Godafoss (more accurately Goðafoss; pronounced “GO-thuh-foss”) was one of the more famous waterfalls we encountered while driving the Ring Road through the Mývatn District of Iceland’s Northeast Region. It was a wide 12m tall waterfall on the Skjálfandafljót River that was segmented into two main components while possessing an arcing semi-horseshoe shape, which we noticed when we viewed it from its top. Although both times we’ve visited this waterfall were under some dreary overcast (and rainy) conditions, we could still see the color in the river, which I’m sure would be amplified when the sun would come out.
We were able to experience this waterfall from both sides of its banks. The east bank seemed to provide a great deal of flexibility in terms of how we were able to view the falls. The west side seemed to yield fewer views, but there was less walking involved to see the falls. We thought the east side was better yet strangely enough, since most of the tourist traffic seemed to be on the opposite side of the river (the west side), Julie and I plus a photographer couple pretty much had the whole east side to ourselves!
From a small car park near a restroom area on the east bank, we were able to hike upstream a short distance until we had a choice of going down to the river level to view the falls from its base or to go up to a bluff where we could see the falls from its top (as pictured at the top of this page). Since the walks were short, we were able to do them both. When we walked in the downstream direction closer to the Ring Road, we noticed there was a footbridge (providing convenient access to the west bank) as well as a more frontal view of Geitafoss, which was a smaller waterfall further downstream of Godafoss.
On the west bank, there was a much larger car park, and it seemed most of the tour bus traffic was there probably for this reason. We took a much shorter walk right up to the brink of the falls, but we really couldn’t do a whole lot to improve the views from this side. We also didn’t want to get too close to the edge of the cliffs and risk falling into the icy cold and turbulent Skjálfandafljót River.
From what I understand, this curling horseshoe-shaped waterfall had a fairly key role in Icelandic history. Apparently back in the year 1000, the lawspeaker at the time Þorgeirr Ljósvetningagoði had the unenviable task of choosing the official religion of Iceland. Perhaps under the pressure of Christianity’s convert or die methods, Þorgeirr chucked his icons of Norse deities into the falls (which, by the way, is translated to mean “waterfall of the gods”) but secretly maintained allegiance to the Norse deities.
Given that the falls was very close to the Ring Road, it didn’t surprise us that it was a very popular spot both with self-drivers and tours. But even still, we didn’t feel like the tourist crush was overwhelming. And since the waterfall was so easy to visit, there were opportunities to re-visit this place just in case the weather might improve (though it didn’t for us).
The turnoff for the west bank car park is about 1.1km on the Ring Road east of the turnoff for Route 842. The turnoff for the east bank area is about 300m further east of the west bank turnoff just on the other side of the bridge.
So given how close it was to drive (or walk) from one bank to the other, there really is no reason why you shouldn’t visit both sides to get the full experience.