Faxi, Studlafoss, and the Laugarfell Waterfalls

Laugarfell / Karahnjukar, East Region (Austurland), Iceland

About Faxi, Studlafoss, and the Laugarfell Waterfalls


Hiking Distance: 5km round trip with some route-finding
Suggested Time: about 2.5-3 hours

Date first visited: 2021-08-11
Date last visited: 2021-08-11

Waterfall Latitude: 64.89177
Waterfall Longitude: -15.31762

Waterfaller Newsletter

Get over the hump of the mid-week blues! Subscribe and get exclusive curated content delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Faxi, Stuðlafoss, and the Laugará Waterfalls near Laugarfell in the Highlands of East Iceland together make up part of the so-called waterfall circle.

We only had time to do an out-and-back hike along the Laugará Stream (pronounced “LUHY-guhr-ow”), but even with this sampling, it wound up being the big waterfall surprise of our August 2021 trip to Iceland.

Laugarfell_138_08112021 - Faxi on the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal near Laugarfell
Faxi on the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal near Laugarfell

In fact, we were so impressed by the waterfalls on this hike that it was enough to shake up our Top 10 Iceland Waterfalls List.

The major waterfall destination of this excursion was the Faxi Waterfall (not to be confused with Vatnsleysufoss), which thundered 20m on the powerful Jökulsá í Fljótsdal River.

However, the hike to get there involved following the Laugará Stream, which featured a series of waterfalls including the picturesque Stuðlafoss Waterfall (not to be confused with the one by Stuðlagil Canyon).

Had we been able to complete the entire waterfall loop or do part of the hike in the opposite direction leaving from Laugarfell, then we would have visited Kirkjufoss, which was also on the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal.

Laugarfell_089_08112021 - Stuðlafoss on the Laugará Stream, which was surrounded by pronounced basalt columns
Stuðlafoss on the Laugará Stream, which was surrounded by pronounced basalt columns

Indeed, this excursion opened our eyes to the hidden gems in the East Iceland Highlands, and I’m keen to come back to experience more of this remote part of the country.

On a more serious level, it also made me think about what other scenic wonders nearby had been sacrificed for the controversial Kárahnjúkar Hydroelectric Plant.

About The Hike Along The Laugará To Faxi

The way we did the hike to Faxi was a modest 5km out-and-back excursion (though my GPS logs suggested we had hiked 5.2km round-trip).

The Waterfall Circle that starts and ends at the Laugarfell Hot Springs (see directions below) was said to be an 8km loop hike.

Laugarfell_026_08112021 - Some parts of the hike to Faxi at Laugarfell were a bit tricky to follow because we had to be on the lookout for red-painted sticks like this while at the same time trying not to lose the faint trail
Some parts of the hike to Faxi at Laugarfell were a bit tricky to follow because we had to be on the lookout for red-painted sticks like this while at the same time trying not to lose the faint trail

Although the hike was mostly flat until the stretch between the top of Stuðlafoss and the top of Faxi (which I’ll get more into below), staying on the trail was deceptively tricky.

That’s because some parts of the trail kind of disappeared or led us astray while at the same time, we tried to follow wooden sticks with red paint on them that sometimes led us astray as well.

I suspect the reason for the apparent disconnect between the trails-of-use and the sticks was that the sticks needed to be in higher ground to be visible when there’s snow.

However, the trails tended to sink with use given the erosion associated with trampling on the moss and grass.

Laugarfell_102_08112021 - Context of Julie and Tahia descending towards the giant Faxi Waterfall as they went downhill from the Stuðlafoss Waterfall. Yep, this was an upside down hike so it was mostly uphill on the way back
Context of Julie and Tahia descending towards the giant Faxi Waterfall as they went downhill from the Stuðlafoss Waterfall. Yep, this was an upside down hike so it was mostly uphill on the way back

Indeed, it’s not your typical follow-an-obvious-trail kind of hike, and it kind of reminds me more of a cross-country route-finding kind of hike (at least as of our August 2021 visit).

Therefore, I found that navigating with the surveyed topo maps on Gaia GPS helped to keep us on track though in general, the path pretty much followed the Laugará almost the entire way.

Overall, we spent about nearly 3 hours on this excursion though we probably spent a solid 30 minutes admiring Faxi while picking wild strawberries.

