Ægissufoss, Iceland

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.)

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. Drive for about 2 miles along Route 25. You’ll see a sign on your left for the “road” to the falls.
  3. Turn left onto this unpaved road, drive the few hundred feet to the end, where there’s a parking area.
  4. 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)
Height: ~20′
Length of Hike: negligible

Ægissufoss in June 2012

Where in the World is Ægissufoss?

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?

Falls on Laxá í Kjós, Icleand

Let me first of all say that I’m not sure whether Laxá í Kjós refers to a river or a locale, or possibly both.  If you search for this, it appears to be a very popular river for salmon fishing.  I wasn’t intending to even find this smaller waterfall.  I just happened to stumble upon when avoiding the Hvalfjörður Tunnel.  I was in search of other larger waterfalls including Sjavarfoss and Glymur, which are both further along Road 47.

If you are driving along Road 47, which parallels Hvalfjörður, it is rather difficult to miss this waterfall.  (There may be a larger waterfall upstream.)  Even though there was no official pull-off point, the road wasn’t particularly traveled, and it was very easy to stop along the side of the road.  I didn’t explore much, but took enough time to absorb the beautiful landscape surrounding me.  Even though there are a significant number of more intense waterfalls on the island, this smaller one really allows you to focus on the features surrounding the waterfall and river.

Directions:

  1. From the Ring Road (Road 1) coming from Reykjavík, take a right onto Road 47.  (It might actually be a roundabout at that point.)  Your other option, if you’re not looking for waterfalls,  is to continue along the Ring Road, bypassing Road 47.  Road 47 leads to the two other waterfalls listed above, and you can’t really view them without taking this “detour”.
  2. After a ways, the road will become unpaved (but possible to drive).   Just before Road 47 meets Road 48 (which will be to your right), you will cross over Laxá í Kjós.  It’s not really a bridge you’re crossing in the conventional sense, as the road stays level as it crosses over the river.  It’s pretty impossible to miss the falls unless you’re staring it some other direction.

Accessibility: 10/10
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: not applicable (roadside)

The falls on Laxá í Kjós (June 2012)

Where in the World is Laxá í Kjós?

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?

Glymur, Iceland

Glymur in June 2012

It’s taken me a while to get to writing about the waterfalls I’ve visited in Iceland, considering that I visited this falls, for example, almost two weeks ago.  But I’m finally getting around to it…

I’m starting with Glymur for a number of reasons.  First of all, it is a really impressive waterfall, and at about 640′, it is likely the tallest waterfall in Iceland.  Second, though, is that things seem to have changed very recently, at least in terms of the hike to the falls.  In Iceland, roads that are unpaved can only a short time later be paved, and signs can appear where none were before.

You’ll have to go out of your way to get to Glymur.  The drive around Hvalfjörður (instead of under it) is rather enjoyable, though it wasn’t very warm the day I visited the area.  Once you find the sign indicating the road to the falls, you have a journey down a rather bumpy, unpaved road, but it’s not terribly long, and only about 1 mile of it is very bumpy. (It can be done in a 2-WD car without any problem.)

I arrived at the parking area, and I was the only one there at that point, though it was relatively early.  It was amazingly peaceful, and you’re unlikely to find many other attractions in Iceland with so few people.  Previous guides have indicated that there are no signs indicating the direction to the falls, but that has now changed.  There are at least two signs indicating the correct trail to follow to the falls, and they’re not rinky-dinky little signs.  This helps greatly, and cuts down on the confusion.  If you’re unsure, though, looking for rocks with yellow paint on them. That indicates where the trail is, and further reduces the confusion.

After some ways, you’ll climb down through a cave, which is pretty cool, and not nearly as freaky as it sounds.  You’ll then hike a short distance, and cross the river Botnsá.  There is a log, along with a sturdy metal wire, to help you cross the river.  Again, it’s nowhere near as difficult as it sounds, though you will feel like an acrobat for a bit.

Then you start an upward climb.  How far up you climb depends on what you want to see and how daring you are.  Ropes and/or metal wire is present in many places to assist you along the sometimes slippery slopes.  At some point along the journey, you’ll begin to see the “whole” falls, though even that depends on where you stand.  I’ve seen pictures that people have obtained by hiking/climbing much higher, but this requires a love of heights that I don’t possess.  At least at some point along this upward journey, you can see a “glimmer” of the whole falls, which are really impressive.

There do seem to be paths that lead further up, and I did not explore those.  One of those might lead to better views, but be careful.  There also seems to be a trail that does not require going through the cave or crossing the river, but it is not clearly marked if it exists, and the views are apparently not as good.

Directions:

  1. If you’re headed from Reykjavik, head north on the Ring Road (Route 1).  Just before the Hvalfjörður tunnel, you’ll see a sign indicating Road 47.  Take a right onto Road 47.
  2. Drive along Road 47 for a ways.  Along the road, you’ll pass another waterfall, Sjávarfoss.
  3. After driving about 34 km and crossing a paved bridge, you should almost immediately see a blue sign indicating the road to Glymur.  Turn right.
  4. Drive for about 3 km to the end of the parking area.  It can be a bumpy ride, so drive slowly.
  5. Start the hike to the trail.  Follow the signs and the yellow rocks to guide you.  If you pass through the cave and cross the river, you’ll know you’re headed in the right direction.

Accessibility: 3/10 (moderate/difficult…it’s by no means terrible, but this hike does require some agility)
Height: 640′
Legnth of Hike: 3.1 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Glymur?