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?

Öxarárfoss, Iceland

Öxarárfoss in June 2012

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!

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Head south from the parking area along the trail to the falls.

Accessbility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 44′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Öxarárfoss?

Skógafoss, Iceland

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!)

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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)
Height: 197′
Length of Hike: up to 0.3 miles round-trip (to get closer), though you can see it from the parking area

Skógafoss in June 2012

Where in the World is Skógafoss?

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?

Kattarhryggur Falls, Iceland

The Ring Road is the path to take to go around the island of Iceland.  Most of it is paved, though there are a few unavoidable unpaved portions.  There are also a number of waterfalls that can be found along the road.  Some of them are advertised, while others such as this falls, are not.

Kattarhryggur Falls is not the official name.  The falls was right near a sign for Kattarhryggur, which is the bridge/road in the picture.  It is the “Cat’s Arch”, and the road was originally used for horse-drawn carriages.  It was later used for motorized vehicles, and this bridge was one of the first concrete bridges to be built.  To the right of the bridge is a waterfall.  You can’t get very close, or I at least didn’t try.  Obviously, it’s not a waterfall that I would go out of my way to visit, but it was a bonus!

Directions:

  1. You’ll just have to pay attention.  It’s along the Ring Road north of the intersections with road 528.  I was heading north along the road, and had previously visited Glanni (to the south).  The falls will be on your left (if you are heading north).

Accessibility: 10/10
Height: ~100′ (a guess)
Length of Hike: not applicable

Waterfall near Kattarhryggur in June 2012

Where in the World (Approximately) is Kattarhryggur Falls?

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

Seljalandsfoss in June 2012

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).

Directions:

  1. Seljalandsfoss is found off of the southern portion Ring Road.  It is found east of Arborg.
  2. 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!
Height: 200′

Where in the World is Seljalandsfoss?

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?