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Planning Guide: Skogafoss Waterfall in Iceland

There are lots of beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, but Skogafoss hits different. It’s a large waterfall in both breadth and volume, and the view of it is completely unhindered. Nothing is more humbling than the powerful sound of the water smashing to the ground just feet in front of you. This waterfall should be on every Iceland visitor’s itinerary and this post will help you plan your visit perfectly.

In This Guide

Here’s what we’re covering in this guide. We invite you to read the full post or jump ahead to the section you’re most interested in.

What is Skogafoss Waterfall

Skogafoss is a powerful waterfall located in southern Iceland. It’s the largest of many falls on the Skoga River, which is created by runoff from the nearby Eyjafjallajökull Glacier.

The waterfall stands at a towering 200 feet tall and 82 feet wide and dumps water at a rate of nearly 300 cubic feet per second. That’s over 130,000 gallons every minute!

Its looming size is made more impressive by its accessibility and open sight lines.

The ground at the base of the waterfall is flat. Visitors can easily walk from the parking lot right up to the base of the falls with very little effort (during summer, that is).

Legend has it that the first Viking to visit Skogafoss hid a chest of gold behind it, which was never found. Don’t go searching for it though. Skogafoss is extremely powerful and you cannot walk under or behind the waterfall. The mist is so intense, though, that you might get so wet that you feel like you walked under it.

The views of Skogafoss are completely unimpeded, allowing you to see it’s full size and beauty from several vantage points. There are many amazing views of the falls throughout the meadow, but one of the coolest is from the top. There is a steep flight of stairs that ascends the cliffs and offers a stunning view looking down on the falls.

The cliffs at Skokafoss have their own history. They used to be sea cliffs, marking the country’s former coastline. Frequent geological activity is constantly changing the size and landscape of Iceland. Today, Skokafoss is three miles from the coastline.

Skogafoss is often pictured in media, including Game of Thrones, Thor: The Dark World and a Justin Beiber music video.

How to get to the top of Skogafoss

Like all of the best waterfalls in Iceland, Skogafoss offers something unique that makes it stand out from the countless other waterfalls in the country. That “thing” at Skogafoss is the sight lines.

You can walk right up to the base of Skogafoss to see (and feel!) it up close and you can walk to the top of it for an epic view looking down. Very few of Iceland’s best waterfalls offer both. And you don’t have to hike to either of them.

Nope, you’ll just have to walk up somewhere between 370 and 527 steps (depending where you start counting).

I don’t think anyone would describe the trek as easy physically, but it is easy technically. Simply follow the well-marked path up the well-made steps with handrails to the well-protected lookout platform.

To get to the top of Skogafoss, head toward the stairs which are located on the right side of the falls (if you’re looking at the waterfall). You can’t miss them – trust me.

The stairs begin quite wide, but get steep quickly. They zig-zag nearly straight up the steep cliffside. There are wooden handrails or chains along the entire pathway, which is helpful at many points going up and down.

The hike to the top is physically demanding, but attainable for many. We saw people of all ages making the journey. I’d say the walk to the top would take an average traveler 15 – 25 minutes to get to the top.

We’re really fast walkers and like to get difficult things over quickly. We made it to the top (with Kenny wearing Zoe!) in 6 minutes. This is not a flex, but sharing our personal experience for other fast walkers out there. Though I can safely say this was not the norm.

Fimmvörðuháls Trail: The Waterfall-filled Hike that Starts at Skogafoss

If you take the stairs to the top of Skogafoss, you can’t help but notice that the trail continues. If you’re like us and completely unaware that this trail existed, you might spot people on the trail in the distance and wonder, “Where are they going? Should we go there, too!?”

The trail that starts at the top of Skogafoss is called Fimmvörðuháls Trail. It’s a 15.5-mile out-and-back hike along the Skoga River. The start of the trail is known as “Waterfall Way,” and is passes a whopping 26 waterfalls. The trail ends at Thórsmörk Nature Reserve.

The hike looks beautiful and journeys deep into valleys, between glaciers and through lava fields. The photos we’ve seen from this hike are unreal and look like something out of a sci-fi movie.

Hiking the full Fimmvörðuháls Trail is difficult, time consuming, and requires some advance planning. It can take up to 10 hours to reach the end, and since it’s an out-and-back trail, you need to plan a return from Thórsmörk.

