The Best Alternative To Seljalandsfoss, One Of Iceland's Most Visited Waterfalls

Iceland is famous for many things: geothermal hot springs, gigantic glaciers, active volcanoes, and a chance to see the Northern Lights. Iceland's waterfalls are another major draw for tourists to the country. Some of the most famous include Gullfoss, which sits on the Golden Circle route, and Skogafoss, thought by many to be the most beautiful waterfall in the country. 

Another top-rated waterfall is Seljalandsfoss, just two hours from the capital, Reykjavík. Seljalandsfoss is famous for its curtain-like falls and the path that fully encircles them. But if you're willing to travel a little further from Reykjavík, there's another waterfall we think you should add to your tour of Iceland.

Svartifoss Waterfall is a four-hour drive from the capital and one of the best stops on Iceland's famous Ring Road. No one will drive straight through from Reykjavík, though, as the journey is part of the fun, with magnificent sights like Seljalandsfoss and the infamous Eyjafjallajökull glacier along the way. (You know, the one that grounded air travel in 2010!) When you arrive at Svartifoss, the adventure really begins.

Admiring Iceland's black falls

Svartifoss translates to Black Falls. The name doesn't refer to the gushing cloud of white water but to the surrounding basalt columns. These dark-colored hexagonal rock columns surround the falls and litter the ground beneath them. Svartifoss is just 66 feet tall, so it's certainly not Iceland's highest waterfall. But it's the contrast of white water against dramatic black rock that leads visitors on Tripadvisor to speak of its spell-binding beauty. 

Reaching Svartifoss involves hiking around 1 mile from the visitor center. The hike should take about 45 minutes one way, but this is Iceland. In a country packed with scenic spots, it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are three more lovely waterfalls to discover along the way. The hike is pretty easy, but it does head uphill. Most visitors on Tripadvisor had no issues walking the trail, though one from August 2023 said the terrain wasn't beginner-friendly and that they had to turn back as it was too steep. Several hikers recommend making the hike into a loop and coming back on the other side of the river (the hike is usually done out and back) to avoid the crowds.

Exploring Vatnajökull National Park

Svartifoss is located inside the largest national park in Europe, Vatnajökull, which offers an abundance of sights to visitors. The best-known attraction is the Vatnajökull Glacier, which covers an astonishing 8% of Iceland's landmass. The ice on Vatnajökull often takes on a blue hue, making it especially dazzling. The park is also home to many spectacular ice caves, which form in winter and can be explored with a guide.

You can find yet another bucket list site in the park. Jökulsárlón is a glacier lagoon that fills not just with meltwater from nearby Breiðamerkurjökull glacier but with floating icebergs, too. The sight is truly breathtaking. Hollywood's been here too, filming scenes for blockbusters including "Die Another Day" and Tombraider." Visitors can take a boat onto the lagoon or watch the icebergs and the seals who chill out on the floating ice from the shore. You can also visit nearby Diamond Beach, where glistening icebergs wash up on the black shores — a scene so stunning it seems not of this world.