As many European countries open up to vaccinated travelers, I figured it would be worth it to showcase the beauty of the country. Iceland is a stunningly beautiful country, and before Covid-19 appeared, I would hazard to say its beauty was overwhelming the country. For a country of 300,000 people, there were an insane number of visitors. And it’s understandable…in addition to the beauty, it’s easy to get around and communicate in Iceland. Now that travel is popping back up, it could become that way, but I’m hoping Iceland keeps some of its isolated charm.
There is what is referred to as the Golden Triangle in Iceland, which is where most tourists visit. If you can get outside of the Golden Triangle to the north or east of Iceland, you can find some of that isolated charm. Skógafoss is still close enough to Reykjavík that it isn’t wildly isolated, but it is honestly quieter than some of the waterfalls in the Golden Triangle. Skógafoss is a really beautiful waterfall that can be seen from the Ring Road, and the village/town around it is definitely interesting.
When I first visited Iceland in 2012, I didn’t know that there were other waterfalls above Skógafoss. There is a trail (Fimmvorduhals) that continues along the Skóga River for about 25 kilometers or so, and there are many drops along the River. I didn’t go the whole way, but if you hike up the 500 steps to the right of Skógafoss, you’ll get a great view of the Atlantic, but if you continue for just a short distance you’ll stumble upon Hestavaðsfoss.
At 30′ tall or so, Hestavaðsfoss isn’t as mesmerizing as Skógafoss, but it has a completely different “look”, and so is worth the hike, I believe. The climb up the stairs isn’t too bad, honestly, and I’m someone that doesn’t care for heights.
Just over 150 kilometers east outside of Reykjavik along the Ring Road (Iceland Road 1), you’ll come to the village of Skogar. If coming from Reykjavik, it will be on the left/north.
There will be a sign indicating the turn to Skogafoss. Turn left onto that road. Head to approved parking areas for Skogafoss.
Once you’ve visited Skogafoss, look for the trail/steps on the right of Skogafoss that lead uphill. Follow that path and then go a bit further from the viewpoint to see Hestavaðsfoss.
If you visit Iceland, and you explore outside of Reykjavík, you’ll likely end up on the Ring Road. If you take one of the tour buses to visit major attractions, many of them will head toward Skógafoss, which is one of the many stunning waterfalls in Iceland, and is extremely easy to visit. What I didn’t know the first time I visited Iceland in 2012 was that there was another waterfall about 1 mile away.
Kvernufoss isn’t as large or as exciting, but if you’re looking to get away from the crowds, and you can, Kvernufoss is the waterfall for you. Reaching the falls is a bit more adventurous, in that there are some unique steps. The start of the hike is near the Skógar Museum, but instead of stopping there, you pass the museum and some other buildings, and park at the end of that road near some abandoned farm equipment. Head east from that parking lot along the paths that have shown up. At some point, you’ll reach a wire fence that has been set to keep the sheep in/out. At the right spot, there should be a stepladder that you can use to safely cross over the fence. My sister was rather pregnant at this time, so it was interesting! After crossing that fence, it is pretty smooth sailing in terms of finding the falls. Follow the path toward the river/creek, and then once you reach the creek, turn north and follow the river upstream. That’s where Kvernufoss is!
The hike isn’t bad, but for the second half of the hike, it does climb uphill, and it can be a bit slippery, so wear appropriate shoes. You’ll likely have the trail to yourself. We ran into just a few other people. It’s a much quieter waterfall than Skógafoss, but it is also beautiful!
From the Ring Road, head toward Skógar, which is hard to miss because of the waterfall. If heading east, you’ll turn left toward the village.
Instead of heading toward Skógafoss, follow signs for the Skógar Museum. You’ll turn right at some point to arrive at the museum. Then follow the directions above.
Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate)
Length of Hike: 0.75 miles round-trip
I first visited Iceland five years ago, and decided I liked it so much I had to take my family. So we packed up and headed to Iceland about three weeks ago. I’m just now getting to write about one of the first waterfalls I saw on this second trip.
Urriðafoss has the distinction of being the waterfall with the highest volume in Iceland. I can tell it’s a busy waterfall, but Gullfoss, Dettifoss, and Selfoss seem pretty voluminous too! Gullfoss, Dettifoss, and Selfoss are much much taller, though, so you’ll be fighting crowds at these others, especially Gulffoss.
To get to Urriðafoss, you have to drive down a gravel road for a short distance, and you can do that in any vehicle. There were a few other cars when we arrived, and a number of people were fishing near the falls. It was a beautiful view to start out the day of travels. I had low expectations because it isn’t particularly tall, but I still found it to be beautiful. And you won’t be surrounded by hundreds of other people.
From the city of Sellfoss, drive about 10 miles to Urriðafossvegur, which will be on your right. There will be a sign for the falls.
Turn right onto Urriðafossvegur, and drive about 1 mile along the gravel road. There will be a sharp left turn toward the parking are for the falls.
