Svartifoss Waterfall | The Black Basalt column waterfall in Skaftafell Nature Reserve

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Basic Information

One of the most picturesque waterfalls of Iceland, Svartifoss is located in Skaftafell. Svartifoss is a wondrous waterfall, based in South Iceland. Svartifoss is a part of Vatnajökull National park. The charming waterfall is about 20 meters in height. Black columnar basalt formations surround the waterfall beautifully. This is where the name of the waterfall comes from,  Svartifoss or the Black Fall. From a considerable distance, it looks like a heart-shaped waterfall. It could be one of the reasons why this waterfall is considered quite romantic by the locals. The waterfall is not visible from the road or from the visitor center in Skaftafell, so the visitors have to hike up to experience the view of the beautiful waterfall.

At the edge of Vatnajökull glacier, near the Kristinartindar Mountaintop, is the source of the Stórilækur River that feeds Svartifoss. The Stórilækur River has a length of 7.38 km until it finishes at the Skaftafellsa River.

autumn at Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell Vatnajökull National Park in south Iceland

Activities in Skaftafell Nature Reserve

Hike Your Way up to Svartifoss

There is a visitor center built in Skaftafell where you can get all the information on how to reach Svartifoss waterfall. The center stays open throughout the year. The hike uphill from the visitor center to the waterfall is about a kilometer and a half. The trail becomes more rewarding as you stumble upon other waterfalls in the gorge.

The hike up to it takes about two hours back and forth. You can stop in between to click pictures. For those who love hiking, there is a circular hike which is 5.5 kilometers long. It takes around two to three hours to finish this hike. This longer hike provides you with a better experience of the waterfall and you will also get to witness the views at Sjónarnípa. The hiking trails in the park are well labeled which means you do not need a map to cover the hiking trail. Svartifoss is very popular among photographers from all over the world, ready with their equipment to capture some breathtaking views.

The path is moderate and not too difficult. It is definitely worth it to go near the waterfall. As you begin from the visitor center, after 250 meters, the track leads you slightly uphill across the campsite into the mountain heath at Skaftafell. The road will lead you down from that point into the ravine below the waterfall. You can walk up the steps of the basalt column on the other side of the ravine after enjoying the waterfall and its mesmerizing surroundings.

Visitors on their way back can either choose to return the same way or cross the bridge by Svartifoss and return on the western side. This route provides a closer look at the other three waterfalls in the vicinity. You will also get to see Selið turf house and the lovely Lambhagi – Lamb Pastures.

Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell National Park

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The Fascinating Basalt Columns

The nickname Black Fall is the courtesy of these hexagonal basalt columns. They were formed when lava went cold very slowly leading to the crystallizing of the molten rock. The astonishing columns have inspired Icelandic architects such as Guðjón Samúelsson. The artist’s inspiration is visible in the design of the National Theatre building. Hallgrímskirkja church, a landmark in the capital city Reykjavik and the striking church in Akureyri are also based upon the formation of these columns at Svartifoss.

Summers are the best time to visit the waterfall. You will find all routes open and it is ideal for driving around in the country. The temperature is also moderate around the time of summer so you have more to explore the regions. There are many beautiful spots around the Svartifoss waterfall to see. You can experience melting ice dripping off the glaciers which looks beautiful. Make a list of places that you want to visit in the vicinity so you can cover most of them.

There are also a lot of guided glacier tours in Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Explore the glacier up close and personal, check out the ice caves during winter or go ice climbing. The campsite in Skaftafell is also one of the best campsites in the country. 

Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell National Park

Reaching Svartifoss

Skaftafell is very easy to find and easily accessible all year. Follow road 1, the Ring Road, until you come across a yellow sign for Skaftafell from where the trail to Svartifoss begins. There is free parking at the visitors’ center of Skaftafell. Various sign boards provide information about the hiking trails, like the one to Svartifoss.

Svartifoss waterfall on a map

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