Trail Description

From the Laugarfell Hot Springs car park, we went over a stile to the east onto a somewhat faint trail as the cross-country-like hike pretty much began in earnest.

Laugarfell_016_08112021 - Looking across the first waterfall that we encountered on the Laugará Stream which was barely 150-200m from the Laugarfell car park
Looking across the first waterfall that we encountered on the Laugará Stream which was barely 150-200m from the Laugarfell car park

Barely 150-200m beyond the stile, we encountered the first waterfall of the hike.

This waterfall dropped into a small but steep narrow canyon probably dropping around 5-10m, which we were able to see both in profile as well as head-on.

As we continued down the trail along the Laugará, we’d go across one minor stream and ascend a small bluff before continuing with the cross-country hike.

At around 300m beyond the first waterfall (shortly after traversing the minor stream and bluff), we noticed another side cascade feeding the Laugará Stream to the north.

Laugarfell_036_08112021 - Mom trying to follow this faint trail alongside an overflowing part of the Laugará Stream as we were at a potentially confusing part of the hike
Mom trying to follow this faint trail alongside an overflowing part of the Laugará Stream as we were at a potentially confusing part of the hike

In another 350m (or 650m beyond the first waterfall), we reached a particularly confusing part of the hike where the trail-of-use seemed to disappear but the red-painted sticks led us away from the Laugará Stream and veered to the right.

Eventually, the red-painted sticks acting as our breadcrumbs skirted alongside the stream again where we noticed reddish algae on some of the overflowing parts of the stream.

After descending another gully and minor stream crossing, the trail would descend towards the next cascade on the Laugará at about 1.5km from the first waterfall.

This particular cascade tumbled before it twisted below the cliffs where we couldn’t get in front of it without a drone.

Laugarfell_059_08112021 - The next cascade on the Laugará Stream twisted and fell over the cliff to the lower right of this photo
The next cascade on the Laugará Stream twisted and fell over the cliff to the lower right of this photo

At this point, the trail continued to descend as it went another 150m or so to the brink of Stuðlafoss and another 250m to a more frontal view of the same waterfall.

By this time, the trail made a fairly moderate descent and we started to see some mist rising further downhill on the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal River.

In another 250m along the trail as it continued its moderate descent towards the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal, we reached a trail junction right next to a footbridge over the cascading Laugará.

By this point, the source of the mist we saw earlier was the thundering Faxi Waterfall, and we managed to cross the bridge and follow one of the informal use-trails towards its end by the edge of a mist-filled canyon.

Laugarfell_190_08112021 - Closer look at wild strawberries growing in the lush slopes by the Faxi Waterfall on the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal
Closer look at wild strawberries growing in the lush slopes by the Faxi Waterfall on the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal

This was the end of the trail as far as we were concerned as we got somewhat frontal views of the Faxi Waterfall.

The late afternoon/early evening sun on our hike yielded one end of the rainbow looking further downstream while its other end appeared on top of the brink of the falls.

Given the mist that also sprayed the tall grass in this area, Julie and Tahia managed to find some wild strawberries that also tasted quite sweet.

After having our fill of this spot (roughly 2.5km from Laugarfell), we started to make our way back, but I made one last quick out-and-back detour to the brink of Faxi for one last look.

Laugarfell_208_08112021 - Looking back at the last of the cascades on the Laugará Stream before it converged with the turbulent Faxi Waterfall on the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal
Looking back at the last of the cascades on the Laugará Stream before it converged with the turbulent Faxi Waterfall on the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal

On that detour, I also got to see the front of the cascade on the Laugará Stream tumbling below the footbridge together with the downstream turbulence of Faxi and more evening sun rainbows.

But after having my fill of this spot, we then did the climb back up to Laugarfell to end the upside-down excursion.

Given more time and research, we could have brought a change of clothes and soaked in the Laugarfell Hot Springs to recover from the hike before leaving the area.

Authorities

Faxi, Stuðlafoss, and the Laugará Waterfalls reside in the Highlands of the East Region between the Kárahnjúkar Dam and Egilsstaðir, Iceland. It is administered by the municipality of Fljótsdalshreppur. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting their website.

