Gullfoss means ‘golden falls,’ because on a sunny day the water appears golden-brown due to the sediment carried from its source, the glacial water of Iceland’s second biggest glacier, Langjökull. On bright days, you can see lots of rainbows.
It is an extraordinary sight, volumes of water thundering down rock. Its average flow is 1400 cubic metres of water per second. It can partially freeze over in the winter, reducing the flow to 80 cubic metres per second.
The water plummets down 32 metres, over two tiers. It gives an illusion of there being two waterfalls flowing and disappearing into an abyss.
In 1907, Sigriður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of Tómas Tómasson, who owned the land, sought to void a contract between her father and an Englishman who wanted to harness the waterfall’s energy to produce electricity. She even threatened to throw herself off the top of the waterfall. She is thought of as Iceland’s first environmentalist. In 1979 the area was designated a nature reserve by the Icelandic government.