The drive around Iceland’s Ring Road offers continual views of stunning waterfalls cascading over the cliff sides. Some are more intense and others are just a trickle. Some are more popular and are given names, others aren’t. But no matter what waterfall you stumble upon on your drive, we will be impressed. The south coast, in particular, boasts many of Iceland’s most incredible waterfalls. The most popular and highly photographed South Iceland waterfalls are Gljúfrabúi, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.
In this complete guide to Iceland’s south coast waterfalls you will find out everything you need to know if you are planning to visit Gljúfrabúi, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss!
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The first stop on your south Iceland waterfall adventure should be the lesser known neighbor of Seljalandsfoss. The hidden Gljúfrabúi waterfall is located in Hamragarðar, directly next to the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. From the road the Gljúfrabúi waterfall looks like a mere trickle over the surrounding cliff.
The 40 meter (130 feet) cascade is partially hidden behind the surrounding canyon, only exposing its peak and correlating misty air upon first glance. Gljúfrabúi, which translates to canyon dweller, is considered one of Iceland’s hidden gems.
To reach the waterfall and experience the full intensity of its beauty you must wade through the shallow water in the narrow opening in the canyon. Alternatively you can carefully hike up the side of the cliff.
I chose to wade through the few inches of water since it seemed safer and I had on my waterproof hiking boots.
The falls pour into a hidden cavern that is covered in moss and lichen, glistening in the few rays of sunlight beaming in. The mist coming off of the Gljúfrabúi waterfall will be very strong because you will be so close to the water. Therefore, make sure your camera is protected inside your jacket as it will most likely get wet.
Even if you don’t want to completely enter the cavern you will still be able to see the waterfall from the entrance. If you are already stopping to visit Seljalandsfoss then you should explore this waterfall as well.
How to Get to Gljúfrabúi
Getting to Gljúfrabúi is easy and there are two ways you can reach the south Iceland waterfall. From the Ring Road, Route 1, turn onto the road leading towards the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Continue past the parking lot and you will see the top of the opening for Gljúfrabúi a little ways up on your right. Find somewhere to park and walk up towards the waterfall.
The other option is to just park at the main Seljalandsfoss waterfall parking lot. Then you can walk along the path to reach Gljúfrabúi as you will see many others doing the same.
The popular and widely photographed Seljalandsfoss is easily seen from Iceland’s Ring Road.
Pouring over the cliffs of the former coastline, the river Seljalandsá drops 60 meters (200 ft) into the depths below. The unpaved, but well-maintained path at Seljalandsfoss allows visitors a unique opportunity to walk up and behind the beautiful cascading falls. Allowing you to view this majestic waterfall from every angle.
In the winter, the path may be too slippery and can sometimes be closed. I’ve visited in the summer and late winter months and both times it was open. The only thing I needed to remember was to wear a raincoat on top of my coat to avoid getting drenched from the falls’ mighty mist.
The Seljalandsfoss waterfall is a very popular tourist spot as you will notice by the large number of cars and tour buses parked in the parking lot at any given time.
How to Get to Seljalandsfoss
The Seljalandsfoss waterfall is located directly off of Iceland’s Route 1 (Ring Road). Before you even see the turn off to reach the south Iceland waterfall you will already see the water cascading down the cliff. If you are driving along the ring road coming from Selfoss you will turn left onto road 249. A short distance from the turn off with be the parking lot, toilet and small cafe.
An easy 30 km drive towards Skógar from Seljalandsfoss, brings you to another famous south coast waterfall, Skógafoss. One of the largest waterfalls in the country, Skógafoss is 25 meters (82 ft) wide with a drop of 60 m (200 ft).
Located on the Skógá River, Skógafoss is similar to Seljalandsfoss in that it lies on Iceland’s former coastline. However, it is unique because it is fed by two glaciers instead of one.
From the parking area you can walk all the way up to the Skógafoss waterfall. However, the closer you get the more likely you will get wet so be sure to protect your camera gear.
An additional viewpoint for the south Iceland waterfall is made by climbing up a steep and lengthy set of stairs. The stairs are located just to the right of the Skógafoss waterfall. At the top you will be able to capture even more spectacular views of the waterfall and surrounding area.
Once you reach the top of the stairs, located on the eastern side of the falls, you will find a 25 km (15.5 mile) hiking and trekking trail that goes from Skógar to Þórsmörk. I trekked a small portion of the trail, passing by more breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls before heading back to the car.
If you decide to conquer the trail you will pass through the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull ice caps over the Fimmvörðuháls pass. Skógafoss also offers camping for the adventurous traveller and the campsites are situated directly in front of the falls, giving visitors a stunning morning view and soothing sounds to fall asleep to.
When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
When to visit Iceland depends entirely on what you want to see and do. There are pros and cons to each season so I will do a quick breakdown for you.
Visit Iceland in the Summer
- Longer hours of daylight with the midnight sun (from May until August)
- You can see puffins, whales and seals
- Slightly warmer temperatures and less rain
- All campsites and roads are usually open
- Very crowded and lots of tourists
- High season so everything is more expensive
- You’ll need to make reservations for places like the Blue Lagoon farther out
- No northern lights
Visit Iceland in the Winter
- You can witness the Northern Lights (tips for photographing the northern lights)
- Many winter activities such as ice caving, glacier hiking, dog sledding, snowmobiling and more!
- Less tourists and cheaper rates due to low season
- Less daylight hours due to the winter solstice. During December and January you might experience only 4 hours of daylight.
- Less campsites are open
- Colder weather so you’ll need to pack more with layers and big coats
Visit Iceland in the Spring or Fall
- Milder temperatures and normal daylight hours
- You can see the purple lupin flowers in some parts of the island
- Shoulder season so prices are lower
- Less tourists
- Less wildlife and less likely to see the northern lights although it is still possible around March and early April. As well as late September into October but the activity needs to be fairly strong with almost no cloud coverage.
- The weather (rain, wind and snow) is a bit more unpredictable in the shoulder season
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WHAT CAMERA GEAR DO I USE?
- Main Camera: Sony A7III
- Wide angle lens: Sony G Master 16-35mm f/2.8
- Zoom lens: Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3
- Secondary Camera: Canon 6D Mark II
- Canon wide angle lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L
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