Welcome to Gullfoss, the iconic waterfall and favorite on Iceland's Golden Circle. In the brief guide, catch up on everything you need to know to explore Gullfoss Waterfall.

Tours that include Gullfoss Waterfall

Gulfoss Waterfall is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Iceland. Just 1.5 hour's drive from Reykjavik, it's a must-see if you‘re traveling in Iceland. Read on to learn about this world-renowned Iceland attraction!

All About Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss flows southward from Langjokull Glacier in West Iceland. An ideal icon in the hearts of Icelanders, the falls are a favorite destination for locals and tourists alike.

It quite famously drops down into a canyon over two tiers. The first drop is 11 meters and the second 21 meters. 

Gullfoss waterfall Nature Rainbow

Where are the Gullfoss Falls Located?

GP N64° 19′ 38.220″ W20° 7′ 8.135″

Gullfoss sits in the middle of the Golden Circle tour, which starts and ends in the capital city Reykjavik. It’s located about 120 km from Reykjavik and it takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach the tumbling cascade. It's also just 10 minutes away from the Geysir Geothermal Area, which is another part of the Golden Circle Tour.

How to Get to Gullfoss Waterfall

The fastest way to reach Gullfoss from Reykjavik is to travel southeast along the Ring Road (or Route 1). Drive about 29 mi (47 km) until you pass the small town of Hveragerði. About 6 mi (10 km) further turn left from Route 1 onto Route 35, which will lead you directly to the waterfall. 

If you don’t want to drive by yourself, you can join one of our Golden Circle tours and leave all the planning to us. The tours visiting the Golden Falls take place throughout the year.

Parking Information: There are a few free parking options at Gullfoss. Just before you reach the area you can either turn right to the lower parking lot or continue on Route 35 to the upper parking lot, with a WC, a café, and a souvenir shop. 

woman trying to find directions on a map

Things to do While Visiting Gullfoss

Two different viewing areas let you get up close to the Golden Falls. From the upper parking lot, a footway leads to the upper viewing area, which displays the higher part of the waterfall. As you approach the area, take a moment to listen, and you’ll hear the hissing sound of the waterfall before you see it. 

Once there, feast your eyes on thousands of gallons (around 109 cubic meters per second) of water plummeting down into a narrow gorge. The views also show mountains and glaciers. 

On sunny days, wait for the glistening rainbows to paint the rising haze above the cascade.

long rainbow over gullfoss waterfall in iceland

From the upper lookout, stairs lead down to the lower viewpoint (you can also access it from the lower parking lot), which allows you to get even closer to the falls and feel the spray. The view will make your jaw drop as soon as you walk into the area. Be careful and always supervise children, as the paths are often slippery. 

In addition, there is a Gullfoss Visitors Center by the upper car park. There you’ll find a great, roomy café, which serves the traditional lamb soup and also hosts a gift shop.

visitor centre and cafe at gullfoss in iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall in Winter

Viewing Gullfoss is free of charge and it’s open year-round. If you’re visiting Iceland in winter, you’ll get to see the waterfall partly-frozen and glistening with ice. The upper viewing platform allows you to admire the mist-cloaked cascade and see the snow-dappled peaks to the north. However, the lower viewing area is closed in winter, as ice makes it too slippery and dangerous. 

The roads that lead to Gullfoss are well-maintained throughout the year but can get a bit icy during the wintertime. If you don’t feel confident, you might want to consider joining a Golden Circle tour with an experienced driver. As the paths near the waterfall can be slippery, we recommend bringing sturdy shoes, preferably with ice spikes. 

gullfoss waterfall in the evening at winter in iceland

How was Gullfoss Waterfall Formed?

Earth’s most breathtaking natural wonders usually form over thousands of years and Gullfoss is no exception. Geologists believe that the waterfall was formed by fierce glacial floods at the end of the last ice age. 

The continuous flow of the water eroded parts of the earth and played an important role in the formation of the waterfall. Today one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls plunges down into a narrow gorge reaching heights of up to 70 m (230 ft). 

