Svartifoss is an extremely unique and popular waterfall located in the Skaftafell area of Vatnajökull National Park, in Southern Iceland. The name Svartifoss means “Black Falls” in Icelandic. Standing at 20 meters tall, this elegant waterfall earns its name, surrounded on both sides by enormous black basalt columns formed from ancient crystalized molten rock. It may not be the biggest or most powerful waterfall in Iceland, but these ancient dark columns set Svartifoss apart from other waterfalls in the country.

Getting to Svartifoss

Many visitors to Iceland choose to see the country by traveling along the Ring Road, or Route 1. If you begin your journey from Reykjavik, continue driving on Route 1 until you pass through the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in the south.  On the road between Kirkjubæjarklaustur and the town of Hof, you’ll spot a sign for Skaftafell. This is the area where Svartifoss is located.

In Skaftafell, you’ll find a large parking area and a visitors center, which is open year-round. Here you’ll find information on how to get to Svartifoss, as well as maps and other information. The hike to the waterfall is just under 2 kilometers from the visitors center, which means it should take you around 60 to 90 minutes to complete. Although it’s certainly an uphill hike, it’s considered relatively easy, so the journey shouldn’t be an issue for anyone who is moderately in shape.

You’ll begin your journey from the visitors center. From here you’ll walk up the trail, pass through the campsite, and progress at a slight incline of around 140 meters. The path will take you down into a ravine where you’ll finally get an up close and personal look at this magnificent waterfall and the black lava basalt columns that surround it.

More About Svartifoss

The waters of Svartifoss plummet into a pool 20 meters down. Although the temptation to swim may be present, this isn’t recommended due to the proclivity of sharp rocks at the bottom of the falls. Always take extra precaution around the falls due to risk of falling and sharp objects.

After you’ve had your fill of this one-of-a-kind view, it is often recommended that visitors walk up the basalt column steps on the other side of the ravine, which offer their own uniquely beautiful view of the falls and the surrounding area. From the top of the steps you’ll be able to follow the path all the way back down, where you’ll go back through the campsite and finally reach the visitors center.

Interestingly, the hexagonal basalt columns that give Svartifoss its unique look have inspired famous Icelandic architect Guðjón Samúelsson on several of his works. Namely, the Hallgrímskirkja church, a famous landmark in the capital city of Reykjavik. The influence of the basalt columns on his work can also be seen on the National Theatre building and the famous church in the center of Akureyri.