Traveling the South Coast to Skógafoss #skogafoss #iceland #waterfalls #travel

We departed the stunning Seljalandsfoss as the clouds began to roll in, and headed towards our next destination. Not too far up the road, is another one of Iceland’s famous waterfalls. This one is fed by the Skógá river, and is also visible from the highway. The distance, though, belies its impressive size and power.

There’s a bit of trek from the parking areas to the falls. Note the faces in the hillside.

In some ways I was a bit dismayed that the skies above us had clouded over and a light rain had begun to pour down. When I took in the landscape around Skógafoss, though, I realized the weather provided the perfect atmosphere for our meeting.

A close-up of the mighty falls. Unlike Seljalandsfoss, the falls are not very approachable. Their force is quite powerful, as is their spray, and the river flows wide above and beneath them.

The land here is palpably alive. The hills animated with forms that make you wonder who is really in charge. Not-so-hidden guardians peer over the parking lot and watch the water as though cataloguing who belongs and who does not.

Guardians in the hills

Reverence and respect are essential, as Skógafoss and its mighty Skógá river clearly wield the power.

The hues of green in the landscape, along with its contours give it an other-worldly feel.

Standing as near as you can get to the bottom of the falls, you will get a true sense of the power that is unleashed by the water, as well as a good spray.

We took our selfie from a bit of a distance.

The only way from there is up. Up a steep and rather tall hillside. Which can also be quite slippery. Do take care here if you visit and wear solid hiking shoes.

The force of the falls from above

If you have the time, walk a bit along the Skógá river. I can’t tell you how far to venture, as the possibilities seem almost limitless here. One can travel as far as some of Iceland’s glacier from here, but that would take a fair amount of time and preparedness. Fatigue and lack of a good night’s sleep dictated how far we traveled that day, but it was enough to get a feel of the magic of the landscape. Click through the slideshow to take in some of the wonders of the Skógá river.

We were also getting hungry. As we somewhat reluctantly turned around to make our way back down the steep and slippery hillside, our thoughts turned toward food. The Skógafoss Bistro Bar sits at the entrance to the parking lots, and offers a tasty array of foods for the hungry traveler, as well as wonderful views of the waterfall. We were more than sated after we left to embark upon our next adventure.

Our meal with a view

Although we didn’t hike to the glaciers behind Skógafoss, we were headed toward one not too far off the highway.

Next up: Sólheimajökull 

Seljalandsfoss: Our First Stop Along the South Coast of Iceland #Seljalandsfoss #Iceland #travel

The south coast of Iceland is famous for its waterfalls, volcanos, glaciers, and black sand beaches. We didn’t quite make it as far as Vík to see the black sand and rocks of the south coast, but we still filled a day’s worth of wonders.

I found the hills along the south coast to be particularly animated

As we drove along highway 1, Iceland’s famous Ring Road, towards our first stop, the clouds began to part to make way to the blue beyond and the glorious sun that had been mostly missing from the previous day. The drive from Reykjavík to Seljalandfoss, our first outdoor destination, is nearly two hours. We decided to break it up with a quick stop at the LAVA Centre in Hvolsvollur.

The LAVA museum is a bit pricey, but offers some fun and impressive interactive exhibits that demonstrate the awesome power of Iceland’s volcanic landscape. There’s a twenty minute movie that runs all day, and is worth watching to see close-up views of the volcanos erupting. I found the devastating effects on the livestock to be a bit depressing, but you do get a real-life feel of what it means to live in the Land of Fire and Ice.

It was uplifting to see the blue skies emerge as we drove towards Seljalandsfoss and took in the glorious views.

After a somewhat sobering visit to the museum, we headed back out on our path towards our first waterfall of the day. Seljandsfoss is a very popular spot for tourists, but like most of the other attractions in Iceland, one can find parking without a problem. There is almost always a small fee to park, and credit cards are the method of choice.

You cannot miss Seljalandsfoss, which is visible from quite a distance on the highway as it falls over the grass covered lava hills that reach towards the ocean.

When we rounded a corner and saw the waterfall in the distance, we knew that our destination was not far away. On a sunny day such as we had, the effect is worth a pause to take it all in, and we stopped for a moment so I could run through the wind and capture a few photographs along the roadside.

Sejalandsfoss is fully aware of her beauty, you cannot help but be drawn into the curve of the hills to take in the full breadth of her wonder.

