A short walk into Skaftafell National Park in South Iceland provides visitors with a breathtaking view of Svartifoss (Black Falls). Ice-cold meltwater from the Svinafellsjokull glacier feeds the famous Svartifoss waterfall. The waterfall tumbles down 20 metres (80ft) over a cliff which is bordered on both sides by tall black basalt columns, resembling pipes of a giant organ, which is where the waterfall gets its name.
This wonder of natural architecture inspired the design for Iceland’s National Theatre and the Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik. The hexagonal columns form inside a lava flow which then cools extremely slowly, giving rise to crystallization. Similar well-known lava formations are seen at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and on the island of Staffa in Scotland.
The base of this waterfall is noteworthy for its sharp rocks. New hexagonal column sections break off faster than the falling water wears down the edges.
How to get to Svartifoss waterfall?
The hike to Svartifoss starts at the Visitor Centre in Skaftafell. There you can also find all sorts of information and advice about the area.
How long is the Svartifoss hike?
The hike to Svartifoss, starting from the Visitor Centre in Skaftafell, is about 1.5 kilometres or 45 minutes (one way). On the way to Svartifoss you come across three other waterfalls; Þjofafoss (Thieves’ Fall), Hundafoss (Dogs’ Fall) and Magnusarfoss (the Falls of Magnus). Once you get to Svartifoss there is a small bridge close to the waterfall that allows you to get closer.
Is it a difficult hike?
There trail leads slightly uphill, so although we’d say that it is fairly easy overall, it does require a little bit of effort for those who are out of shape and/or not used to hiking.
Does it cost to see the waterfall?
No, it is free. However, if you decide to camp in Skaftafell National Park, which has a great camping site, it has a moderate fee.
How high is Svartifoss waterfall?
It is 20 meters high, or 80 feet.
How did the rock columns behind Svartifoss waterfall form?
Columns like these form in a lava flow that cools very slowly, which allows it to form these hexagonal shapes. You can find rock columns like these all across Iceland, so keep an eye out for them.
Check out our complete guide to the South Coast.