#river

 

Iceland has so many waterfalls that it could be labeled the country of the thousand waterfalls, just as Finland is often labeled the land of thousands of lakes. In some fjords, like the beautiful Mjóifjörður in the East Region water seems to float down the mountains every 50 meters in the 18 kilometers fjord, on both sides.  In the Highland, you can hardly walk a few kilometers without running into some a creek or a river that has a fall at some point.  But it is not only the water, be it glacial or a clear spring water, but also the beauty of how the waterfalls that capture our attention. Most of these waterfalls don't even have a name.

Waterfalls are natural wonders

Most of the time we look at the waterfalls with admiration as the water continually finds it way over a cliff, in a riff or down a slope. The most spectacular ones have a name, and some are so stunning that people consider them a natural wonder. In Iceland, we have many such waterfalls. At least 10 to 15 waterfalls are major tourist attractions in Iceland.

Waterfall at Steingrímsfjarðarheiði in the West Fjords

Some waterfalls are impressive and even beautiful but lack the appropriate location and surrounding. One such waterfall is by the road in the West Fjords at the mountain pass or Morse Steingrímsfjarðarheiði.  To our knowledge, the waterfall doesn't have a name.  It is located in a harsh environment and often the surrounding snow doesn't disappear during summer because of the continuing cold. But the waterfall is quite stunning and deserves attention.  Most of the visitors drive by, but it is entirely worth it to stop and view this delightful waterfall which, by the way, is quite photogenetic. 

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Below is the location of Steingrímsfjarðarheiði on the map of Iceland

One such waterfall is by the road in the West Fjords at the mountain pass or Morse Steingrímsfjarðarheiði.

It's already September, and that means that the Highland roads in Iceland are more or less closing down.  Most of the cabins and service on the Highland is also closing, and any service has been terminated. It is the beginning of winter and soon the whole area will be covered with snow.

A mistake many visitors make when traveling in the Icelandic Highland is to hire a small car and to drive it into a river and put themselves in danger when they get stuck in the middle of the stream.

 

The waterfall Urriðafoss in the mighty river Þjórsá is the waterfall in Iceland that has more volume than any other waterfall.  One reason is the river Þjórsá that is the longest river in Iceland and thus collects a lot of water from its many origins in the highland and lowland until it exits to the ocean.  Anorher reason is the location of the waterfall only a few kilometres from the mouth of the river and thus carries all the water the river can possibly collect. With all its water it is an impressive wide waterfall although not a very high fall. It is a waterfall with impressive volume.

Easaly accessble from the Ring Road in Iceland

Urriðafoss is one of the natural wonders in Iceland that is easily accessible from the Ring Road, or Road nr. 1, as it is only a short drive from the road.  When driving east from Reykjavík you turn to you right on Urriðafossvegur nr. 302 and the viewing panel is only one kilometre from the main road.  If you are lucky you might catch a moment of someone fishing for salmon, as the river Þjórsá is a salmon river. 

Onec a part of a hydroelectric dream

On the first half of the 20th century the famous icelandic entrepreneur and poet Einar Benediktsson had big dreams about Hydroelectric power plants in Iceland.  One of the places Einar wanted to build a dam was in the river Þjórsá by the waterfall Urriðafoss.  Fortunately for us those dreams have not seen reality yet.

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Below is the location of Urriðafoss waterfall on the map of Iceland

The waterfall Urriðafoss in the mighty river Þjórsá is the waterfall in Iceland that has more volume than any other waterfall.

 

Beljandi is a waterfall in the river Breiðdalsá located in the valley Breiðdalur near the farm Brekkuborg. The waterfall is in the eastern part of Iceland.  A characteristic for the waterfall contrary to many famous Icelandic waterfalls is how low it is and wide, only about two to three meters in height but quite wide with the stream running over and between rocks.  Another characteristic is the amount of water and the fact that the waterfall is placed on a lowland in the middle of the valley, compared to many spectacular waterfalls in Iceland that fall from a cliff near a mountain or in high cliffs.

Easily accessible from the main road and the Ring Road

The waterfall Beljandi is easily accessible from the Ring Road in Iceland.  If you are traveling from the south coming from the village Breiðdalsvík, turn on road 1 on to road 966 in Breiðdalur by the church and farm Heydalir.  Drive past the turn to road 964 and also past the road to the farm Fagridalur.  Although not marked with a sign, you have to find a small sign that says Efri Beljandi, which is a name of a place of salmon fishing by the waterfall. The drive on road 966 from the main road to the sign is about 10 to 15 minutes.  Here you have to be careful and quiet as the River is a salmon fishing river and there might be fishermen you don't want to disturb.

A beautiful quite place by the banks of the river Breiðdalsá

There is a nice parking lot by the waterfall.  The whole surrounding is stunning with its beautiful countryside and the spectacular mountains all around.  The waterfall is especially appealing to photographers as there are really two waterfalls and quite a challenge to capture them both.

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Below is the location of Beljandi waterfall on the map of Iceland

Beljandi is a waterfall in the river Breiðdalsá located in the valley Breiðdalur near the farm Brekkuborg.

