#waterfall

 

Stuðlafoss (Basalt Column Waterfall) is a beautiful waterfall in the East Region in Iceland that few have visited.  If you are traveling the Ring Road in Iceland or planning your list of things to do, Stuðlafoss is a place you should visit.  It is one of the hidden gems in the Icelandic landscape and has been more like a secret place for local outdoor enthusiasts.  Although it is possible to see Stuðlafoss from road 923, on the other side of the river Jökla near the farm Grund, it is a waterfall you need to see up close if you want to enjoy this magnificent natural structure, especially true for photographers. It is a similar waterfall as the famous waterfall Svartifoss in Skaftafell park, falling from a basalt column cliff.

Surrounded by rocks and covered with vegetation

One of the exciting features of this waterfall is the formation of the basalt columns and how the lower columns of the waterfall are shorter and stack in front of each other like seats covered with almost neon green vegetation. Interestingly this is the complete opposite to Svaritfoss where the shorter columns are above and form a small overlay. Both the vegetation and the rocks surrounding the basalt column enhance the waterfall.

How to get to Stuðlafoss

After turning south on Ring Road nr. 1 by Skjöldólfsstaðir to road nr. 923, you drive to the farm Klaustursel about 14 kilometers.  Here you find a bridge on the river Jökla by the farm Klaustursel that is on the other side.  By the bridge, there is a parking lot on the west side, and driving over the narrow bridge is not allowed.  After walking over the bridge to the east riverbank, you take a hike on the track about two kilometers to the Stuðlafosss.

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

Stuðlafoss waterfall is one of the hidden gems in the Icelandic landscape and has been more like a secret place for local outdoor enthusiasts.

 

The valley Jökuldalur or Glacier Valley is an impressive valley in East Iceland. Since early on, it has mostly consisted of sheep farms, and some of the farms are considered among the best in the country. The valley is also known for its forceful glacial river that has three names: Jökulsá á Brú, Jökulsá á Dal, and Jökla, which has forced its way from the highland through the bottom to the valley for centuries. When heading to Northern Iceland from Egilsstaðir in the East Region in Iceland on the Ring Road, road nr. 1, part of the road goes through the lower part of Jökuldalur. To enter Upper Jökuldalur, you need to take a turn south onto road nr 923 near the farm Skjödólfsstaðir. In Upper Jökuldalur, you will find this exceptionally beautiful waterfall, Stuðlafoss Basalt Column Waterfall, and the canyon Stuðlagil or Basalt Column Canyon.

The almost terrifying river that kept the gem hidden

Although this part of the river Jökulsá á Brú (The Glacier River by the Bridge) is exceptionally beautiful because of the rare basalt column formation, not many have visited this Natural Wonder. It is truly one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Iceland. However, there is a reason for this. For centuries, the river Jökla, which is 150 kilometers long, was one of the largest and most powerful glacial rivers in Iceland. It was so strong that it divided the valley Jökuldalur into two separate parts that didn't have much communication for centuries. It was a river that was both dangerous and difficult to cross. It was the only river in Iceland that became known by its nickname rather than either of its real names.

Studlagil canyon in Jökla river

The reservoir that swallowed the glacial river

When Icelanders built the hydroelectric plant Kárahnjúkavirkjun and created the vast reservoir Hálslón in the highlands in Hafrahvammagljúfur canyon, the sources for the river Jökla were affected. Instead of running as a glacial river through the valley of Jökuldalur, its source in the north-eastern highlands was diverted into the Hálslón reservoir. From the reservoir, its flows with its former force through 60 kilometers of underground tunnels to drive the hydro-electric turbines of the power plant. So, most of the old sources of the river Jökulsá á Brú don't reach Jökuldalur anymore.  This project was a grand-scale interference into the forces of nature, as Icelanders built a hydro-electric power plant to provide the aluminum plant in Reyðarfjörður with electricity. No wonder the whole project created a dispute.

The secret hidden gem Stuðlagil

The change for the river Jökla was huge. The source changed from being a glacial river to a spring-fed river from creeks and small rivers. Most of its current water comes from the lower part of the Highland and also from the surrounding mountains. Accordingly, the water level is much lower, and the force of the river changed dramatically. Instead of being a forceful glacial river carrying 120 tons of sand, mud, and dirt from under the glacier Vatnajokull every hour, it became a beautiful, clear river with blue water slowly finding its way to the river mouth. However, sometimes, during autumn, the river changes again to its older form when the reservoir Hálslón is full. At that point, the overflow of glacial water from the mighty glacier Vatnajökull starts to float through Jökuldalur again. Usually, this happens in late August or in September, but the volume is nowhere near the amount it was in the old days.

Einar Páll in Stuðlagil in 2016 when he discovered what has become one of Iceland's most popular attractions

Einar Páll Svavarsson photo and local guide in Stuðlagil in 2016 when he discovered what has become one of Iceland's most popular attractions

One of the most beautiful basalt columns formation in Iceland

Although the natural wonder Stuðlagil and the basalt columns have always been here, much of this fascinating landscape was underwater level in the forceful river Jökla only a few years ago. It is almost hard to believe when standing by the picturesque, relaxing river watching the birds swim in joy and harmony that this was a terrifying place under the forceful pressure of a dominating and angry river.  It is by any standard one of the most beautiful place in Iceland where you can see and photograph exceptional basalt columns.

How to visit the Stuðlagil Canyon?

