Gullfoss aka Golden Falls is a waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland.
Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. The wide Hvítá rushes southward, and about a kilometre above the falls it turns sharply to the right and flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 m and 21 m) into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep. The crevice, about 20 m (66 ft) wide, and 2.5 km in length, extends perpendicular to the flow of the river. The average amount of water running down the waterfall is 140 m³/s in the summer and 80 m³/s in the winter. The highest flood measured was 2000 m³/s.
As one first approaches the falls, the edge is obscured from view, so that it appears that the river simply vanishes into the earth.
During the first half of the 20th century and some years into the late 20th century, there was much speculation about using Gullfoss to generate electricity. During this period, the waterfall was rented indirectly by its owners, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson, to foreign investors. However, the investors’ attempts were unsuccessful, partly due to lack of money. The waterfall was later sold to the state of Iceland, and is now protected.
Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of Tómas Tómasson, was determined to preserve the waterfall’s condition and even threatened to throw herself down. Although it is widely believed, the very popular story that Sigríður saved the waterfall from exploitation is untrue. A stone memorial to Sigriður, located above the falls, depicts her profile.
Together with Þingvellir and the geysers of Haukadalur, Gullfoss forms part of the Golden Circle, a popular day excursion for tourists in Iceland.