Plans to Move Skógafoss Parking Lot Further Away, Start Charging

skógafoss waterfall in south iceland

Construction of the new parking lot near Skógafoss, a popular waterfall on Iceland’s South Coast, is currently underway and scheduled to be completed by September 15. Vísir reports.

The development of the new parking will increase the distance to the waterfall, and some within the tourism industry have critiqued the decision, as it may make the waterfall less accessible to elderly and disabled people. Anton Kári Halldórsson, mayor of the municipality, has defended the development and stated that the new path will only be some 500 metres.

Paid parking to begin in September

In conversation with Vísir, Anton confirmed that the new parking fee would begin in September. He also stated that it would be comparable to other tourist destinations in region, citing Þingvellir and Seljalandsfoss.

“You pay, and there’s no time limit at the site,” he said. “You can choose to pay through an app, online, or at the machine. There will be a camera system there.” The new parking lot is reported to be about twice as large as the former.

Read more: Privately Owned Tourist Sites

As stated, the decision has proved unpopular among some in the tourism industry.

Icelandic authorities have stated in the past that tourism needs to be slowed down, and that increasing the time visitors spend at each individual site provides both a better visitor experience and is also more sustainable, as it better spreads the environmental impact of mass tourism. Some have viewed the recent developments at the popular waterfall as a part of this initiative, which seeks to slow down visitors to Iceland.

The new, longer path to the waterfall could also complicate matters for less mobile visitors. Responding to to Vísir, Anton stated that further developments are in the pipeline as well, including a new viewing platform for the waterfall, a new visitor centre, new bathroom facilities, and a new building for the ranger.

He stated further that the construction has gone well so far and it has not impacted the tourist experience at the site.

 

A Guide to Iceland’s Most Popular Waterfalls

dynjandi waterfall in iceland

Skógafoss Waterfall

This 60-metre [200 ft] waterfall is immersed in legend. The tallest waterfall in Iceland, Skógafoss is fed by two glaciers. Its icy waters plummet down to a pool below, where visitors can walk close to the falls, likely getting drenched in the process. 

The waterfall itself can be seen from two different viewpoints: at its base and from above. Visitors can climb a metal staircase to reach the top of the falls, where they are often greeted by the song of birds and a carpet of luscious greenery. A double rainbow typically accompanies this view, a result of the sunlight striking the water. 

skógafoss waterfall in south iceland

The legend surrounding Skógafoss details how the viking Þrasi Þórólfsson buried a chest full of treasures behind the falls:

“The chest of Þrasi is filled with treasures, 

located beneath Skógafoss waterfall,

the first man who goes there will find great richness.” 

Years later, three men set out to find this chest. They were successful. Yet upon trying to remove it from its watery hiding place, one of the golden rings, which served as a handle, broke off and plunged the chest deep beneath the waterfall, never to be found again. Travellers can find this infamous golden ring at the Skógar Museum. 

Traveling to Skógafoss

Located in the South of Iceland, Skógafoss is an ideal destination for anyone travelling on the Ring Road. Only a two-hour drive from Reykjavik, visitors who choose to drive to this destination can take advantage of free parking and the nearby campsite in the village of Skógar. Skógafoss is also accessible by bus line 51. 

Activities Near Skógafoss

Adventure enthusiasts who are eager to savour the natural beauty of their surroundings can hike in the area. A hiking trail can be found at the top of Skógafoss. It leads to the Fimmvörðuháls Trailhead, which many consider to be one of the best hikes in Iceland. This challenging trail spans 24.5 km [15.2 mi] with a 1300 metre [4265 ft] ascent and typically takes seven to twelve hours to complete.

For those who prefer a less strenuous activity, the Skógar museum is close to a five-minute drive from Skógafoss. The museum was opened in 1949 and is located beside a school building from 1901, an old magistrate’s house, a farmhouse, and a turf storehouse. Visitors can find national costumes, a tapestry, other artifacts, and the golden ring from the legend inside the museum. 

 

Dettifoss Waterfall

Dettifoss, a waterfall which boasts of nature’s strength, is known by many as “the beast”. The most powerful waterfall in all of Europe, this natural wonder is a spectacular vision.  Fed by the largest glacier in Iceland, Vatnajokull, Dettifoss is 100 metres [328 ft] wide with a 44 metre [144 ft] drop. Some say by placing one’s hand on top of nearby rocks, you can feel the power of Dettifoss reverberate through the landscape. 