Access to Stuðlagil is relatively straightforward, but there are two options. One where you can drive to the farm Grund and view the canyon from the west side. After turning south on Ring Road nr. 1 by Skjödólfsstaðir to road nr. 923, you drive to the farm Grund about 19 kilometers. At the farm, you will find a parking lot and a path to the riverbank (the walk is only 250 meters and takes about five minutes) and a narrow track to the bottom of the river. Here you must keep in mind that you are walking towards a high and steep slope that descends to the river, so caution is needed.  The view from this side is quite spectacular, but you need to follow the path.  During winter from September to April particular caution is required as the path and the slopes are quite slippery.
The second one requires some hiking.  An effort that only adds to the enjoyment of visiting such a place. Again after turning south on Ring Road nr. 1 by Skjödólfsstaðir to road nr. 923, you drive to the farm Klaustursel about 14 kilometers, a bit less than driving to the farm Grund.  Here you find a bridge on the river Jökla by the farm Klaustursel that is on the other side, the east side.  By the bridge, there is a parking lot on the west side, and driving over the narrow bridge is not allowed.  After walking over the bridge to the east riverbank, you take a hike on the track about four kilometers to the Stuðlagil canyon, which is very near to the farm Grund. It is recommended to stop after two kilometers by one of the most beautiful basalt column waterfalls in Iceland, Stuðlafoss. Climbing down to the river in the canyon is possible at one spot and requires careful climbing, but once down by the river, you sense that you have entered a wonder-world of basalt columns. The stones and rocks are sometimes wet and slippery, so take precaution. Since the hike, both ways is 8 kilometers and stops by the waterfall, and the canyon is probably two to three hours. For photography, it is recommended to be in the canyon in the morning. An excellent way to plan this visit is to stay at Skjödólfsstaðir accommodation or campsite and get an early morning start.

Map of stuðlagil

If you are going to visit the Stuðlagill Canyon in Iceland you might be looking for a places to stay. Here you can book from a selection of accommodationin the Stuðlagil area. Preferably at Skjöldólfsstaðir.

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Below is the location of Stuðlagil Canyon on the map of Iceland

It is almost hard to believe when standing by the picturesque, relaxing river watching the birds swim in joy and harmony

 

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.

 

Flögufoss is an impressive waterfall in the valley Breiðdalur in eastern Iceland.  It is a fairly high waterfall, around 60 meters, and located in beautiful surroundings with geology speaking out loud from every angle. In the midst of the geologically fascinating valley Breiðdalur.  Near the top of the waterfall, there is another small waterfall falling on a terrace and from that terrace the waterfall runs through a small stone arch all the way down to the bottom of the cliff.  Interestingly although the whole setup is thousands of years old, the waterfall changed its path to run through the stone arch only two decades ago.  The old waterfall path can be seen at the top by the arch’s side. Possibly some elves anticipated the growing tourism in Iceland and wanted to give the waterfall a natural wonder makeover. Whatever the reason, this has given the waterfall Flögufoss a much more striking look.

A waterfall with stunning surroundings

Behind the top of the waterfall, there is a magnificent mountaintop called Smátindsfjall or Smallpeakmountain. These are a group of steep and high peaks made of basalt over thousands of years ago. The peaks can also be seen from the next fjord Berufjörður south of Breiðdalsvík and Breiðdalur.  On that side, on the other hand, they are called Smátindur or Smallpeak.

Flögufoss is easily accessible from route one on the Ring Road

Flögufoss is easily accessible and only a few minutes drive from the main road 1 on the Icelandic Ring Road in Breiðdalur to a parking lot.  From the parking lot, there is a 15 minutes light hike to the waterfall. Wen driving from Breiðdalsvík you take a left turn on road 966 or a right turn coming from Egisstaðir, and you can't miss it The best way to get a good view is to walk up the slope on the left side until you see the whole waterfall, the stone arch and the mountain peak in the background.  But for photographers, there is a great challenge to combine this from a new angle and bear in mind that this waterfall has not been photographed very often.

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Below is the location of Flögufoss on the map of Iceland

Flögufoss is easily accessible and only a few minutes drive from the main road one on the Icelandic Ring Road in Breiðdalur to a parking lot.

 

Klifbrekkufossar is a name for a series of small waterfalls one above the other at the bottom of the fjord Mjóifjörður in eastern Iceland. The waterfalls are a spectacular sight around 90 meters high and the best way to see them all in the same view is actually from the road and by the roadside at the bottom of the falls.  There is limited if any advantage to getting any closer or even climbing the side of the waterfalls to get a "better" view. 

Fed by multiple sources of water on the heath Mjóafjarðarheiði

The water coming from the top feeding the waterfall in the river Fjarðará is a spring-fed river and therefore not contaminated with dirt and various materials like the many glacial rivers in Iceland.   This makes the river quite clear and clean and gives the waterfalls an incredible feeling of purity. The river accumulates water from many sources in the heath above that goes up to one thousand and one hundred meters filled with small springs and lakes.

A waterfall only open in summer months

The name Klifbrekkufossar can be translated as Climbingslopewaterfalls.  The slope refers to the Mjóifjörður side of the mountain pass at Mjóifjörður heath that leads from the main road between Reyðarfjörður and Egilsstaðir on road 953 in Iceland to the fjord Mjóifjörður. The drive is 17 kilometers to the bottom of the fjord. 
Unfortunately, for waterfall lovers, the waterfalls are only accessible from June until September as the mountain pass leading to the narrow fjord is closed in winter. 

The waterfall should be referred to as a single waterfall

Although most often referred to as a series of waterfalls and the name is in plural, Klifbrekkufossar should be seen a single waterfall falling the 90 meters on a series of ledges.  It is by any measure one of the most spectacular sights in Iceland and among the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. 

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Below is the location of Klifbrekkufossar on the map of Iceland

Klifbrekkufossar is a name for a series of small waterfalls one above the other at the bottom of the fjord Mjóifjörður in eastern Iceland.

 

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.

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