Discovering Grundarfoss: A Hidden Gem in West Iceland

Marvel at Grundarfoss waterfall, and capture unforgettable memories amidst Iceland's breathtaking landscapes.


blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

Iceland boasts more than 10,000 waterfalls, one more impressive than the next. But if you’re planning a trip to the island, there are a few of these natural wonders that you simply cannot miss. One of these is Grundarfoss. 

This article tells you everything you need to know about this magnificent yet often overlooked waterfall and how to plan and prep for your visit. So, without further ado, let’s begin our deep dive into this spectacular water display. 

The Basics of the Extraordinary Grundarfoss: A Short Summary 

Grundarfoss Waterfall can be found about 2 kilometers outside of Grundarfjördur in one of the country’s most beautiful regions, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland. It’s just 175 kilometers away from the capital city of Reykjavík, making it possible as a day outing, but since it is so close to the famous Ring Road route, many opt to make it a stop along their road trip. 

When you see Grundarfoss, you’ll understand why we say it looks like an exclamation mark on the Icelandic landscape. A 70-meter-high waterfall running down the moss-covered cliffs into the River Grundara with a backdrop of mountains and surrounded by lush green fields, it truly makes for a memorable landmark.


Planning Your Journey: When is the Best Time to Visit Grundarfoss?

The best time to visit Grundarfoss depends on your personal preferences and what you plan on doing there. Consider the following when planning your trip:

  • Visiting Grundarfoss is an outdoor adventure. That means the Iceland weather will play a significant part in your day. Although the waterfall is open to the public all year round, most will recommend visiting during the warmer months of the year (May to September), especially our summertime. This way, you’ll experience nice and mild weather and have plenty of daylight hours to explore the area. You also won’t need to deal with snow or ice on the trail to the waterfall.
  • If you decide to visit during the warmer months, you need to be aware that summer is considered the peak season here in Iceland. That means you will need to budget for peak season prices around the island and, despite being a bit of a hidden gem, peak season crowds visiting the waterfall.
  • Some would like to capture Grundarfoss in its winter slumber, and we can understand why. The waterfall seems to be frozen in time, with long ice tentacles dangling from the cliffs and the surrounding landscape draped in a blanket of snow. But those wishing to travel to the waterfall during Iceland’s wintertime must know that the roads can be challenging. Between the extreme weather, legendary winds, ice, and snow, driving in Iceland in winter is not for the nervous driver. 

Planning a Grundarfoss trip

Starting Your Adventure: How to Get to Grundarfoss

Because it’s such a hidden gem, few tour operators offer tours to Grundarfoss, although you can try to arrange a custom private tour with them or another local guide. The best way to visit the waterfall is by driving there yourself. 

Just get onto the Ring Road and take Road 59 in the direction of Budardalur. Then take Road 60/54 towards Grundarfjördur. Go through Grundarfjördur, drive passed Kverna Farm, and then turn right at the sign that reads Grundarfoss. Go through the gate and drive the little dirt road till you find a parking spot next to the water supply area.

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Unveiling the Origins of Grundarfoss

The water rushing over the cliffs at Grundarfoss and into the Grundara River below originates from Raukadalur in the mountains, where melting water flows down. The melting water results from seasonal change as winter turns to summer in Iceland, global warming, and millions of years of volcanic activity, causing glacial flooding here on the island.

A Hiker's Paradise: Unveiling the Trail to Grundarfoss

Grundarfoss can only be reached by taking a hike. But you don’t need to be a fitness fanatic to take on this trail. The trail is considered easy and will take only 15 minutes, depending on your pace. There are spots where the trail gets pretty rocky and steep, so you’ll need to wear suitable shoes, and you may need to think twice about smaller kids and older people in your party. The trail starts next to the water supply area where you’ve parked. 

