Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi – Rainbows and Secrets
Along the south coast of Iceland, in the last few days of our tour around the Ring Road, we visited some really special waterfalls. They were different from the ones we saw up north like Dettifoss or Goðafoss – those were humongous, stretching for miles across a crack in the land. In the south, the land is a little ‘softer’, the mountains a little lower.
Here, the waterfalls are still magnificient, truly beautiful things to behold – but they’re different. Up in the north, we felt like we had indeed come to the beginning of the world. To a time when the land was still forming, where it seemed it would be many eons before it found its final shape. Here, it was as if we were transported to a place that had been shaped by magical creatures. The waterfalls seemed to flow over perfectly carved cliffs into pools that invited one to walk into them (of course this would be a bad idea, unless you really like very cold dips). The land around was rich and green, and on the day we were there, the sun was shining. It reminded me of the enchanted wood in Disney’s Maleficient.
Skógafoss – Rainbows Aplenty
Our first stop among these falls was Skógafoss. It was majestic, pouring over the lip of a curved cliff surface, a streak of cloud, curved like a rainbow was in the sky, like a banner welcoming all to visit it. We walked along the pebbled banks of the shallow river that flowed beneath it (at least it seemed shallow to me, as I could see the rocks on the riverbed for quite some distance).
As we entered the alcove Skógafoss dove into, we felt the fresh, cool mist of the spray all over our bodies. Closer to the fall there are less people, as many don’t like getting wet and cold – for photographers, its not the best place unless you have a weatherproof camera. But, it’s still worth getting close enough till you catch sight of the double rainbow! Whichever deity is in charge here, he or she is sure generous with handing out pretty artefacts of nature.
The waterfall is lovely from down below, but don’t forget to climb the stairs to the top. It’s well worth the five hundred or so steps to see this impressive waterfall tumbling into the pool below. Also, you might catch sight of even more brilliant rainbows!
Seljalandsfoss – Going Behind a Waterfall
Seljalandsfoss is another special waterfall in the area. It’s sought after by visitors because of one special feature – you can walk right behind it and experience the curtain of water crashing down from the other side. It’s a bit like getting a backstage view to all the action.
When I was a kid, I always imagined if I had to have a secret hideaway, I’d have it behind a waterfall. It seems like a pretty good place for a safe house if you ask me – that’s if you don’t mind the damp and cold.
It was indeed rather damp and cold behind the wall of water, but nevertheless it was a wonderful experience walking behind it. It did help that it was a brilliantly sunny day as well, so there were rainbows being cast all over the place.
The area was a little crowded with visitors, but I didn’t mind it too much. Everyone, regardless of age, seemed to have found a certain childlike wonder as they walked through this magical place.
We were there when the sun was high up in the sky, and it lent a surreal, bright quality to the misted air, light glinting off all the shiny wet surfaces around, from the rocky cliffs to the dew on the verdant blades of grass and moss. The next time though, we might try and get to this place at sunset. I think a view of the setting sun and the red horizon behind the waterfall would be truly special and something to behold.
Gljúfrabúi – the Hidden Gem
Just a little ways off from Seljalandsfoss is Gljúfrabúi, the hidden waterfall. It’s a waterfall that’s trapped behind a narrow passage flaked by two high cliffs. You’ve got to be a little bit lucky when visiting this fall because its pretty tricky to get into, and there’s not a lot of space for everyone.
To get to Gljúfrabúi, we had to start hiking on the river bed, being very careful not to get our shoes wet in the icy water that flowed around the stepping stones that led us into the cove where the waterfall tumbled into.
It’s a narrow space inside, so it’s difficult to do it justice in a photograph – what’s really spacial about Gljúfrabúi is the cavern it falls into. When you’re alone in it, it feels almost as if you’ve entered a portal that would take you to another place. I suppose it’s that special feeling of being closed off from the rest of the world, surrounded by the scent of water over fresh moss and cold rock, and the enveloping sound of the waterfall rushing down to meet the earth surrounding you.
As we left Gljúfrabúi, we walked past the narrow stream that flowed from it, with beautiful golden flowers growing on its banks. It did seem that when we left, we had entered another world altogether, one in which it seemed nature would remain unspoilt forever.