Let’s wrap up 2019 with the conclusion of our Iceland trip report. We’ve all slept and had some holidays since my last post about this trip, so let’s get you caught up:
As a reminder, our plan was to drive to the Vestrahorn mountain on the first day, stay out there (which we did), and then we booked two nights at Hotel Skogar, next to Skogafoss, then fly home the morning of the fourth day. Let’s pick things up in Skogar.
The Hotel Skogar was nice and quaint, with a decent breakfast, but the best thing about the hotel was leaving the window open at night and hearing the dull roar of Skogafoss off in the distance.
I made my way over to Skogafoss to see if there were any northern lights and unfortunately there weren’t so I strategically went to sleep.
A quick note about Iceland’s most famous waterfalls
Iceland is well-known for its myriad waterfalls. Godafoss, Gullfoss, and Kirkjufellsfoss are all popular but the Big Two are Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss along the southern coast. They’re massive, easily accessible from the Ring Road, and (at times) very crowded.
The great part about both Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss is the accessibility: you can walk right up to Skogafoss and can actually walk behind Seljalandsfoss easily.
We started our fossing with Skogafoss. It was close to the hotel and an easy walk. I didn’t bring my nice camera, since there’s quite a bit of water spray from the waterfall, and decided to instead just use my new iPhone 11 Pro. Most of the crowd was staying a fair way back from the falls, but we just walked right up to it, no doubt ruining all their pictures (oops). To truly appreciate the raw power of Skogafoss, walk up as close as you can to it, you’ll be wet but it’s worth it.
But there was another foss in which I was interested more than Skogafoss. I saw it on the Instagram page of a destination wedding photographer I met on Sony’s Kando Trip named Megan (@studio22photography). I did a bit of research and found out that it’s literally right next to Skogafoss but nobody ever goes there. It’s called Kvernufoss.
The river Kverna runs down from the Icelandic highlands and drops 100 feet (30 meters) to the ground just east of the town of Skogar. It’s the best and most accessible waterfall in Iceland to which nobody goes. There were hundreds of people at Skogafoss as we set off for the brief walk to Kvernufoss…and we found ourselves almost completely alone.
To get to Kvernufoss, go to the Skogar museum and walk behind it. You’ll come to a barbed-wire fence. Turn left/north and, close to the hillside, you’ll see a metal stepladder over the barbed wire (please don’t mess with the barbed wire). Follow the path along the hillside and you’ll turn left into a crevice carved out by the river Kverna.
It’s an easy track and, before you know it, you’ll see Kvernufoss off in the distance.
Kvernufoss is basically a greatest hits of the great waterfalls of Iceland. It has the basalt columns of Aldeyjarfoss and Svartifoss, the accessibility and walking-behind-it-ness of Seljalandsfoss, and there’s almost nobody there.
We grabbed a seat off to the side of the waterfall while the people in the picture above took some pictures and then made our way behind the falls. It felt like it was just us!
Happy with our pictures and the peacefulness of the moment, we started walking back when, in a hilariously bad effort to model the new Bluffworks Field Jacket, I went down close to where the water was hitting the earth below. While it did a good job giving some scale to the scene, you couldn’t really see the jacket.
So Emily was kind enough to take another picture, making sure a) the jacket was visible and b) that I looked suitably epic.
Kvernufoss was by far our favorite waterfall of the trip. I almost hesitated to write about it, just because I don’t want it to be too crowded, but
let’s be honest my readership isn’t that big lol I love yall too much to withhold places like this from you.
On to the other Mega Waterfall!
Seljalandsfoss is suuuuuuper popular and crowded as a result. The parking lot requires a payment of about $8 USD and you’ll see lots of tour busses jockeying for space. While a bit inconvenient, it’s still worth seeing since it’s one of Iceland’s iconic views. We made our way behind the waterfall and I put Emily in the perfect spot for the famed “Silhouettalandsfoss” shot.
If you’re going to Seljalandsfoss, I highly recommend being behind the waterfall for sunset. You’ll be facing west, which leads to a perfect sunset shot (here’s mine from 2018).
The hidden waterfall next to Seljalandsfoss
Similar to Kvernufoss and Skogafoss, there’s a less-crowded waterfall next to Seljalandsfoss that’s fairly easy to access and visited a little less often than it’s popular neighbor. It’s called Gljúfrabúi. Yes, it’s next to Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and the Eyjafjallajökull volcano on the Difficult To Pronounce Icelandic Names list but the only thing you need to know is the location.
If you’re behind Seljalandsfoss and want to make it over to Gljúfrabúi, simply walk to the right out from behind the falls (northward if you’re a cardinal direction enthusiast) and follow the path. You’ll leave the general Seljandsfoss area and walk maybe 1/4 mile (400m) along the hillside until you arrive at a large crack in the side of the hill.
You’ll notice in the picture above there’s kind of a bottleneck at the hillside crack. That’s because there’s a small river that you either need to wade through or walk across some bigger rocks to get to Gljúfrabúi. It takes a bit of coordination and patience with the other people there but it’s easy to walk from rock to rock and keep your feet dry if you don’t have waterproof shoes/boots/galoshes.
The prize for your patience is an absolutely EPIC waterfall.
(note: the ultra-wide-angle lens on the new iPhone 11 Pro is excellent and was absolutely necessary here)
The landing area for Gljúfrabúi has an enormous boulder that everyone stands upon for group pictures. You’ll need some patience here, and don’t be afraid to corral people. There will likely be photographers trying to get their shot at the same time as families that want their picture taken on the rock, so don’t be afraid to take charge if there’s a calamity afoot. We waited our turn to climb up on the boulder, tossed my phone to someone waiting in line, watched as they nervously realized I don’t put a case on my phone, and then posed for our favorite picture of the trip.
And back to Reykjavik
We decided to skip out on our second night at Hotel Skogar. Our flight was leaving the next morning at 11am and we decided it would be better to spend the night in Reykjavik, especially because the forecast looked rainy for the rest of the day. The forecast proved accurate as we drove through various stages of rain, from Sprinkling all the way to God Is Apparently Upset, and eventually wound up at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. We took a taxi over to the #1 rated restaurant in Reykjavik, which turned out to be a hole-in-the-wall eatery called 101 Reykjavik Street Food. The fish and chips were better than anything I’ve had in England and the lobster soup was equally incredible.
The best part about 101 Reykjavik Street Food was the reasonable price point. Things weren’t comically expensive, as you typically see in Iceland, and the owner of the shop walked around and talked up the guests, giving us (and everyone around us) chocolate bars for when we were through. He was absolutely hilarious as well. Put simply, I couldn’t recommend 101 Reykjavik Street Food more strongly.
And, just like that, our Iceland trip was over
The next morning we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hilariously crowded buffet at the Hilton, due to a conference in town, and made our way to Keflavik for our flight home. While this flight home didn’t involve Flagship First Dining like our outbound, we were too tired to care. We boarded the American 757, fell asleep just after takeoff, and enjoyed a quick flight back to the States.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back to Iceland but I hope it’s soon. I’ve seen a lot of this amazing country but know I’ve only scratched the surface. I have two goals for my next trip: explore the Westfjords more and finally see some puffins!
Hope you’ve enjoyed this trip report, please let me know what you want to know more about in the comments, happy to answer any questions via email as well!