Svartifoss, Iceland

Iceland has so many beautiful waterfalls. I’ve been there twice and I still haven’t scratched the surface. Luckily, there are so many that are pretty easy to visit! (There are others that definitely require a bit more effort!)

Vatnajökull National Park has at least three easy-to-visit waterfalls (possibly a fourth, if I remember correctly). Magnúsarfoss and Hundafoss are the first two that you will encounter along the trail. The trail is moderately uphill with some rocky portions. Svartifoss is the most interesting of the three, and it has to do with the geology around the falls. Iceland is a product of volcanic activity, and as the lava cooled during its formation, unique structures were created. At Svartifoss, you’ll find these hexagonal columns on both sides of the waterfall. You can find similar hexagonal structures on Iceland, along with the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming (both of which I’ve had the chance to visit). Its these hexagonal columns that really make Svartifoss a worthwhile stop, even if it does require more hiking to visit than some of the other waterfalls.

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 after passing Hundafoss (which isn’t as obvious), you’ll arrive at Magnúsarfoss.
  6. Continue along the trail to Svartifoss.

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate, There are some uphill, rocky portions)
Height: 66′
Length of Hike: 1.9-2.4 miles round-trip

Svartifoss (25)

Svartifoss in June 2012

Where in the World is Svartifoss?

Advertisements

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?

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?

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?

Magnúsarfoss, Iceland

Magnúsarfoss in June 2012

Vatnajökull National Park contains a number of beautiful waterfalls and glaciers.  Three waterfalls are found along the same river.  Hundafoss is the furthest downstream, and Svartifoss is the furthest upstream.  Magnúsarfoss is found in between (nearer Hundafoss).  (I believe there is another smaller waterfall even further downstream, but I didn’t see any clear signage.)

Magnúsarfoss isn’t anything wildly spectacular.  You aren’t extremely close to the falls, and during the summer the flies might drive you a little bit nuts.  But if you’re in the area to view the glacier and the other falls, stop by Magnúsarfoss.  It’s really a relatively easy hike, and the whole detour is definitely worth it.

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 after passing Hundafoss (which isn’t as obvious), you’ll arrive at Magnúsarfoss.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate, There are some uphill, rocky portions)
Height: 32′
Length of Hike: 1.2 miles round-trip (though further to get to Svartifoss)

Where in the World is Magnúsarfoss?

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?