Gljufrafoss (Gljufrabui)

Southern Ring Road, South Region (Suðurland), Iceland

About Gljufrafoss (Gljufrabui)


Hiking Distance: roadside; or 500m round-trip to the base; or 3km total with Seljalandsfoss
Suggested Time: up to 2 hours encompassing this waterfall and Seljalandsfoss

Date first visited: 2007-07-06
Date last visited: 2021-08-07

Waterfall Latitude: 63.62085
Waterfall Longitude: -19.98631

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Gljufrafoss (Gljúfrafoss or Gljúfrabúi; I think is pronounced “GLYOO-fra-foss” or “GLYOO-fra-boo-ih”) was often referred to as the “spooky” waterfall though it literally translates as just “Canyon Falls” or “Canyon Dweller”, respectively.

I’d imagine it got its spooky reputation in the past from the somewhat hidden nature of this falls as it concealed most of itself behind a slot canyon.

Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_030_iPhone_08072021 - Gljúfrafoss or Gljúfrabúi
Gljúfrafoss or Gljúfrabúi

The only way to see the rest of this waterfall was to brave the turbulence of the waterfall’s swirling mist within its claustrophic confines while being surrounded on three sides by tall cliffs.

I suspect this kind of experience is unique among Iceland’s waterfalls, and it’s why it has gained in notoriety over the years.

That said, its close proximity to Seljalandsfoss certainly helped in this regard.

Gljúfrafoss Conditions

When I first visited this waterfall in July 2007, I had to be content with obstructed views because the depth of the stream through its narrow slot canyon forced me to be at least knee-deep in icy cold water.

Gljufurarfoss_026_07062007 - Approaching the spooky slot canyon fronting Gljúfrafoss on our first visit in July 2007. Notice how its stream filled the entire floor of that slot, which forced me to wade in the stream in order to get all the way to the waterfall's base
Approaching the spooky slot canyon fronting Gljúfrafoss on our first visit in July 2007. Notice how its stream filled the entire floor of that slot, which forced me to wade in the stream in order to get all the way to the waterfall’s base

Admittedly, I only went so deep into the canyon before both the drenching spray from above and the numbing cold from the icy stream made the pain too unbearable to proceed any further.

It wasn’t until I returned 14 years later in August 2021 did I finally get to see what it was like inside the “spooky” confines of Gljúfrabúi.

On that visit, I was shocked at how much easier it was to get into the slot canyon without even needing to wade in the stream!

Heck, my Mom didn’t even have to change out of her shoes to get right up to the base of the Gljúfrafoss, and ever since this realization, I was perplexed why this sudden change in conditions.

Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_111_08072021 - This was the same spot on my second visit to Gljúfrafoss on our second visit in August 2021. Now, there was a dry approach on the right side of the slot making it possible for my Mom and other people to get to the waterfall's base without getting the feet wet
This was the same spot on my second visit to Gljúfrafoss on our second visit in August 2021. Now, there was a dry approach on the right side of the slot making it possible for my Mom and other people to get to the waterfall’s base without getting the feet wet

Did the stream diminish over the years such that it didn’t span the entire width of the slot canyon anymore?

Or was there a landslide that filled in part of the slot thereby channeling the stream more to its left side and creating a little walkway to get through without getting wet?

Or was it merely just a seasonal behavior of the stream where early Summer runs higher than later in the Summer?

Whatever the case may be, I say it’s better to come more prepared than not so I’d recommend water sandals in case the stream runs high, and wearing something waterproof in case you get intense spray from above.

Gljufurarfoss_007_jx_07062007 - That's me entering the spooky canyon to try to get close to Gljúfrafoss on my first visit in July 2007. Notice how the water was getting to knee-deep and it was cold enough to numb my lower extremities
That’s me entering the spooky canyon to try to get close to Gljúfrafoss on my first visit in July 2007. Notice how the water was getting to knee-deep and it was cold enough to numb my lower extremities

It might be risky to bring an expensive camera in there (which doesn’t do well in too much water nor do the lenses do well at not being ruined by waterspots), but here’s a case where the smart phone might be better suited for the conditions.