Pay attention to detail that the canyon goes transverse to the tumbling cascade, which is quite uncommon in the world of waterfalls.

river flowing down a canyon at gullfoss

History of Gullfoss Waterfall

One famous story illustrates the importance the Icelandic landscape has in locals' hearts and minds. In the early 20th century, the government considered to tap into Gullfoss' resources as a source of hydrolectric power. It was a subject of much debate and controversy. When a buyout was attempted, the landowner of Gullfoss, Tomas Tomasson famously said: “Ég sel ekki vin minn” or "I will not sell my friend." Tomas' daughter Sigríður Tómasdóttir further protested the waterfall's exploitaton. She even threatened to jump into the waterfall. 

In the 1970s, Gullfoss was designated a protected natural reserve so future visitors could enjoy the beauty and grace of the waterfall for ages to come. 

Fun Facts about Gullfoss Waterfall

  • Its total height is 32m (105 feet)
  • Its name means "Golden Falls," a nod to its golden appearance on sunny days
  • The average water flow is 109 m2/s (3849 ft2/s)
  • Tthe crew of the HBO TV Show Game of Thrones filmed a bit at Gullfoss, but it was never featured in the show. In the books, there is just one river beyond The Wall and it doesn't have a waterfall. 

Saving Gullfoss

In the early 20th century, Gullfoss was almost destroyed when a group of foreign investors attempted to dam the Hvítá River for a hydroelectric power project. 

During that time, the cascade was owned by the local farmer, Tómas Tómasson. He refused to sell it to them, saying “I won’t sell my friend!” Nonetheless, foreign investors managed to rent the waterfall and had plans to use a loophole in the rental agreement which would allow them to build a power plant. 

Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, was determined to save the waterfall and took legal action against foreign investors, which prompted protests to save the falls. She traveled to Reykjavik many times on foot, a distance of over 62 mi (100 km), and even threatened to throw herself into the falls. 

In the end, Sigríður lost the legal battle but her persistence and courage earned her public favor.  In the meantime, foreign investor's plans fell through due to the lack of money. The waterfall was donated to the nation and remains a protected area today. 

You’ll find a stone memorial to Sigríður close to the base of the staircase that leads to the upper level. Her memory is highly respected and she is often seen as Iceland's first environmentalist. Interestingly, the lawyer that helped Sigríður, Sveinn Björnsson, became the first president of Iceland in 1944.

Sigridur Tomasdottir plaque at gullfoss waterfall in iceland

Movies, TV Series, and Music Videos Filmed at Gullfoss Falls

It’s no surprise that the most famous waterfall in Iceland has captured the attention of artists worldwide. 

Gullfoss was featured in the music video for the single Heaven by alternative rock group Live. Also, the tumbling cascade briefly appears in the popular TV series Vikings.

The adventure comedy film Land Ho! tells the story about ex-brothers-in-law who travel through Iceland and attempt to reclaim their youth. One of the stops they make is at the soul-stirring Gullfoss.  



Where to stay near Gullfoss?

There are a plethora of great accommodation options nearby the Golden Falls. Here is a useful list to help you find the right place.

Hotels

  • Hotel Gullfoss, located only 3 minutes from the waterfall, it’s a great place with a restaurant serving traditional Icelandic dishes. If you’re visiting Iceland in winter, it’s perfect for spotting the Northern Lights, as there is no light pollution to tarnish the view.
  • Litli Geysir Hotel, located just 200 meters from Geysir Geothermal Area, is another great option thanks to its excellent in-house restaurant and free parking lot.
bedroom view in geysir hotel in iceland

Hostels

  • Gljásteinn Skálinn Hostel, located about 3 mi (5 km) from the cascade, offers huts and cabins for rent around the waterfall. It’s a great option for anyone who is traveling in groups.

