Located near the small village of Skógar, Skógafoss is one of the largest and most famous waterfalls in Iceland, reachable from Reykjavik in under two hours and easily visible from Iceland’s Route 1 ring road. The falls are 25 metres wide, and with a drop of 62 metres, is the fifth highest waterfall in Iceland. The name Skógafoss literally means ‘forest waterfall’, reminding us that this area was once covered in trees.
Skógafoss has featured in numerous music videos as well as the Marvel Studios film Thor: The Dark World as well as in Season 8 of Game of Thrones. In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Skógafoss was used in the footage on his way to the Himalayas, despite it’s true location being in Iceland.
On the eastern side of the waterfall, there is a trail that leads to a staircase with almost 500 steps and that, in turn, leads to an observation platform just above the cascade. The walk up is manageable for most people with a moderate level of fitness, even if you choose to have the occasional breather, and worth it for the views. Look out for nesting seabirds on your way up, as well as the northern fulmars that patrol the skies.
This path also marks the start (or finish) of a popular hiking route known as the Fimmvörðuháls Pass. This trail is 22 kilometres long, accessible only in the Summer. Even if you just venture a short way along it and turn back, you will see a number of additional waterfalls. If walking the entire route from Skógafoss, the route takes you along the Skógá River, between Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull (both of which feed the river with meltwater), before finishing at the beautiful Þórsmörk valley.
At Skógafoss, the Skógá River cascades over a cliff which would have once been Iceland’s south coast. This former sea cliff runs parallel to the present day coastline for hundreds of kilometres, creating a clear distinction between the coastal lowlands and the Highlands of Iceland.
From the top, you can not only enjoy the tremendous power of this amazing waterfall, but also admire views towards the Atlantic Ocean.
The river below the falls is popular with fishermen because it holds a large salmon and char poplation. The numbers had fallen after the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 but are now said to be thriving again.
Back at ground level, you can walk as close to this staggeringly beautiful waterfall as you care to go, but beware… there is a lot of spray and you’re likely to get soaked! If you have a rain cover for your camera, then by all means bring it.
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Legend has it that the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, apparently a giant, buried treasure in a cave behind the waterfall before his death in 900 AD. A young local man apparently found the chest some years later, tied a rope to its ring handle and tried to pull it out, but the handle ring came away and the chest was never seen again. This handle was said to have been given to the local church at Skógar village and used on its door. Today, that old church door ring can be seen in the Skógar Folk Museum.
On sunny days it is not uncommon to see single or double rainbows in the spray produced from Skógafoss. Sadly, we were not in luck on that front as the sky was overcast at the time of our visit.
Access to the falls is easy with a car park very close by. There is a rest room at the entrance to the car park also which you may need to pay for; it happened to be open to all when we were stopped by, but have some change with you just in case.
Planning a trip to Iceland yourself? You can watch a video from our trip to Iceland here. You can see footage from Skógafoss between 5m 29s to 5m 44s:
Our trip to Iceland was also sponsored by Helly Hansen.