Thjofafoss (or more accurately Þjófafoss; pronounced “THYOH-fuh-foss”, meaning “thieves falls”) was a wide and milky waterfall on the Þjórsá River beneath Mt Búrfell.
Apparently, the falls got its name because thieves were drowned here for their crimes.
Even though this waterfall wasn’t tall, we thought its width, power, and juxtaposition with Mt Búrfell was what made this a very interesting waterfall to photograph and admire.
That said, when we came back 14 years later in August 2021, we were quite surprised at the waterfall’s dramatically diminished flow.
Because of the presence of the Búrfellsvirkjun at the foot of Mt Búrfell, the power company Landsvirkjun actually controls the flow of the river.
If the flow over Þjófafoss becomes diminished, chances are that most of the river’s water would typically be diverted beneath the mountain by the Bjarnalón Lagoon.
Therefore, I suspected that we must have gotten lucky with our first visit in July 2007 since the Búrfellsvirkjun Power Plant had been producing since 1972.
Further downstream, there are actually other controversial plans by the Landsvirkjun Power Company to harness the Þjórsá River, which is Iceland’s longest river at 230km.
Clearly, the Þjórsá has been a continual battleground for short-term profits at the expense of the long term sustainability of the region.
It’s a story that has been playing out throughout the world though it has been particularly accelerating in Iceland since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.
Thjofafoss (Þjófafoss) resides in the South Region near Hella, Iceland. It is administered by the municipality of Rangárþing ytra. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting their website.
The nearest town of significance to Thjofafoss (Þjófafoss) is Hella so I’ll describe the best driving route from this town.
Note that the GPS will want to take you on “shorter” detours to get to the falls, but they invariably involve more unsealed driving than what’s necessary (as it did for us).
So from the roundabout east of the Ytri-Rangá River in Hella, the simplest route would be to drive about 7.3km west on the Ring Road towards its junction with the Route 26 (Landvegur).
Then, we’d take the first exit at the roundabout and follow the Route 26 for about 44km to a signed turnoff for Þjófafoss on the left.
Finally, we’d drive the remaining 3.7km on a fairly rough and washboarded road leading to the closest parking spaces almost next to the Þjófafoss Waterfall.
Overall, this drive would take about an hour, especially given how slow-going the final unpaved stretch was.
For geographical context, Hella was 37km (30 minutes drive) east of Selfoss, 13km (about 15 minutes drive) west of Hvolsvöllur, and 94km (about 90 minutes drive) southeast of Reykjavík.
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