Iceland – the world’s largest volcanic island! The lonely island in northwestern Europe is truly an experience in itself. This contrasting island between fire and ice offers extraordinary natural landscapes of glaciers, volcanoes, cliffs and coasts. You will have the opportunity to go whale watching or discover Skaftafell National Park. The highlight is Reykjavík, the northernmost capital of Europe. Here you can visit various sights such as the National Museum, the National Gallery, the Perlan building, the cathedral or the Sun Voyager sculpture. Don’t forget the cities of Kopavogur, Akureyri or Akranes. Take a study trip to Iceland!
In the south-west of Iceland, in the Gullni Hringurinn, the Golden Ring, lies the Gullfoss waterfall, which has been a nature reserve since 1979. Together with the Pungvellier National Park, the medieval public meeting place of the same name and the Strokkur geyser, it is one of the most famous sights of the island state. Tourists who visit the volcanic island on their travels or study trips reach the platform via a path, which allows an impressive view of the waterfall. In the sunshine a rainbow forms and in the evening sun the color of the spray shines golden. Because of this phenomenon, the Gullfoss waterfall was nicknamed “The Golden Waterfall”.
Natural attraction from the Ice Age
At the end of the last ice age, the gorge was formed, which today is 70 meters deep and 2,500 meters long. The glacial river Hvita plunges into here – over two steps. Lava layers form the falling edges of the steps between which river gravel was deposited. In the warm season, up to 1,200 cubic meters of water pour into the gorge, which widens by up to 30 centimeters every year due to water, wind and ice. During the snowmelt, the water fall develops a particular strength. Here boulders are transported far into rivers or deposited on their banks.
The keeper of the natural spectacle
In the early 20th century, the Gullfoss faced a serious threat. Speculators from Great Britain planned to use the waterfall to generate energy and to build a dam. The daughter of the farmer from the Brattholt farm, Sigriour Tomasdottir, resisted and took legal action against the investors. But there was no success and so the days of the natural spectacle seemed numbered. Only when the woman threatened to throw herself into Gullfoss did the financiers abandon their plans and the waterfall was saved. Grateful residents of the region then erected a memorial to Sigriou in the form of a notice board that still bears witness to what happened back then.
One of the most famous waterfalls lies beneath a persistently active volcano
The so-called “auxiliary waterfall”, which is a good 9 meters high and up to 27 meters wide and consists of two cascades, is located in the Þjórsárdalur valley and the Búrfellshraun lava field in the Árnessýsla district of the South Urland region in southern Iceland, about 2 hours’ drive from Reykjavik. The Hekla volcano, which is almost 1,500 meters high and is still active today, as well as the confluence of the rivers Fossá and Þjórsá and the other waterfalls Háífoss and Gjáin are in the immediate vicinity. The nearest village, a good 30 kilometers away, is Flúðir with currently approx. 400 inhabitants in the municipality of Hrunamannahreppur not far from the Great Geyser at Bláskógabyggð and the Gullfoss waterfall. Excursions as part of trips and study trips to Hjálparfoss use the main road Þjórsárdalsvegur (32) to get there, The Þjóðveldisbær open-air museum and the Búrfell hydropower station, which was completed in 1969, are also located here. Because of its picturesque basalt rocks covered with soft green moss, Hjálparfoss is also a popular photo motif.
A hidden natural spectacle of Iceland
In the old days travelers breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the waterfall. The waterfall owes its unusual name to its geographical location in the relatively green and fertile lowlands and the historical fact that the riders who came from the barren north and highlands at the time finally found fresh grass for their horses after two to three days without a source of food. In this way, the waterfall and its surrounding meadows specifically helped the traveling people and animals to survive after the rather strenuous crossing of the desert-like region of Sprengisandur in the interior, feared as the home of evil spirits and trolls. Today, until the middle of the 19th This area, which was avoided by the Icelanders due to the lack of transport links, lost its horror in the early 1930s and has been accessed by the 200-kilometer highland piste F26 (Sprengisandur / Sprengisandsleið) since the early 1930s. Only about 5 kilometers south of Hjálparfoss is the similarly imposing Þjófafoss waterfall, where thieves condemned until the late Middle Ages were used as punishment.
The geological history of the island of Iceland quickly becomes clear in the surrounding region
Because it is only about 100 kilometers east of the Icelandic capital Reykjavík, Hjálparfoss and its scenic surroundings, which are clearly shaped by volcanism in many places, are ideal for excursions and day trips. A tour can also be combined well with trips on the 300-kilometer route “Gullni hringurinn” (Golden Ring), along which other world-famous tourist attractions such as the traditional former Thing site Þingvellir, the Strokkur geyser and the hot springs of Laugarvatn can be combined are located.