History of Gullfoss waterfall

Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall) is an iconic waterfall of Iceland offering a spectacular view of the forces and beauty of untouched nature. Gullfoss is part of the Golden Circle tour, located in South Iceland on the Hvítá (White) river which is fed by Iceland’s second biggest glacier, the Langjökull. The water plummets down 32 meters in two stages into a rugged canyon which walls reach up to 70 meters in height. On a sunny day, a shimmering rainbow is often seen over the falls.


A Story to Tell

Gullfoss is more than just a pretty waterfall; it has a story to tell. In the early 20th century, foreign investors wanted to harness the power of Gullfoss to produce electricity. In 1907 Howells, an Englishman wanted to buy Gullfoss from Tómas Tómasson, a farmer who owned Gullfoss at this time. Tómas declined Howells’ offer to buy the waterfall, but later he leased it to him. The farmer’s daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir who grew up on his father’s sheep farm, sought to have the rental contract voided. Sigriður using her savings, hired a lawyer in Reykjavik to defend her case. The trial lasted years, and Sigriður went several times barefoot on traitorous terrain to Reykjavik to follow up on her case. She even threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if the construction would begin. Her attempts failed in court, but before damage was done to the waterfall, the contract was disposed of due to the lack of payments of the rent fee. The struggles of Sigríður to preserve the waterfall brought to people’s attention to the importance of protecting nature. Therefore she is often called Iceland’s first environmentalist.

In 1940 Einar Guðmundsson Sigríðar’s brother, acquired the waterfall from Sigríður’s father and later sold it to the Icelandic government. Gullfoss and its environs were designated as a nature reserve in 1979 to permanently protect the waterfall and allow the public to enjoy this unique area.


A Family Heritage

Svavar Njarðarson and his wife, Elfa Björk Magnúsdóttir, formed and have run the service centre at Gullfoss since 1996. Svavar is the son of Njörður Jónsson and Guðrún Lára Ágústsdóttir, Nörðurs mother was Einar Guðmundsson’s sister. Njörður was as young child ofen spending summers at  Sigríður’s farm. In the year 1977 Einar inherited Brattholt to Njörður and his  family, and they became farmers at Brattholt after that.  Foreign visitors and other tourists were always nearby and were stopping by the farm asking for guidance and service.  In 1985, tourism began at Brattholt by offering tourists accommodation and food. The service centre at Gullfoss, called Gullfosskaffi (Café Gullfoss) started in a tiny location near Sigríðarstofa (info and service center build by the Govermet in the year 1990)  at the edge of the land surrounding Gullfoss. They began in an small green tent and were by offering some coffee and their now-famous homemade soup during the summer months. Since then the centre has grown into a landmark in itself with a spacious restaurant, an interesting store and a unique panorama platform.