There are many waterfalls in Iceland. So many, in fact, that you could see five new waterfalls every day and still not see them all. Each one has it’s own particular character, shape, and approach. Some waterfalls are accessible right off Road 1, with ample parking. Some waterfalls are only accessible with a 4X4 vehicle in the highlands.
My favorite waterfall, however, is just a bit off the beaten path. If you’ve been researching a south coast road trip in Iceland, you’ve probably come across the well known and established Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls. These sites have many visitors daily that arrive by bus. There’s small cafés and toilets near them, making them very convenient stops. The allure of Seljalandsfoss is that you can walk completely behind the falls and catch a beautiful view of the southern plains, especially at sunset. The area was even known for its pink-hue skies in Icelandic folklore.
Skógafoss is also a magical experience. It was used in Secret Life of Walter Mitty as a stand in for hiking in Nepal, and it’s where your adventure to Kvernufoss will begin. Well marked signs will lead you from Road 1 to Skógafoss. There you can climb the stairs to the top and perch with the birds cliffside.
After you’ve finished there, make a quick left hand turn leaving the parking area and going toward the Skogar Museum (Skógasafn).
You’ll notice the museum and a storage warehouse just beyond it. Here you can drive past the side of the building to what is now a small parking area.
A fence to a horse farm with a river in the distance should be straight ahead. If you notice a random collection of rusted farming equipment, you’re in the right spot.
After parking, get set up for a very moderate 15 minute hike. Kvernufoss is located just inside the valley where the river flows from and the hike up to it has a few rolling hills. Good shoes that can tred a bit in the mud are a good idea.
The path begins near the farming equipment where you’ll notice a 2 step ladder going over the fence. Cross here and follow the trail to the left, following the source of the river.
On your 15 minute stroll, you’ll come over 3 small hills. From the first you can hear the falls and from the second you should be able to see them. The whole walk is beautiful and it can feel as though you’re traveling into a mythical land with the high walls around you.
Once closer to the falls, theres a few different things to explore. Just like it’s more popular sibling Seljalandsfoss, you can go behind Kvernufoss and see a view of the curved valley. This is a priceless view with a much smaller amount of visitors to distract from the beauty of the falls.
Next, you can climb a small hillside next to the wall of the canyon, about 5 to 6 meters (15-20ft) higher than the path you came in on. This little section gives you a better perspective of the falls and river.
If the terrain permits, you can also attempt to go completely behind the falls and then to the other side of the river. Crossing the river mid stream isn’t the best idea, and the stones are just far enough apart to complicate the matter. I suggest going behind the falls and getting a bit wet to cross the river and avoid falling into it.
From experience, crossing the river is not a good idea. It’s possible, but you may need assistance from a random Australian photographer like I did to catch your arm on the other side.
Views from the other side of the river are worth it, and there’s a couple additional rock formations that you can climb. The panoramic image (in parts) here, here, and here was taken from the east side of the falls.
As always when traveling in Iceland, mind your step. It’s better to be safe and avoid falling into the freezing cold water. These waterfalls come from the glacier runoff of Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. If you’re thirsty during your hike, fill up a bottle!
Ready to take a Happy Camper waterfall chasing?
Happy waterfall chasing!
Some of Michael’s other posts include: