Waterfall on Road 939, Iceland

One of the struggles with waterfalls isn’t necessarily finding the waterfall…It’s that you’ve found a waterfall, and yet there might not be an appropriate place to stop and capture the waterfall with your camera. There have been many times I have passed smaller waterfalls (and a few taller waterfalls) because there was absolutely no way to stop.

Iceland has so many waterfalls that you might become numb to them (though I didn’t after a week). And as you’re driving along a gravel road in what is honestly the middle of nowhere, you are likely to come upon a waterfall. On of the most unique roads I was on was Road 939. It’s by no means the worst road I’ve been on, but it also made my stress levels go up just a bit. And yet…the waterfalls help those levels go down. I’ve already recorded one unnamed waterfall (which I later found out had a name): Hænubrekkufoss, and the clearly named waterfall: Folaldafoss. Both waterfalls are stunningly beautiful, surrounding by an almost bleak landscape. As I look at this waterfall I’m describing now, I realize that in many other places, this would be a noted destination…and yet in Iceland, it’s just another waterfall in a remote location. There’s something honestly fascinating to me about that!

Directions:

  1. This is much easier to find that one might expect.  If you’re headed along the Ring Road, you may end up deciding to take Route 939 anyway, as you have two unpaved options ahead.  It is north of Höfn, but south of Egilsstaðir.
  2. The junction of the Ring Road and Route 939 shouldn’t be that difficult to find.  If you are headed from Höfn, it would be a left turn onto 939 heading generally north. This waterfall is found along the left side if headed north, though I really can’t give any more specifics since I don’t know the specifics!

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, the falls can be seen from the road)
Height: ~25′
Hike: Roadside

DSC_3145

One of the waterfalls found on Road 939 in Iceland (June 2012)

Where in the World is Waterfall on Road 939?

Unnamed Falls near Litlanesfoss, Iceland

The waterfall near Litlanesfoss (in June 2012)

In eastern Iceland, there are two very impressive waterfalls: Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss. Both are along found along the same river along the same hike. Hengifoss is further upstream, while Litlanesfoss is downstream, and you’ll encounter Litlanesfoss first.

There are a number of other waterfalls right nearby that would be main attractions in some waterfall-desolate place, but here in Iceland, they’re easy to forget. Right near Litlanesfoss is a smaller waterfall. I’m a bad judge of height, but the drop is probably in the 50-75′ range. This one’s a bit surprising because, looking above, it doesn’t really seem like so much water would come from the stream there. The erosion must be slightly deeper than expected.

Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss as a pair are probably some of my Iceland favorites. All of the other extras are great bonuses! (Random side note: look for the Bónus supermarkets in Iceland…they’re hard to miss because of the pink pig.) One note of caution, though. The area around the falls is surprisingly steep. Be extra safe as you’re hiking here. I can imagine one wrong step could be dangerous.

Directions:

  1. I started out at Egilsstaðir. Head south along Ring Road 1 for a few kilometers.
  2. Veer right onto Road 931, and drive for something like 17 km.
  3. At this point, I got slightly confused. You will reach a junction.  Keep going on Road 931 across the bridge spanning the very wide river.
  4. A short distance after crossing the river, veer left onto Road 933. (It gets confusing, as Road 933 is also on the other side of the river, and they are connected, though it’s a rough, rough road.)
  5. Go just a kilometer or so to the parking area for Hengifoss. It’s pretty hard to miss, and will be on your right.
  6. From the parking area, follow the Hengifoss Track.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: ~100′
Length of Hike: 2.1 miles round-trip

Where in the World is the Unnamed Waterfall near Litlanesfoss?

Fardagafoss, Iceland

The lower portion of Fardagafoss (June 2012)

Iceland has so many easy-to-visit waterfalls, and Fardagafoss is another addition to that list! I guess I should first say this assumes that you’ve driven the 404 miles from Reykjavík to Egilsstaðir (or flown that distance). It’s an amazing drive around Iceland’s Ring Road. But once you’re in Egilsstaðir, a charming town, you’re only a short distance from Fardagafoss. It’s just 2 miles or so outside of the town, and from the trail, you can get a great view of the town.

There are two (maybe three, depending on how you count) drops along the river, and I’ve decided to keep them together instead of calling them Upper and Lower Fardagafoss. About 1/4 of a mile from the parking area, you’ll come along the first drop. You’ll be viewing the falls from above, and there seems to be absolutely no plausible way to get the base of the falls. I wouldn’t even try!

If I remember correctly, you can see the upper falls pretty easily as you’re hiking along, but to get closer, you’ll hike another 3/8 of a mile or so. You are climbing uphill, though it’s not extremely steep. I distinctly remember there being no distinct trail, but instead many faint trails that led to the falls. I’m not sure this is great for the landscape, but there aren’t any signs to direct anyone. The vegetation doesn’t grow very tall, so it is very easy to scamper through the area, likely why there are so many paths.

