Fagrifoss

Lakagígar / near Kirkjubæjarklaustur / Vatnajökull National Park,
South Region, Iceland

Rating: 3     Difficulty: 1
Fagrifoss

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Fagrifoss was one of the attractive waterfalls that we really had to work for as it was situated more towards the remote interior highlands of Iceland. What made this waterfall attractive was its rounded brink and segmented plunge with its lower end slanting and giving the falling water more of a fan shape at its base. Adding to its scenic allure was how it contrasted with the rugged and desolate scenery the falls was nestled in.

However, what Julie and I remembered most about this waterfall was the four-wheel drive adventure it took to even get here. In fact, most of the drama regarding the accessibility of this waterfall had to do with tackling the very rough and rugged 4wd road with a handful of river crossings. The physical exertion to reach the falls was practically negligible, and hence we gave it a "1" rating for difficulty. More details on the drive to get here are described in the directions below.

Ultimately, the 4wd road would lead to the fissures and craters of Lakagígar (or Laki for short). The significance of Laki was that its eruption in 1783 was one of the largest ever recorded during human history. Its eruption lasted for 8 months, spewed toxic gas that resulted in mass deaths of livestock in Iceland, killed 20% of the Icelandic population, and affected the crop yields in Europe. It was even speculated that this eruption might have caused agricultural hardships that sparked the French Revolution!

Icelandic family showing us that this river can be crossed Unfortunately, we didn't go past Fagrifoss so we didn't get to see Laki for ourselves.

In any case, once we finally managed to leave the car at the trailhead, we then took a short walk along the cliffs and outcrops overlooking the waterfall and the steep gorge the river carved out. Perhaps the best view that we were able to get was on the way to the end rather than the end itself (see photo at the top of this page). That was because we couldn't see the bottom of the falls from behind the short barriers at the official overlook. We would've had to go past the barriers and get dangerously close to the edge of the unstable cliffs to get the full view from there.

Recently, Lakagígar was absorbed into Vatnajökull National Park. Previously, it was part of Skaftafell National Park though we weren't aware of that during our 2007 visit.

Finally, I looked up my Icelandic dictionary to learn what the name of the falls might mean, and I found the word "fagur", which was an adjective meaning "beautiful". So that could suggest that this waterfall's name would translate into something meaning "Beautiful Falls".




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PHOTO JOURNAL

View of Fagrifoss from the lookout at the end of the short trailView of Fagrifoss from the lookout at the end of the short trail
Fjaðrargljúfur, which was on the way to Fagrifoss and LakagígarThis gorge was called Fjaðrargljúfur, which was on the way to Fagrifoss and Lakagígar
As we were making our way towards Klaustur from Skaftafell, we passed by some vast black sand areas with the foot of these massive glaciers seemingly within reachAs we were making our way towards Klaustur from Skaftafell, we passed by some vast black sand areas with the foot of these massive glaciers seemingly within reach
We were based in Kirkjubaejarklaustur when we did the Fagrifoss excursion, and nearby our accommodation there was also the eccentric Kirkjugolf with its natural hexagonal flooringWe were based in Kirkjubaejarklaustur when we did the Fagrifoss excursion, and nearby our accommodation there was also the eccentric Kirkjugolf with its natural hexagonal flooring
Lakavegur was a pretty bumpy roadLakavegur was a pretty bumpy road. No way a 2wd vehicle would have a prayer on it!

This was the first river crossing I encountered.  It made me hesitate until an Icelandic family came along and helped me get over my fearsThis was the first river crossing I encountered. It made me hesitate until an Icelandic family came along and helped me get over my fears

After that first river crossing, we followed along a riverbed until the road pretty much was on that riverbed itself!After that first river crossing, we followed along a riverbed until the road pretty much was on that riverbed itself!

Scary sign about river crossings just before the second big river crossingScary sign about river crossings just before the second big river crossing

Here's a closer look at the sign so you can see what it saysHere's a closer look at the sign so you can see what it says

This was one of the river crossings as we were traversing the entire segmented river above FagrifossThis was one of the river crossings as we were traversing the entire segmented river above Fagrifoss

One of the scarier river crossings, which immediately followedOne of the scarier river crossings, which immediately followed the one pictured above

When we mercifully made it to the car park for Fagrifoss, we didn't have to go far to get this angled view of the fallsWhen we mercifully made it to the car park, we didn't have to go for to get this angled view of the falls

Julie on the path to the overlook of FagrifossJulie on the path to the overlook of the falls

Julie looking at Fagrifoss from the official lookoutJulie looking at the falls from the official lookout

Looking downstream from Fagrifoss at the rugged landscapeLooking downstream from the falls at the rugged landscape


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Fixated on the falls


Right to left sweep of the falls and chasm


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From Kirkjubæjarklaustur (259km east of Reykjavík), we headed southwest on the Ring Road for about 6km until there's a well-signed turnoff for Laki on our right. From there, we followed the signs and the road to Lakagígar (Lakavegur) for another 18km.

Lakavegur included at least two unbridged river crossings. The first one was roughly 5km from the turnoff leaving the Ring Road. Not long after that crossing, we were driving along a very rough and bouldery riverbed that really tested the clearance of the SUV we were driving. Low clearance 2wd passenger vehicles wouldn't have a prayer making it through this section.

The second river crossing was actually a series of 3 or 4 segments of the river feeding Fagrifoss. Only after making it across this much longer series of river crossings did we spot a spur road braching off Lakavegur towards the car park for the falls. Note that just downstream from that second river crossing was where the water went over the waterfall so you better make sure that the river can be safely crossed or else risk getting swept over the falls.

Because this excursion marked the very first time I ever did a major river crossing (unbridged) in a vehicle, I was hesitant to continue until an Icelandic local encouraged me and let me follow him. That was very nice of him. The time spent driving in each direction was a little over an hour.

If all this seems like a lot of trouble to do on your own, there are day tours to Laki from Kirkjubæjarklaustur which includes a stop to this beautiful rivuleted waterfall. In hindsight, it might have been a better idea to do this because we also would've been able to visit Laki with the piece of mind of not having to worry about breaking down in the middle of nowhere.

It's worth noting that just under 2.5km on the Lakavegur from the Ring Road, there was a junction where going right would've continued on towards Fagrifoss and Lakagigar while going left would've gone to the chasm of Fjaðrargljúfur. The chasm was definitely worth a look.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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