Seljalandsfoss. I have no idea how to pronounce that. Luckily, you aren’t required to say the name in order to see the stunning beauty I experienced at this famous site.
Halfway through an active day of work at my host home, the last thing I was expecting was to go running off on an impromptu adventure, but I’m learning to be ready at a moment’s notice to grab whatever opportunities come my way. So when my host asked if I would drive one of her daughters to a birthday party on a farm about fifteen minutes down the Ring Road, telling me I could stay out with the car and explore until the party was over, I had a bag packed and was ready to go in no time at all. With three hours on my own and a plunging cascade of water already visible in the distance, I knew exactly where I was headed. Once again, I utilized good old-fashioned paper maps to find my way (skip Google maps every now and then and try it), and this is where I ended up.
Seljalandsfoss. Nope, still can’t pronounce it.
The joy of sightseeing in Iceland is that most of the sights to see are natural beauties: mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes, geysers. They can’t really charge you to get close to something you can see many kilometers away, so a lot of your basic touring is free! Maybe that’s why gas comes out to around $7.50 a gallon…
If you are driving the Ring Road or just taking day trips from any southern point along it, you can’t miss this gorgeous waterfall. Seriously, you can see it from way down the road, so how could you miss it? If you are a stick-to-the-path or just-see-the-top-billing kind of tourist, an hour or two might be enough to experience the main waterfall and the three smaller ones down the path, but my recommendation is that you make a day of this stop – especially if you have the wonderfully warm weather I got that day. There is a small food truck where you can get lunch, or better yet, pack your own picnic and climb to the top of the mountain for a meal with a view! (But more on that treacherous – I mean, exciting – journey later.)
When you first park and approach the fall, you’ll get a view like this. Take a moment to appreciate it from a distance, since close up, you can’t actually see the whole thing at once. The special perk of this particular waterfall is that you can actually walk behind it due to the erosion of the rock walls, where your view is more like this:
About 99% of the tourists were turning right to follow the circular route in a counter-clockwise direction, so naturally, I turned left. There’s a rebel in me. Try it out though! Maybe it was just how the sunlight was working that day, but this route made my view of the fall grow more and more incredible with each turn, and it got some of the trickier pathways out of the way first.
In some places there are wooden or metal walkways and stairs, allowing you to stroll casually with your eyes riveted to the view above. Then in other places, there’s the mud-covered, rocky hillside.
Keep your wits about you and your eyes on the ground for this slippery climb! By this point, the crazy blows-in-all-directions Icelandic wind had already thoroughly dampened me with a heavy mist, so I abandoned any fear of getting wet and muddy and blasted my way upstream in a way that would have made any salmon proud.
Once on more solid ground (who am I kidding – the slippery, muddy rock continues all the way behind), you can wander around the wide path behind the fall, venture onto an outcropping to say you actually stood under Seljalandsfoss itself:
Or take a little trek right down to the edge and dip your toe in the freezing cold water (which is what I did):
Fair warning: even if you don’t stand under the flow, even if you hug the cavern walls the whole way like a terrified gecko, you will get very wet. And then you will be cold. Dress appropriately. If you have contacts, this is a day to wear them rather than glasses. Otherwise, your view ends up a little misty.
There was no moment when I wasn’t gaping at the magnificence of the view, but as I came around the side of the torrent where most people had started their route, I was greeted by the most incredibly beautiful sight of all. Pictures are worth a thousand words they say (although no picture can truly do justice to being there in person), so I’ll just show you a little of what I managed to capture.
There was far more to this adventure than the path around Seljalandsfoss, which is why I suggest making a day of it, but even if you don’t want to venture down the path to more dangerous grounds, take your time here. Sit on the lusciously green grass in the sun and just take in the majesty while your underwear dries. Walk the path in the opposite direction. Turn around and admire the flat wetlands spreading out toward the ocean. Tourists in a hurry are very sad tourists indeed. Don’t be those sad tourists, no matter where your wanderings take you.
And a special thanks again to my publishing agent (AKA my sister with a working computer) for making another post happen.