Road to Seljalandsfoss
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Iceland is home to several huge glaciers, remnants of the last ice age. Unfortunately, the glaciers are slowly melting, and so every year there are a little less of these wonders to see. However, the meltwater from these shrinking glaciers has created some beautiful waterfalls all over Iceland. Just look at a map and highlight all the places ending with ‘foss’ (waterfall in Icelandic). One that is particularly famous is Seljalandsfoss.
This waterfall is very well known, and not only because it is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. It’s also one of the few places in the world where you can walk behind the waterfall. It’s a powerful waterfall, dropping 60 meters (200 feet) into a pool below. It originates at the glacier Eyjafjallajökull and is part of the river Seljalandsá, located on the south coast of Iceland.
There is a discreet path that leads to the large cavern behind the waterfall, so it can be seen from all angles. If you’re taking this path, be sure to bring your rain gear, as the spray from the waterfall will reach you when you stand behind it. It is recommended to only take this path in the summer, as in the winter the rocks become very slippery and icicles dangle precariously above your head. Stay safe, the rear of the waterfall is a summer excursion only.
Seljalandsfoss became world-famous when it featured in Justin Bieber’s music video for his song ‘I’ll Show You’ in 2015. The video is actually a great showcase for this incredible area. Justin can be seen swimming in the river below the waterfall, and this is a popular activity. If you can handle the cold, go ahead and take a dip in the river. While you’re at Seljalandsfoss, be sure to visit Gljúfrabúi, another, a smaller waterfall about 200 meters away. It’s hidden inside a small cave and is just as wonderful as Seljalandsfoss.
If you want to avoid the crowds, head to Seljalandsfoss late at night in the summer. It’s a unique opportunity to see a marvelous waterfall in the midnight sun. If you’re going at a time other than the summer, the waterfall is actually lit with two floodlights, creating quite a mystical spectacle.
How Far is Seljalandsfoss from Reykjavík?
Seljalandsfoss is quite easy to reach. It is located just off of Route 1, the ring road that circles the whole of Iceland. From Reykjavík, follow Route 1 along the south coast and then turn onto Road 249. On your right, you will see a sign for the Seljalandsfoss car park. Purchase yourself a parking ticket and from there it’s only a short walk to the waterfall. Overall, from the city to the car park is just under 130km, or less than two hours in good weather.
Rather than just heading to the waterfall and then traveling straight back to Reykjavík, why not explore some of the other wonders in the area? There are packaged day tours with various companies that allow you to experience several great spots in one day. If you have your own rental car and will be driving yourself, here are a few recommendations of places to visit near Seljalandsfoss.
Less than half an hour further up the ring road, there is the Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool. It’s free to use and in a remote location; right next to a volcano, in fact. It’s a great place to relax while enjoying the tranquil landscape around you.
A little further up the ring road and you reach Vík, a small seaside village and home to the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. This beach is renowned for its charcoal-colored sand and basalt columns. Vík is also a fantastic place to see the northern lights in the autumn and winter, as there is very little light pollution there.
If you are on road 249 and heading to the waterfall, once you leave keep going along 249 and it’ll lead you to Þórsmörk. But be aware that 249 changes into F249. F roads are the roads that lead to the highlands. They are formed with gravel and only 4x4 vehicles are allowed on F roads. Þórsmörk itself has some incredible scenery and some of Iceland’s best hikes. Note, it is only accessible in the summer months; the F roads are only open from June to September.
For those taking in Seljalandsfoss as a stop along a longer journey, around the whole ring road, a stop at one of the glacier lagoons is a must. The most famous of these glacier lagoons is Jökulsárlón, on the south coast. Fed by another glacier (Vatnajökull), Jökulsárlón is instantly recognizable by the large chunks of ice that float around in the lagoon.
Other Waterfalls in Iceland
Probably the most famous waterfall in Iceland is Gullfoss (Golden Falls). It is a part of the Golden Circle route, Iceland’s most popular tourist travel plan. It’s also fed by a glacier river and cascades 32 meters down into a gorge. Worth a visit in summer or winter; you’ll have a completely different experience from each.
Then there is Goðafoss (waterfall of the gods). Located in northern Iceland, it is 12 meters high and 30 meters wide. It’s particularly captivating on a sunny day.
Last, but not least, there is Glymur. It’s Iceland’s second-highest waterfall at 198 meters, and for me, the hike to it was as much fun as seeing the waterfall itself. The round trip to the waterfall and back to the car park is just under 8 kilometers (5 miles). It is best attempted in good weather as the hike to it is slightly steep.
On a general note, walking to any waterfall, or any landmark in Iceland requires proper preparation. Always have a sturdy pair of footwear on and warm, waterproof clothes. Iceland’s weather can change quickly so it’s always best to be prepared for the worst. Check the weather forecast before heading out on any trip and listen to warnings, because Iceland’s storms can be severe.
Samuel Hogarth, Reykjavik Cars.