Gljúfrabúi (or Canyon Dweller) is a beautiful waterfall located at Hamragarðar in South Iceland, close to its better-known counterpart, Seljalandsfoss waterfall. It is one of the hidden gems of the South Coast, and thus an excellent spot for photographers and those seeking to admire nature in peace.
Visit Gljufrabui waterfall on a South Coast tour. Special trips are made to it on many guided packages, including this 6-Day Summer Vacation. If you rent a car or take self-drives that visit the south, such as this 10-Day Road Trip, you can seek it out yourself.
Image from Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir
Nature of Gljúfrabúi
The 40 metre (131 feet) tall Gljúfrabúi is hidden behind a considerable cliff which faces out towards Iceland’s South Coast and the Atlantic Ocean. Because of its effective ‘hiding place’, Gljúfrabúi is overlooked by most travellers, even though thousands of people visit Seljalandsfoss, less than a kilometre away, every day.
A stream, the Gljúfurá, runs through a cleft in the cliff, and those who wish to approach the falls must do so by wading through these waters.
After a few metres of travelling through a narrow valley, a small space opens up, and here, Gljúfrabúi tumbles before a great boulder, which is easily climbable for some great photos. With the open sky above, mossy walls, silver mist and black lava, it is one of Iceland’s most breathtaking gems, seemingly from a fantasy story.
This is especially the case on sunny days, where rainbows curve through the water’s spray.
The route into the cavern is mildly challenging and you run the risk of getting wet, so only attempt to reach Gljúfrabúi if you are in a decent state of health and confident on your feet. It should only be attempted when there is no ice on the ground.
Surroundings of Gljúfrabúi
Gljúfrabúi is in one of the most travelled regions of Iceland, on the South Coast along the Ring Road. This means that it is very easy to reach, either alone or on a guided tour, just an hour and a half’s drive from the capital.
As mentioned, Gljúfrabúi is about ten minutes walk north Seljalandsfoss. Interestingly, this is one of the country’s most famous and photographed waterfalls, due to the fact it falls from a concave cliff which allows visitors to encircle the cascade fully.
Seljalandsfoss is taller than Gljúfrabúi at 60 metres (196 metres), with a similar water flow. Both are fed by the meltwater of the glacier Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano beneath which caused widespread problems to air traffic across Europe when it erupted in 2010.
A much more powerful waterfall can be found just half an hour’s drive or so along the Ring Road, called Skógafoss. This is a similar height to Seljalandsfoss, but up to 30 metres (98 feet) wide after a heavy rain.
Another popular site in the area is Sólheimajökull, the most popular glacial outlet in Iceland for glacier hiking. This feature is on Sólheimasandur, a vast expanse of volcanic ash that resembles a black sand desert.
Those who are travelling a little further along the South Coast will reach the cliffs of Dyrhólaey, with their beautiful rock arch and resident puffins in summer, and the beach of Reynisfjara, renowned for it powerful waves and basalt sea-stacks, called Reynisdrangar.
All these sites can be visited with ease within a day.