Information about Aldeyjarfoss

Aldeyarfoss is surrounded by basalt columns, and can be found in north Iceland. Pictured here in winter.

Aldeyarfoss is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, found within the north highlands in the Skjálfandafljót river.

Geology of Aldeyjarfoss

Aldeyarfoss stands at twenty metres tall, and plummets into a beautiful blue lagoon. It is best known for its surrounding geology, as on either side of it are rows of hexagonal basalt columns, features found in few places around the world.

These columns are so perfectly formed and symmetrical that they seem to be carved by hand. They can, however, be explained by physics.

When lava was flowing down the cliff faces at Aldeyarfoss during an eruption centuries ago, the outer lava, which was exposed to the air, cooled into solid rock fasting than the layers beneath. In this case, the lava was moving in a way that meant it cooled quickly at the same rate over an even surface.

This caused the lava to contract equally across its surface into cylindrical columns, that cracked into the hexagonal structures due to the different levels of pressure in the rock.

These basalt columns can be found in several places around Iceland, such as along Gerðuberg on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and at the cliffs in the village of Hofsós. The only other easily accessible waterfall with them, however, is Svartifoss in the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, in the south-eastern corner of the country.

At Aldeyarfoss, the columns are more diverse in colour than their black counterparts at Svartifoss, with yellow and red shades created by the sulfur and iron brought up in the eruption.

Other Waterfalls in the Skjálfandafljót River

Aldeyarfoss is the most second most popular waterfall in the Skjálfandafljót river, losing out to Goðafoss which sits a more accessible location and has an interesting history.

This falls is found on the road between the two most visited sites of the north, the town of Akureyri and Lake Mývatn. It is famous for being the location where Iceland symbolically marked its departure from paganism to Christianity in 1000 AD; here, the lawspeaker at the time threw away his idols of the Old Norse Gods, where they were consumed by the rapids.

Aldeyarfoss and Goðafoss are not the only waterfalls in the Skjálfandafljót river, however. Just to the south of the former is Hrafnabjargafoss, a horseshoe shaped falls that stands at five metres tall. Others include Ingvararfoss, Barnafoss and Ullarfoss.

Getting to Aldeyarfoss

Aldeyarfoss is beautiful in winter, with fantastic ice sculptures.

Aldeyarfoss is located just inside the north Icelandic highlands. It can be reached by turning onto Route 844, which leads off the Ring Road between Akureyri and Mývatn. This road will lead onto Route 842, before it continues onto a highland track, the F26. Highland routes should only be approached in a four-wheel-drive.

This route will lead to a carpark on the southern side of the waterfall, which provides excellent views over the falls. It can, however, also be viewed at its north bank.

To reach this less-known area, turn off Route 842 when you see the signs for the farm Stóratunga. This route will take you past the aforementioned Ullarfoss falls, renowned for being fed by clear springwater, and over a bridge. You will then turn left on a gravel road signposting towards to Aldeyarfoss, follow it to a small carpark, and from there take take a short hike to the northern bank.

 

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