Seljalandsfoss waterfall in south Iceland

I love the mesmerising feeling of sitting by a waterfall and have to tear myself away from them. I am in luck as Iceland has got so many beautiful waterfalls, which I visit often. 

One of my favourite trips in my country is visiting the waterfalls in the south, the best known are Seljalandsfoss waterfall and Skógafoss waterfall. The Icelandic term for a waterfall is "foss".

Seljalandsfoss waterfall

The 3 beautiful Waterfalls of South-Iceland; Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss & Gljúfrabúi

Seljalandsfoss is one of the best known waterfalls in Iceland. It is 65 meters high according to the National Land Survey of Iceland and it is breathtakingly beautiful. It is a must visiting Seljalandsfoss when visiting the south-coast, you will not regret it!

A path leads you behind the waterfall, but do bring a raincoat as you will get soaking wet from the drizzle. It is awesome walking behind Seljalandsfoss, especially on a sunny day when one can catch a rainbow.

Flash is needed for photos behind the waterfall if you don't want to come out looking like a silhouette against the waterfall.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in south IcelandIn winter time the path is closed when it gets too slippery and dangerous to walk behind the waterfall. In September 2017 it had rained so much that 100 kg heavy boulders fell from above onto the path. This is nature after all, so let's be careful here.

Seljalandsfoss is not far from Reykjavík, only ca 120 kilometres, so you can take a day trip South Coast Tour and waterfalls and visit Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss and return back to Reykjavík on the same day. 

We actually have something like 140 tours to this area from Reykjavík, so do check them out :)

You can spot Seljalandsfoss from the ring-road long before you reach it and it is a beautiful sight watching it getting closer and closer. In winter time it is lit up.

Here is the location of Seljalandsfoss on the map.

Gljúfrabúi waterfall 

Gljúfrabúi waterfall in south Iceland

You will find another waterfall called Gljúfrabúi, very close to Seljalandsfoss. The name means "Dweller in the Gorge".  Gljúfrabúiis sometimes called Gljúfrafoss, but I prefer the cute name of the dweller in the gorge :)  

Gljúfrabúi is 40 meters high and in front of it is a big rock almost covering it, making it difficult to see the lower part of the waterfall. This rock is called Franskanef cliff or the French nose. 

Not many visitors knew about this waterfall until recently as it is so hidden away, so we locals kind of kept it to ourselves.

The 3 beautiful Waterfalls of South-Iceland; Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss & Gljúfrabúi

Visiting Gljúfrabúi is a different experience from visiting Seljalandsfoss as you walk behind Seljalandsfoss, but right into Gljúfrabúi. It is best to wear Wellington boots and maybe a raincoat if there is a lot of drizzle. 

You can either wade through the gorge which is easy, or climb up the rock which is in front of the waterfall. I have never climbed up the rock, but if you do so you can look down at Gljúfrabúi.

I once visited Glúfrabúi in November. At that time there was not too much water in the river so I jumped on the rocks in the river and walked straight up to the waterfall. The rocks were icy and slippery so it was a little risky though. But an awesome experience as it is very mystical being so close by the waterfall.

Gljúfrabúi waterfall in south IcelandIt is difficult taking photos when inside as the light shining from above is too bright and there is a lot of drizzle. I always climb up on the small rock in front of Gljúfrabúi inside the gorge and have my photo taken there - either sitting in the lotus position or with my hands in the air ;)

These are the most popular photos - and of course couples have their photos taken on this rock as well, but maybe not in the same positions as I use when I am there alone.

Here is the location of Gljúfrabúi on the map.

Skógafoss waterfall 

Skógafoss waterfall in south Iceland

The next waterfall is Skógafoss, which is 30 kilometres away from Seljalandsfoss, just off the ring-road 1. It is breathtakingly beautiful and has always been amongst my most favourite waterfalls, since I first visited it as a child with my parents. When I was younger I wanted to stay behind and just live by this waterfall as I was so mesmerised by it.  And I still always look forward to visiting it.

Skógafoss is 60 m high and 25 meters wide and you can walk right up to. Standing so close to a powerful waterfall is overwhelming. Staircases lead up to the top of the hill above Skógafoss and from there you can look down at this powerful waterfall. 

The 3 beautiful Waterfalls of South-Iceland; Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss & Gljúfrabúi

There are 527 steps all in all if I am not mistaken. I counted the steps when I first climbed them, so do correct me if you come up with another number. 

I have climbed these steps several times, and am always out of breath when I reach the top. And so are most of my fellow step-climbers. It is quite difficult climbing the steps in one go, but you can stop and visit the troll.

Be careful though as there is a long way down and visiting the troll is not for those who are afraid of heights. The photos from this very spot are so beautiful.

The 3 beautiful Waterfalls of South-Iceland; Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss & Gljúfrabúi

There is a legend 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 folkore in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the 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 sand plains, 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 sand 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 sand plains, being void of grass - and one can still see many runways in the sand where the river has run at each given time.

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.

The 3 beautiful Waterfalls of South-Iceland; Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss & Gljúfrabúi

It is said that in this location Þrasi and Loðmundur stayed while they were quarrelling 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 ocean.

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.

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 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 on returning back, only to find that there was no danger apparent on the farm.

Later on they decided on going 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 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 Folklore of Jón Árnason).

The 3 beautiful Waterfalls of South-Iceland; Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss & Gljúfrabúi

The chest-ring is now on display at Skógar Museum.

Seeing that this is my favourite waterfall in Iceland then I decided on staying at Hotel Skógar for my birthday on the 24th of March 2016. The hotel is only a 5-minute-walk from Skógafossand during my stay I visited Skógafoss 3 times :)

Visiting these beautiful waterfalls is a delight and I cannot wait to come for another visit when I leave for Reykjavík after a full day by the waterfalls.

Here is the location of Skógafoss on the map. And you might want to visit the less visited neighbour of Skógafoss waterfall - Kvernufoss waterfall as well. To visit this area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and spend a lovely day visiting the sights on the south-coast.

The 3 beautiful Waterfalls of South-Iceland; Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss & Gljúfrabúi

There are also many guided tours to the South coast of Iceland to choose from f.ex.:

Also check out this tour with a glacier hike South Coast & glacier hike on Sólheimajökull | Medium difficulty - I have joined this tour and can recommend it.  

And if you are looking for a place to stay in South-Iceland then check out the luxurious Hotel Rangá.

I have written another travel-blog on a fun trip on which I went to the South-coast and Eyjafjallajökull in a luxurious super jeep. There are just myriad of things to do here on the South-coast of Iceland :)

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