Highlights of Iceland: Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss Waterfall_Iceland_Kellie Netherwood

I heard it before I saw it: a thunderous crash of water providing background music to one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls.

I followed the sound towards a mist in the distance, an intriguing invitation to come closer.

And then I saw it: a spectacular multi cascade of water flowing from Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjokull.


This was Gullfoss Waterfall, located on the Hyita River in South Iceland, and it was pretty impressive!

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My day had started in Reykjavik where I woke up feeling enthusiastic about the day (and week) ahead. I’m usually excited about a travel destination because I don’t know what to expect, but this was different. I had first visited Iceland two years ago and was familiar with the locations on my itinerary. And this is what excited me – I knew what to expect.

As I joined my travel companions, six other friendly and keen photographers, we left Reykjavik refusing to let the rain we’d woken up to dampen our spirits. But the persistent downpour was frustrating and by the time we arrived at Gullfoss for a sunset shoot, I was feeling a bit deflated.

But the rain stopped and my feelings of frustration evaporated. There is nothing like standing alongside a powerful force of nature to lift your spirits.

About Gullfoss Waterfall

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Gullfoss Waterfall (the Golden Waterfall) is one of the most popular and recognisable waterfalls in Iceland. And an easy day trip from Reykjavik and being part of Golden Circle circuit makes it one of the most visited locations in the country.

Part of the appeal of Gullfoss is that you hear and feel its presence before you actually see it. It flows through a 70 metre high canyon, dropping 35 metres over two main falls, creating a wall of spray often seen from the car park. It’s natural, it’s powerful and it’s spectacular.

And it was almost destroyed.

In the early 20th century, foreign investors leased the land on which the falls were located, planning to dam the area to generate electricity.   The future of the waterfall was salvaged by a lack of finances and the land was sold to the government and eventually conserved. A more romantic tale has been  memorialised by a plague at the site of Gullfoss Waterfall and involves the landowner’s daughter, Sigríður Tómasdottir. Her passionate attempts to save the waterfall are said to include threatening to throw herself into it and walking barefoot from Gullfoss to Reykjavik in protest.

Whatever version of events you choose to believe, the outcome is the same: the waterfall is still here today, wild and free, as nature intended. And what a relief that is.

4 Photography Tips for Gullfoss Waterfall

1. Be Patient

The popularity of Gullfoss has the potential to detract from your experience. But don’t let the arrival of a busload of tourists put you off. Most of them will follow the boardwalk to the lookout points, take a selfie and return to their vehicle. And those that stay longer can create a great sense of scale for your photograph. Patience reaps rewards at Gullfoss, especially as the vastness of the waterfall creates a number of different vantage points from which to shoot.

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2. Protect Your Equipment

One of the most appealing features of Gullfoss is its power. But the spray created by the flowing water can wreak havoc with your camera and make it difficult to take a spot-free photo. Protect your equipment like you would in light rain and have plenty of lens wipes handy.

3. Try Different Compositions

Embracing your inner creativity at a popular and well-photographed location can be challenging. But having an upper and lower walkway helps at Gullfoss, with a number of different vantage points offered along the way. Experiment with a wide angled lens to capture the vastness of the falls, include other people in your shot to create a sense of scale and zoom in to emphasise the power of the flowing water.

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4. Try Different Times of Day

The middle of a sunny day may add rainbows to your shot whilst sunrise and sunsets create changing light and long exposure opportunities. And the likely bonus of an early or late visit to Gullfoss is less tourists to compete with.

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

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