Stjórnarfoss Waterfall: A Hidden Gem in Iceland

Uncover the secrets of this mesmerizing Stjórnarfoss Waterfall, from its hidden trails to the awe-inspiring natural surroundings. Plan your journey for an unforgettable encounter with Icelandic nature.

Stjórnarfoss Waterfall

blog author By Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

Iceland boasts more than 10,000 waterfalls. Many of these can be seen in travel brochures and on websites such as Dettifoss (one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world) or Seljalandsfoss (the waterfall you can walk behind). But a few hidden gems are reserved for those willing to follow the road less traveled. Stjórnarfoss Waterfall is one of these hidden gems.

This article, tells you everything you need to know about this magical place and how to find it. They say those who seek will be rewarded, and Stjórnarfoss is one reward you definitely don’t want to miss.

Why Stjórnarfoss Waterfall is So Special

Stjórnarfoss is probably one of the most picturesque waterfalls on the island. This is not one of our tallest waterfalls, clocking in at about 10 meters high, but it’s pretty wide, and with it nestled between the mountains with the water plummeting into the crystal clear pool below, one can stare and marvel.

The reason why the water is so clear is that it’s glacial water. Stjórnarfoss actually consists of two tiers, but the mesmerizing drop often takes all the attention, especially if you stand very close to the waterfall. With such a majestic setting, it’s no surprise that it’s a favorite amongst photographers.

Stjórnarfoss Waterfall

Where is Stjórnarfoss in Iceland?

Stjórnarfoss Waterfall can be found in the southern part of Iceland. The nearest town is Kirkjubæjarklaustur, a mere 2 kilometers from Stjórnarfoss. The capital city of Reykjavík is 259 kilometers (more than a 3-hour drive) away, so we wouldn’t recommend attempting a day outing from there unless you visit during mid-summer with plenty of daylight hours.

The waterfall is conveniently close to the Ring Road, so many opt to add Stjórnarfoss as a stop along their road trip around the island rather than putting time pressure on a day trip.

How to Get to Stjórnarfoss Waterfall in Iceland

You will essentially have two ways of visiting Stjórnarfoss:

On a Guided Tour

We have many tour operators and private guides on the island that’ll get you to Stjórnarfoss. You can book a spot on one of their existing tour packages offering Stjórnarfoss Waterfall as a destination. Or you can request a customized private tour.

You’ll also find that you can choose between tours meeting at the location, offering pick-up services, or departing from a specific point in the larger cities. Our only advice would be to book your spot well in advance if you plan on a summer trip to Iceland (between May and August). This is our peak season here on the island, and tours can be booked up fast.

Stjórnarfoss drone view

By Driving Yourself

Driving yourself will always get our vote as the best way to explore the island. This way, you can truly immerse yourself in the breathtaking nature of Iceland and never have to worry that someone else is calling the shots regarding when and where to go.

It’s an easy drive since Stjórnarfoss is just off the popular Ring Road route. It’s just at the end, where the remote roads can get a bit confusing, that you need to really take note of the directions. As mentioned, making a day trip out of Stjórnarfoss from the capital city can become tricky. Still, since most kickstart their Ring Road trip from Reykjavík, we also give directions with the city as the departure point.

Get onto the Ring Road and head east. Turn right on Road 203 (you will see a Geirland sign board). Continue straight, pass the gas station, straight through the roundabout, and after about 800 meters, you should already be able to spot the waterfall. Cross the bridge over the river, park your car in the parking lot, and walk to Stjórnarfoss.

Car rental in Iceland

The Best Time to Visit Stjórnarfoss Waterfall

Stjórnarfoss Waterfall can be visited all year round, but many locals will advise you to come during Iceland’s summertime. That’s just because Stjórnarfoss is a great picnic spot and one of the few waterfalls in Iceland that one can take a dip in.

Doing any of the latter with howling winds or snow and ice is definitely not our idea of a good time. You can even try your luck with one of the shoulder months (May or September). But, if you want to take a snapshot of a landscape covered in a blanket of snow and a waterfall seemingly frozen in time, wintertime will be the season for you.

Other Things to Do & See Near Stjórnarfoss

While visiting Stjórnarfoss Waterfall is definitely a highlight, there are many other interesting things to see and do in the surrounding area. These are a few things you can consider adding to your road trip itinerary:

Explore Katla and the Blue Ice Cave.

Walking through the majestic caves with their walls of ice is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just keep in mind that you can only visit the caves via a guided tour, and most caves are closed throughout the warmer months.

Katla ice cave

Hike across Skaftafell Glacier.

Traverse the icy landscape of the glacier with its deep crevasses and interesting ice formations. Remember that hiking a glacier usually takes 3-4 hours and can only be done via a guided tour due to safety concerns. Children under 12 are also usually not allowed on these tours.