It’s honestly another great waterfall to visit while you’re in Iceland. There aren’t many disappointing ones!

Directions:

  1. From the Ring Road 1, take Road 92 and drive through Egilsstaðir. (If you’re driving south, it would be a left turn.)
  2. After a short distance, turn left onto Road 93.
  3. Drive on Road 93 for a short distance, and then veer (turn) right to continue along Road 93. (Don’t continue forward on Road 94.)
  4. Drive another 2 miles or so along Road 93 to the parking area for the falls, which will be a gravel area on your right. There is a sign for the falls, and it was relatively difficult to miss.

(If you keep driving along Road 93, you can visit Gufufoss and see other minor waterfalls along the way to Seyðisfjörður.  There’s a rather tall waterfall behind some houses in Seyðisfjörður that you can photograph easily from afar.)

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: ~160′ (or more) over the two drops
Length of Hike: 1.4 miles round-trip

The upper portion of Fardagafoss

Where in the World is Fardagafoss?

Hænubrekkufoss, Iceland

Hænubrekkufoss in June 2012

When traveling, I often find myself feeling equal parts terrified and amazed. I often stumble upon roads that seem less traveled, and am nervous while driving down them, for some reason thinking I could be stuck in the middle of nowhere. And yet I’m just ask excited when I find something that is just plain cool! Iceland doesn’t have any lack of interesting roads, as portions of the country’s system are still unpaved. I think the decision to drive down Road 939 was based on the fact that both this road and the main Ring Road were unpaved (which was surprising), and this seemed shorter on the map. It was definitely shorter, but it seemed just a bit more adventurous.

Iceland also has no lack of waterfalls, and along this road, there were are at least three rather impressive waterfalls. The last one I viewed, Folaldafoss, is what I thought was the only named one on the road, and is the only one that is easily visited. While I was able to stop and photograph the other two from my car, I didn’t necessarily feel certain that I could stop for an extended period of time along the road. It was narrow, winding, and steep. At many points, I was just hoping no one was on the other “side” of the blind hill. Because it shortens the trip between Höfn and Egilsstaðir, I get the sense more people do take it, and yet it’s not that busy in this region.

It’s big enough that anywhere else it would deserve its own stop. With so many other waterfalls in Iceland, it didn’t receive that honor. I’m not sure that many people pass by it every day, so it makes it worth your while to pass by and see this waterfall plunging from Iceland’s cliffs.

Directions:

  1. This is much easier to find that one might expect.  If you’re headed along the Ring Road, you may end up deciding to take Route 939 anyway, as you have two unpaved options ahead.  It is north of Höfn, but south of Egilsstaðir.
  2. The junction of the Ring Road and Route 939 shouldn’t be that difficult to find.  If you are headed from Höfn, it would be a left turn onto 939 heading generally north. This waterfall is found along the left side if headed north past Folaldafoss.

Accessibility: 10/10 (the falls can be seen from the road)
Height: 175′
Length of Hike: roadside

Where in the World is Hænubrekkufoss?

Ring Road Waterfall #1, Iceland

A waterfall along the Ring Road (June 2012)

Iceland has a significant number of waterfalls.  Over a seven day period, I was able to see on the order of 30 waterfalls.  A significant portion of those falls were very easy to visit, not that distant from the main road, the Ring Road.  A few of these waterfalls were not officially named falls, but were visible from the Ring Road.  Two of them, designated Ring Road Waterfalls #2 and #3, have been discussed before.

Each of these three waterfalls were along a rather isolated stretch of the Ring Road, though not the most isolated.  (A few portions of the Ring Road are unpaved and wilder.) This portion of the road between Akureyri and Egilsstaðir doesn’t see a significant amount of traffic, and I was able to stop on the road itself to shoot photographs of the falls.  I could have probably sat there for minutes without meeting another car.  It’s honestly a much better feeling than seeing  a cool roadside waterfall and being unable to stop because of busy traffic.  This waterfall is definitely the most worthwhile to stop and photograph.  It’s actually wide enough that it should qualify as a waterfall with a parking area.

Directions:

  1. This waterfall is found along the Ring Road between Akureyri and Egilsstaðir.  If I remember correctly, this waterfall was on the left side of the road as I was headed east.  There were at least two other waterfalls before and after this that were easy to photograph.  There were others I didn’t stop to officially view.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~150′ (guessing!)
Length of Hike: roadside

Where in the World is Ring Road Waterfall #1?

Ring Road Waterfall #3, Iceland

A waterfall along the Ring Road (June 2012)

As I have said before, Iceland is a waterfall wonderland.  In my six days traveling around the island, there were no lack of waterfalls.  The total count of waterfalls just near the Ring Road was 34, and those were the waterfalls that I photographed.  There are hundreds on other untraveled paths, along with many in the remote interior of the island.