 

Few places have a higher place in the hearts and minds of Icelanders than Almannagjá at Þingvellir in the South Region in Iceland.  It is a place everyone should visit when traveling in Iceland.  It is not only a geological wonder and place of historical importance but also a sacred place. It is the place where our first settlers choose for their national assembly eleven hundred years ago to make law and settle disputes. It is the place where a final decision was taken to revert to Christianity and abolish paganism.  It is the place where Icelanders celebrate their sovereignty and independence.  It is probably one of the most important parts of Iceland. 

Geologically a part of the North Atlantic Rift System

Geologically Almannagjá is a part of the North Atlantic rift system that stretches to the south pole in the Atlantic ocean. The length of the Almannagjá gorge is eight kilometers and one of the interesting places where you can see tectonic plates drift apart. But you would, unfortunately, have to stay there for a few hundred years to see the movement.  The cliffs that tower over the walking path tell a long, complex and fascinating geological story.

A beautiful place with a dark history

Almannagjá also has a darker history.  In the 16th and 17th century, the beautiful calm, deep place by the bridge over the river Öxará was part of the Icelandic judicial system. Here women who were mainly convicted of adultery were drowned, and the deep pool carries the name Drowning Deep Pool, Drekkingarhylur.  Men were hanged, and women drowned by putting them in a sack and holding them under the water with a stick until they stopped moving.  So when you walk past that part, you should bow your head in respect to honor their memory as most of them were not criminals but innocent victims of rape,  incest, violence and ignorance.  Fortunately, only eighteen women were drowned here, which is eighteen too many.
 

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Below is the location of Almannagjá on the map of Iceland

Few places have a higher place in the hearts and minds of Icelanders than Almannagjá at Þingvellir

Yesterday while photographing at the waterfall Urriðafoss in the Southern Region in Iceland on the Ring Road we came across two gentlemen fishing for salmon.  The salmon fishing season has begun in Iceland. Their day had been exceptionally pleasant, and they were smiling with joy.

At Urriðafoss a young man from the group of tourists took the initiative

 

Hjállparfoss (Help waterfall) is a beautiful waterfall in the spectacular valley Þjórsárdalur in the South Region in Iceland. The waterfall is among 20 waterfalls in Iceland that are easily accessible and popular to visit and, on the list of most visited places in Iceland.  The waterfall is a joy to photograph in any season, from many angles, although the fall is the most spectacular and our favorite, due to the autumn colors of the vegetation around the waterfall.

The name Hjálparfoss has a historical explanation

Hjálparfoss and all the surrounding is a stunning place. As can be seen in the photos, the beauty of the waterfall can be magnified by colors of autumn and a thin layer of snow.  The name is a bit strange since waterfalls seldom help but the name has its history. In the past when Icelanders traveled from the Northern Region to the Southern Region over the Highland, they had a hard time finding a field for their horses to graze along the way. As the altitude in the Highland barely allows for conditions that are favorable for vegetation.   So after a two to three-day journey on their horses the grass by the waterfall in Þjórsárdalur was the first grass they found for the horses, on the lower land after the long trip. And that was a lot of HELP for the horses. And that's how the waterfall got its name. The waterfall by the grass field that helped feed the horses after a few days journey over the sandy and rocky Highland.

Easily accessible all year long

The waterfall is located in Þjórsárdalur, a valley where the mighty river Þjórsá runs.  Hjálparfoss, on the other hand, is a part of the river Fossá that originates in the lower part of the Highland north of Þjórsárdalur and merges with Þjórsá not far from the waterfall. When driving from Reykjavík on the Ring Road (1), you take the road (30) northbound and turn east on the road (32) after approximately 30 minutes.  After driving your car for 20 minutes or so you will see a sign by road (3361) that says Hjálparfoss, and you are basically there. 

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Below is the location of Hjálparfoss waterfall on the map of Iceland

The waterfall Hjálparfoss is among 20 waterfalls in Iceland that are easily accessible and popular

 

Rauðfeldsgjá is a deep, high and narrow ravine in the cliffs south of the glacier Snæfellsjökull with a dramatic story and family tragedy attached to its name. The location is near the tiny hamlet of Arnarstapi. Seen from the road, it looks like a small crack in the berg that slid just a bit, enough for people to enter and observe. There is a parking lot by the road and a five to ten minutes walk to the entrance of the ravine.  Rauðfeldsgjá is part of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula road trip.

A narrow path for those who dare

Although entering the ravine Rauðfeldsgjá is a bit of a clamber it is worth it when you come into the main entrance. It is almost like a small and wonderful temple. For those who dare, a further clamber into the narrow crack following the water is possible. It will lead you to a rope where you can pull yourself up a small waterfall, and even go further into the ravine. A very narrow path with cliffs all around you and a view high up to the open air. Those who take this challenge will possibly sense the spirits of the brothers Rauðfeldur and Sölvi, who met their fate in this place about twelve hundred years ago as is documented in a true story the Icelandic Sagas.