We didn’t hike the full trail, but there are lots of great resources that go through all the details. We’d recommend this great guide to Fimmvörðuháls Trail by Two Wondering Soles.

The good news is that you don’t have to hike the whole thing! You’ll find waterfalls within the first couple miles beyond Skogafoss. While these early falls aren’t as large or impressive as Skogafoss, they’re much less crowded and more serene.

Our toddler fell asleep at the top of Skogafoss so we took a 30 minute adventure up the trail and it was honestly our favorite part of our visit to Skogafoss. If you made it up the stairs and you have an extra hour or two in your schedule, we’d highly recommend walking a portion of this trail.

Tips for Visiting Skogafoss Waterfall

It’s hard not to enjoy a visit to Skogafoss. It’s easy to get to, easy to explore, and impressively beautiful. We do have a few tips, though, to help make your visit even better.

General Tips

  • Walk the start of Fimmvörðuháls Trail. Many people go up the stairs, view Skogafoss from the top, and come right back down. I was amazed how few peopled continued down the path. You’ll find more waterfalls and solitude with even just a short walk down the trail.
  • Get your food to go. If your visiting Skogafoss during a meal time, we suggest picking up your food to go. The restaurant inside did look lovely, but we loved having a picnic lunch with a view of the falls even more.
  • Take your time. With a little patience, it’s actually pretty easy to get a photo up close to the falls without anyone else in it. The spray from the falls gets intense the closer you get, so people don’t tend to linger. If you stay in the area, you’ll find that the turnover of people taking photos is quite quick and you should be able to snag one without anyone else in your frame.
  • Pair your visit with Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Seljalandsfoss is located 30 minutes west of Skogafoss along Route 1. We suggest viewing both of these waterfalls while you’re in the area.
We walked for just 15 minutes from the top of Skogafoss on Fimmvörðuháls Trail and saw this!

What to Wear to Skogafoss

  • Rain Jacket. If you plan to walk close to the base of Skogafoss, you will get wet from the intense spray. A packable rain jacket like this one is good to have on hand at this waterfall.
  • Layers. In the summer, layers are always key for Iceland and it was especially true here. I bundled up in a rain jacket and rain pants in the cool, misty shade at the base of the waterfall. But then I got really hot as we began walking Fimmvörðuháls Trail and I quickly shed my layers.
  • Sneakers. In summer months, hiking boots/shoes are not necessary for this waterfall, but you will benefit from sneakers with good traction. In the winter, you will definitely want to prioritize good winter footwear if you plan on approaching the falls or going up the stairs.

What to Bring to Skogafoss

  • Drawstring or packable tote bag. This goes along with the layers. I like to keep a small bag, like a drawstring bag or a packable tote, on me when I’m planning to shed layers. If I get hot and have to take off outer layers, I like having a bag to carry them in.
  • Hat / Sunglasses. If you plan on walking any of Fimmvörðuháls Trail, it’s completely exposed to the elements — aka no shade. A hat and/or shades will be clutch.
  • Baby Carrier. If you have a toddler who can’t climb all 500 steps on their own, we suggest using a carrier. We utilized the back carry position in the Nuna CUDL carrier so we could see and navigate the steps in front of us. It worked fine, but our preferred carrier for the back position is the Sakura Bloom Onbuhimo carrier. We just didn’t bring it with us on this trip. We also have a separate post dedicated to baby wearing for travel and our favorite baby carriers if you want to learn more.

Plan your visit to Skogafoss Waterfall

Whether you’re visiting Iceland for a few days on a stopover or a few weeks on a Ring Road roadtrip, it’s possible (and dare I say easy) to make a visit to Skogafoss a part of your itinerary. Let’s dive into some of the planning details.

When to Visit Skogafoss

Skogafoss is open everyday of the year. Like many attractions in Iceland, visiting in the summer and visiting in the winter are two completely different experiences.

In the summer, the cliffs and meadow are unbelievably green which creates a stunning frame around the waterfall. You’re more likely to experience a clear day, so the views from the top of the falls are pretty epic and can extend from the ocean to distant glaciers.

There’s also just significantly more daylight in the summer, so you literally are able to see more during your trip. Warm weather also makes getting soaked by waterfall spray a lot more tolerable.

The winter months paint a completely different scene — one covered with ice and snow. We’ve not personally experienced Skogafoss in the winter, but images of an icicle crusted cliffside looks like something out of a Game of Thrones episode (because it is).