In the northeast portion of the island, there are a number of waterfalls that are directly visible from the road.  They are not popular enough, wide enough, or probably even tall enough to be clearly marked, but they are still very obvious.  It’s pretty impossible to miss them if you are driving by!  This is one of those waterfalls, which apparently disappears behind the rock.  I didn’t have much difficult stopping to photograph the falls.  As I’ve read elsewhere, some portions of the Ring Road see only 30 or 40 cars a day during certain times of the year.  It was probably busier in June, but I still was able to physically stop the car on the road and shoot away! (Waterfalls #1 and #2 can be found here.)

Directions:

  1. This waterfall is found along the Ring Road between Akureyri and Egilsstaðir.  If I remember correctly, this waterfall was on the left side of the road as I was headed east.  There were at least two other waterfalls before and after this that were easy to photograph.  There were others I didn’t stop to officially view.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~75′ (a guess)
Length of Hike: roadside

Where in the World is Ring Road Waterfall #3?

Folaldafoss, Iceland

Iceland has no lack of waterfalls.  Before I started my journey around Iceland, I prepared a pretty extensive list of waterfalls that should be relatively easy to visit.  Many of them are found directly off the Ring Road, or very close by.  So it might be pure luck that I found this next waterfall, Folaldafoss.

Most of the Ring Road around Iceland is paved, but there are a few still unpaved stretches remaining.  There’s are a few points where it is completely unavoidable.  You will be on unpaved road, whether you like it or not. South of Egilsstaðir, you’re faced with this choice.  Either take the unpaved Ring Road, or take (mostly) unpaved route 939.  It ends up that Route 939 is a shorter drive than the Ring Road, since the Ring Road hugs the Atlantic coastline.  Route 939 is steep and winding as you’re heading south.  There are one or two waterfalls or cascades along the way (Hænubrekkufoss is tall, but a bit further away and harder to pull of for), but nothing as exciting to write home about.  And then, out of the corner of your eye, you might notice this much more impressive waterfall.  It isn’t advertised very well in guidebooks or even on the internet.

I pull into what is a parking area for visitors to the falls.  I am the only one there.  This isn’t shocking, since it seems somewhat remote.  But wow, this is a truly impressive waterfall.  It’s not the tallest, nor is it the widest in Iceland.  If you can find the right viewpoint, though, it really does capture the spectacular Icelandic scenery.  I am suddenly extremely happy that I’ve endured this winding, curvy, steep dirt road.  I’ve been rewarded with a lesser known waterfall.  There’s no name to the falls, though there is a historical sign.  It’s not until later that I discover it is known as Folaldafoss.

Directions:

  1. This is much easier to find that one might expect.  If you’re headed along the Ring Road, you may end up deciding to take Route 939 anyway, as you have two unpaved options ahead.  It is north of Höfn, but south of Egilsstaðir.
  2. The junction of the Ring Road and Route 939 shouldn’t be that difficult to find.  If you are headed from Höfn, it would be a left turn onto 939 heading generally north.  It’s really only about 2 miles or so from the junction.  (If you’re headed from Egilsstaðir, you’ve got a longer journey before you find the falls.)  The parking would be on the left if headed north.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, the falls can be seen from the road)
Height: 54′
Length of Hike: negligible, though you can hike to get closer

Folaldafoss in June 2012

Where in the World is Folaldafoss?

Ring Road Waterfall #2, Iceland

A waterfall along the Ring Road (June 2012)

It’s almost been a year since visiting Iceland, and I miss the scenery.  Sometimes it can be bleak though, especially as you’re driving around the Ring Road (the main road around the island).  There aren’t a whole lot of forests on the island.  But there are a significant number of waterfalls.  There are so many, it becomes easy to ignore some of them.

For example, there are a number of taller waterfalls along the Ring Road.  Some of them are surprisingly beautiful, but there aren’t any designated places to stop.  In some instances, though, I was one of the few people on that stretch of the road, so I essentially just stopped the car in the road. (You can often see the road ahead for a significant distance.)  This waterfall was found along the road between Akureyri and Egilsstaðir, closer to Egilsstaðir.  That is where I noticed most of these “roadside” falls.  There weren’t many of them along the southern portion of the island. (Waterfalls #1 and #3 can be found here.)

Directions:

  1. This waterfall is found along the Ring Road between Akureyri and Egilsstaðir.  If I remember correctly, this waterfall was on the left side of the road as I was headed east.  There were at least two other waterfalls before and after this that were easy to photograph.  There were others I didn’t stop to officially view.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~125′ (a guess)
Length of Hike: roadside

Where in the World is Ring Road Waterfall #2?