Visit the Eldhraun Lava Fields.

Eldhraun Lava Fields are the result of one of Iceland’s most significant eruptions, and while walking through this area reminds one of the power of nature, the spot is also well known for its protected woolly fringe moss growing there.

Stop at the Laki Craters.

The Laki Craters are what is left of an eruption that occurred 250 years ago. There are 135 craters over 25 kilometers. Check out the incredible lava formations and the black and bright red of the landscape.

Explore Fjadrargljufur Canyon.

This is a beautiful winding canyon that has a river running through it. The canyon can be hiked and is a favorite amongst avid birdwatchers because of all the species calling the walls of the cliffs home.

Check out Fagrifoss Waterfall.

Fagrifoss Waterfall is an 80-meter-tall waterfall that’s a bit more remote than some of our other main tourist attractions. You will need to put in a bit of work to be rewarded with this beaut. You’ll need to take one of the F-roads in Iceland to get there, so you will require a 4x4 vehicle.

Visit Dverghamrar, aka Dwarf Rocks.

Dverghamrar are unique block-like basalt rock formations that almost appear to be a big building. This is probably why being known as Dwarf Rocks is not such a big leap – the locals believe that the dwarves and the Hidden Folk constructed this, and it is where they call home.

Check out Songhellirinn, aka the Singing Cave.

This cave has exceptional acoustics, and that’s why it’s also called the Singing Cave. Please do yourself a favor and give it a go; belt out a note or two and hear the sound echoing through the cave walls.

Visit Kirkjugolfid aka The Church Floor.

This is a wonderfully strange sight. Eighty square kilometers of basalt stone slabs lie spread out in a meadow. These tile-like eroded formations resemble a church floor, hence the name.

Stop at Systravatn, aka The Lake of the Sisters.

This lake can be found at the edge of a mountaintop, and when it overflows turns into a breathtaking waterfall. It is referred to as The Lake of the Sisters since the nuns from the convent used to bathe in the lake.

systravatn lake

Visit Hildishaugur Burial Mound.

This burial mound is not just a historical site but has quite an interesting story about the first inhabitants of Kirkjubær. But we’ll keep this one for ourselves ‘coz it’s simply too good not to go and see for yourself.

Where to Stay Near Stjórnarfoss

Many opt to stay over since there is so much to see and do in the area. Irrespective of your personal preferences or budget, you’ll find an accommodation that suits your needs and requirements.

For the ultimate luxury, you can stay at Magma Hotel or Hotel Klaustur. If your budget is a bit tight, but you still want all your creature comforts, book a place at Hunkubakkar Guesthouse or Eldhraun Holiday Home. For the most budget-friendly stay, you can go camping at Kleifar Campsite or Kirkjubæjarklaustur Campsite.

Stjórnarfoss nearby attractions

A Few Helpful Tips for Visiting Stjórnarfoss Waterfall

If this is the first time you’ll be visiting Stjórnarfoss Waterfall, we have a few helpful tips for you to make your trip as safe and enjoyable as possible:

  • If you’re not planning on getting wet, having a raincoat, waterproof clothing, and gear is always a good idea when visiting waterfalls here on the island. Waterfalls create mist and spray that generally will get you a bit wet, but as soon as our Icelandic winds start to blow your way, you’ll get drenched.
  • Stjórnarfoss isn’t an outright dangerous place, but if you plan to take a dip, never do it alone. It’s always better to have a backup buddy on any outdoor adventure in case anything happens, even if the odds are slim.
  • If you plan on visiting Stjórnarfoss as a frozen winter wonderland, be careful where you walk. Snow and ice will make the area exceptionally wet and slippery.
  • Wear layers. Remember the local saying, “You can have all four seasons in one day”? That’s why we recommend always dressing in layers, irrespective of what the Iceland weather looks like when you head out. Wearing layers ensures you can always take something off or put something on, depending on the situation.
  • Although Stjórnarfoss is one of our hidden gems and not one of our main tourist attractions, it’s still one of our most picturesque natural wonders that those in the know will want to visit. So, if you’re not one for crowds, there are a few ways to ensure you have as little company at the waterfall as possible. Try to visit outside of peak season, visit early morning or late afternoon, and book a private tour rather than book a spot on a small group tour.  


Stjórnarfoss Waterfall is the Perfect Ring Road Stop

As a picturesque picnic site, Stjórnarfoss is the perfect resting stop along a Ring Road road trip. If you rent a car in Reykjavík it’s easy to reach the waterfall by heading east, and you’ll be able to add a few of the other exciting things to see and do to your trip itinerary. You will leave with some pretty impressive photos of Stjórnarfoss and a lifetime of precious memories.

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