#southiceland

Nov 16 2016

Here we have the second highest waterfall in Iceland, which is how it deserves its name, Háifoss or The High Waterfall. Since it is so high, it feels relevant to show it in parts, although you can also see beautiful photographs of the whole waterfall here. This photo shows the very start of it, zoomed in, to also be able to enjoy the detailed layers of different rock and mud around it, including tiny basalt rock formations. Háifoss is situated close to the volcano Hekla, as well as the famous glacier river, Þjórsá making it one of many worthy stops on your way through the south of Iceland.

Here we have the second highest waterfall in Iceland

In a walking distance, east of the famous waterfall Skógafoss in the Southern Region in Iceland is a beautiful waterfall that few people visit. The name of the waterfall is Kvernufoss, and it is about 40 meters high.  Although the waterfall is visible from a narrow-angle from the main road, it is almost hidden in a beautiful gorge. The fall is in the river Kverná tracing its origin to the south slopes of Eyjafjallajokull, and the gorge also bears the name Kvernugorge or Kvernugil.  Not only is the waterfall beautiful but also the narrow gorge. The path to the waterfall is only about 600 meters.  It is a joy to walk as the whole surrounding becomes a bit isolated and quiet as you approach the waterfall. It is a combination of palagonite cliffs, rocks, and vegetation. 

Seljalandsfoss little sister

The waterfall bears many similarities to the famous Seljalandsfoss and could easily be its little sister. Like the famous Seljalandsfoss, you can also walk behind this waterfall although everything is smaller and more narrow. The walk behind and near the waterfall is quite slippery, and attention is needed along with good hiking shoes.  It is not an easy walk and might not be wise in the winter unless equipped with ice spikes.  But for serious photographers, it is an excellent challenge. Because of the narrow gorge, the best time of day to take photos would be in the middle of the day if the sky is clear.  This way you get rid of the sharp shadow. 

Access is easy and simple

Access to Kvernufoss is quite simple as it is located a few hundred meters from the Ring Road Nr. 1. If you drive to Skógar and Skógafoss, the best option is to skip the turn to Skógafoss after turning from the Ring Road north towards Skógar and head to the Skógar museum. From the parking lot at the museum, you walk to the east over the fence and onto an almost unclear path as this is not a mainstream tourist attraction.  This route will take you to the gorge and from there it is impossible to miss the waterfall Kvernufoss.

Kvernufoss bears many similarities to the famous Seljalandsfoss and could easily be its little sister

Háifoss, The high waterfall,  is one of the Highest and also one of the most striking waterfalls in Iceland. Placed in a magnificent but relatively narrow gorge leading into the Icelandic Highland from the valley Þjórsárdalur it is one of the major waterfall attractions in Iceland. It is part of the river Fossá or Waterfall River. The height is impressive as it falls the 122 meters down the two million years old cliff. It is a beautiful sight from top to bottom including the geologically rich background in the cliffs.  It is not a lonely waterfall as it lives in the bottom of the gorge with its dear friend and companion for thousands of years, the waterfall Granni or Neighbour.

When discovered it was thought to be the highest waterfall in Europe

The waterfall wasn't actually discovered until the first decade of the 20th century and was at that time believed to be not only the highest waterfall in Iceland but the highest in Europe. It was a natural scientist and geologist Dr. Helgi Pjetursson, the first Icelander to obtain a Ph.D. in geology, who wrote an article about the waterfall in a local paper Ísfold in July 1910 and named the waterfall Háifoss.  Since then the name has stuck.

Access is not complicated but might be an effort

Access to this beautiful natural wonder is quite easy considering the location on the edge of the Highland. If you are traveling from Reykjavík, you take the Ring Road nr. 1 east.  After you pass the town Selfoss, you turn left road nr. 30 after approximately 16 kilometers.  After 17 kilometers on road 30, you turn right and east on Road 32 and enter the great valley Þjórsárdalur; a place that is both rich in natural wonders and history.  Ahead of you is a 45-kilometer drive to the mountain track that leads to Háifoss. Unfortunately, this seven-kilometer track is not a road for small vehicles. Here you need a good 4X4 vehicle.  If you have a small car, you can aways take a walk to enhance your health of fourteen kilometers back and forth and gain a great hiking tour with a spectacular view.            

Háifoss waterfall in Iceland

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.