Hengifoss, Iceland

A smaller waterfall near Hengifoss

Iceland has some pretty spectacular waterfalls, so it is difficult to choose one or two that really stand out as truly impressive. Hengifoss might just be at the top of the list. At just under 400′ or so, it’s a really impressive waterfall, and there are a number of other beautiful waterfalls downstream (including Litlanesfoss). It’s a truly spectacular view that has to be at the top of your list if you travel around Iceland.

I’ll have to be careful with my choice of words here. I guess the hike to the falls is simple. Once you start along the Hengifoss Track, there’s no real doubt about where to keep walking. The hike is not really easy though. On the way to Hengifoss, you’re almost constantly hiking uphill, and at points you may be right near steep drop-offs. To get close to the main attraction, you will have to traverse a short but slippery slope that is very near the roaring river…and you’re just far enough above the river that it may cause some doubts. It’s definitely possible though, and that’s coming from someone that is rather cautious in these situations. Heading back, you’ve got that same obstacle. After clearing that, it’s all downhill, and you’ll see numerous sheep along the way too.

Once you reach the falls, though, you’ll be rewarded with the amazing Hengifoss! Its height is impressive. Even at a significant distance away, the falls stand out against the landscape. I spent a significant amount of time at the falls, though, taking photographs at every possible angle. The intense red layers sandwiched between the black basalt truly made for some cool shots. While there were some other hikers, Hengifoss was also just isolated enough that I was the only one near the falls, at least for a significant amount of time.

Note: If you wonder about clothing in Iceland, dress in layers. I visited in early June, and the weather was by no means terrible. As I was hiking up the hill toward the falls, though, the wind was intense and chilly. I was glad I had more than one layer on. Near the falls, the temperature actually begins to noticeably increase as you become sheltered by the cliffs around you.

Directions:

  1. I started out at Egilsstaðir. Head south along Ring Road 1 for a few kilometers.
  2. Veer right onto Road 931, and drive for something like 17 km.
  3. At this point, I got slightly confused. You will reach a junction.  Keep going on Road 931 across the bridge spanning the very wide river.
  4. A short distance after crossing the river, veer left onto Road 933. (It gets confusing, as Road 933 is also on the other side of the river, and they are connected, though it’s a rough, rough road.)
  5. Go just a kilometer or so to the parking area for Hengifoss. It’s pretty hard to miss, and will be on your right.
  6. From the parking area, follow the Hengifoss Track.

Accessibility: 4/10
Height: 420′
Length of Hike: 3.1 miles round-trip

Hengifoss in June 2012

Where in the World is Hengifoss?

Hundafoss, Iceland

Hundafoss in June 2012

If you’re looking for waterfalls in Iceland, the Ring Road is the best place to start.  The Ring Road encircles the island, and many waterfalls are located only a short distance from the road.  A significant number of these falls require little effort to visit.

Hundafoss does require a little more effort to visit, but not that much.  It is found in Vatnajökull National Park, which is an expansive national park covering a significant portion of Eastern Iceland. In the southern portion of the park, you will come across Skaftafell, which is right off of the Ring Road. From the visitor’s center at Skaftafell, you can take the right path to Skaftafelljökull, an impressive glacier.  If you take the left path (which is not very obvious), you’ll be heading toward a set of waterfalls.

There are at least three easily visible waterfalls along this trail, though I believe I’ve seen a fourth falls on other sites.  I’m just not sure where exactly it was, and I really didn’t spend any time searching.  The first falls you come across along the trail is Hundafoss.  It’s more impressive than one might imagine.  There is an “official” viewpoint for the falls near the crest, and that view is not particularly impressive.  But if you pay attention as you’re hiking uphill, you’ll suddenly hear water flowing, and if you look to your left, you might notice a rather well-worn detour trail that very quickly leads to a pretty impressive view of the falls.  You do have to duck down under a few trees, but it’s well worth it.  Two other falls are upstream Magnúsarfoss and Svartifoss.

Directions:

  1. The entrance to the park is at Skaftafell, which is found directly off of the ring road.  It is found east of Vík and west of Höfn.  There are scheduled buses that will take you to the park directly from Reykjavík.
  2. If you’re heading east along the Ring Road, the entrance will be found on your left.  Turn into road leading to the visitor’s center.
  3. Head to the visitor’s center, park, and get your bearings for a bit.  To your right is the glacier.  To your left is a path that leads to the set of falls.
  4. Head left on the trail.  Signs will indicate the trail to Svartifoss, which is the most popular of the three falls.
  5. Head uphill for a bit, and you may begin to hear water flowing.  Look for the unofficial trail to your left, and try and find the falls.  (If you head a little further up the trail, and you see the sign indicating Hundafoss near its crest, you can backtrack a short distance to find this other short trail.)

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate, There are some uphill, rocky portions)
Height: 82′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip (though it’s more to Svartifoss)

Where in the World is Hundafoss?