The hike to the falls is very short, and you can see the falls from the parking area.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: Roadside (or 0.2 miles round-trip)
I was about to post this waterfall as the waterfall Krossarfoss, and then started to do a bit of research. I’m not sure where I got the name Krossarfoss, as I usually get names from another source or Google (especially when there isn’t some kind of sign near the falls). My main source and Google both call this Foss á Siðu, so that’s what I’m going to call it also! (And as I searched, it seems there is another falls known as Krossarfoss, but it must not be very well known.)
If you’re driving along the southern portion of the Ring Road, it’s almost impossible to miss Foss á Siðu (unless you’re just not paying attention to anything around you). I don’t exactly remember what I did to get a picture of the falls, but there must be some way to pull off of the Ring Road and take pictures. (And honestly, there were times where the roads were so quiet that I just stopped on the road since I could see pretty far ahead and behind me.)
The day I saw the falls, it was pretty windy, at least near the falls. As you can tell, the water was being blown a good 10-15′ off of its “normal” path. Looking at all of the shots I took, I can see the waterfall swaying back and forth. It’s a pretty awesome waterfall and it’s easy to visit. That makes it worthwhile in my book!
Drive along the Ring Road. If you’re heading east, you will pass Roads 203 and 202 (in that order). After passing road 202, drive a few more kilometers and then you’ll see the falls to your left. Google has a “location” for this on Google Maps, so you could search for that.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Hike: not applicable
If you’re visiting Iceland looking for waterfalls, then you have to visit Seljalandsfoss (and a bunch of other waterfalls too!). Seljalandsfoss is one of my favorites in Iceland, but it ends up that there are three other waterfalls right next door to Seljalandsfoss. (Actually, there’s a fourth just around the corner!)
The one that has a name is Gljúfurárfoss. I won’t even take a stab at how that’s said, but it apparently means “Canyon River Waterfall”, which makes sense when you realize that part of the waterfall is blocked off by some time of slot canyon. I have read about others who have tried to walk through the slot canyon to get a better view, but I didn’t even remotely think about trying. I was already somewhat wet from Seljalandsfoss, and didn’t really want to get any wetter.
Because it’s not as scenic as Seljalandsfoss, you will actually have a better chance of getting the falls without people in the view. You may notice there was a car parked right near the opening of the canyon. While it’s not one of my favorites, it’s still worth stopping to take a few shots because it’s so close to these other falls.
Gljúfurárfoss is found off of the southern portion Ring Road, right next to Seljalandsfoss. It is found east of Arborg.
If you are heading east, you will turn left onto Road 249 (Þórsmerkurvegur), and head just a short distance to the parking area for the falls. It’s pretty hard to miss, as there are signs indicating the road to Seljalandsfoss, and then drive just a bit further down the road.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: roadside, can try to walk to the falls
Height: ~ 200′
Ægissufoss (or Ægissíðufoss) is one of the tamer waterfalls in Iceland. Anywhere else, this waterfall might turn in to the main attraction, but here in Iceland, there are a number of taller, more vociferous waterfalls.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t visit it, but I don’t know if it would be the highest on the list. Luckily for me (and you), it isn’t that far off of the Ring Road. I was already driving circling the island around the Ring Road, and stopping to view the falls took at most 20 minutes of extra time, and that’s if you decide to rush. You could stay and enjoy the peaceful setting, realizing that you may be the only person there! (There was a family on the other side of the river, and I’m not really sure how they arrived at the falls.)
This waterfall is in the southern portion of the island, east of Reykjavík and west of other waterfalls, including the amazing Seljalandsfoss. As you’re driving along the Ring Road, turn onto Route 25 heading south.
Drive for about 2 miles along Route 25. You’ll see a sign on your left for the “road” to the falls.
Turn left onto this unpaved road, drive the few hundred feet to the end, where there’s a parking area.
From the parking area, follow the sounds to the river. You’re only a few hundred feet from the falls, and there are a few different easy-to-identify trails leading down to the shore of the river.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, you can see it without following any trail down to the river)
Length of Hike: negligible
Þingvellir National Park is an important site to Icelanders. It’s where the first Parliament was set up (almost 1100 years ago), and Icelandic independence was later celebrated there (in 1944). Because of its importance, it’s been designated as one of the three sites on the Golden Circle, which also include Geysir and Gulfoss. Of the three main sites, it is probably the least busy of the three, and seems to have a calming effect. (And if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, parts of season 4 were apparently filmed in the park.)
As you’re wandering around the main site, you might realize from the sound of rushing water that a waterfall is nearby, but it’s out of sight. There’s a wall of rock hiding the waterfall. Once you figure out how to get into the gap (which is actually a geologic fault line), you’ll be rewarded with Öxarárfoss. To get to the gap, there is a parking area designated specifically for the falls on Road 36. You might also try the main parking area near the lake and church, and then try and find the correct trail to walk up the rock “wall.” Parking at the designated stop is the more “obvious” option. It’s a fascinating walk south through the fault line to get to the falls. At about 40’+ tall, this waterfall can be impressive, though it might not be the first waterfall stop in Iceland with so many other larger waterfalls!
