Gullfoss: A must-see site in National Parks


Gullfoss is a magnificent waterfall located in the southwestern part of Iceland, within the Golden Circle route. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country and a must-see site for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Gullfoss, which translates to “Golden Falls” in English, is known for its breathtaking beauty and powerful cascades. In this article, we will explore the history, geology, and significance of Gullfoss within the context of national parks.

History of Gullfoss

Gullfoss has a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century. It was first discovered by Sigríður Tómasdóttir, a local farmer’s daughter, who fought to protect the waterfall from being exploited for hydroelectric power. Sigríður’s determination and efforts to preserve Gullfoss eventually led to its national recognition as a protected natural site.

In 1979, Gullfoss was designated as a part of the Golden Circle, a popular tourist route that includes other iconic attractions such as the Geysir geothermal area and Þingvellir National Park. This designation further increased the popularity of Gullfoss and established it as a must-visit destination for travelers exploring Iceland’s natural wonders.

Geology of Gullfoss

Gullfoss is located on the Hvítá River, which originates from the Langjökull glacier in the highlands of Iceland. The waterfall is formed by a series of cascades and two distinct drops, creating a dramatic spectacle of rushing water. The upper cascade has a drop of 11 meters (36 feet), while the lower cascade drops 21 meters (69 feet) into a narrow canyon.

See also  Embracing local cultures: National parks backpacking experience

The unique geological formations surrounding Gullfoss add to its allure. The canyon walls are composed of layers of lava and sedimentary rocks, showcasing the geological history of the region. The contrasting colors of the rocks, ranging from dark basalt to golden sandstone, create a visually striking landscape that complements the beauty of the waterfall.

Significance of Gullfoss in National Parks

Gullfoss holds great significance within the context of national parks. It is a prime example of the natural wonders that national parks aim to protect and preserve for future generations. The designation of Gullfoss as a national park ensures that its unique geological features, flora, and fauna are safeguarded from human interference.

National parks play a crucial role in promoting environmental conservation and sustainable tourism. Gullfoss, as a part of the Golden Circle route, attracts thousands of visitors each year. The responsible management of these tourist flows is essential to ensure the long-term preservation of the site. Measures such as visitor education, infrastructure development, and waste management are implemented to minimize the impact of tourism on the fragile ecosystem surrounding Gullfoss.

Furthermore, Gullfoss serves as an important educational and research site within the national park system. Scientists and researchers study the geological processes, hydrology, and ecology of the waterfall and its surroundings to deepen our understanding of the natural world. This knowledge contributes to the conservation efforts and informs sustainable management practices in national parks.

Visiting Gullfoss

Visiting Gullfoss is a memorable experience that allows visitors to witness the power and beauty of nature up close. The site is easily accessible by car, and there are ample parking facilities available. Visitors can explore the various viewing platforms and walking paths that offer different perspectives of the waterfall.

See also  National Parks: A Journey through Native American Sculpture

During the summer months, Gullfoss is at its most impressive, as the melting glacial waters flow down the Hvítá River in full force. The spray from the cascades creates rainbows, adding a touch of magic to the already stunning scenery. In winter, Gullfoss transforms into a frozen wonderland, with icicles hanging from the canyon walls and the waterfall partially covered in ice.

It is important to note that Gullfoss is a natural site and should be treated with respect. Visitors are encouraged to stay on designated paths, follow the guidelines provided by park rangers, and refrain from littering. By practicing responsible tourism, we can ensure that Gullfoss remains a pristine and awe-inspiring destination for future generations to enjoy.


Gullfoss is undeniably one of the most spectacular sites within national parks. Its rich history, geological significance, and natural beauty make it a must-see destination for travelers exploring Iceland’s wonders. As a part of the national park system, Gullfoss represents the importance of preserving and protecting our natural heritage. By visiting Gullfoss responsibly, we can contribute to the conservation efforts and ensure that this magnificent waterfall continues to inspire and awe visitors for years to come.