Arguably the most impressive sight along Iceland’s Golden Circle is the enormously powerful double-stepped waterfall known as Gullfoss (Golden Falls). Here, the Hývtá River’s journey through the highlands comes to a magnificent end as it drops over 100 feet into the canyon below.
From afar, the breadth and force of Gullfoss are awe-inspiring enough, but it isn’t until reaching the ledge of the viewing platform that you can see the full scale of the waterfall. After the initial descent of 36 feet, the river takes a sharp right and immediately crashes down another 69 feet. This secondary waterfall is obscured from view until you’re close up, and turns Gullfoss into something extraordinary.
Normally, we tend to thank celestial powers for magnificent natural wonders, but in Gullfoss’s case, we can extend at least part of our gratitude to a fellow human. Sigríður Tómasdóttir was raised on a nearby farm, and loved the waterfall as she would a family member. In the early 20th century, foreign investors discovered Gullfoss and won permission to construct a dam on it. But they found a stubborn and bitter opponent in Sigríður. In order to raise awareness of the threat to the waterfall, she walked barefoot from Gullfoss to Reykjavík and even threatened to commit suicide by throwing herself into the churning water. Thanks largely to her persistence, the investors eventually backed away from the project.
In truth, she sounds like a nutter, but we should all be appreciative of Sigríður’s reckless selflessness. Gullfoss is an amazing display of nature’s power, and it would have been a shame to have lost it.
We toured the Golden Circle with a car from SADcars, located near the BSÍ bus station. They’ve got some of the cheapest rentals available in Iceland.