Sejalandsfoss, like Gullfoss was one of the spots where I wished there had been half the amount of visitors joining us. Everyone wants to capture her magnificence, and it can be a little frustrating if one wishes to take a personal moment of connection. Still, it is glorious to be there, and more than worth slowing down as much as you can to take in its wonder.

The path around the falls allows you to walk behind Seljalandsfoss, which we did. You will, though, get wet.

Although it was sunny and becoming quite warm by Iceland’s standards, we donned our raincoats, and I slipped on my rain pants, before we exited the car. Seljalandsfoss is one Iceland’s waterfalls that allows visitors to walk around its perimeter. The path can be slippery and wet, and depending on the wind, you’ll get a good spray of her waters at some point along the way.

Behind the falls

If you are prepared for the adventure, I recommend walking the circumference of the falls. We got wet, but I found it to be a holy experience, as though being baptized by Mother Nature as you receive the never-ceasing spray of Seljalandsfoss.

The Song of Seljalandsfoss

It also felt rather nice to have the cool waters of the falls on our faces as we made our way back into the sun.

After receiving the spray from the falls

The chilly waters of Seljalandsfoss come from the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, which pours down water along the hillside. It’s well worth a longer visit at this site to walk along the paths to visit some of the lesser falls, which we took some time to do.

Leaving Seljalandsfoss, we made our way down the trail to visit her sisters.

We started stripping off layers as we walked along the sun-filled path below the hills to view the other falls.

Views along the path to Gljufrabui

If you venture far enough along the path, you will reach Gljufrabui. Although the waterfall is not as large or showy as Seljalandsfoss, it holds its own magic. Hidden inside a canyon, Gljufrabui only partially viewable from the path. One must brave the stream that it flows into, as well as the slippery rocks and the waterfall’s generous spray, to get a close-up. Dave stayed behind on the path, but I could not resist the urge to enter the cave.

Although the “selfie rock” was constantly being occupied by other visitors, I managed to get some decent shots of Gljufrabui devoid of tourists.

It was not easy to say goodbye to the falls here, but even the sun decided to depart as we made our way back to our car to venture towards our next destination. And, somehow, the clouds were just right for where we would next be.

One last look at Seljalandsfoss as the clouds started to roll back in

Next stop, Skógafoss…

Gullfoss: The Peak of our Golden Circle Adventure #gullfoss #goldencircle #iceland

After leaving Geysir , we followed the road up a short distance to our next stop: Gullfoss. To say this wonder took our breath away would be an understatement.

The magnificent “Golden Falls” was filled with mist wraiths during our visit, which enhanced its awesome feel, but there were no golden hues from the sun that day.

Gullfoss, like all the major attractions along the Golden Circle route, is a magnet for tourists. There is ample parking nearby the two (upper and lower) viewing areas. We parked in the lower lot and began our misty walk along the trail beside the Hvítá River.

Tourists crowd around the viewing areas overlooking the falls

You hear the falls, and feel their thundering power of the water as it rushes through the river, before you are greeted with their full splendor. The trail is constantly sprayed by the force of the falls, and it is advisable to dress in waterproof clothing and shoes, unless you enjoy getting a good soaking.

Not all parts of the trail are close to the water, but you will still get wet.

Gullfoss was our first encounter with one of Iceland’s waterfalls, and it could not have been more awe-inspiring. Turning the corner and seeing the descent of the falls, I had to pause to catch my breath, not from exertion, but from the sense of wonder that overcame me as I took in magnificence of Gullfoss.

Gullfoss does not require a long visit, but it was one of those places that is hard to leave. One cannot help but contemplate the awesome forces of Nature while there. Neither words nor photographs do justice to Gullfoss, you simply have to experience it for yourself. Take a pause, more than a brief one, if you go, and soak it in.

Thankfully, like many of the natural wonders in Iceland, the government is leaving Gullfoss untouched in its natural state. This is, in part, due an environmentalist who helped prevent a hydroelectric dam from being installed at the falls, and who is depicted on a stone nearby.

Sigríður Tómasdóttir

It was with some reluctance that I made my way back to our car and prepared to set out for our next adventure along the Golden Circle route. Gullfoss, fittingly, is at the apex of the circle, and now we were heading down Rt 35 as we made our way back towards Reyjkjavik. We still had two stops to visit, though. And they, like the ones that preceded them, did not disappoint.

Next up, a volcanic crater with the bluest water imaginable…