Tag Archives: waterfalls in Iceland

In Iceland’s Golden Circle, Gullfoss and Geysir

One of the most impressive waterfalls to see in Iceland is Gullfoss, no doubt. Found in Iceland’s southwestern region, and marking the endpoint of an area known as The Golden Circle, Gullfoss is definitely worth making at least an hour or so stop at this cascade.

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Fed by the Hivítá river, these waters plunge into a crevice that is more than 100 feet deep. To me, the closest comparison would be Niagara Falls, as this Icelandic wonder also produces a mist and spray. For viewing, you can venture along Gullfoss via a pathway with a guardrail to get different angles. A second area for getting a closer viewpoint is on a rocky platform that you have to step up to get on top.

DSCN1044DSCN1041 DSCN1039What’s also interesting about this place is that it almost didn’t last in its true form. Its present existence is thanks to a woman named Sigríour Tómasdóttir, who fought her father (who owned the area around the falls) and the Icelandic government against building a hydraulic dam from being built in the 1920s. Though permission was given to construct the dam, the plans never went into place because of public outcry and later on Gullfoss became a protected reserve. You can learn more about the story through a plaque as well as see a statue in her memory.

Geysir

Up the road from Gullfoss, you’ll find the Geysir geothermal area, an arrangement of bubbling hot springs. This area of blowholes gets pretty hot as the underground temperatures can reach up to or even over 100 degrees Celsius and force boiling water to gurgle over.

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Being the most memorable to see, Strokkur spouts up like a fountain consistently about every 10 or so minutes. Less active ones here include Blesi, a set of twin bluish pools; Fata, which seems a bit temperamental; and Litli Geyser, a petite slosher.

Thingvellir National Park

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While still in the Golden Circle, one important place to visit is Thingvellir National Park, a primary site of Iceland’s geological and historical inheritance. After first being under Norwegian rule and then the Danish crown, the country’s chieftains gathered here in the summertime for two weeks to hold court on making legal decisions for decades until the early 18th century.

DSCN1109 DSCN1105 DSCN1112Yet, the park still remains an important fixture in Iceland’s history. Its people gathered to hear their country’s declaration of independence from Denmark and becoming a republic in late 1944. History aside, definitely explore the park as well.

Moving Along Iceland’s Ring Road

Leaving Reykjavik and heading south, we went along Iceland’s Ring Road, a national highway that connects towns and passes by fjords, mountains, farmland and plateaus. Also known as Route 1, this main road is about 830 miles and connects to picturesque sites including two major waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

DSCN0729DSCN0738For most of the Ring Road, it’s like any common interstate highway you may have driven on, with two split lanes going in different directions. Time wise, the route is well traveled during the summer months yet during winter it can be a different story. Certain parts of it are often closed due to bad weather or road conditions. So, if you happen to be there (from October through April), check ahead before driving out.

Seljalandsfoss

While en route, we made stops at these outdoor marvels. At Seljalandsfoss, there is a trail that leads you literally go behind these falls. Starting from the right, the trail winds around the back of the waterfall going underneath a cavern. Here, you can see and hear up close the continuing water. Then, you can head back out to the left to climb up a viewing area to check a different angle of Seljalandsfoss. Be careful, too, as these spots can be slippery.

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Skógafoss

Equally if not more inspiring, Skógafoss is one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls. You can get quite close to the waterfall and the spray coming off is amazing to see and feel. Just remember, as you get towards the mist, to protect your camera lens! As you are able to walk along the base of the waterfalls, you can also get to different levels for more than one side view.

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On the east side of Skógafoss, there is a long staircase in which you make the climb to get all the way to the top, or stop at side paths along the way that lead to lookout points. I tried to go up the entire staircase to reach the pinnacle, but due to having limited time  — and me needing a lot more of time to get up and back down in one piece — I decided to go along one of the side trails and then back down to the base instead.

Solheimajökull glacier

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In addition to waterfalls, Iceland’s glaciers are a beauty unto themselves. You can actually book tours to climb them, or simply walk near them. The day’s itinerary included a spot at the amazing Solheimajökull glacier, an outlet of an ice cap known as Mýrdalsjökull. You can walk up to this glacier, and get close enough to touch the ice and see the river next to it.

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My time outdoors ended with a jaunt to Dyrholaey Nature Reserve, not too far from the town of Vik. Since 1978, this marine protected area consists of cliffs and a rock archway where puffins and other species of birds come to roost. Unfortunately, on this day, the weather suddenly changed and didn’t want to cooperate on giving us a clear view. However, it is neat to walk around here. And, of course, be careful near the edges.