13 September 2008

Chapter 05: Gullfoss

Continued from Chapter 04

Leaving the Haukadalur Valley with its geysers and mud pools, we continued along the road towards Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls which is on the southbound Hvitá River.

Along the way, we came across this beautiful, smaller, fast flowing river. All rivers and streams in Iceland only seem to know one speed - flat out!

In the far-off distance, we could see 2 snouts of Langjökull - the second-most western and the second biggest glacier in Iceland.
Arriving at Gullfoss, we chose to park in the upper carpark and walk down the wooden walkway. From this position, we were unable to see Gullfoss until we arrived at the top of the stairway (about 100 steps) leading down to the lower carpark, but we could hear it. The first view of the waterfall is breath-taking.

The spray from the falls wets everything, and the sunlight hitting the spray creates rainbows across the pathway. As you can see from this image, Gullfoss is extremely popular and we shared it with lots of other people.

The second tier is approached first and the sheer volume of water dropping off the 21m high edge is staggering. I found myself subconsciously holding my breath while watching as it falls into a canyon which runs perpendicular to the falls. The crevice is 20m wide and 2.5km in length before it widens out again. Given the amount of spray in the air and the wind direction, it was impossible to keep the camera lens water-free for more than a millisecond!

The top tier drops 11m. In summertime, the water flows at an average of 140 m³/s and in winter, this reduces to about 80 m³/s as the source of the river and some of the water further up from the waterfall freezes during the colder times. The highest flow measured was 2000 m³/s which must have been truly deafening, as we were shouting to make ourselves heard while we were there.

This beautiful waterfall was almost lost to foreign investors who had rented it and the surrounding land to establish a hydro-electricity station on the river. Thankfully, the plans failed partly due to a lack of money, and the waterfall was sold to the Icelandic government who has now deemed it to be a protected area.

Gullfoss_from_Lower_CarparkThe view of Gullfoss from the lower carpark

I took a short video of Gullfoss, mainly to record the fast flowing water and the deafening noise. Everything else about the video is crap, as: the lens quickly became spattered with water droplets; I stumbled my way up the rocks; there were too many people around!


Keefieboy said...


[Farelos e Sílabas] said...

Yeah, it's fantastic!

Iceland, for me, it's more than a different land to know. It seems like a North paradise!

nzm said...

Keefie: gracias!

farelos: Welcome to our blog! Iceland is very much what you say.

MamaDuck said...

Wow again. I've never seen anything like this. The geography textbook pictures of Niagara Falls and Victoria Falls never looked like this - and I suppose that in Tarzan movies, the cameramen weren't about to take their precious lenses too close!

nzm said...

I really wanted to get closer, but the darn spray wouldn't let me.