The other major sights of the Golden Circle are Þingvellir National Park where the continental plates meet, and the Geysir area of geothermal activity where hot springs bubble and geysers erupt into the sky.
It is around 88 kilometres (54 miles) from Reykjavík to Gullfoss waterfall and the drive takes approximately three hours. Most people don’t go straight to Gullfoss and stop at Þingvellir National Park on the way to walk through the chasm in the land where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet.
When the weather is calm and the road conditions are good, it is easy to drive to Gullfoss yourself from Reykjavík. Weather in Iceland can be unpredictable so you should always check the SafeTravel app before you set off which keeps you up to date with road closures and conditions.
From Reykjavík, you’ll need to follow the Route One ring road for around 54 kilometres and turn onto road 35 to reach the carpark and visitor centre of Gullfoss. Take the hassle out of navigating to Gullfoss, especially in winter when road conditions can be challenging, and consider joining a Golden Circle day tour from Reykjavík. On an organised tour, a local guide and driver will take you safely to Gullfoss and let you in on a little insight into Icelandic culture along the way. There are lots of Golden Circle tours on offer and some include extras like stops at geothermal spa lagoons, lava tunnels and glaciers.
Generally, people stay between 30-45 minutes at Gullfoss waterfall. An hour or more allows enough time to bask in the beauty of the falls and perhaps take a short comfort break at the visitor centre. In two hours, you can follow the 2.1 kilometres of hiking trails between the various Gullfoss waterfall lookout points to admire every facet of this natural wonder.
Cascading over the rocks and into a deep ravine, Gullfoss waterfall is around 105 feet (32 metres) high. This is actually the combined height of the two falls that make up Gullfoss. The first, small falls tumble over 36 feet (11 metres) and the larger falls that most people flock to see drop around 69 feet (21 metres).
Around 5,000 years ago, water from Langjokull glacier flooded into the Haukadalur Valley and created the Hvita river (translating as “white” river). The flow of water eroded away the rock and Gullfoss waterfall slowly came into being over the millennia.
If you’re just walking to the main observation point of Gullfoss from the carkpark, it’s only a few minutes walk along a trail. Most visitors simply make this short walk, admire the falls, and hit the road again. But there are also 2.1 kilometres of trails that meander past various observation points along the river.
Gullfoss is a public space so there is no fee to visit and parking is free. There is a visitor centre where you’ll find a café and outdoor and souvenir shop, so you might want to bring spending money to fuel up on food, enjoy a cup of coffee or pick up some keepsakes.
As the waterfall is a public space, it is open all day, every day. The visitor centre and café is open from 9am until 8pm daily, but you can still visit the falls outside of these hours. While the waterfall is open year-round, in adverse weather some observation points become inaccessible when the path is too slippery.
Although the waterfall never freezes entirely, in winter Gullfoss is largely frozen. Some water still moves and trickles over the rocks, but you’ll see jagged icicles and sheets of ice surrounding the cascade, which is a sight to behold.
There is a debate over whether the best time to see Gullfoss is in summer or winter. In summer, the long hours of sunlight illuminate the water creating its famous golden hue, and rainbows form in the mist. While in winter, you can see the shimmering icicles hanging as if suspended around the cascade. But there’s a case to be made for visiting Gullfoss in the early autumn months – the time of the dynamic light and long shadows. At this time of year, the sights of the Golden Circle like Gullfoss are less crowded and appear to be bathed in an ethereal golden light.
Like most sights in Iceland, layers are essential when visiting Gullfoss waterfall. No matter the time of year, Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable. It might be beautiful sunshine in Reykjavík in the morning, and then be raining, blowing a gale or even snowing by the time you reach Gullfoss in the afternoon.
In summer, dressing in a sports T-shirt, long-sleeve jumper and waterproof jacket is a good way to account for all kinds of weather. Hiking boots, especially waterproof boots, are a good idea throughout the year and in winter, you’ll want to add a woolly hat, gloves and scarf to protect you from the cold.