Experiencing Gljúfrafoss

When we first came to the Gljúfrafoss Waterfall in July 2007 (back then I never knew it was also called Gljúfrabúi since there was a lack of signage at the time), we parked at a pullout near a campground right in front of the falls.

Reaching the spooky confines of its slot canyon and base of the falls was just a short jaunt along the stream.

Therefore, it was the primary reason why I composed this page as a separate waterfalling excursion.

Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_032_iPhone_08072021 - On my second visit (which took place in August 2021), I had an easier time getting through the slot canyon towards the base of the Gljúfrabúi Waterfall
On my second visit (which took place in August 2021), I had an easier time getting through the slot canyon towards the base of the Gljúfrabúi Waterfall

However, over the years, I came to appreciate that perhaps this waterfall was best experienced together with Seljalandsfoss as a combined excursion.

After all, there was a 560m footpath along the base of the cliffs supporting both waterfalls while also exposing two or three other thinner waterfalls along the way.

While my topo map on Gaia GPS also said that one of these intermediate waterfalls was called Gljúfrabúi, I wasn’t sure if that’s really the case.

The other two waterfalls didn’t seem to have a name attached to them, and one of them even seemed to have been tapped for a small-scale hydroelectric scheme that I swore was not there on my first visit back in 2007.

Gljufurarfoss_041_07062007 - Looking over someone camping between Gljúfrafoss and Seljalandsfoss, which is the one in the distance past the tent. This shows how close both waterfalls are to each other and why it's a good idea to combine them into a single excursion
Looking over someone camping between Gljúfrafoss and Seljalandsfoss, which is the one in the distance past the tent. This shows how close both waterfalls are to each other and why it’s a good idea to combine them into a single excursion

Anyways, right before reaching the familiar narrow slot canyon before the Gljúfrafoss Waterfall, we noticed there were a couple of deviations from the trail.

One deviation led up a steep (and slippery) slope to a cave or alcove opening that seemed to have had some prior human habitation at some point.

The other path led into a steep-walled dead-end that didn’t seem to have a purpose, but perhaps this too also had some kind of utilization.

Since this waterfall was also referred to as Gljúfrabúi, which means “Canyon Dweller”, perhaps this interpretation made a lot of sense.

Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_100_08072021 - My Mom following a trail that seemed to go nowhere by the Gljúfrabúi Waterfall, but I wondered if there was some historical significance as opposed to some kind of photogenic attraction there
My Mom following a trail that seemed to go nowhere by the Gljúfrabúi Waterfall, but I wondered if there was some historical significance as opposed to some kind of photogenic attraction there

However, it’s really speculation until there’s some archaeological evidence shedding more light to these features.

Anyways, we only spent about 30 minutes or so on our first visit to this waterfall in 2007, but we spent about 2 hours on the combined excursion with the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall starting from its car park (see directions below).

Authorities

Gljufrafoss (Gljúfrafoss or Gljúfrabúi) resides in the South Region near Vik, Iceland. It is administered by the municipality of Rangárþing eystra. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting their website.

Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_050_08072021 - In our August 2021 visit to Gljúfrafoss, we started off with a loop hike to Seljalandsfoss before taking the 560m trail to the other waterfall. This made for a nice combo hike while also avoiding most of the tourist crush that was happening at the more popular Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_063_08072021 - This was the connecting trail between Gljúfrafoss and Seljalandsfoss as seen during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_065_08072021 - Looking up at one of the side waterfalls in between Gljúfrafoss and Seljalandsfoss during our August 2021 visit. My topo map said that this waterfall also happened to be called Gljúfrabúi
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_072_08072021 - Noticing this rest bench on the 560m connector trail between Gljúfrafoss and Seljalandsfoss as seen during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_083_08072021 - Looking back towards Seljalandsfoss on the connecting trail between Gljúfrafoss and Seljalandsfoss during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_085_08072021 - This was another one of the intermediate waterfalls between Gljúfrafoss and Seljalandsfoss as seen during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_091_08072021 - Looking ahead at the context of the connecting trail between Gljúfrafoss and Seljalandsfoss and the Hamragarðar Campsite as seen during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_095_08072021 - Another look back across the Hamragarðar Campsite towards Seljalandsfoss as we were getting closer to Gljúfrafoss and Seljalandsfoss during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_097_08072021 - This was an interesting little cave near the Gljúfrafoss Waterfall that we noticed on the connector trail from Seljalandsfoss as seen during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_101_08072021 - Mom checking out the curious dead-end by Gljúfrafoss, and we wondered why there was trail infrastructure leading this way during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_105_08072021 - Mom approaching the familiar narrow slot providing access to the base of Gljúfrafoss during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_024_iPhone_08072021 - Context of someone approaching the bottom of Gljúfrafoss under much more benign conditions during our August 2021 visit than our July 2007 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_115_08072021 - Context of people crowding the only dry spot at the base of Gljúfrafoss during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_025_iPhone_08072021 - Another look at the bottom of Gljúfrafoss during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_026_iPhone_08072021 - Looking up towards the brink of Gljúfrafoss from its misty base during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_027_iPhone_08072021 - Looking up at the canyon walls closing in on the brink of Gljúfrafoss during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_029_iPhone_08072021 - Looking up at most of the drop of Gljúfrafoss above a boulder that people liked to climb on to take that I-was-there photo during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_118_08072021 - After having our fill of Gljúfrafoss, we hiked back along the same 560m trail to reconnect with the loop trail at Seljalandsfoss during our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_131_08072021 - Last look at Seljalandsfoss before we returned to the car and ended our Seljalandsfoss with Gljúfrafoss combo excursion during our August 2021 visit
Gljufurarfoss_001_07062007 - Gljúfrafoss was mostly hidden behind a narrow canyon with some people standing in front for a sense of scale during our first visit here in July 2007. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery were taken on that trip
Gljufurarfoss_004_07062007 - Context of the informal footpath leading closer to Gljúfrafoss as of July 2007
Gljufurarfoss_009_07062007 - Julie approaching the narrow slot before Gljúfrafoss during our July 2007 visit
Gljufurarfoss_021_07062007 - Julie near the opening of the slot canyon concealing most of Gljúfrafoss during our July 2007 visit
Gljufurarfoss_032_07062007 - Looking back towards Seljalandsfoss from around Gljúfrafoss during our July 2007 visit
Gljufurarfoss_005_jx_07062007 - That's me about to go into the water to get closer to Gljúfrafoss mostly hidden behind that narrow slot canyon during our July 2007 visit
Gljufurarfoss_009_jx_07062007 - Getting closer to the swirling mist at the base of Gljúfrafoss all the while having my feet numbingly cold from the icy water back in July 2007
Gljufurarfoss_016_jx_07062007 - Another look at Gljúfrafoss with a photographer setting up in July 2007


To reach the Gljúfrafoss (or Gljúfrabúi) Waterfall, we can just follow the same directions to Seljalandsfoss.

However, once we reached Road 249 and turned off to leave the Ring Road, we then continued about 800m north to a turnoff connecting to another side road.

Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_102_08072021 - Looking back towards the Hamragarðar Campsite, which gives you an idea of how close it is to the Gljúfrabúi Waterfall
Looking back towards the Hamragarðar Campsite, which gives you an idea of how close it is to the Gljúfrabúi Waterfall

On that side road, we could turn right to get to the Seljalandsfoss car park or turn left to get to the Hamragarðar Campsite, where there’s another car park.

Obviously from the Hamragarðar Campsite, the excursion to Gljúfrafoss is short, but from the Seljalandsfoss car park, you’re looking at around 3km total.

For context, the city of Reykjavík was 121km (90 minutes drive) northwest of Seljalandsfoss, about 59km (45 minutes drive) northwest of Selfoss, and 248km (3 hours drive) west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

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Examining the turbulent spray zone at the base of the waterfall


Bottom up sweep of the falls hidden behind the slot

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Tagged with: seljalandsfoss, ring road, south region, sudurland, southern iceland, iceland, waterfall, cold, wading, wade, thorsmork



Visitor Comments:

Wrong name on waterfall! November 18, 2018 7:13 pm by Anna - Hello, please use the correct name of this waterfall. It's Gljúfrabúi. I live in the neighbourhood. You can also try googling the correct name and see all the pages that come up. The name Gljúfurárfoss implies that the river is named Gljúfurá which is incorrect, the river is named Hamragarðaá. Thank you. ...Read More

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