Kirkjufellsfoss (“Church Mountain Falls”) was a short but very well-situated waterfall near the distinctive Kirkjufell mountain on the north side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Similar to the neighboring Grundarfoss, we were presented with a dilemma on whether to stay for a while or to keep going during our first visit in June 2007.
By the way, we also happened to be rushing to catch a ferry in Stykkishólmur to the Westfjords, which further added a bit of haste to that first visit.
So we briefly paused for a roadside look at Kirkjufellsfoss, but unbeknownst to us, we missed out on a view of this waterfall together with Mt Kirkjufell.
That view would ultimately became one of the iconic photo spots in the years since that first trip as it became viral through shows or movies, social media, and even ESPN’s Sportcenter of all places!
And thus, we had to come back 14 years later to finally experience Kirkjufellsfoss in the manner that everyone else had been compelled to do it.
Anyways, this experience taught me yet another example of how haste makes waste, especially when on travel.
It was a huge lesson for us in slowing things down and letting emergent discoveries result in spontaneous moments as opposed to reducing a trip (especially a place like Iceland) into a mechanical checking-off-the-box exercise.
The Iconic Shot of Kirkjufellsfoss
Back in June 2007 when we were first here, I didn’t recall there being an obvious place to park and pursue the iconic shot of Kirkjufellsfoss, but when we came back in August 2021, you couldn’t miss it!
Basically, there was a signposted turnoff to a fairly spacious car park (see directions below) with plenty of room for self-drivers and tour buses.
This car park was apparently on private property so the locals owning and maintaining this land have asked for payment though I’m not sure if the government was on board with this.
Then, we merely walked for about 250m to a bridge over the Kirkjufellsá, where I noticed a partial view of another waterfall upstream as well as the main waterfall just downstream of the bridge.
On either side of the bridge was a developed trail allowing us to experience the falls from both sides of the stream though the vast majority of the traffic crossed the bridge for that iconic shot across Kirkjufellsfoss towards Mt Kirkjufell.
There were actually two possibilities of taking that iconic shot across the waterfall since the falls had two tiers over its modest 16m height.
Most of the ads I’ve seen along with Instagram (or other social media platform) copy-cats took the iconic shot across the upper drop of Kirkjufellsfoss.
However, it’s also possible to get a similar shot across the lower drop.
It appeared that rope barricades had been set up to try to stop erosion by the small dropoffs besides the falls given how many people try to reproduce the iconic shot.
That said, it didn’t seem to stop the dozens or so of people trying to get their shots anyways.
Anyways, with this waterfall, we could spend as little time as we wanted or as much time as we wanted.
This was especially the case around sunrise or sunset when the desire is strong for the neighboring clouds to add color to the scenery, or if we’re trying to wait out stubborn clouds clinging to Mt Kirkjufell.
As if that wasn’t enough, we also got a view back towards Grundarfjörður as well as exploring the trail on the other side of the stream; both of which conspired to keep us here longer than one would expect for such an easy-to-visit roadside waterfall.
Kirkjufellsfoss resides in the West Region near Grundarfjörður, Iceland. It is administered by the municipality of Snæfellsbær. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting their website.
Kirkjufellsfoss is situated right off the Road 54 quite close to the town of Grundarfjörður.
From the N1 station by the Vinbuðin in the center of town, we just drove on the Road 54 west for about 2.5km where the car park is on the left side of the road.
When we first came here in June 2007, there were a handful of roadside pullouts where we were able to at least look at the falls from a distance and in context.
However, these days, the car park was paved and quite big, but apparently it’s on private property so the owners ask for payment for their trouble.
As for geographical context, Grundarfjörður was about 26km (less than 30 minutes drive) east of Ólafsvík, 39km (30 minutes drive) west of Stykkishólmur, 101km (over an hour drive) northwest of Borgarnes, and 177km (under 2.5 hours drive) northwest of Reykjavik.
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