Why am I using the plural form, waterfalls? Seljalandsfoss is one waterfall (as its name suggests, because foss means waterfall in Icelandic) which is formed by the river Seljalandsà coming down from the central highlands into the lowlands and then to the ocean. But, going inside its valley you’ll find other falls, the best of which is the waterfall inside the canyon, that you will definitely have to see!
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous spots in the whole of Iceland and it absolutely deserves its celebrity. One of the most particular things is that you can walk behind the water jet, along the smooth rocky wall, inside a sort of magic cave where it’s impossible not to get wet. Seljalandsfoss is an authentic representative of the real Iceland, a one where nature can espress itself in every possible manner and always does it at its best, with no similar anywhere else in the world.
If you’re looking for the most beautiful places to see in Iceland, the supreme must-sees along the ring road and the most impressive attractions in the South of Iceland, Seljalandsfoss has to be on your list.
And if you’re interested in the other breathtaking waterfalls around Iceland, take a look at my hand-drawn map at the end of this article.
Seljalandsfoss is very easy to reach, because it’s less than 1 kilometer away from the ring road, the circular road that runs all around the border of the island. If you come from Reykjavik and from the West in general, you can clearly see the waterfall from a distance, then take the turning on the left to Seljalandsfoss. But if you come from Vik and from the East in general, the turning is on the right. There’s a very accessible park just in front of the waterfall.
If you’re traveling by public transport as I do, the buses that stop in front of Seljalandsfoss are the number 20 from Reykjavik to Skaftafell and the 21 from Reykjavik to Skogar. Go to www.ioyo.is to consult the full timetable.
The night before arriving in Seljalandsfoss, I slept in one of the wooden cottages in Hellisholar, completely immersed in the heavenly Icelandic countryside. It’s an experience I’d really recommend to you!
The following morning, I started walking early, among the lush green countryside, horses with long manes, timid sheep, cloud-topped mountains with waterfalls.
It’s something weird to think that a long time ago these waterfalls fell from high cliffs directly into the oceans. But over time the rivers and the waterfalls took stones and rubble with them and the lowlands were formed around the cliffs, creating a new border of the island. The cliffs have become mountains and the rivers coming from the highlands now fall into waterfalls and create ponds, streams or rivers which run into the ocean.
When I started the morning walk, the weather wasn’t good, but in Iceland you probably won’t have the same weather for more than ten minutes, so I arrived at Seljalandsfoss after 21 kms walked under a shining and quite hot sun: the perfect frame for that stunning picture!
I took the bus to Vik and the following night I slept in this incredibly charming village by the sea, so adorable with its small red-roofed church on the hill but above all for Reynisfjara black sand beach, one of my favorite spots in the whole of Iceland. But we’ll talk about that another time! I slept at Welcome Hotel Vik, also known as Puffin Hotel, unpretentious but clean.
You can also have a memorable experience if you like camping. Hamragardar is a campsite, which is very close to Seljalandsfoss, in front of the hidden waterfall in the canyon which I will talk about later in this post. I think it’s a unique place to spend a night.
Seljalandsfoss is more or less at the center of the touristic itinerary through the South of Iceland. It’s not far from Vik and its black sand beach, as already mentioned, from the other famous waterfalls of Skogafoss and Svartifoss and from the glacier lagoon of the icebergs, Jokulsarlon.
These are must sees that nobody should miss out on when in Iceland, but there are also other less known places that you definitely shouldn’t forget if you’re around. I’ll tell you 3 hidden and unusual places around Seljalandsfoss that will make your Icelandic trip even more interesting.
Only one more piece of advice: Iceland is full of secret gems that are waiting to be discovered, so… plan your trip in detail but don’t be afraid to change your schedule, follow your instinct and, even if you get lost, it won’t matter. I’m pretty sure you’ll find something unexpected to make your journey unforgettable.
- Solheimasandur black sand beach, where you can spot the abandoned wreck of the US Navy Douglas Super DC-3. It’s placed more or less halfway between Seljalandsfoss and Vik, but it’s not very easy to reach. But those who manage to enjoy this mysterious and cryptic place, where incredible photos can be taken in any light. The black sand, the huge Icelandic lowlands, the ocean that disappears into the horizon, the extremely variable weather… If everything I’ve mentioned isn’t enough, you’ve also an abandoned plane, which suddenly fell from the sky, like a metallic meteor. It has been there since the 70’s, weather-beaten and shrouded in mystery and creepy legends. It’s not the only abandoned plane wreck in Iceland but rumor has it that its one of the most dangerous places on the island, so pay attention if you want to reach it either on foot (4 kms from the ring road) or by car (only if you have one equipped to cross lava fields).