Guesthouses

  • Jaðar – The Old House, located about 20 minutes from Gullfoss, this cozy holiday home comes equipped with a garden and a terrace. 
  • Geysir Hestar, located just 7 minutes from Gullfoss, is an excellent option for those who love horse riding. Situated on a horse farm, it offers accommodation, a garden, and horse riding tours. 
Efstidalur farm and guesthouse in iceland

Cabins and Cottages

  • Vað Holiday Home, located about 10 minutes from Gullfoss, it’s equipped with a kitchen and dining area, along with a private bathroom and bath or shower. 
  • Geysir Cottage, situated about 10 minutes from the waterfall, it offers mountain views and rooms with private bathrooms. 

Camping Options

  • Skjól Campgrounds, located between Gullfoss and Geysir, it’s the closest campground to the falls. The cascade is only 6 km away. There you’ll find a hostel, a cafe, and all the standard camping facilities. 
  • Camping Geysir, located within a short walk from the Great Geysir, it’s equipped with standard camping ground facilities including showers, toilets, and a kids’ playground.
  • Camping Fludir, located in the village of Fludir, it’s one of the largest camping sites in Iceland. It’s equipped with toilets, hot showers, a self-serve laundry room, a football field, and a kids’ playground. 

Where to eat near Gullfoss?

  • Gullfoss Cafe, located by the upper parking lot, it’s open all year round and is most famous for traditional lamb soup, sandwiches, and salads.
  • Geysir Center, located about 10 minutes from Gullfoss, it hosts five different restaurants where visitors can enjoy both Icelandic and international dishes.
  • Friðheimar Tomato Farm, located 30 minutes from Gullfoss, this popular, family-run restaurant offers unique food experiences, including a daily lunch in the greenhouse, surrounded by rows of plants.

Interesting places near Gullfoss Falls

  • Geysir Geothermal Area, located just 10 minutes from Gullfoss, it's another highlight of the Golden Circle route. Here you can witness the renowned Strokkur Geyser bursting every 5 minutes and admire other geothermal features such as dormant hot springs and bubbling mud pools. Route 35 takes you directly to Geysir.
geothermal hot spring in geysir area in iceland
  • Thingvellir National Park, located about 43 mi (70 km) from the waterfall, it's the location of Iceland's first parliament, situated in a rugged rift valley. The park is the first stop on the Golden Circle route and one of the most revered places in the country. We recommend visiting the park on your way to Gullfoss traveling from Reykjavik.
  • Langjokull Glacier, located about 22 mi (35 km) north of Gullfoss, it's Iceland's second-biggest glacier. The glistening ice cap is the hub for snowmobile adventures, as well as glacier hiking and ice caving. Most of our snowmobile tours depart from Gullfoss Cafe or upper parking lot found nearby.
People Inside Man Made Ice Cave on Langjokull
  • Secret Lagoon, located about 30 minutes from Gullfoss Falls, in the village of Flúðir, it's one of the oldest thermal pools in Iceland. Surrounded by geothermal landscapes and greenhouses, the pools is 100°F (38°C) all year round. On your way back to Reykjavik, you can reach the pool by turning left from Route 35 onto Route 359, marked Flúðir. Many of our Golden Circle tours also include a visit to Secret Lagoon.
small group bathing in secret lagoon in iceland
  • Skálholt, located about 30 minutes from the waterfall, it's Iceland's historic religious center where the episcopal see resided from the 11th until the 18th century. Today Skálholt Church hosts classical music concerts during summertime. Take a left turn from Route 35 onto Route 31 and soon you'll see the church tower in the distance. The worth of your interest might be Slakki Petting Zoo, just 5 minutes from the church.
Skalholt Church in iceland at winter
  • Kerid Crater, located about 45 minutes from Gullfoss, it's a 6500-year-old small but deep crater filled with turquoise water. Here you can walk around the rim and admire the slopes covered with striking red volcanic rocks contrasting with the water. To reach the crater drive on Route 35 until you pass Skálholt. After about 15 minutes, you'll arrive at Kerið.
people walking down to kerid crater in iceland