May, 2014 and January, 2017
Iceland in the spring and summer does not compare to Iceland in the winter. On our first trip in May, we had 21 hours of daylight, and dusk for the other three. We would lose track of the time, suddenly realizing at almost midnight that we had to get up in about six hours. Without blackout shades, we probably wouldn’t have been able to sleep. Temperatures rarely climb above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
In January, it was almost the opposite, with only about 4 hours of daylight. We got up in the dark, had breakfast in the dark, had dinner in the dark. Even we Minnesotans were craving sun by the end of the trip. On the other hand, winter temperatures are often warmer in Iceland than they are at home, because of the ocean effect.
Waterfalls look dramatically different as well from one season to the next. Gullfoss Waterfall, meaning Golden Waterfall, is located in Southwest Iceland, on the Hvítá (White) River, fed by the Langjökull glacier. This glacial water contains a lot of sediment, giving it a brown color, and on a sunny day, it takes on a golden hue. Gullfoss is a popular stop on Iceland’s Golden Circle. Gullfoss’ average flow during summer is about 4,900 cubic feet per second, while in winter it is only 2,800 cubic feet per second. That’s still pretty impressive, though, especially when surrounded by ice and snow.
Gullfoss is often listed as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. Granted, we haven’t seen them all, but this one is probably our second favorite…so far.
In the early 1900’s, some foreign investors wanted to build a hydroelectric powerplant to harness the power from Gullfoss. Sigríður Tómasdóttir, daughter of Tómas Tómasson who owned the land where the waterfall was located, protested vehemently. She knew that such a plan would destroy Gullfoss forever. She threatened to kill herself by throwing herself into the waterfall. Sigríður walked 75 miles barefoot, with bleeding feet, from Gullfoss to Reykjavik to protest the powerplant. She won her battle and Gullfoss retains its pristine beauty to this day, for which we are very grateful. There is a memorial plaque of Sigríður that depicts her profile at the top of the falls. She does look determined!
The Hvítá river flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then plunges in two stages (36 feet and 69 feet) into a 105 feet deep crevice, creating quite a bit of mist. The crevice is about 66 ft wide and 1.6 miles in length, and extends perpendicular to the flow of the river. There are several viewing locations, both above the falls and alongside them.
January, 2017 – Note the frozen falls in the lower left hand photo.
It’s become quite popular to get married in Iceland, even in the winter. We saw several couples getting wedding photos at Gullfoss and by geysers when we were there in January. I felt sorry for the freezing brides in their sleeveless dresses. However, if you get married in Iceland, you will have some of the most stunning backgrounds in the world for your wedding photos.