Goðafoss. Waterfall in Iceland, Europe


Waterfall in Iceland, Europe

Goðafoss Photo © Larry

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Goðafoss - Goðafoss
Goðafoss - Goðafoss. Photo by Eric Montfort
Goðafoss, pronounced “GO-thuh-foss” and also known as the “Waterfall of the Gods”, is one of the more famous waterfalls in Iceland, located in the Mývatn District of Iceland's North-Central region. They can be found right off of Ring Road, about 50 km (50 kilometers) east of Akureyri and 53 km (53 kilometers) south of Husavik.

The falls appear suddenly in the middle of a plain, where the Skjálfandafljót (Wikipedia Article) River has been meandering along peacefully until it suddenly drops over a rift in the Earth - one of the many signs in Iceland that the country is slowly being pulled apart by tectonic plate movements. The glacial river has carved a canyon through the surrounding lava field over the course of 7,000 years. Goðafoss is comprised of three cascades forming a semi-circle, two wide chutes of tumbling water and one narrow. While perhaps not as tall as the thunderous Dettifoss or as powerful as the breathtaking Selfoss, two of the many comparable and equally renowned Icelandic waterfalls, these falls are still very beautiful and quite dramatic in their own right at forty feet high and one-hundred feet wide. Goðafoss is surrounded by magnificent basaltic rock formations, witnesses of Iceland’s formative volcanic past.

 - Goðafoss
Goðafoss. Photo by unknown

This waterfall is one of the most outstanding natural attractions in Iceland, if not for its extraordinary beauty then for its deep heritage and important religious significance. Its name has historical and cultural connections dating back to the turn of the first millennium when Icelanders became Christian. Thorgeir Thorkelsson, the Law Speaker of the Icelandic Parliament at the time, lived on a farm very close to the waterfall. He was given the task of choosing the official religion of Iceland, determining whether the country would continue practicing Norse paganism or adopt Christianity.

The story goes that Thorgeir, himself a pagan priest and chieftain, decided in favor of Christianity – perhaps under the pressure of “convert or die” methods. After his decision, he returned home and dispensed of his heathen gods by casting icons of Norse deities into the falls in a symbolic act of conversion. Thus, the falls became known as Goðafoss, the “Waterfall of the Gods”. In the year 2,000, a church was built on Thorgeir’s old farm commemorating the 1,000-year anniversary of Iceland's adoption of Christianity. This historic church still exists today and is open to visitors during the summertime.

	Revisted - Goðafoss
Goðafoss Revisted. Photo by Howard Ignatius

What to See

At Goðafoss there are two trails – one on the east side of the falls and one on the west side. It is recommended that one visit both because the waterfall looks different from each side. By clambering over moorland and the lava field one can get up-close and take wonderful pictures from the high ground downstream, or right from the lip of the falls if one goes a bit farther. The main tourist spot is the part of the falls accessible from the parking lot on the western bank, but by crossing the bridge one can access the eastern side where it is possible to get down to the lower river bank. The eastern side offers more photographic opportunities.

From a small parking lot near a restroom area on the east bank, one is able to hike upstream a short distance and choose whether to go down to the river level to view the falls from its base or go up to a bluff where the falls can be viewed from the top. Walk in the downstream direction closer to Ring Road and one will notice a bridge that provides convenient access to the west bank, as well as a more frontal view of Geitafoss, a smaller waterfall about 250 meters downstream of Goðafoss.

Parking is available in the gas station parking lot for the trail on the west side. This parking lot attracts most of the tour bus traffic. From the west side one can see Geitafoss a little ways down the river from Goðafoss. The west side seems to yield fewer options for viewing the falls, but there is less walking involved to get there.

The view of the surrounding mountains, veiled in clouds, is spectacular.

Goðafoss - Goðafoss
Goðafoss. Photo by Ævar Guðmundsson

How to Get There

From Akureyri, take Ring Road (Route 1) east until Route 842 and go right. From Husavik, take Route 85 south to Ring Road (Route 1) and go left, then right on Route 842. From Mývatn, follow Ring Road west, about 45 minutes until Route 842. You’ll be able to see Goðafoss in the distance as you approach.

Goðafoss -
Goðafoss - Goðafoss. Photo by Slava Rodionov
If you are taking a bus from Akureyri, Mývatn, or Egilsstadir, take line 62 and 62a.

Planning Tips

Wear good walking shoes for a firm footing, as there is spray on the rocks and no fences between you and the river. If you really want to get up to the edge of the cliff, you’ll need to clamor over rocks and around large pools of water, especially when it has recently rained.
Wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet or dirty. The spray from the falls can also contribute to making you feel cold and wet so bring a warm or waterproof coat.

While visiting the falls, you can stop by the souvenir shop, café, gas station, and restrooms nearby.

There is no charge to visit the falls.

Nearby Landmarks

  • Mývatn (Wikipedia Article) Lake, located in the same region as Goðafoss, is the fourth-largest lake in Iceland. It was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2,300 years ago.
  • Grjótagjá is a small lava cave located near Mývatn Lake with a thermal spring inside, often used for bathing.
  • Ljósavatn Lake, located about 9 km from Goðafoss, is home to a huge variety of fish that support the livelihood of the region’s fishermen. Stay and watch the sunset over the beautiful turquoise water.
  • Sprengisandur is Iceland’s largest desert of rock and volcanic ash. Goðafoss is the starting point for an excursion across this astonishing stony landscape.

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Author: kristen7225. Last updated: Feb 20, 2015

Pictures of Goðafoss

Green Goðafoss - Goðafoss
Green Goðafoss - Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras


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