Gullfoss Waterfall and Geysir Hot Springs

Gullfoss Waterfall and Geysir Hot Springs
Gullfoss and Geysir are most likely the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. Gullfoss and Geysir are two of the primary stops along the famous Golden Circle route.

The Geysir area

Geysir is the name of the Geyser Geothermal Field in Haukadalur Valley, but Geysir is also the name of biggest geyser in Iceland. The Great Geysir has been quiet for some time now but its neighbor Strokkur spouts or erupts about 30 meters into the air, about every 5-10 minutes but Strokkur is without doubt the most active geyser in Iceland. Geysir is an Icelandic name of one particular hot spring and means the „Gusher“. Many languages have adopted this word for erupting hot springs. There is a walking path through the Geysir area from where the hot springs can be viewed from close up. However, visitors are advised to be careful and keep in mind that the water temperature in most of the hot springs is boiling hot,- about 100 degrees Celsius and remember, - boiling hot water can hurt. When standing close to Strokkur, notice the wind direction and always stand so that you have the wind blowing in your back, to avoid having boiling hot water and steam blown over you. There are hotels and guesthouses as well as restaurants and shops located at Geysir and its surroundings.

Why does Strokkur erupt ?

The geyser Strokkur is a hole in the ground, or a vertical shaft from the ground surface and down into the ground, about 20 meters deep and fissures from the bottom of the shaft reach even deeper into the ground. The shaft is filled with hot water, which is close to the boiling point. The boiling point of water is 100 decrees C, under one atmospheric pressure but it increases with increased pressure, meaning that deeper down in the shaft, the boiling point is higher, due to the weight or pressure of the water columns that is above. At the bottom of the shaft, the boiling point is close to 130 degrees C. Since the water flow from the fissures at the bottom and into the shaft is irregular, water from deep down can suddenly shoot up higher in the shaft, closer to the surface. When the water rises closer to the surface, the boiling point drops, due to drop in pressure. This causes the water to turn into steam in an explosion, when the water becomes superheated and it is the increased volume of the steam that pushes the water column above it out of the shaft, but water in the form of steam has a lot more volume than it has in a liquid form. Water in most geothermal areas is rain water that percolates into the ground and gets heated by a hot rock. Due to great volcanic activity in Iceland, hot rock is found, not too deep in the ground.

Waterfall Gullfoss

Only about 10 minutes drive from Geysir is the 32 meters high waterfall Gullfoss that cascades into the canyon below. Gullfoss or the Golden falls is a beautiful waterfall with an average flow of 140 cubic meters per second in mid summer, making it one of the largest waterfalls in the country. However, the water flow varies greatly and in winter the waterflow drops to around 100 cubic meters per second, while during spring thaw it may threefold its summer average flow. Gullfoss is in the glacial river Hvítá that takes its source in Langjökull, the second largest glacier in Iceland. The waterfall can be viewed from two locations. One is at the top of the canyon, where there is a large parking lot as well as a restaurant. The other is down below in the canyon where there as another smaller parking lot. From the lower level, there is a hiking path that leads further down into the canyon. This path is often wet and slippery due to spray from the waterfall, so visitors must be careful when walking down this path. In winter, the spray often freezes and makes the path dangerous to walk.

History – Sigríður Tómasdóttir

In the year 1907, there were plans to make a dam at Gullfoss and build a hydro electrical power station to harness the water power in Gullfoss and the land owner, Tómas Tómasson, a farmer at Brattholt Farm, close to Gullfoss, had signed a contract to permit the project. His daughter, Sigríður Tómasdótti fought her fathers plans in every possible way and she made a lot of effort. Among the things she did was to take a legal action against her father and she also threathened to throw herself into the waterfall. Thanks to Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the contract was later canceled and there is no power station at Gullfoss. Today, Sigríður Tómasdóttir is regarded as the first environmentalist in Iceland and a memorial to her, that was made by the Icelandic sculptor Ríkharður Jónsson, now stands by the waterfall. Both Gullfoss and Geysir can be visited during many of our self drive packages as well as on day tours from Reykjavík. Tours can be found at

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