Hiking to Grundarfoss

Exploring the Enchanting Surroundings of Grundarfoss

It’s not just Grundarfoss that’s worth a visit in the region. We highly recommend that you also add the following to your trip itinerary while in the vicinity:

  • Kirkjufell Mountain
  • Exploring Snæfellsnes via horseback riding tour
  • Vatnshellir Lava Cave
  • Malariff Lighthouse
  • Hiking Snæfellsjökull Glacier
  • Londrangar Basalt Cliffs (also known as the Rocky Castle)
  • Djupalonssandur Black Sand Beach
  • Arnarstapi Village
  • Raudfeldsgja Canyon 

Grundarfoss route

Scheduling Your Adventure: How Much Time to Set Aside for Your Grundarfoss Visit

Once again, the time you need to set aside for your visit to the waterfall will heavily depend on your preferences and what you plan on doing there. If you just want to admire the waterfall from afar from the parking lot, you probably won’t need much more than 15 minutes. If you plan to walk to the waterfall and tak some photos, we recommend setting aside about 1.5-2 hours for the outing. 

Just remember that you also need to take driving time into account. If you plan on making a day trip from the capital, you’ll need to add the time spent on the road heading out and returning. If Grundarfoss forms part of your road trip, you’ll need to consider the number of kilometers you must drive that day, along with other attractions and activities. 

Grundarfoss season

Accommodation Options: Finding Your Home Away from Home Near Grundarfoss

Whether you want to make Grundarfoss a pitstop along a road trip or just want to stay over to explore the area a bit more, you will find plenty of accommodation options to choose from. 

You can either opt for a luxury stay at a hotel such as Hotel Budir or a more affordable, yet comfortable stay at a guesthouse like Kirkjufell Guesthouse. You can also book self-catering accommodation like Kirkjufell Oceanfront Villa or go the most affordable route and book a camping spot at Snæfell Campground

Essential Tips for a Memorable Grundarfoss Experience

If this is your first time visiting one of our waterfalls, the following tips and advice will help make your visit a safe and memorable one: 

  • Even though Grundarfoss is visible from the road, please keep in mind that you can’t just park anywhere to admire the view or take a few snapshots. Parking anywhere else except for a designated parking spot here in Iceland is illegal. If you’re not up for the hike to the falls, then at least park your car in the parking lot and admire the view from there. We are very strict when it comes to the rules of the road, and if you don’t adhere to them, you might end up with such a hefty fine that you need to cut your trip short.
  • Grundarfoss is an outdoor activity, and a local saying says, “You can expect all four seasons in a day in Iceland”. That’s why we highly recommend that you always keep an eye on the Iceland weather forecast, irrespective of season, especially right before heading out.
  • Stay on the dedicated and clearly marked trail. The reason is twofold: we don’t want you to wander off and get lost or hurt, and we have quite a sensitive ecosystem that we try to protect to the best of our abilities. For example, Iceland is home to a scarce type of moss that can take up to 10 years to recover from damage, if at all.
  • The biggest mistake people make when visiting the waterfalls in Iceland is that they don’t bring raincoats or wear waterproof clothing and gear. We know you aren’t planning on taking a dip, but visitors underestimate the amount of mist and spray these powerful waterfalls create and the strength of the Icelandic winds. It’s very easy look like a drenched cat or sit with damaged equipment and devices if you don’t come prepared.
  • An easy way to avoid some of our peak season crowds during the summer months is to plan your visit for early in the morning or late afternoon.
  • Leave only your footprints behind. If you litter and someone sees you, we can assure you that it will be addressed (remember how serious we are about taking care of our environment?).

Discovering Grundarfoss

Grundarfoss - A Treasure Trove of Natural Wonders

It’s hard to imagine that visiting a natural wonder such as Grundarfoss means having so many other interesting sights and exciting activities around it. When renting a car in Reykjavik to travel to Grundarfoss, whether as part of a road trip or a dedicated day trip, please consider stopping at a few of the other attractions we’ve mentioned. 

Use our accommodation options to find one that suits your personal preferences and your budget best. If you follow all our helpful advice in this guide, you will have a great time at our hidden gem in West Iceland: Grundarfoss.

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