Dettifoss offers two different vantage points. The upper view is accessible via a path along the river, where travellers may experience a chilling spray from the waterfall. For the lower viewpoint, visitors can embark on a steep downhill walk, which is also likely to result in being drenched in the waterfall’s mist.

dettifoss waterfall in north iceland

Travelling to Dettifoss 

Located in Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland’s northeast, this waterfall is a seven-hour drive from Reykjavik. However, it is only a 35-minute drive off of the Ring Road. Travellers can access Dettifoss from either the east or west side. Road 864 will take travellers to the west side of the waterfall, while Road 862 will lead to the east. There is free parking on both the east and west sides of Dettifoss. Some travellers may also prefer discovering Dettifoss from the comfort of a guided tour.

Activities Near Dettifoss

Dettifoss is not the only waterfall in the area. Explorers can hike a rocky 1 km [0.62 mi] trail to Selfoss. This waterfall is found in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon and is 100 [328 ft] metres wide. Often dwarfed by the magnificence of its neighbour, Dettifoss, Selfoss is worth the 30-minute trek. Travellers are often mesmerised by its horseshoe-like shape and the gentle spray of mist which compliments the Icelandic landscape. The Mývatn nature baths are also nearby, making a great stop on a tour of the area.

Hafragilsfoss waterfall is located downstream from Dettifoss and is only a five-minute drive north. Hafragilsfoss is fed by the same glacier as Dettifoss and stands at 27 metres [89 ft]. Nestled within rocky terrain, this waterfall can be viewed from the east or west. 

 

Gullfoss Waterfall

A popular Hollywood destination, Gullfoss waterfall has made an appearance in a myriad of films. Will Ferrell’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Lost in Space, Vikings, and Twice Upon a Time, have all taken advantage of the stunning landscape and thundering falls. 

Called the Golden Falls, Gullfoss lives up to its name. Rather than a single cascade, this waterfall flows over two rocky plateaus, carrying water from the Langjokull glacier to the pool below. In the summer months, the sunlight shines upon Gullfoss, causing the water to take on a spectacular golden hue. 

To travellers who are visiting Gullfoss in the winter months, it is prudent to take caution as the terrain can often by icy and slippery and requires caution when exploring. 

gullfoss waterfall golden circle
Golli – Gullfoss Waterfall

Travelling to Gullfoss 

The Gullfoss waterfall is in Iceland’s southwest in Haukadalur valley. It is a popular stop for those who are travelling along the Golden Circle. It can be reached from Reykjavik in only two hours by car. There is a visitor center and parking lot near Gullfoss and parking is free.  There are no city buses available from Reykjavik to Gullfoss, but many guided tours are available. 

Activities Near Gullfoss

Gullfoss Café is located next to the main parking lot where customers can purchase tasty delicacies. A nearby shop is also available, selling Icelandic souvenirs. 

Gullfoss also has a couple different walking paths that visitors can travel for a truly immersive experience. Different views of the waterfall and canyon are available, mostly looking from the waterfall above as it tumbles into the canyon below. A truly breathtaking view.  

Check out even more ways to see the Golden Circle.

 

Dynjandi Waterfall

For travellers with an inclination for waterfalls, Dynjandi is the place to be. Known as the “jewel of the Westfjords”, Dynjandi shimmers amidst the landscape. It stands at 100 metres [328 ft] tall with a width of 60 metres [197 ft]. However, it is not the only waterfall nearby. Rather, Dynjandi is one of seven other waterfalls in the area. In order to access Dynjandi, travellers must hike past these six other waterfalls. They are called: Strompgljúfrafoss, Göngumannafoss, Hrísvaðsfoss, Kvíslarfoss, Hundafoss and Bæjarfoss. However, most agree that Dynjandi, which has often been equated to a bridal veil, is the most spectacular in the area. 

dynjandi waterfall westfjords
Berglind – Dynjandi Waterfall

Travelling to Dynjandi 

A six-hour drive away from the nation’s capital, Dynjandi is not easily accessible from Reykjavik. This means the waterfall is not often crowded by tourist and is worth the trek for travellers who wish to avoid large crowds. For those travelling by car, there is free parking. 

