Monday, 29 October 2018

Godafoss: History of Iceland's Waterfall of the Gods

Iceland is unlike any place on earth. The country’s geology, language, history, and culture are unique. This is part of what makes it so special to visit. One the island’s more interesting sites is Godafoss waterfall. Not only is it one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, but it also holds the key to the country’s Christian roots and the story of how Iceland became a Christian nation. Its name means “waterfall of the gods” in Icelandic, so as you can imagine there is definitely quite the tale to be told here. Not only that, but the cascade forms a part of the larger Diamond Circle route in northeast Iceland. So let’s find out more about this magical place and how it ties into a major event Iceland’s 1,000-year plus history.

The Northern Lights over Iceland's Godafoss waterfall on the Diamond Circle

History of Godafoss Waterfall - From Paganism to Christianity


Godafoss is considered to the place where Iceland converted from its pagan roots to Christianity. Around a thousand years ago, Iceland was still a relatively new nation. The settlers who came in the late 800s AD brought their customs and Norse religion with them. In the year 1,000 AD there was a gathering of the island’s most powerful chieftains and lawmakers at the country’s Althingi (parliament) in Thingvellir National Park. The leaders had come together to decide whether or not they should continue with the old ways or embrace the “new religion” known as Christianity. A pagan priest by the name of Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði stepped in and brokered a compromise that left both sides happy. According to the Íslendingabók, pagans could still practice in private while the official state religion would be Christianity. Thanks to Ljósvetningagoði’s ingenuity, the country narrowly avoided a civil war.

According to legend, Þorgeir wanted to show his dedication to his new monotheistic god. When he returned home to Ljosavatn, he gathered all of his statues of Norse gods and tossed them into this waterfall. It was a gesture of faith and signaled an end to his pagan ways. His official conversion is what gives this stunning cascade its name.

A statue of the Norse god Odin to be thrown over Godafoss waterfall

How to Arrive at Godafoss 


Godafoss is considered one of the main stops on the Diamond Circle route and is located 30-40 minutes away from both Akureyri and Húsavík. Coming from Akureyri, you’ll simply follow Route 1 until it’s time to turn right onto the road that leads to Godafoss. From there it’s a short distance to the falls. When coming from Húsavík in the north, you’ll travel south on Route 845 until you connect with Route 1. Make a right and head west on the Ring Road towards to road that takes you to Godafoss.

About Godafoss Waterfall in Iceland 


The waterfall itself is quite magnificent. It flows from the river Skjálfandafljót and spans 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) across. Though its drop is short (around 12 meters or just under 40 feet), its majesty and ambiance are what make the waterfall truly remarkable. Its jewel-toned blue waters and rainbow-inducing spray can be seen from several different viewpoints and walking paths. The water source is the Skjalfandaljot, which a glacial river that runs through a 7,000-year-old lava field.

Stunning Godafoss waterfall at sunset

Godafoss: History of Iceland's Waterfall of the Gods 


Godafoss definitely needs to be a part of any trip to Iceland. The natural beauty that you find here is unparalleled. You’ll want to take lots of pictures of this horseshoe-shaped waterfall and bask in its grandness and wonder. Perhaps you’ll even be able to feel the power of the past events that happened here so long ago. They shaped Iceland’s history and continue to capture our imaginations.

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