Seljalandsfoss

Southern Ring Road, South Region (Suðurland), Iceland

About Seljalandsfoss


Hiking Distance: roadside; or 1.5km loop; or 3km total with Gljufrabui
Suggested Time: allow at least 30 minutes; or up to 2 hours encompassing this waterfall and Gljufrabui

Date first visited: 2007-07-05
Date last visited: 2021-08-07

Waterfall Latitude: 63.61557
Waterfall Longitude: -19.98873

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Seljalandsfoss was a conspicuous waterfall that we immediately noticed while driving along the Ring Road, and it was for this reason that it was a very popular attraction.

Indeed, it was inundated with tour bus crowds and self-drivers even back when we first came here in July 2007.

Seljalandsfoss_029_07052007 - Looking out from behind Seljalandsfoss
Looking out from behind Seljalandsfoss

And the crush didn’t seem to have stopped even after the amount of travel worldwide had drastically decreased due to COVID-19 when we came back in August 2021.

While tall waterfalls like this weren’t anything that remarkable, especially in a country like Iceland, I think it’s that combination of convenience as well as the ability to go behind it that really propelled it as a bucket list item for every visitor.

Characteristics of Seljalandsfoss

As for Seljalandsfoss’ characteristics, it had a 60m plunge off a cliff that was said to be once part of the coastline of Southern Iceland.

This suggested that the waterfall was old and in the advanced stages of its evolution, which was evident with how deep its alcove was that enabled the loop trail to include the ability to go behind the falls.

Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_041_08072021 - The alcove behind Seljalandsfoss enabling a dedicated trail going behind it was the result of advanced stages of waterfall evolution as the backsplash from the falls keeps eating away at the alcove
The alcove behind Seljalandsfoss enabling a dedicated trail going behind it was the result of advanced stages of waterfall evolution as the backsplash from the falls keeps eating away at the alcove

Draining directly from the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier, the feeding Seljalandsá Stream pretty much guarantees a healthy flow over Seljalandsfoss (at least for as long as the glacier still exists).

By the way, that ice cap sits on top of the infamous volcano that erupted in 2010 that interruped flights throughout Europe (it cancelled one of our flights that connected through the UK to Greece).

Anyways, we were able to appreciate this waterfall along a short loop trail that included going behind its plunge along its deep alcove, where the backsplash from the plunge falls is still eating away at.

Thus, we were literally able to photograph and experience this falls from just about every angle imaginable (including those spots that got sprayed by the waterfall’s mist).

Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_018_iPhone_08072021 - Looking back at Seljalandsfoss from a spot where I was getting blasted with a lot of spray
Looking back at Seljalandsfoss from a spot where I was getting blasted with a lot of spray

One thing we noticed in addition to the overhanging cliffs and the crowds was that there were many wildflowers in bloom when we first made our visit here in early July 2007.

And as of our latest visit in August 2021, there were still wildflowers though probably not nearly to the extent of that first visit.

Experiencing Seljalandsfoss

Experiencing Seljalandsfoss could take as little as a few minutes to an hour or two, but it really depends on how many different ways you want to take in this waterfall (as well as others).

If we were to do just the loop walk, it would probably take us roughly a half-hour without stops to walk roughly 1.5km.

Seljalandsfoss_001_07052007 - Looking directly towards Seljalandsfoss towering over the people standing closer to its base
Looking directly towards Seljalandsfoss towering over the people standing closer to its base

We did precisely that when we made our first visit here, and I’d imagine the majority of tourists might be content to just do this.

However, we found it fruitful to also do the 560m walk from the far end of the Seljalandsfoss loop to the neighboring Gljúfrabúi Waterfall (also called Gljúfrafoss).

Even though we did a short drive to a pullout near a campsite right in front of this other waterfall on our first visit, on our second visit, we took our time and did the newly-established trail instead (especially since car parks nowadays were getting crowded).

During this walk, we experienced at least two or three other companion waterfalls (there may be more) between both Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi.

Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_118_08072021 - Looking back at the 560m trail connecting Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi in 2021, which also featured some kind of hydro scheme that I never remembered being there on my first visit in 2007
Looking back at the 560m trail connecting Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi in 2021, which also featured some kind of hydro scheme that I never remembered being there on my first visit in 2007

But more importantly, it helped to alleviate the pressure of the tourist crush that can inundate Seljalandsfoss (though Gljúfrabúi was also a far cry from its obscure status when we first came here in 2007).

Given the option to combine Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi into a single excursion, it took us about 2 hours to fully appreciate both waterfalls as well as the waterfalls in between.

Random Stuff About Seljalandsfoss

According to my Icelandic dictionary, “seljandi” means seller, and I suspect that combining the word with “land” suggests this area had something to do with a land of sellers.

Perhaps the area around Seljalandsfoss might have been some kind of trading grounds or had many residents who made a living trading.

Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_097_08072021 - Although the Seljaland Caves were not at the Seljalandsfoss site, there were seemingly dwellings or alcove-like caves around the fittingly-named Gljúfrabúi Waterfall. Gljúfrabúi means 'chasm dweller'
Although the Seljaland Caves were not at the Seljalandsfoss site, there were seemingly dwellings or alcove-like caves around the fittingly-named Gljúfrabúi Waterfall. Gljúfrabúi means ‘chasm dweller’

One book that I chanced upon suggested that the nearby Seljaland Caves predated the settlement of Iceland at around 800AD, and that the area was once forested with birch trees.

So quite possibly, the utilization of wood might have had something to do with sellers or tradesmen.

Without additional archaeological evidence to shed light into how the history of this area and its place name came to be associated with sellers (if at all), it still remains a mystery.

As for more recent history, it seemed that Seljalandsfoss was always popular due to its convenience (something we have personally witnessed over 14 years).

Seljalandsfoss_077_07052007 - Looking north from Seljalandsfoss towards other neighboring waterfalls from back on our first visit in July 2007. Notice the relative lack of campers and visitors (even though it was still busy) compared to the more recent 2021 photos in the photo gallery below
Looking north from Seljalandsfoss towards other neighboring waterfalls from back on our first visit in July 2007. Notice the relative lack of campers and visitors (even though it was still busy) compared to the more recent 2021 photos in the photo gallery below

However, the tourist crush (which was certainly on display here) grew exponentially since 2010 when the Eyjafjallajökull eruption brought international notoriety to Iceland.

Then, social media (e.g. Justin Bieber’s music video shot at Seljalandsfoss in 2015) and traditional media (e.g. Game of Thrones filming locations) exacerbated the crush of foreign visitors.

Therefore, getting an early start or sticking around for late in the evening might yield a more peaceful experience though there will undoubtedly be many tourists still there even at the unusual hours.

Authorities

Seljalandsfoss 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.

