Iceland’s nickname is “The Land of Fire and Ice”.You could add many other nouns to the list, but I guess the title would be too long. Besides fire and ice, this Nordic nation is also the land of waterfalls, glaciers, hot springs, and more. There are many different types of waterfalls across the country. Small ones, wide ones, tall ones. Some come in the shape of a horseshoe while others have several tiers. No matter the type of waterfall you visit in Iceland, they all have something magical that catches the attention of every visitor. That is also the case of the Svartifoss waterfall, it may not be as famous as some other cascades in southern Iceland, but its unique features definitely make it worth the visit.

Svartifoss waterfall is Iceland's black waterfall

Iceland: Land of 10,000 Waterfalls

The reason why we have so many waterfalls in Iceland is the many glaciers spread around the country. When they start to thaw during the spring, the melted water flows to feed streams and rivers. Waterfalls occur whenever a river takes its course over a hard rock barrier, like a cliff. The waterfalls vertically over the edge. If the waters drop from the heights directly to the ground, it is called a waterfall. Sometimes, they fall in stages down a slope, and these are usually called cascades.

Waterfalls and cascades come in different shapes. The surroundings also provide a different and unique touch to each of them. In Iceland, we have some powerful ones like Dettifoss. Its volume discharge and water flow is massive. But we also have waterfalls whose main attraction is not how powerful they are but their beauty. This is the case of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls. I can say that the most famous cascades and waterfalls are on the Southern coast of Iceland. And this is also the case of Svartifoss.

Svartifoss Waterfall – How to Arrive

If you already made a stop to visit Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, then you should add Svartifoss to the itinerary. Keep on driving southeast to the entry of the Vatnajökull National Park, home of the mighty Vatnajökull glacier. This national park is vast, so it is divided into several administrative areas. One of those areas is Skaftafell National Park. There, you can visit Svartifoss Waterfall, which translates to “The black waterfall.”

There is a parking lot in the area. Be aware that you need to walk approximately 1.5km away from the waterfall. It will be a 15-30 minute walk there and another 15-30 minutes back, depending on the pace, of course. The hike is a delightful walk, but you still need to bring a couple of sturdy shoes and comfortable clothes. These are essentials and basics when traveling through Iceland. If you are a couch potato like me, this may sound like a tiring task. Well, I’m not going to lie, it can be, but the views are insane. With such a fantastic view, you won’t even notice how the time passes by.

Iceland's Svartifoss waterfall in winter

Svartifoss Waterfall – A Sight to Behold

After enjoying the scenery and the tongue of the glaciers, you will see Svartifoss waterfall. There, you will understand where the black falls moniker comes from. Dark lava columns surround the waterfall. The contrast with the green moss is very impressive. Not as remarkable as the basalt columns in the background though. Believe it or not, these perfect hexagonal shapes are not human-made. They are the result of the pressure applied to the lava during its hardening process.

These columns provide a strange look to the waterfall. A friend of mine once told me he felt as if he were in a Game of Thrones setting. And I do understand this reference. Svartifoss has a harsh and stark look; it is black and bleak. I can imagine Jon Snow walking through this area. As strong as these columns may look, they don’t stay in the same position forever. Authorities put some markers on them to analyze how much they have moved over time. Many of these columns fall. The rocks you see at the bottom of the waterfall were once mighty black basalt columns.

Fun fact: the waterfall used to be more powerful, so nowadays you can find some of the remains of a small power close to the waterfall, and that once served and provided energy to farms nearby.

Svartifoss and the Hallgrimskirkja Church

There is a link between Svartifoss and Hallgrimskirkja, the main cathedral of Reykjavik city. It won’t take too long until you realize the relationship is the basalt columns on the background of the waterfall. They naturally look like a massive church organ, and they were the inspiration of Icelandic architect Guðjón Samúelsson. He wanted to reflect Iceland’s landscapes in his work, and the basalt columns were just perfect.

The black basalt columns of Svartifoss waterfall

Activities Close to Svartifoss

Svartifoss is tucked in the Skaftafell National Park. This area has plenty of hiking trails you can enjoy to discover the territory and not just the waterfall. If you wish to spend more time here, there is a campsite past the waterfall where you can stay. I highly recommend the hiking that takes you to Morsájökull, which is a glacier tongue. Close by is the viewpoint of Sjónarnípa, the sound of the crackling ice and the views are incredible.

You can also enjoy hiking on a glacier at Skaftafell. Several companies offer their services in the area. Regardless of the one you choose, be aware you cannot do this activity on your own. An expert guide must be with you at all times.

Iceland’s Black Waterfall: Svartifoss Waterfall

This waterfall is not a huge nor a potent one, but it is indeed one of a kind. The surrounding area is so unique and different than most things you’ve seen on earth. You will not be disappointed. When coming to Iceland, try to add this stop to your itinerary. You know, Iceland is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get!

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