It is also possible to reach the waterfall from the comfort of an organised tour. 

Activities Near Dynjandi 

In order to reach Dynjandi waterfall, travellers must make a fifteen-minute hike uphill on a well-maintained pathway. This hike is steep and may not be accessible to everybody. This journey will take travellers past six other smaller waterfalls along the path and serves to be a quick but beautiful hike. 

 

Vital to Prevent Travellers from Hiking Near Glymur in Winter

glymur tourist death

The Director General of the Icelandic Tourist Board has stated that more needs to be done to prevent tourists from hiking up to the Glymur waterfall during wintertime. In an interview with Vísir, he stated that a meeting would be called with landowners, representatives of the municipality, and the local police, among others, in order to discuss measures to ensure the safety of travellers in the area.

First recorded death near the waterfall

As reported earlier this week, a woman in her thirties died after suffering a two-hundred-metre fall near the waterfall Glymur, in Hvalfjörður, West Iceland. Conditions near the waterfall were reportedly dangerous, and the accident is currently under investigation. Following the young woman’s death, many people have called for the authorities to better ensure the safety of travellers at popular tourist destinations.

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Jón Þór Víglundsson, Public Relations Officer with the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (Landsbjörg), stated that conditions near the Glymur waterfall, vis-a-vis the safety of travellers, were “seriously lacking.” Jón Þór also called for improvements in “a broader context,” encouraging the government to roll up its sleeves and improve safety on roads.

Interested parties to meet

Arnar Már Ólafsson, Director General of the Icelandic Tourist Board, agrees with Jón Þór’s assessment; the safety of tourists in Iceland needs to be widely reviewed.

“It is necessary to act in all contexts where the safety of tourists is deemed to be lacking. For example, in this area in question during wintertime, the hiking trail up to the Glymur waterfall on the east side of the river is very dangerous. There’s a log of wood that straddles the river, intended to make the crossing of the river easier, but that log is removed in the fall – because people are not expected to hike there during winter. There is also an information sign at the parking lot warning people not to hike in the area during wintertime. But we need to look at this even more closely and try to prevent people from hiking there during the winter.”

Arnar Már stated that it was imperative that the authorities acted quickly.

“I’m going to convene all the involved parties – the landowners, municipalities, the rescue society in Akranes, the West Iceland police, and ICE-SAR – so that we can discuss what needs to be done in order to promote increased safety in the area.”

Goðafoss Waterfall Receives Protected Status

Goðafoss waterfall

North Iceland’s Goðafoss waterfall was officially given protected status on Thursday. Designating it as a protected natural site will not only allow for increased safeguarding of geological formations around the waterfall, says the Environment Agency of Iceland, but also protection of the waterfall itself and its source river, Skjálfandafljót.

Revered for its beauty, the horseshoe-shaped Goðafoss is also one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls by volume. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in North Iceland and is divided into two main falls and several smaller ones. Goðafoss can look considerably different depending on the time of year, water flow, and weather conditions, but, at 9 – 17 meters [30 – 56 ft] high and 30 meters [98 ft] wide, it’s always a stunner.

Photo by Golli

According to legend, Goðafoss—literally meaning ‘fall of the gods’—got its name when Þorgeir Þorkelsson Ljósvetningagoði, a Lawspeaker of Alþingi in 10th century Iceland, threw the statues of the Norse gods into the falls after deciding that Icelanders would convert to Christianity, at least outwardly.

Goðafoss joins a handful of other waterfalls around Iceland that have also been given protected status: Dynjandi in the Westfjords; Hraunfossar and Barnafoss in West Iceland; Skógafoss in South Iceland; and Dettifoss, Selfoss, and Hafragilsfoss in Northern Iceland.

Goðafoss protected status ceremony
Photo by Auðunn Níelsson

Minister for the environment and natural resources Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson signed the official documents at Goðafoss in the company of local government officials, landowners, Environment Agency of Iceland and ministry staff, and locals. Brass quintet Norðangarri played a few songs and coffee was served after the ceremony. On the occasion, the Minister remarked, “Today, we protect one of Iceland’s natural treasures. The protection means that rangers will now take organised care of the area, keep it safe and educate travellers.”