Article and photos by Einar Páll Svavarsson, local photo and private guide
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in Iceland and the second-best known waterfall in our country, next to Gullfoss. It is a beautiful waterfall, and it also has an amazing quality that people love. It is a place where you can experience something amazing and a place where your childhood dream can come through. At the same time, it is a beautiful, mystical, and exciting place. It is much more than a waterfall to stand in front of and look at, and for all those reasons, Seljalandsfoss is probably the most favorite and feel-good tourist destinations in Iceland.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is a beautiful waterfall, and it also has an amazing quality that people love
The origin of Seljalandsfoss waterfall
There is an almost endless number of waterfalls in Iceland. High and low, broad and narrow, and all with different volumes of water. It has been estimated that we have more than 1600 waterfalls that are higher than 2 meters. But where do they originate? There are mainly three sources of water for the rivers and streams in Iceland that feed the waterfalls. The glacial rivers, direct runoff streams, and spring-fed rivers. Many tourists and even Icelanders assume that the river Seljalandsá that feeds the waterfall Seljalandsfoss is a glacial river that originates in the glacier Eyjafjallajökull. One reason might be because the glacier is so visible when you are looking at the waterfall from a distance on the main road: the Ring Road nr. 1 when coming from Reykjavík. The river Seljalandsá is, on the other hand, a spring-fed river. Originating under the lava about seven kilometers up on the moors above the waterfall called Hamragarðaheiði. If the river were glacial, the waterfall would lose at least half of its beauty as the glacial river water is packed with ash, rocks, mud, and dirt. As a spring-fed river, it delivers this clean and beautiful water. The only exception is in spring when the melting snow from Hamragarðaheiði fills the river with soil and dirt and partly becomes a direct runoff stream. In contrast, the river Hvítá that feeds Gullfoss is, to a large extent, a glacial river and is seldom very clean and clear.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall during the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010
The unique features of Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss is a striking and majestic 62-meter-high waterfall. It is also unique and probably on the list of 10 most photographed natural wonders in Iceland. And always on the list of 10 most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. Not only is the waterfall captivating, but you can also walk behind it on an easily accessible walking trail. When you walk the path, you are actually walking around the waterfall—a kind of three-dimensional experience. The experience and feeling is a kind of mysterious. Many tourists have told me that they dreamed about this experience in their childhood. It is part of some fairy tale or an adventure story, so most people find the walk to be fascinating, even though it is a bit wet. Thus, a light rain-resistant layer is required on the track, at least the part behind the waterfall. The trail is often slippery, a bit narrow, and also a bit steep. Once there, you will get a bit wet (not soaked) from the drizzle and ever so light breeze from the falls. During winter, the whole surrounding and the trail behind the waterfall is very slippery and requires crampons. Sometimes during winter, over some time, the track behind the waterfall is closed because of the danger from falling iceless. Though the trails are wet and a bit slippery venturing behind Seljalandsfoss is by no means dangerous. You have to be careful with your step, and hiking shoes are preferred.
Seljalandsfoss is a striking and majestic 62-meter-high waterfall. It is also unique and probably on the list of 10 most photographed natural wonders in Iceland
Possibly the most photogenic waterfall on the planet and the best time to photograph
Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the whole surrounding area is a great place to take photos. From a distance, you see the river falling from the mountain cluster called Eyjafjöll (Island Mountains). Mountains and cliffs that define the waterfall. It is also interesting to visualize that at the end of Ice Age, about 10 thousand years ago, the waterfall fell straight from the cliffs to the ocean as our mighty volcanos had not yet formed the landform and soils below. As you approach, you can use distinctive features around the waterfall, like vegetation, the river, the slope on each side, and the track that leads around the waterfall to enhance your photo. It is also quite popular to take pictures from behind the waterfall. It is an extraordinary experience of being able to observe and capture the surroundings of nature's backstage. For those who are planning a photo tour visiting the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, you should schedule your visit after 6 PM. This is crucial if you want the sun to shine on the area around Seljalandsfoss. You should also visit the waterfall in the timeframe between the middle of May until the beginning of September. Seljalandsfoss is excellent for photography, especially in the evening with the Midnight Sun shining from the West.
For those who are planning a photo tour visiting the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, you should schedule your visit after 6 PM
If you want to take a photo where the sun shines through the waterfall, you need to visit from 9 PM and 11 PM from June 15th and through July 115th. I know this sounds strange to many visitors, but remember that during summer, Iceland has sunlight for 24 hours.
The track behind Seljalandsfoss
How to go to Seljalandsfoss waterfall
Driving to the Seljalandsfoss waterfall is rather simple. Most people start in Reykjavík and drive the 130 kilometers east on Road nr. 1 – the main road that circles around the island and is often referred to as the Ring Road. When you reach the intersection of Road 249, you are there. There is a parking lot, and you need to pay a parking fee. It is a good idea to park the car and walk from the parking lot to the service center. Although the service center is a bit primitive for an attraction of this magnitude, there are toilets and also a small shop and small coffee stand. Once you have parked the car, you can stay as long as you like. On a good day, you can walk the other neighboring waterfall, Gljúfrabúi. It is only around 10 minutes’ walk (650 meters) and enjoyable.
What happens behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall
Article and photos by Einar Páll Svavarsson tour and photo guide