Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi

These two waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi, offer two different sights and experiences within a half mile of each other. Seljalandsfoss can be seen from the main highway, as can the busses and tourists making their way up the slope to get their photographs from behind the waterfall. As you get closer you’ll find several small groups of individuals carrying what appear to be suitcases, huddled together. Then you hear the whirring. Not the waterfall, but drones. The little machines awkwardly rise up from the ground and their owners wave and smile and laugh and how cool they must look from the sky, meanwhile the racket from their propellers drowns out the sounds of water cascading down from a height of almost 200 feet.

Seljalandsfoss is beautiful and easily accessible, making it what I would call the Multnomah Falls of Iceland. There are even a few vendors in the parking lot. There is a trail sloping up towards the falls and wrapping around behind it and looping down the other side. It’s an easy trail and quite busy. Perhaps an earlier start to the day would have snuck us in before the crowds. It certainly is pretty though, as the mists rise up and birds loop and fly through it.

Gljúfrabúi is a different animal altogether. It’s set behind an old barn and field. From the road you can’t really see it at all. When you walk up you are presented with no easy viewpoint, you’ll have to decide to climb up to the vantage or traverse the rocks in the stream and make your way to the foot of the falls. We went up first. The path is steep and there are chains bolted into the side to aid in getting up, 2x4s left as means of jumping up or down off a few awkward ledges, everything caked in mud. We spent a few minutes taking in the view from the top, of the waterfall but also of the surrounding country and then we made our way down, half sliding, half climbing. The inner cavern, where the water crashes down is the real highlight. It’s like being in a monsoon rain, the sound is deafening and it’s difficult to talk. But it’s gorgeous. Many tourists were standing outside and content to neither climb nor enter the base of the falls, leaving us a few moments of relative solitude after the crowds at Seljalandsfoss. The whole thing is rather enchanting and is one of my favorite memories of Iceland.