Iceland's Skógafoss Waterfall: The Complete Guide

Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland

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Located on the Skógá river near the small village of Skógar, the Skógafoss waterfall is one of the largest in Iceland with a drop of almost 200 feet. The waterfall lies south of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano, which made news worldwide for halting international flights across Europe in 2010 due to the ash and smoke that filled the air and area around the falls.

These days the falls are much clearer, and the regular spray from the falls often yields a colorful rainbow on a bright and sunny day. The rainbow even shows up in Icelandic folklore—some of the area’s first Viking settlers are said to have left treasure at its base. Locals supposedly discovered the chest soon after, but were only able to retrieve a handle from the chest before it was lost forever. Although you won’t be able to look for the treasure yourself, you can view the handle in the Skógar Folk Museum nearby.

Location

Right off of the country’s famed Ring Road, or Route 1, the Skógafoss waterfall is a must-see for anyone traveling to Iceland’s South Coast. About a two-hour drive from Reykjavik, Skógafoss and its many surrounding options for accommodations and dining are the perfect stop whether you’re looking for a leisurely stop on your way to further stops on the South Coast or Vik.

How to See the Waterfall

Viewing Skógafoss is simple—you won’t be able to miss the the roaring falls. Although you’re unable to walk behind the waterfall like at other falls on the South Coast, you can get fairly close to the water; but one step too close will leave you soaked by the mist, so dress accordingly and come prepared with a rain jacket! On a clear day, the waterfall is unbelievably photogenic and is the perfect place to lookout for rainbows and take in the breathtaking scenery.

If you’re short on time, watching the water plunge into the river below from the bottom of the falls is a breathtaking view alone. If you have more time or are planning a stay in Skógar, don’t miss the hike up the 400+ stairs to the stop of the falls. Although the climb isn’t for everyone, the view from the stop is spectacular and a great way to get a bird's eye view of the surrounding area. Up top you’ll be able to see the river that connects the falls and the start of the popular Fimmvorduhals hiking trail to Pórsmörk.

How to Visit

A popular addition to any South Coast tour, you’re very likely to get a glimpse of this beautiful waterfall when booking a guided day tour of the South Coast.

If you’re renting a car and driving yourself, Skógafoss is a must-see. Just a quick turn off of Route 1, the tiny village of Skógar has lots of free available parking for travelers to stop and take in the beautiful sites. In addition to parking, there are three restaurants on site attached to Hótel Skógar, Hótel Skógafoss and the Skógar Museum.

Visitors interested in Icelandic history and culture should visit the Skógar Folk Museum. Only a short walk away from the falls, this museum is split into two buildings; one dedicated to Icelandic transport and communications and the other focused on regional history. Outside of the two buildings are historic sod-roofed buildings transformed into an open-air museum.

If you’re visiting during the summer months and have a full day, consider the popular Fimmvörðuháls Hiking Trail. One of the main attractions travelers stay overnight in the area for, the intense 14-mile trail begins next to the Skógá river and continues between the Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers. If you choose to split the trail up into two days, there are a few lava huts, similar to hostels, you can stay in to break up the hike. The trail eventually leads to Þórsmörk, where you can set up camp to continue exploring one of the many hiking trails or take a bus back to Skógar.

Accommodations

Ever wanted to wake up next to a waterfall? Luckily, Skógar has you covered. There are a total of seven different ways to stay in Skógar, from family-owned guest houses and relaxing hotels to hostels and camping grounds, there’s a wide range of accommodations that will fit in anyone’s budget.

  • Hótel Edda Skógar: The largest hotel in Skógar, this local offshoot of a chain of Icelandic hotels is only open during the summer months. The 37 rooms are hostel-style with shared bathrooms and private rooms. There is an onsite restaurant that offers a breakfast buffet and dinner menu.
  • Hótel Skógar: Want a little extra? Attached to the highly rated Fossbúð Restaurant, this quaint hotel also includes access to an outdoor sauna and hot tub for an extra touch of relaxation after a long day of traveling.
  • Hótel Skógafoss: This cozy hotel has a variety of different sized rooms that are perfect for traveling families and couples and includes a buffet breakfast served at the attached cafe.
  • Skógar Guesthouse: Open year-round, this is a homey 8-room guest house includes breakfast, a jacuzzi, and optional add-ons for horseback riding, snowmobile, and ATV trips to explore the surrounding areas.
  • Fosstún Skógar: This family-owned guesthouse is a cozy two-bedroom apartment that sleeps up to 5 guests with a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom.
  • Hostel Skógar: Attached to Hótel Skógafoss, this budget-friendly hostel has a mix of private rooms and co-ed dorms that are perfect for solo travelers and backpackers.
  • Skógar Camping grounds: For the more adventurous traveler, there is a basic campground where you can set up camp and wake up next to the falls. The campground has basic facilities including toilets, sinks, and showers for purchase.

Things to Do Nearby

Although the attractions on this stretch of the South Coast are fairly close together, there are a few sites worth spending more time at if you’re staying in the Skógar area.

About 10 minutes east of Skógar and hidden at the end of a gravel road off of Route 1 is a scenic, 15-minute hike to the rustic Seljavallalaug Thermal Bath that’s definitely worth seeing. Tucked away in-between the breathtakingly vibrant Eyjafjoll mountains is a basic thermal pool that’s a great way to take a dip and relax while exploring the South Coast. However, this is no Blue Lagoon. Because of its remote location, the pool isn’t always well maintained and is often filled with algae and lukewarm water, but if you want a once in a lifetime experience taking a dip next to mountains, this is well worth the trek.

10 minutes west of Skógar is the Sólheimajökull Glacier. A visit to the glacier can only take an hour if you’re short on time, but allow for more time if you want to book a glacier walk with a guided tour for a closer look. Parking is free, but if you need to use the restroom you’ll have to pay.