Svartifoss & other Astonishing Attractions in Skaftafell in South-Iceland

Svartifoss waterfall

Svartifoss is one of the unique waterfalls in South-Iceland. It situated in Skaftafell, which belongs to Vatnajökull National park.  Skaftafellis a true oasis after driving through the vast black lava sand plains of Skeiðará  - Skeiðarársandur glacial outwash. 

Svartifoss is such a special waterfall, 12 meters high, and black columnar basalt formations beautifully frame the waterfall and give it its name, Black Fall.  From afar it looks like a big heart.  It is a very romantic waterfall and one of my girlfriends got engaged by Svartifoss :)

Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell, south Iceland

At the Visitor centre in Skaftafell, which is open all year round, one can get information on how to get to Svartifosswaterfall.  It is 1,5 kilometres from the Visitor centre, uphill and on the way to Svartifossyou come across 3 other waterfalls Þjófafoss (Thieves' Fall), Hundafoss (Dogs' Fall) and Magnúsarfoss (the Falls of Magnús). 

Svartifosscannot be seen from the road and the hike up to it is ca 90 minutes back and forth with photo stops.  One can walk straight down to Svartifoss to see it up-close.  Last time I visited it it had been fenced off for nature protection, so we cannot get as close to it as before, but pretty close all the same.

I think it is better now that it has been fenced off as before I couldn't take a decent photograph of it as visitors with tripods would be lined up in front of it.

Svartifoss & other Astonishing Attractions in Skaftafell in South-Iceland

The hike is easy, you don't even notice that you are going upwards until you see the view from above. And it is so worth it. On your way back you can either return the same way or cross the bridge by Svartifoss and return back on that side. On that route you will get a closer look at Þjófafoss and get to see Selið turf house and the lovely Lambhagi - Lamb Pastures.

Hundafoss and Þjófafoss waterfalls 

Hundafoss waterfall in Skaftafell, south Iceland

Hundafoss and Þjófafoss waterfalls are not so visible on the east-side of the river leading to Svartifoss, but if you return on the west-side of the river there you will see them clearly. 

Hundafoss is the larger one of the two and is marked, so that you cannot miss it. It got its name "Dogs' Fall" from the fact that during the swelling of the river dogs from the farms there sometimes floated off the waterfall.

I must confess though that I tend to mix up these waterfalls, Þjófafoss and Magnúsarfoss.

Þjófafoss waterfall in Skaftafell, south Iceland

On the west-side of the river there is a trail from which you can walk both down to the waterfalls and many beauty spots where you can clearly see the waterfalls.

Sjónarsker view-dial - Sjónarnípa

Svartifoss & other Astonishing Attractions in Skaftafell in South-Iceland

It is well worth it to take a relatively short hike up Skaftafellsheiði heath to Sjónarsker for a great view of the surrounding area. There at 310 meters above sea level you will find a view-dial.  

This view-dial was designed by the instigator of view-dials in Iceland, Jón J. Víðis, and erected by the Department of Education in 1973.  Jón J. Víðis was the great-uncle of my husband's, who is named after him. My father-in-law, Jakob Hálfdanarson, has taken over the business of making these view-dials and you can find his view-dials in many places in Iceland :)

Svartifoss & other Astonishing Attractions in Skaftafell in South-Iceland

The view-dials show the names of the surrounding mountains. I love finding these view-dials scattered around my country and seek them out on my travels.

Selið turf house

Svartifoss & other Astonishing Attractions in Skaftafell in South-Iceland

You will find a lovely small turf farm in Skaftafell, called Selið. It was built in 1912 in the southern style and is one of the few remaining turf houses in South-Iceland. Those of you who read my blog know that I have visited all of the turf houses and turf churches in Iceland and have written a blog about most of them. I adore these traditional houses, in which Icelanders lived for more than a millennium.

Selið turf house was built from driftwood from the coast line this area, turf and rock. The cowshed was built under the living room so the heat from the cows could be used to heat up the living room and the quarters above.

This area was much more isolated in the olden days with glacial rivers on both sides - it was indeed one of the most isolated areas in Iceland. It wasn't until 1974 that ring-road 1 was opened. Before that time the road used to stop by Mt. Lómagnúpur and we from the west could only have a peek into the landscape further on.   

Svartifoss & other Astonishing Attractions in Skaftafell in South-Iceland

People were living at Selið at least in 1832, but at that time the farm was moved up on the hill as the glacial river Skaftá was playing havoc in this area.

The last inhabitants, Runólfur Bjarnason and his wife Ólöf Sigurðardóttir, lived in this turf farm until 1946.

Most of the remaining turf houses in Iceland, not all though, are under the supervision of Þjóðminjasafn Íslands - the National Museum of Iceland. The Director of the National Museum back in 1970 was Kristján Eldjárn, who was later to become the President of Iceland.  He visited Selið turf house and found it to be in such a good shape that it deserved to be reserved, and it came into the possession of the National Museum in 1972.

Svartifoss & other Astonishing Attractions in Skaftafell in South-Iceland

We are allowed to have a peek inside the turf house in summer time, but seeing that the turf houses are historical buildings, then we should tread lightly and show respect.  No food is allowed inside Selið.
Svartifoss & other Astonishing Attractions in Skaftafell in South-Iceland

Turf houses must be maintained regularly and during my visit in the summer of 2015 it was most likely being painted, so I guess it must be black in colour now.  

Lambhagi - Lambs pastures

Lambhagi in Skaftafell, south Iceland

Now this is a beautiful spot in Skaftafell. In the olden days until 1900 ewes were milked by the farmers. Their lambs were kept here in Lambhagiovernight as the ewes were milked in the mornings. After the milking the ewes and the lambs were reunited.

This is such a lovely spot and imagining it being crowded by lambs makes it even more special. The river flowing from Svartifosswaterfall and the other 3 waterfalls turns into a small still lake here with small fish in it, it is ever so peaceful. 

I recommend resting here for a while after visiting the waterfalls taking in the tranquillity of this lovely place.

Lake below Svartifoss in Skaftafell, south Iceland

If you fancy going glacier hiking you can join a Glacier Hiking Tour in Skaftafell.

There are several tours to choose from f.ex.:

Here you can see the location of Skaftafell and Svartifoss waterfall on the map.

Svartifoss & other Astonishing Attractions in Skaftafell in South-Iceland

Skaftafell is located some 319 km away from Reykjavík and you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive there in 4 hours, go on a summer self-drive tour or join the many guided Skaftafelltours.

In winter time a 2 Day South-Coast Adventure will take you to Skaftafell, Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon & Ice Caves.

Also check out the many self-drive tours around Iceland:

I haven't hiked on Svínafellsjökull glacier yet, but if you want to read up on glacier hikes then I have added a travel-blog on a glacier hike on Sólheimajökull glacier.

Contact Regína