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

Hjörleifshöfði is a huge rock or an island on dry land, standing approximately 220 meters high above the black sand by the coastline at Mýrdalssandur in the South Region in Iceland.  The history of Hjörleifshöfði goes back as far as the Book Of Settlement.   When Ingólfur Arnarson, the first settler in Iceland, came here around the end of the eighth century, his foster brother Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson accompanied him. On their way from Norway, they drifted apart.  Ingolfur landed at Ingólfshöfði on the east side on the south shore, and Hjörleifur landed at Hjörleifshöfði, more to the west.  At that time, the shoreline was at the cliffs of Hjöleifshöfði, not kilometers farther south as it is now.  That was before the many powerful eruptions in the volcano Katla up on the top of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, carried the sand down to the shore and extended the shoreline. To make a long story short, Hjörleifur met his fate here at Hjörleifshöfði as his slaves turned against him and killed him.  His bones are still on the top of the rock where he was buried in accordance with paganism.

Hiking around Hjörleifshöfði is a relatively light hike

A walk around Hjörleifshöfði is a time well spent. The hike is about seven kilometers and shouldn't take more than two to three hours.  It requires a bit of wading but is a spectacular walk passed the high cliffs and the two rock pillars on the south side; Arnardrangur and Lásdrangur.  Here it is nteresting to see the pillars standing on the sand and compare them to the rock pillars Reynisdrangar nearby that are constantly fighting the Atlantic Ocean. If you have more time a walk up to the Rock from the west side gives an impressive view of the south coast and the two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull and much more.  It is also interesting that not so long ago people lived and farmed here on top of Hjörleifshöfði.

Hjörleifshöfði is easily accessable

Hjörleifshöfði is easily accessible from the Ring Road in Iceland.  It only takes about five minutes to drive to the parking lot on the west side of the Rock if you are driving your own vehicle or have a rent a car. It is also a great spot for a quiet stop and lunch or afternoon nap while traveling in Iceland.  

 

 

Hjörleifshöfði is a huge rock or an island on dry land, standing approximately 220 meters high above the black sand by the coastline at Mýrdalssandur in the South Region in 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.
 

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. 

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

Sólheimajökull is a glacier tongue that is part of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull.  It is one of few places in Iceland where you can easily come near and take a walk on a glacier.   It is not recommended though that you take a walk on the glacier without professional guidance. At Sólheimajökull, there are companies that offer short hikes on the glacier with all the necessary equipment required to take such a walk.  It is an unusual and breathtaking experience. 

A glacier tongue from Mýrdalsjökull

The glacier tongue is a glacier falling from the Mýrdalsjökull glacier at a very slow pace. Step by small step icebergs fall from the glacier and break away from it into the small lake below and melt.  In the process, the glacier tongue forms all kinds of beautiful small natural wonders like cracks, holes, ice-ravines, and ice caves.  Although all this is quite astonishing great caution is recommended. 

Easily accessible from the Iceland Ring Road

Sólheimajökull is easily accessible from the Ring Road (1) in the South Region turning north to the road (221). The drive to the glacier tongue is about 4 kilometers from the main road.  It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the ice.  There are two paths; one in the slope by the lake, which gives a great view of the glacier tongue and the other path, is down by the lake and is great if there are icebergs in the water.  In winter, you would diffidently want to wear ice grips as both paths are often extremely slippery.

It is not recommended though that you take a walk on the glacier without professional guidance.

Foss á Síðu (Waterfall at Síða) is a farm right on the Ring Road in Iceland in the Southern Region approximately 10 kilometers east of the small village Kirkjubæjarklaustr. It is noticeable because of its spectacular surroundings and the small waterfall falling from the beautiful cliffs lightly covered with moss vegetation. A work of art with nature's hand.

The farm is mentioned in the Book of Settlement and has thus been here since Iceland times of settlement, in the 9th century. Placed in front of beautiful cliffs with its stunning small waterfall it is hard to pass by without noticing.  The farm takes its name after the waterfall that comes from a lake, Þórutjörn, on the top of the cliffs.  The cliffs are accessible at a steep walking path right by the waterfall and is worth walking. From the top, the view is spectacular.   Although the waterfall doesn't have a lot of water, it is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland. 

Sometimes the waterfall is blown away by heavy winds when a limited amount of water is coming from the lake. 

According to a local folklore story, a rare kind of ghost wanders around the area around the farm Foss and the nearby farm Hörgsland. The ghost is a dog who's name is Móri, or simply Ghost, who carries with him a curse that was directed at a particular family in the 16th century. The curse was set out to last for nine generations.  There are those that argue that the curse has finished its course, and Móri has disappeared forever, but not all. Throughout the centuries, Móri has never done any harm to people outside this unfortunate family.

Foss á Síðu

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