- Vestmannaeyjar. Just few kms South of Seljalandsfoss, in Landeyjahofn, you can see the pier where the Herjolfur ferry docks. This ferry reaches the Vestmann islands in 25 minutes, they are the islands of the island, only for… lovers of very isolated places! Vestmannaeyjar are 15 small islands in the South of Iceland, only one of which is inhabited, and it’s name is Heimaey. Its profile and the charming village are unmistakable. Even if its area is really small, Heimaey has everything a visitor could ask for: hotels, cottages, museums, restaurants to suit every pocket, every sort of adventure tour for outdoor enthusiasts and the greenest golf pitch on the earth (or so the locals say), placed in the crater of a volcano. How to get to Heimaey? The Herjolfur ferry does the round trip from Landeyjahofn to the island many times a day in less than 30 minutes and allows you to take cars and bikes with you. You can also take a different ferry, which takes about 3 hours to get to Heimaey and leaves from the pier of Thorlakshofn, South-East of Reykjavik. To get to the two piers by public transport, look at the timetables on this site. The number 52 line goes from Reykjavik to Landeyjahofn without any change; on the contrary, to reach Thorlakshofn, you have to take the number 51 line in Reykjavik, change in Hveragerdi and take the number 71. Both lines, 51 and 52, don’t stop at the main Reykjavik bus center, but in Alfabakki road in the South-East district of Mjodd. If you prefer to go by plane rather than by ferry, you can take advantage of the small airport of Vestmannaeyjar. Planes from Keflavik main airport or from Bakki airport (just South of Seljalandsfoss) land in Heimaey after a 20 or 10 minutes flight, depending on which one you take.
- Fimmvorduhals trekking, from Skogafoss to Thorsmork. This trekking route starts from the magnificent waterfall of Skogafoss, where you can go up the rocky staircase on the right until the top of the jet. Once here, go up the riverbed and follow the path: hikers normally separate the road in two different stages of about 15 kms each, but some choose to do the entire trekking in 8-10 hours. Sometimes it isn’t about choice but about finding a place to sleep, because it’s not so easy to book a bed in the only hut on the path, Fimmvorduhalskali. Book in advance if you want to sleep here, or you’ll have to settle for one of the few not-equipped shelters. The view from Fimmvorduhals, 1043 m a.s.l., is of the two glaciers Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull and the new lava fields created by the volcano eruptions that blocked the whole European air traffic in 2010, and also Laugavegur, the best known and most colored Icelandic trekking route. Fimmvorduhals hiking and Laugavegur link in Thorsmork, where you arrive after the Cat’s Spine ridge, or Kattarhuggir. For more info, I’d recommend this site.
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One of the most incredible things about Seljalandsfoss is the fact that you can walk behind the waterfall jet, and it’s something you can only do in a few waterfalls in the world. The path goes up on the right of the water jet, passing on very slippery steps, then inside a spectacular cave beside the waterfall, and finally down on the left. One of the most unforgettable experiences in my life!
Don’t forget the right equipment: slip-proof shoes, water-resistant jacket, your best camera and possibly a tripod because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take awe-inspiring photos. An amazing rainbow often surrounds the jet… the icing on the cake!
But, hold on, don’t stop here! I met two Australian guys who went down on the left of the waterfall and were going straight back to the car park, missing out on the other jets around here. I suggested that they go over to the left hand side of Seljalandsfoss, and to look for the waterfall in the canyon: they were so pleased they did this!
Yes, you definitely have to go to the left: you’ll see the first minor jet and then you’ll come to Gljufrabui, or Gljufurarfoss, a breathtaking hidden gem. Its name means the waterfall that lives inside the canyon. Go down a few rocky steps, follow the narrow riverbed for a meter or two, then pass under a stone arch and enter a parallel world.
The silence is only broken by the jet falling from above and by the water that run down the vertical walls. A beam of light comes down from the rocky column, draws a golden circle on the dark stones and makes the drops of water shine like diamonds.
It’s so difficult to leave this stunning place, but having a delicious hotdog bought at the street food stand in the car park may help. Or you could enjoy a picnic in the field around the waterfall, a perfect spot!
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I have to be honest: writing this article was so delightful, because it made me relive many unique and unbridled sensations. I tried to pour all my enthusiasm into the words and even the punctuation of this post. So I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.
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Ciao! Sono Claudia, la fondatrice di getgoingirl.it, lo spazio web dove unisco le mie più grandi passioni: i viaggi e la scrittura. É sempre il momento buono per un’avventura zaino in spalla, per un trekking al ritmo che senti tuo, per una visuale insolita e alternativa da scovare in giro per il mondo. Naviga per argomento, destinazione o tipo di viaggio e lasciati ispirare!
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