The beauty of winter comes with its share of challenges. The rocks leading up to the falls can become treacherous when frozen over with ice. The stairs to the top of the falls are often open in the winter, but are more difficult to scale when they’re icy. They also may close occasionally.

For these reasons, we recommend visiting in the summer between June and September.

The view out to the Ocean from the top of Skogafoss in the summer

When planning your Iceland trip, be sure to consider all the things you want to see and do, though. If your main goal in Iceland is to see the Northern Lights (winter) or drive the full Ring Road (summer), that might dictate your travel season more than Skogafoss.

How to get to Skogafoss

Skogafoss is conveniently located along Route 1 about 100 miles southeast of Reykjavik.

The journey is about 2 hours 15 minutes by car. From Reykjavik, take Route 1 south. Skogafoss is located in the town of Skoga, which is just past the town of Holt. Turn left on Skógar and you will see the falls. The parking lot will be on your left, just past the hotels and restaurants.

It’s a short walk down a flat, gravel trail to get from the parking lot to the base of the Skogafoss.

It’s also possible to get to Skogafoss via public transportation. The 51 bus runs from Mjódd (a Reykjavik suburb which is connected to downtown Reykjavik via many local buses) to Skoga. It’s then a 1/2 mile walk from the bus stop to the waterfall.

The bus to Skoga only runs once a day and costs around $40 USD. You can purchase the bus ticket in the Strætó app.

How much does it cost to visit Skogafoss

It is free to visit Skogafoss waterfall. Parking at Skogafoss is also free.

The only additional costs associated with this visit would be any food, beverage or souvenirs purchased.

How Much Time to Spend at Skogafoss

We suggest spending 1 – 2 hours at Skogafoss. This includes walking to the base of the waterfall, scaling the stairs to the view at the top, and taking a short walk along the start of Fimmvörðuháls Trail.

If you’re short on time and/or are unable to climb the stairs to the top, your visit to Skogafoss could be as short as 30 – 45 minutes if you choose. But the falls are so breathtaking, we have a feeling you’ll want to stay a bit longer.

Fimmvörðuháls Trail in full is over 15 miles, but you don’t have to walk to the whole trail. There is beauty to be found even if you only walk out for 30 minutes and turn back around (which is what we did).

We recommend walking this path as far and as long as your schedule allows. You could easily make this a full day activity if you wanted.

Amenities at Skogafoss

The area around Skogafoss has been built up to accomodate the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit each year. You’ll find plenty of helpful amenities nearby to make your visit comfortable. Here’s what you can expect to find near Skogafoss.

  • Wifi: No free wifi. The only wifi available is at nearby hotels which is limited to patrons.
  • Bathrooms: Yes for a fee of 200 ISK. There are also free bathrooms inside restaurants and hotels for patrons.
  • Parking: Yes, free parking is available near the base of the falls.
  • Coffee: Yes, coffee is available at Bistro Bar near the parking lot.
  • Food: Yes, there are three places for food near the falls: Bistro Bar (restaurant with sit-down dining and takeaway), Eddie’s Pit Stop (snack truck) and Mia’s Country Van (food truck).
  • Vegetarian Food: Yes, Bistro Bar has a veggie burger available for dine-in or take away.
  • Souvenirs: Yes, there’s a small gift shop with souvenirs for purchase.

Where to stay near Skogafoss Waterfall

There are a several good options when it comes to staying near Skogafoss waterfall. Let’s go over a few of them.

Stay right next to Skogafoss

In a somewhat rare case for southern Iceland country-side attractions, there are actually several accommodations located beside Skogafoss and in the town of Skógar.

There is a campsite, Skógar Campsite, located in the meadow below the falls that welcomes tent camping and camper vans. The campsite gets mediocre reviews as it has limited facilities, but it’s a place to stay along the Ring Road for cheap with a great view.

There’s also several guesthouses nearby including Hótel Skógafoss which is adjacent to Bistro Bar. Of the nearby guesthouses, this one is the most popular and highest rated.

Stay in Vik

If you have some extra time to explore more of the southern coast, we suggest driving 30 minutes up the road to the village of Vik. It’s the largest town for 40 miles in either direction and has great options for accommodations and restaurants.