Head to Þingvellir National Park. If you’re in Reykjavík, you can head northeast along Road 1, and then take a right onto Road 36, which leads directly into the park.
The parking area for the falls is found on Road 36 before you come to the visitor’s center (assuming you’re coming from Reykjavík).
Head south from the parking area along the trail to the falls.
Accessbility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip
From the sheer number of pictures taken of Skógafoss, I tend to assume that it is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland. And understandably so! At 200′ tall and 60′ wide, it is one of the most striking waterfalls on the island. It’s also not difficult to visit Skógafoss, which is only about two hours from Reykavík. So even if you’re just enjoying a stopover in the country for a day or two, it is definitely within driving distance.
Many of the waterfalls in Iceland are very “personal.” You can get up close without much difficulty, and Skógafoss is probably one of the easiest to get up close and personal. Even with the intense flow, you can walk up the rocky river bank and experience the intense spray from the falls. I think that’s why it is so popular! (And oddly enough, even though it’s popular, you aren’t likely to see hundreds of people there at any point in time. When I visited, there were probably 15 or 20 others, at most.
If you’re interested in exploring more, there is a trail to the right of the falls. Apparently, if you’re up for the 8 kilometer hike (one-way), there are 20+ waterfalls further upstream (info here). Even if you’re not interested in hiking, by exploring along the beginning of the trail, you might find a different vantage point for the falls. It’s a really beautiful area. There is at least one hotel right near the falls, so if you’d like to stay the night in a beautiful scenic setting, that would be a great option. (Though in Iceland, there are many other great options, since everything is so scenic!)
If coming from Reykavík, drive for about two hours, headed east along the Ring Road (Road 1). You’ll come to the town of Skoga.
Headed east, you will turn left into the town. You should be able to see Skógafoss from the road, so it’s pretty difficult to miss. I think there are signs if you’re still not noticing it!
Once turning, follow the roads that head back west toward the falls for a quarter of a mile or so. Just keep the falls in your sight until you reach the parking area.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: up to 0.3 miles round-trip (to get closer), though you can see it from the parking area
There are a LOT of waterfalls in Iceland, so it’s pretty difficult to decide on a favorite…But Seljalandsfoss “falls” into being one of my favorites (top two or three). Seljalandsfoss is just one truly stunning waterfall!
Let me start by saying it is extremely easy to visit. It is right off of the Ring Road. There is a very short drive down road 249, which ended up being much easier than I originally expected. Parking is just a few hundred feet from the falls. The waterfall is right in front of you, and it is truly stunning, but it becomes even more amazing as you get closer and closer!
In June, this was one powerful waterfall, with the spray being pretty intense. But expect to get at least a little bit wet from the falls…because you can walk behind the falls. There are a few other waterfalls that I’ve been able to do this for, and each time, it’s pretty impressive. I think what was special about Seljalandsfoss was all of the different angles you could view the falls from. You might be able to notice in the picture that a rainbow had formed because of all the spray. I really had a lot of fun exploring Seljalandsfoss. A raincoat definitely helps the experience be even more enjoyable (and it obviously wasn’t raining).
Seljalandsfoss is found off of the southern portion Ring Road. It is found east of Arborg.
If you are heading east, you will turn left onto Road 249 (Þórsmerkurvegur), and head just a short distance to the parking area for the falls. It’s pretty hard to miss, as there are signs indicating the road to the falls.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles to get behind the falls!
When you pull in the parking lot for Gullfoss, there is nothing to indicate (except for maybe the surprising number of cars in such a seemingly desolate place) that just around the bend is a truly spectacular waterfall. I have to admit I wasn’t really sold on Gullfoss. The pictures just didn’t seem to be that interesting.
Walking down the stairs, you still may not have any idea of the falls you’re about to see. At some point, it becomes fully apparent that this a massive waterfall. There are two separate drops, the bottom one being something about 65′ tall or so, and the upper portion at about 35′. The upper drop happens over some distance, and while far more visible, it just isn’t as impressive as the lower drop.
So much water is plunging over the falls, and so much spray is being produced that it’s extremely difficult to appreciate the true height of the lower falls. It’s almost impossible to tell that it’s 65′ tall. (Reading further, there’s a deep crevice that may help create this optical illusion.)
While Gullfoss is wild, massive, and powerful, it is also extremely popular. It is part of the Golden Circle Tour, and it is a must visit, but you will absolutely be surrounded by other people. At certain times of the day, I’m guessing people are likely to be in the picture no matter what. Just try and let the noise of the falls wash out all of the voices…it’s really not that hard!
There are numerous different ways to get to the main road leading to the falls, Route 35. If you are headed from Reykjavík, follow route 36 east out of the city, connect onto the newly paved Route 365, then onto Route 37, and finally onto Route 35. All of these are very clearly signed. If headed from Selfoss, like I was, drive a short distance west on Route 1, the Ring Road, and then head northeast on Route 35, which is pretty much a “straight” shot.
Once on Route 35. Essentially drive to the parking area. It will be marked, and you will also notice a sign indicating that most non-4×4 vehicles will not be able to continue along Route 35.
Once parked, follow the other people!
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip