The spectacular Skógafoss Waterfall in South-Iceland and the Legend of the Treasure Chest
Skógafoss waterfall has been my all-time favourite waterfall in Iceland since I first visited it as a child with my parents.
Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland, with a drop of some 60 meters and a width of 25 meters. You can walk right up to it but be prepared to be drenched. It is overwhelming standing next to it.
Top photo: a rainbow at Skógafoss
Seeing that the waterfall produces a lot of drizzle you will be able to see beautiful rainbows on sunny days.
The most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen I have seen here by Skógafoss.
Often there are beautiful double rainbows here and once I was encircled by a beautiful rainbow - I stood in a circle of a rainbow!
A rainbow by Skógafoss
It was impossible to take a photo of it, but my husband tried his best to take all kinds of photos of me with the rainbow.
In one photo I look like I am the gold at the end of the rainbow as the end of the rainbow seems to be coming out of my ear :)
Touched by a rainbow at Skógafoss
Steps lead up to an observation platform above Skógafoss, i.e. if one is up for it, as there are some 527 steps, depending on where you start.
I once climbed these steps on a very cold and extremely windy November day, which left me almost flying in the air!
See also my travel-blog:
But it is well worth climbing up all these steps to see Skógafoss from above and the beautiful view from up there.
The troll by Skógafoss waterfall
Skógafoss is only one of the waterfalls in Skógá river, there are 30+ other waterfalls in this river above Skógafoss, some of which I will hopefully be exploring next summer!
If you do this hike may I ask you to report back to me with the number of waterfalls in the river, as I have heard several numbers, ranging from 22-37!
A short video I took of Skógafoss on a sunny day in 2023
In 2010 Eyjafjallajökull glacier started erupting and blew millions of tons of ash into the atmosphere. Skógafoss went grey, and everything was covered in ash.
It was so sad seeing my favourite waterfall in such a condition.
When you start seeing the waterfall from the ring road, it looks like a painting; ever so beautiful and majestic!
Skógafoss waterfall as seen from the ring road
It is especially beautiful when the water is still and I have seen some spectacular photos taken from this angle.
The Legend of the Treasure Chest in Skógafoss
Skógafoss waterfall up close
A legend is connected to Skógafoss waterfall; it is believed that behind it you can find a chest filled with gold and treasures. The story goes that Þrasi Þórólfsson, the Viking Settler at Skógar (Eystriskógar) in around 900, hid the chest and it is said that the first man who goes there will find great treasures.
I found this folklore in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Collection of Folklore of Jón Árnason:
"Þrasi lived in Eystriskógar, some people say at Þrasastaðir farm, a short distance east of Skógafoss waterfall; Skógar is now the easternmost farm in Rangarávallasýslu county.
At that time Loðmundur lived in Sólheimar, the next farm east of Sólheimasandur sands, and thus they were neighbours. Þrasi and Loðmundur were both very skilled in magical arts.
A river ran through their lands, called Fúlilækur, and then Jökulsár glacial river in Sólheimasandur plains.
Landnáma states that both of them distributed this river to the other's land as neither of them wanted to have this smelly river close.
This resulted in the sand, called Sólheimasandur plains, being void of grass - and one can still see many runways in the sand where the river has run at each given time.
Skógafoss with a rainbow
Finally, the neighbours realized that they were creating a desolate wasteland.
On the east side of Jökulsá glacial river, there is a hill in Sólheimaheiði heath leading from the mountain alongside the river - it is called Loðmundarsæti, but opposite on the west side of the river in the lower part of Mt. Skógafjall there is a place called Þrasaháls hill.
The river runs in gorges between these two hills and onto the sand plains.
It is said that in this location Þrasi and Loðmundur stayed while they were quarreling and both Landnáma and the folklore state that they made peace by the gorges and decided on making the river fall onto the sand plains by the shortest distance to the sea.
But it seems like there is always a whirl in this river and that one wave seeks upstream, while the other falls downwards, and the story goes that this unnaturalness of the river stems from the fight between Þrasi and Loðmundur.
How many trolls do you spot in this photo? :)
The story goes that Þrasi, who owned a chest filled with gold and treasures, had put the chest beneath Skógafoss waterfall, and in olden times one could see one side of the chest protruding from the waterfall.
There is an old rhyme, which goes like this in Icelandic:
"Þrasakista auðug er
undir fossi Skóga,
hver sem þangað fyrstur fer
finnur auðlegð nóga."
In English, it goes something like this:
"The chest of Þrasi is filled with treasures
located beneath Skógafoss waterfall,
the first man who goes there
will find great richness."
The chest ring is on display at the Skógasafn Museum
The story goes that there were once three men at Skógar, the sons of Ámundi Þormóðsson ("lögréttumaður" 1639-1671 or longer). They wanted to retrieve the chest from beneath the waterfall.
All of a sudden they looked in the direction of the farm, and it appeared to be on fire - they decided to return back, only to find that there was no danger apparent on the farm.
Later on, they decided to go again to the waterfall to retrieve the chest and were not misled by some delusions.
They managed to get quite close to the chest and were able to hook a ring on the side of the chest.
But as they were about to pull the chest towards them they jerked the ring from the chest, and the chest got left behind. The story goes that the ring is now located in the church door at Skógar".
(Translated into English from Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Collection of Folklore of Jón Árnason).
The chest ring from the chest is now on display at the Skógar Museum. Skógakirkja church was deconsecrated in 1890, and the current Skógakirkja church (photo above) belongs to the Skógar Museum.
I have read that when the church at Skógar was deconsecrated this beautiful chest-ring was used in the church at Eyvindarhólar in the vicinity of Skógar. That church was pulled down in 1960, and a new church was built.
I visited that church on the same day that I stayed at Hotel Skógar, and it is a beautiful modern church. The chest-ring was then donated to the Skógar Museum and is there on display.
Eyvindarhólakirkja church in South Iceland
Skógafoss waterfall is located some 154 km away from Reykjavík by ring road 1, so it makes for a pleasant day trip away from Reykjavík.
You can rent a car in Reykjavík, and drive to Skógafoss in 2 hours, but there are many stops on the way, so take your time :)
I also refer you to my travel-blog about the 3 beautiful Waterfalls of South Iceland for information about most of the waterfalls on the south coast of Iceland.
Have a lovely time at Skógafoss waterfall :)
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