We recommend staying at Puffin Hotel, which is an average priced hotel with nice rooms and a free breakfast included. We’d also suggest getting dinner at the Soup Company and coffee at Skool Beans.

We also have a complete guide to Vik, Iceland if you’re interested in staying in that area.

Stay in Reykjavik

We’ll wrap up this section by saying that you actually don’t need to stay by Skogafoss at all. It’s a 2.5 hour drive from Reykjavik. If you’re already staying in Reykjavik, you can simply visit Skogafoss as a day trip if you wanted. (See sample itineraries below.)

In Reykjavik, we’d suggest saying at Kex hostel. It’s a family-friendly hostel located right across the street from the sculpture and shore walk. It was cool for non-families too, though, we promise! We were able to walk to everything we wanted to see and do in Reykjavik from the hostel.

Kex Hostel is located right along the shore walk, which we loved!

How to fit Skogafoss into your Iceland Itinerary

Skogafoss is conveniently located off Route 1 only 2.5 hours from Reykjavik. That makes it fairly easy to add to just about any Iceland Itinerary. It’s an easy stop for travelers embarking on a full Ring Road, but it’s also possible to visit as part of a day trip from Reykjavik.

Here are a few ways to fit Skogafoss into your Iceland travel plans.

Southern Coast Day Trip from Reykjavik

Some of Iceland’s most beautiful destinations can be found along the southern coast. You can combine some of the best attractions into a single day’s road trip from Reykjavik.

This sample itinerary starts at Seljalandsfoss and includes stops at Skogafoss waterfall, Dyrhólaey lookout and lighthouse, and Reynisfjara black sand beach.

We’d recommend spending about 1.5 hours at each stop, which comes out to 6 hours of activities and 5.5 hours of driving.

Golden Circle Extension

Another good option would be to combine the Golden Circle with a few extra waterfalls on the southern coast. This option would make for a long day, but if you’re short on days in Iceland it’s a great option.

The Golden Circle refers to stops at Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Hot Spring Area and Gullfoss waterfall. If you self-drive the Golden Circle, take your trip up a notch with visits to two extra waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.

You’d probably want to spend 2 hours at Thingvellir and about an hour at each other stop. This would total 6 hours of attractions, but plan for 7-8 to be safe. Add that to 6 total hours of driving and you’re looking at a 12 – 14 hour day.

We’d only recommend this option in the summer months when you’re guaranteed daylight for 12+ hours.

Ring Road Roadtrip Stop

There is one road that forms a ring around the entire island of Iceland known as the Ring Road or Route 1. In the summer months, the Ring Road is a popular roadtrip option for some of the more adventurous tourists.

The road trip is famous for its epic landscapes including glaciers, volcanoes and mind-boggling number of amazing waterfalls. There are countless things to see and places to go along along the 825-mile loop around the country.

We personally did not drive the full Ring Road and stuck to the southern coast, so I don’t have a ton to say about this journey. But I can say that Skogafoss is located right off of this main road and is absolutely worth stopping at, even just for a few minutes and a quick walk.

If you’re interested in the full Ring Road, there are a ton of great resources like this complete guide from Expert Vagabond.

Closing Thoughts

Skogafoss was one of the few places in Iceland that I had seen pictures of before actually traveling there.

Kenny planned our whole trip to Iceland on his own, including our detailed daily itinerary. This was a role reversal to our typical travel planning in which he handles the big picture things (cities, flights, hotels) and I plan the specific daily activities.

As a result, I went into most of the attractions in Iceland totally blind. Skogafoss was a rare exception. One of the only things I knew about our trip was that we’d be going to the waterfall where Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen kiss in Game of Thrones.

Honestly, if you hadn’t told me that Skogafass was the set for this scene I would have never guessed it. Skogafoss is a single-tier waterfall, versus the multi-tiered falls pictured in the show. The waterfall crashes into a flat meadow, not into a remote hidden cave. We visited in the summer, so instead of rocks dripping with icicles, it was lusciously green.

It looked almost nothing like the CGI version in the show … it was more beautiful in real life!

As a planner, I like to know exactly what I’m walking into. If you’re reading this article, you probably are too! So I share this as a reminder to not let our expectations prevent us from finding true beauty in what is, versus what we expect it to be.

Anyways! Just wanted to share that quick personal story before sending you on your way! I hope you found this guide helpful. Whether you’re in Iceland now or planning your dream trip, we hope you have an amazing adventure.