A dramatic event that had tremendous consequences

Rauðfeldur and Sölvi came with their father Þorkell, the half brother of Bárður Snæfellsás who was half man half troll to Iceland as children and lived at Arnarstapi. They often played with Bárðurs many beautiful daughters.  One day they lured one of the girls Helga out to an iceberg in an innocent game and pushed her on the iceberg out to the open Ocean. Unfortunately, high winds blew the iceberg quickly from shore and out to the open sea, and she disappeared. The news of her fate and journey on the ice never reached her father as communication were different at that time.  In everyone's mind, she was lost and deceased. Apparently, as the story in the Saga Bárðar Saga Snæfellsás, she reached Greenland seven days later and lived a good live with the family of Erik the Red, father of Leif the Lucky, for many years.  In a poem, she wrote and had been preserved in the Sagas; one can sense that she missed her father, family, and country.  

A life changing event for Bárður Snæfellsás, the half troll half man

When Bárður Snæfellsás learned of the disappearance of his daughter he completely blew up in anger, to put it mildly.  He grabbed the two brothers, one at the age of eleven and the other twelve, and climbed to the cliff above the ravine.  In his uncontrollable anger, he threw Rauðfeldur into the ravine and to enhance the madness he threw the other brother Sölvi of the cliff. Needless to say, both boys lost their lives, but their names have lived as the ravine, and the cliff bears their names; Rauðfeldsgjá and Sölvahamar. After this incident, Bárður lost his mind and eventually walked up to the glacier where he built an ice cave where he has lived for many centuries and according to popular believe, still does to this very day.

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Below is the location of Rauðfeldsgjá on the map of Iceland

Although entering the ravine Rauðfeldsgjá is a bit of a clamber it is worth it when you come into the main entrance.

Bjarnarfoss waterfall is an impressive waterfall right by road 54 on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  The location is where the main road splits to Fróðaárheiði leading to Ólafsvík in the northern part and to Búðir and Arnarstapi on the south shore of the peninsula. Although the waterfall can be seen from the main road, the most enjoyable and interesting part of the waterfall is quite high in the cliffs and takes an effort to walk up the steep slope by the stream coming from the waterfall. 

A fairy woman bathing in the middle of the waterfall

Up here watching the waterfall flushing in front of the magnificent columnar basalt that stretches out on both sides is really what makes this waterfall stand out. It is beautiful from the road but stunning when you stand right in front of it. Here you can also see and almost shake hands with the fairy woman that stands on top of the columnar basalt and seems to be bathing in the middle of the waterfall.

A waterfall on Snæfellsnes Peninsula that is easy to find

The waterfall is quite easy to find, and a parking space has just recently been built and a convenient walking path leading up halfway to the waterfall.  But to go all the way up to the main waterfall you need to climb the relatively steep hill. One of the upsides of this effort is the exceptional variety of vegetation along the way on bothe sides.  It is more like a matter of taste whether you want to go up the right side or the left side, depending on how you want to photograph the waterfall when you approach the waterfall. Remember the slope is steep and you need to take caution.  This path to the waterfall is only accessible during summertime and should not be taken during late fall and winter.

Sometimes the waterfall is blown away in the wind

At times, the water source for the waterfall is limited and from a distance, it is reduced into a small stripe falling from the cliff. When this occurs, and simultaneously, strong winds blow with their immense force on the cliff, the waterfall is sometimes blown into the thin air.

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Below is the location of Bjarnarfoss waterfall on the map of Iceland

Bjarnarfoss at Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Reykjadalur is a small valley (Smoke Valley) just north of the town of Hveragerði in the South Region in Iceland. This magnificent geothermal wonderland is possibly one of Iceland's most famous hiking trails and hiking area. The small river snaking along the valley is extraordinary with its hot pools and mud pots in the river bed making the water hot in various places and creating small natural geothermal hot pot ideal for resting and relaxing.

The hike through geothermal area

A mere five to ten minutes after starting your walk along the trail you are surrounded by wilderness, smoke, mud and, hot water. The hike through the valley to Ölkelda is approximately 3 km long. So if you are hiking from the parking lot near Hveragerði remember that you must walk the same way back.  Along the way, you'll be able to observe gurgling mud pots and superheated natural pools of water close up. Hiking this extraordinary valley is quite pleasant, indeed. It is also relatively easy, with only modestly rocky areas. It is not a challenging hike, and practically anyone can do it. The route is a treat to the eyes, with colorful strata and vegetation typical for geothermal areas.

A nice day at Reykjadalur

A wonderful place for photographers

This valley contains quite some great photo moments and photo opportunities. Upon reaching the end of the trail, at Ölkelda you are in for a treat. There, cradled in the bosom of picturesque mountains, riddled with unusual and gigantic rock formations is a natural pool: Smack in the middle of the river. It is the number one reason for the trail's popularity. The Icelanders love bathing in their natural pools. They also like just sitting there gazing at the fantastic nature surrounding them. So, take your swimsuit along and enjoy the day.

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Below is the location of Reykjadalur on the map of Iceland

Reykjadalur near Hveragerði town

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