Thjorsardalur, South Region (Suðurland), Iceland

About Thjofafoss

Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2007-07-08
Date last visited: 2021-08-20

Waterfall Latitude: 64.05669
Waterfall Longitude: -19.86632

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

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.

Thjofafoss_016_07082007 - Þjófafoss in full flow and Mt Burfell as seen on our first visit in July 2007
Þjófafoss in full flow and Mt Burfell as seen on our first visit in July 2007

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.

Thjofafoss_036_08202021 - Looking across Þjófafoss in significantly diminished flow in August 2021 as compared with our first time here in July 2007
Looking across Þjófafoss in significantly diminished flow in August 2021 as compared with our first time here in July 2007

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.

Thjofafoss_049_08202021 - While driving the access road from the Road 26 to the Þjófafoss Waterfall, we noticed this big clearing and corral, but this was not the place to park for the falls as we had to keep going. This photo was taken in August 2021 as I had never recalled there even being this kind of infrastructure on our July 2007 visit
Drive_to_Thjofafoss_011_iPhone_08202021 - This was the access road leaving the paved Route 26 for Thjofafoss, and as you can see, this road was quite rough and washboarded when we drove here in August 2021
Drive_to_Thjofafoss_016_iPhone_08202021 - Continuing on the rough unpaved road leading us closer to Thjofafoss as of August 2021
Thjofafoss_002_08202021 - Context of where we parked the car near the Þjófafoss Waterfall, which was near the fencing that Mom was approaching in this photo taken in August 2021
Thjofafoss_003_08202021 - Mom scrambling on the lava field past these directional signs near the Þjófafoss Waterfall
Thjofafoss_004_08202021 - Context of the fencing and the Þjórsá River where the Þjófafoss Waterfall was at as seen in August 2021
Thjofafoss_005_08202021 - Looking downstream as Mom looks for a suitable spot to look back upstream towards Þjófafoss
Thjofafoss_024_08202021 - Looking across the greatly diminished flow over the Þjófafoss Waterfall in August 2021
Thjofafoss_027_08202021 - Context of Mom checking out the diminished Þjófafoss Waterfall in August 2021
Thjofafoss_033_08202021 - A more focused examination of just how much (or how little) the Þjórsá River was going over the Þjófafoss Waterfall during our visit in August 2021
Thjofafoss_041_08202021 - Apparently, it was possible to scramble on the other side of the fencing near the brink of Þjófafoss during our visit in August 2021
Thjofafoss_043_08202021 - Looking back at the additional parking spaces and the access road that got us to the Þjófafoss Waterfall as seen in August 2021
Drive_to_Haifoss_006_iPhone_08202021 - It's worth noting that as we drove further up the Þjórsárdalur Valley on the Road 26, we noticed this hydroelectric infrastructure, which must have been responsible for the dramatic flow variation observed at the Þjófafoss Waterfall
Drive_to_Stong_006_iPhone_08202021 - On the other side of the Þjórsárdalur Valley on the Road 32, we got a closer look at the hydroelectric infrastructure that was responsible for the disappointing flow of the Þjófafoss Waterfall when we saw it in August 2021
Thjofafoss_022_07082007 - We saw this gate denoting the start of some 4wd road where we parked the car during our July visit in 2007. This photo and the rest of them in the gallery were taken from back then
Thjofafoss_019_07082007 - Looking downstream at the terrain beyond Þjófafoss in July 2007
Thjofafoss_001_jx_07082007 - Looking over the brink of Thjofafoss with Burfell in the background as of July 2007
Thjofafoss_003_jx_07082007 - Focused on the turbulent and wide brink of Thjofafoss in high flow in July 2007
Road_26_003_07082007 - When we left Þjófafoss on our July 2007 visit, while driving the Road 26, we spotted these Icelandic horses trotting along the Þjórsá River
Road_26_011_07082007 - Near the place we spotted the Icelandic horses in July 2007, we found ourselves above the Trollkonufoss (I think it means Troll Woman Falls or Troll's Wife Falls).  Unfortunately, tall fences were erected along the road and we couldn't get a clean view of it. Note this is not the same waterfall as the one in West Iceland, which we didn't get a chance to visit

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).

Thjofafoss_021_07082007 - Context of the desolate terrain where we parked the car near Þjófafoss in July 2007
Context of the desolate terrain where we parked the car near Þjófafoss in July 2007

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.

Drive_to_Thjofafoss_012_iPhone_08202021 - On the rough and washboarded unpaved access road leading the final 3.7km from the Route 26 to the spot where we parked the car near Þjófafoss in August 2021
On the rough and washboarded unpaved access road leading the final 3.7km from the Route 26 to the spot where we parked the car near Þjófafoss in August 2021

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.

Find A Place To Stay

Deliberate back and forth sweep of the falls and Burfell under some significantly lower flow in August 2021 than when we first saw it back in 2007

Right to left sweep of the falls and Mt Burfell ending well downstream of the falls and mountain as seen in July 2007

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Tagged with: thjorsardalur, thjorsadalur, interior, highlands, hrauneyjar, hella, selfoss, hvolsvollur, thjorsa, south region, southern iceland, sudurland, waterfall, burfell, thief, thieves

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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.
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