Drive_to_Seljalandsfoss_008_iPhone_08072021 - Seljalandsfoss was easily visible from the Ring Road, especially when heading east, and this was why this waterfall has been so popular over the years
Drive_to_Seljalandsfoss_009_iPhone_08072021 - Approaching Seljalandsfoss on an unpaved access road leading closer to its car park during our 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_005_08072021 - Mom approaching Seljalandsfoss from its car park on our August 2021 visit
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_008_08072021 - Frontal look at Seljalandsfoss with some pockets of wildflower blooms thriving on the waterfall's mist
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_009_08072021 - Looking across the footbridge towards other neighboring waterfalls to Seljalandsfoss as we approached its base
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_012_08072021 - Mom approaching the right side of Seljalandsfoss as we were about to go behind it
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_014_08072021 - After climbing some steps, we took a look back towards the open plains downstream of Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_017_08072021 - Looking across the plunge pool of Seljalandsfoss as we continued to get closer to the waterfall's backside
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_022_08072021 - Profile view of Seljalandsfoss against gray skies
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_029_08072021 - Looking out from the base of Seljalandsfoss as we continued on the loop going behind the falls
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_035_08072021 - Looking back at the trail that went behind Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_004_iPhone_08072021 - Behind Seljalandsfoss as we were getting sprayed by the mist from the falls
Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_010_iPhone_08072021 - Entering a section of the trail that was getting blasted by the spray of Seljalandsfoss as we emerged from its backside
Seljalandsfoss_and_Gljufrabui_013_iPhone_08072021 - Looking back at someone standing precariously on a rock while posing for a photo by Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_043_08072021 - Looking back at the full height of Seljalandsfoss as we had already gone through its backside and now started to emerge out its other side
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_044_08072021 - Looking across a field of wildflowers thriving in the spray of Seljalandsfoss towards the footbridge and busy car park in the distance
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_048_08072021 - After having her fill of Seljalandsfoss, Mom then continued on the trail towards Gljúfrabúi
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_050_08072021 - Looking back at the context of Seljalandsfoss, the footbridge, and lots of tourists started to approach the falls in a counterclockwise manner
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_054_08072021 - Looking upstream from the footbridge towards the front of Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_063_08072021 - Looking back at the context of the start of the connecting trail between Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi
Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_131_08072021 - Last look back at Seljalandsfoss to end our August 2021 excursion
Seljalandsfoss_009_07052007 - Lots of wildflowers blooming before Seljalandsfoss as seen on our first visit in July 2007. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery were taken on that visit
Seljalandsfoss_012_07052007 - View of the trail going around the backside of Seljalandsfoss as of July 2007
Seljalandsfoss_037_07052007 - Another backside view of Seljalandsfoss in July 2007. I'd imagine there would be a lot more contrast with the sky had this photo been taken late in the afternoon on a sunny day
Seljalandsfoss_048_07052007 - Side view of Seljalandsfoss as we were coming out the other end of the loop during our July 2007 visit
Seljalandsfoss_054_07052007 - Looking upstream at Seljalandsfoss and people heading closer to it as seen from the footbridge over the waterfall's stream in July 2007
Seljalandsfoss_003_jx_07052007 - Looking back at a person going around Seljalandsfoss going clockwise (we went counterclockwise)
Seljalandsfoss_008_jx_07052007 - Another closeup look at Seljalandsfoss backing an ascending part of the trail that went around its backside as seen in July 2007
Seljalandsfoss_069_07052007 - Another frontal view of Seljalandsfoss from the bridge as seen in July 2007


The turnoff leading to Seljalandsfoss is on Road 249 immediately north of its junction with the Ring Road (Route 1).

This turnoff leaves the Ring Road about 28km west of Skogafoss or 76km east of the town of Selfoss.

Seljalandsfoss_and-Gljufrabui_003_08072021 - Looking across the Seljalandsfoss car park towards a food stand and some WCs
Looking across the Seljalandsfoss car park towards a food stand and some WCs

Selfoss is another 58km east of Reykjavík.

Note that had we kept going on Route 249, it would eventually become the 4wd F249 road leading to Þórsmörk.

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Checking out the full context of the falls from a slippery part of the trail on its left side


Checking out the backside of the falls as well as some of its context from a few different spots


Sweep starting from the car park before approaching a loop junction for one final zoomed in panning of the falls


Sweep from behind the famous South Icelandic waterfall


Sweep starting from the front of the falls and ending towards other waterfalls in the vicinity

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Tagged with: ring road, south region, southern iceland, iceland, waterfall, behind, popular, sudurland, gljufurarfoss, selfoss



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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Amazingly beautiful, best in evening sun (Seljalandsfoss) April 26, 2014 12:41 pm by Georg - Seljalandfoss is amazingly beautiful and best in evening sun, a little before sunset: The day tours already left for the drive back home, so you're more or less alone. The setting sun dips the falling water spray, the cliffs and the grass into golden light. Not to mention the rainbow effects when you're going behind… ...Read More
Seljalandsfoss in Winter December 16, 2012 4:35 pm by Andrea - We took the trip to Iceland in December mostly to see the Northern Lights but were delighted to see so much more including the Seljalandsfoss. It's a bit of a drive from Reykjavik but worth the trip. My daughter braved the spray and walked behind the water fall, an experience to remember. ...Read More

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