Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Gullfoss Falls, Iceland

Somewhere on the might Olfusa River rushes Gullfoss Falls, Iceland’s most iconic waterfall and a true indication of the natural, ice-toned beauty to be found throughout the country. Most often viewed from above, Gullfoss offers a dramatic sight: it appears as though the water rushing off the cliff is simply vanishing into thin air. Though so powerful it was once thought of as a source for power generation, the cascade is just 104 ft (32 metres). But don’t let the numbers fool you, the sheer force of the rushing water is what makes Gullfoss a touristic must-see.

When to go? As with the rest of Iceland, Summer’s warmer weather and breathtakingly long days make for the best time to see the falls in all their splendor. Many suggest a visit in the afternoon, around 3pm-4pm for the best lighting over the cliffs.

History

In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the center of a controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman, Howell, sought to utilize the waterfall’s energy and harbored ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.

At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howell the land without the knowledge of a loophole that would allow him to proceed with his plans.

It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge to stop Howell’s ambitions. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm where she helped pave the first road to Gullfoss, she sought to get the contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer.

The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík, a distance of over 100 kilometers (62 miles). Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.

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