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
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