Laugarfell_003_08112021 - Looking in the other direction at the Laugarfell car park, which was also in the direction of the hike we wound up taking towards Faxi
Laugarfell_007_08112021 - Looking ahead at the stile that we had to go over to start the hike along the Laugará towards Faxi
Laugarfell_008_08112021 - The ladies going over the stile to start the Faxi hike
Laugarfell_013_08112021 - This was a profile look at the first of the cascades that we saw on the Laugará
Laugarfell_017_08112021 - Looking back at the Laugarfell buildings, which gives you an idea of how close that first waterfall was
Laugarfell_019_08112021 - Context of the Waterfall Circle Trail with that first cascade on the Laugará
Laugarfell_024_08112021 - Partial frontal view of that first cascade on the Laugará with Laugarfell in the background
Laugarfell_025_08112021 - Looking ahead at the cross-country hike ahead of us en route to the rest of the Laugará Waterfalls and Faxi
Laugarfell_027_08112021 - Context of the ladies crossing a side gully while still trying to follow the faint and confusing path along the Laugará towards Faxi
Laugarfell_029_08112021 - Another look back towards Laugarfell as we continued deeper into the trail along the Laugará towards Faxi
Laugarfell_034_08112021 - Continuing on the somewhat cross-country hike along the Laugará towards Faxi
Laugarfell_039_08112021 - Looking closely at a lot of reddish algae blooming in this overflowing part of the Laugará
Laugarfell_044_08112021 - The ladies still following some faint use-trails en route to more waterfalls along the Laugará as well as Faxi
Laugarfell_047_08112021 - Descending another side gully and small stream crossing en route to Faxi
Laugarfell_049_08112021 - About to finish crossing that side gully while still making our way towards Faxi
Laugarfell_054_08112021 - Mom continuing to follow the red-painted sticks as it led us back along the Laugará
Laugarfell_055_08112021 - This was the next notable series of cascades and waterfalls on the Laugará
Laugarfell_064_08112021 - Mom continuing to follow the red-painted wooden sticks as breadcrumbs en route to Faxi
Laugarfell_068_08112021 - Looking across the Laugará towards some minor waterfalls upstream of Stuðlafoss
Laugarfell_073_08112021 - Looking down over the brink of Stuðlafoss towards its adjacent basalt columns
Laugarfell_076_08112021 - Looking back at the context of Julie and Tahia checking out the brink of Stuðlafoss as I continued the descent to get a more frontal look at it
Laugarfell_079_08112021 - Looking downhill towards a teasing glimpse of the awesome Faxi Waterfall on the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal
Laugarfell_081_08112021 - Finally getting a frontal look at the Stuðlafoss Waterfall
Laugarfell_094_08112021 - context of the steep trail fronting the Stuðlafoss while looking against the evening sun on our August 2021 visit
Laugarfell_097_08112021 - Frontal look at Stuðlafoss
Laugarfell_098_08112021 - The ladies continuing to descent towards Faxi on the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal
Laugarfell_109_08112021 - Looking back against the evening sun towards Stuðlafoss before descending even further to the Faxi Waterfall
Laugarfell_114_08112021 - Context of Tahia crossing the footbridge over the Laugará near the giant Faxi Waterfall
Laugarfell_120_08112021 - Looking across cascades on the Laugará tumbling beneath a footbridge
Laugarfell_129_08112021 - Looking downstream into the depths of the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal with a partial rainbow in the mist coming from Faxi
Laugarfell_162_08112021 - Looking back across the Faxi Waterfall with an evening rainbow as seen from the end of the trail
Laugarfell_172_08112021 - Context of the profile of the Faxi Waterfall and the downstream flow of the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal
Laugarfell_183_08112021 - Julie checking out Faxi
Laugarfell_193_08112021 - Looking across a waterfall on the Laugará dropping beneath the footbridge near the giant Faxi Waterfall
Laugarfell_200_08112021 - Tahia showing off her haul of wild strawberries near the Faxi Waterfall
Laugarfell_203_08112021 - Tahia and Mom going back across the footbridge over the Laugará Stream
Laugarfell_205_08112021 - Me about to cross the footbridge over the Laugará
Laugarfell_212_08112021 - Looking back at the last of the cascades on the Laugará before it joins Faxi and the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal
Laugarfell_214_08112021 - More rainbows wafting in the mist of Faxi as I was getting a profile look over its brink in the evening
Laugarfell_230_08112021 - Context of the convergence of the last waterfalls on the Laugará and the giant Faxi Waterfall
Laugarfell_238_08112021 - Context of Mom climbing back up the trail as we had our fill of Faxi and headed back to Laugarfell
Laugarfell_242_08112021 - It was pretty much an upside down hike so we had to gain back all that elevation loss on the way to Laugarfell
Laugarfell_243_08112021 - Finally making it back to the tundra-like moors as we made our way back to Laugarfell
Laugarfell_244_08112021 - Context of Julie and Tahia pushing ahead onto the next climbing part of the return hike to Laugarfell
Laugarfell_246_08112021 - Closer look at the wooden sticks and Julie up at the top of the climb on the way back to Laugarfell
Laugarfell_248_08112021 - Still following the red-topped sticks back towards Laugarfell
Laugarfell_252_08112021 - Looking ahead at Julie and Tahia still making their way back to Laugarfell
Laugarfell_254_08112021 - Context of Mom on the faint trail back to Laugarfell with part of the Vatnajökull Glacier in the distance
Laugarfell_256_08112021 - About to cross through this side ravine with Laugarfell in sight
Laugarfell_260_08112021 - Mom going back along this overflowing part of the Laugará Stream on the return hike
Laugarfell_263_08112021 - Finallly approaching Laugarfell and the end of this epic waterfall hike


