Selfoss Waterfall in Northern Iceland

 Date: 01-Mar-2017 Category:

Sunset at Selfoss in Northern Iceland

Sunset at the edge of Selfoss in Vatnajokull National Park

Iceland features so many beautiful waterfalls, that it is impossible to tell which one is the most impressive. There is an endless choice of smaller scenic cascades around practically every corner along with higher vertical plunges, multi-stepped and tiered falls. Additionally, you will find a myriad of larger cataracts and some really powerfully dropping glacial rivers.

Among the most famous and most visited Icelandic waterfalls ("foss") there are:

  • Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss in Southern Iceland and
  • Godafoss, Dettifoss (reputed to have the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe) and Selfoss in Northern Iceland.

This month's image is dedicated to the horseshoe-shaped Selfoss of the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum flowing from the glacier Vatnajokull. It is not very high (only 11 m), but quite broad and very powerful. Standing right next to its edge is truly breathtaking! But be extra careful, since the wet rocks can be really slippery.

This waterfall can be viewed from both sides of the river:

  • The west rim is accessed via road #862. The signed turn-off from the ring road is located approximately 26 km east of Lake Myvatn. The remaining 24 kilometers up to the parking lot at Dettifoss are paved and ploughed only twice a week in winter - so if it snowed recently, this road might be hardly passable for any regular SUV.
  • Getting to the eastern bank of Jökulsá requires driving along #864, usually a terribly potholed and washboarded dirt road, which also connects the ring road to road #85 in the north. You'll find the clearly marked turn-off just 10,5 km east of #862. This access is open from May/June until mid September only.

The hike: It is an easy walk on either side of the river, starting at the parking area for Dettifoss and following the signs while heading upstream for about 1,5 km.

While Dettifoss looks great from both rims, Selfoss is best when viewed from the eastern side of Jokulsargljufur. There are just a few photo ops on the west rim and you will not really be able to see its horseshoe shape. Whereas the eastern hike offers a lot of compositions before reaching the trail's end at the horseshoe bend. Selfoss also comprises a series of smaller falls dropping over the black rocks into the narrow canyon. Here is an image showing this highly photogenic area: Selfoss under the midnight sun.

We recommend travelling to the eastern rim of Selfoss during fall season for sunset or in early summer for sunrise. And we also enjoyed the endless sunsets very much at midnight in late June. But always consider the wind and its direction, since the spray could be a bit of a challenge and sometimes a real issue.

Image data: 1/3 s at f/14, ISO 100; Canon EF 16-35mm 1:2.8 L II USM at 16 mm, Metabones-Adapter MB_EF-E-BT4, Sony Alpha 7R II

Related Links: More Waterfall Images from Iceland