Saturday, August 24, 2013

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall of Iceland


While planning our driving route along Iceland's Ring Road, I noticed a recurring theme - "See Waterfall", "See Waterfall", and once again... "See Waterfall".  A waterfall here, a waterfall there, waterfalls, waterfalls, everywhere. This is not necessarily an exaggeration.  Like I said in a previous post about road-tripping it through Iceland, if you didn't have a chance to pull over and check out a waterfall on the side of the road, just wait 30 seconds for the next one to appear.

Some of them were simple, yet still quite pretty.  Some of them were obviously roaring and huge, but too far away to explore.  And some were right off the side of the road with easy access and amazing views.  My favorite waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, was one such spectacle. Located about 30 seconds off the Ring Road, about an hour and a half from Reykjavik, it is super easy to find as well!

Iceland waterfalls, Reykjavik, Ring Road Iceland
The Seljalandsfoss waterfall - spectacular!

After crossing a wide and shallow river (rivers look very different in some areas of Iceland - like giant lakes that have decided to go exploring the countryside), we noticed in the distance a ribbon of white cutting into the cliffs. According to our GPS, this was Seljalandsfoss, our destination.  It didn't look very spectacular from our then-current point of view, but we were about to be blown away!

Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Iceland waterfall
Seljalandsfoss waterfall from a distance.

The waterfall itself drops 200 feet over the edge of its cliff (the cliff, according to the information placards around the waterfall, used to be part of the actual coastline of Iceland).  It is a narrow waterfall compared to some, but thunderously loud and simply beautiful.  The spray was icy cold - I recommend a really nice waterproof jacket or rain poncho if you want to spend some quality time near Seljalandsfoss!  From every angle, you could find something to photograph or marvel at.

Iceland waterfall, things to see and do near Reykjavik
Joey outside the Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

The best part of Seljalandsfoss is that you can walk around and behind the waterfall.  On the left hand side is a set of wooden stairs that take you about a quarter of the way up the waterfall for some nice photographs. You can then either return down the steps the way you came, rounding the waterfall from the right side, or you can walk down a rocky embankment towards the back of the waterfall.

Iceland waterfall, things to see and do near Reykjavik
Walking down the embankment to the waterfall.

Iceland waterfalls, Reykjavik waterfall
The safer route to get behind the waterfall.

I will warn you, the rocky embankment is steep and made of uneven, water-eroded rocks (it is not chiseled into nice, easy stairs).  If you are not wearing proper footwear, or are not steady on your feet, don't go that way. My husband had to help a couple of older ladies navigate the rocks, fearful that they'd slip and fall into the waterfall's icy pond.

Iceland waterfall, hiking Iceland
The rocky embankment down to the back of the waterfall.

Behind the waterfall it is really wet and loud (surprise!) but truly a one-of-a-kind experience.  I myself have never been behind a waterfall before, so I really enjoyed it.

Iceland waterfall, hiking Iceland's waterfalls
Me behind the waterfall.

It is free to visit Seljalandsfoss. You can hike around it, explore the area (and its neighboring waterfall Gljufurarfoss), and just enjoy the scenery for no charge.  There are free washrooms, which look like outhouses but are flush toilets, for you to use as well.  When we were there, there was a little kiosk that sold food and beverages for somewhat reasonable prices.  I warmed up with a hot chocolate as I sat there, dripping wet from our waterfall adventure.  I also want to mention that there is a campground in the area, near the second and smaller waterfall of Gljufurarfoss, but we didn't stay there so I can't say much more about it than that.

Iceland waterfall, things to see and do near Reykjavik
Joey about to dive in?

It is a popular site - there were at least three tour buses sharing the area with us.  However, despite the parking lot being quite full, the waterfall never seemed crowded.  If you are looking to take photographs without other tourists being in the shot, I don't know what to tell you. It probably won't happen, unless you choose to go during 2 a.m. and take advantage of the 24 hour sunlight.  Either way, I highly recommend you stop to see one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls.

Iceland waterfall, romantic Iceland waterfall
We sure loved the Seljalandsfoss waterfall!

On a side note: as we were on our way to Seljalandsfoss from Reykjavik, we saw a sign indicating that the Keldur Ruins were nearby.  It was a 22 kilometer side trip off the Ring Road - through the countryside and down some gravel roads.  I was excited to see them: I'd read they featured some original sod houses and demonstrated the early way of life for Icelanders.  What I got was a total let-down!  The 'ruins' were actual sod houses, but ones that had been in use until quite recently, with shingled or metal roofs and siding on the upper halves.  The ruins were also sandwiched unpleasantly inside a muddied farm yard, where the farmers were hard at work transporting hay bales through the entrance to the establishment. It cost about $10 US just to go inside the gate and look around.

things to see and do near Iceland, Keldur
The best part of Keldur - the little building in the parking lot!

Perhaps it would have been worth it had we paid to go inside and look. From the outside of the gate, we saw nothing but modern buildings with turf layered around the outside, a muddy courtyard, tractors puttering to and fro, and a stream of cows moving into the farmyard.  It was pretty disappointing after driving for so long down such a rutted, bumpy road.  We opted to turn around and continue on our way to Skogar.  Were we wrong to do so? I don't know, but it didn't seem worth the cost.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I am in Iceland now and trying to decide if I want a guided tour or rent a motorcycle and go exploring. Seljalandsfoss is on my list of waterfalls to visit. I hope to see it tomorrow or later in the week. I enjoyed reading your account.

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    1. Hi Eddie! I highly recommend you rent the motorcycle and cruise about the island on your own. There's so much to see and do, it is almost a shame to be strapped into a bus and just pass it by. I have an article on taking a road trip through Iceland as well - it has lots of tips and tricks for drivers if you choose to rent the bike. Good luck and have a total blast! :)

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  2. I also loved that waterfall! We went and visited it after we did a glacier hike on the nearby Eyjafjallajökull glacier (try saying that after or before a few drinks!) tongue. It was slippery the day I was there too, but really cool. As was the glacier hiking!

    Love the blog by the way!

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    1. We saw lots of brochures and such advertising the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, but opted not to go. It was so cold and rainy while we were there: hiking a glacier seemed counter-intuitive. Did we totally miss out? When were you last in Iceland?

      I'm glad you like my blog! I love hearing stuff like that! :)

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