It makes sense to describe the driving directions from Egilsstaðir (“EH-yils-sta-thir”), which is pretty much the biggest town in the East of Iceland.

Starting from the roundabout connecting Route 1 (Ring Road) with the Route 95, we then drive south on the Route 95 for 11km.

Drive_to_Laugarfell_008_iPhone_08112021 - Approaching Laugarfell and its car park at the end of the unpaved Laugarfellsvegur
Approaching Laugarfell and its car park at the end of the unpaved Laugarfellsvegur

Then, we turned right onto Route 931 and followed it for about 21km as it followed the southeastern shores of Lagarfljót before eventually crossing a bridge and reaching a three-way junction.

Turning left at the junction onto Route 933 (Fljótsdalsvegur), we then drove for a little over 3km to the next turnoff with the Route 910 (Austurleið).

From there, we turned right to go up the switchbacks and drive for nearly 35km to the signed turnoff for Laugarfell on the left.

Finally, we took the unpaved turnoff (Laugarfellsvegur) for the final 2.2km to the car park at the Laugarfell Hot Springs car park.

Laugarfell_001_08112021 - That building at Laugarfell was a combination of an accommodation and locker room with shower for the outdoor thermal pool on the other side
That building at Laugarfell was a combination of an accommodation and locker room with shower for the outdoor thermal pool on the other side

Overall, this 75km drive would take a little over an hour.

For geographical context, Egilsstaðir was 27km (about 30 minutes drive) west of Seyðisfjörður, 175km (about 2 hours 15 minutes drive) southeast of Mývatn, 248km (over 3 hours drive) east of Akureyri, 186km (under 3 hours drive) north of Höfn, 448km (under 6 hours drive) northeast of Vík, and 6351km (7.5 hours drive) northeast of Reykjavík.

Find A Place To Stay



Booking.com

Long video starting with a profile view of the first waterfall we saw from Laugarfell to Faxi and ending with a frontal view of that waterfall


Upstream to downstream sweep of the second cascade we encountered from Laugarfell to Faxi


Back and forth sweep showing a frontal view of Studlafoss before panning down to a partial view of Faxi and then before finally panning back to the context of Studlafoss again


Back and forth sweep starting with a side cascade and then panning exclusively on Faxi with rainbow


Sweep starting from a frontal view of the side cascade tumbling beneath the footbridge and then ending with a top down sweep of Faxi with rainbow

Related Top 10 Lists

Trip Planning Resources


Nearby Accommodations




Booking.com


Tagged with: laugarfell, karahnjukar, austurland, egilsstadir, highlands, jokulsa I fljotsdal, laugara



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls


The Process of How I Earn Income Sharing My Passion Through Lived Experiences

Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.