Svartifoss or the Black Falls is an extraordinary waterfall in Skaftafell National Park and is truly one of the most popular attractions in the area. Its pitch black basalt columns background is an intense contrast to the white glaciers that otherwise set the vibe in the area. The waterfall is fed by a nearby glacier, and the hexagonal columns in the background were formed in volcanic eruptions, still, the area is extremely fertile and Skaftafell National park has always been considered as an oasis in the middle of ice and lava.
Where does Svartifoss Originate? How was Svartifoss formed?
Svartifoss is fed by meltwater from the river Stórilækur that originates at the incredible Svínafellsjökull “Hollywood glacier” an outlet glacier from Vatnajökull, the most voluminous glacier in Europe. The river Stórilækur is 7,38 km at length and runs all the way to the river Skaftafellsá.
The basalt columns that Svartifoss drops down from were formed when lava flows cooled down at an incredibly slow pace crystallizing the molten rock. These kinds of hexagonal basalt columns can be found in multiple places around Iceland including at the well-known Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, at Litlanesfoss waterfall, at Arnarstapi on Snæfellsnes and the Gerðuberg cliffs.
Svartifoss an Architectural Inspiration| Svartifoss & Hallgrimskirkja
The architect who designed Hallgrímskirkja Church downtown Reykjavik, Guðjón Samúelsson, took great inspiration from Svartifoss, its basalt columns and the way they stack up on each side to frame in the most important factor the waterfall itself or in the case of the church the tower.
Svartifoss was also an inspiration for the ceiling of the Icelandic National Theatre which was designed by the same architect and world-renowned sculptor Richard Serra drew his inspiration for his sculpture Milestones, located in the Viðey Island, offshore from Reykjavik from Svartifoss.
Where is Svartifoss Located?
GPS: 64.0275283° N 16.9753082° W
Svartifoss is located in Skaftafell National Park right off the famous Ring Road. Svartifoss is located 327 km (203 mi) from Reykjavik, 141 km (87,6 mi) from Vík and 313 km (194,4 mi) from Egilsstaðir.
How to get to Svartifoss?
Driving from Reykjavík to Svartifoss will take about 4 hours and 10 minutes if you drive without stopping. We don’t recommend driving the whole distance without a break since there are so many gorgeous attractions and stops to be visited along the South Coast. Driving from Reykjavík you will pass the towns of Hveragerði, Selfoss, Hella and Hvolsvöllur before you reach the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. From there you drive through the town on Vík close to Reynisfjara, Dyrhólaey and the Ice Cave under the Katla Volcano!
As you continue driving you will cross Mýrdalssandur black sand beach and into Kirkjubæjarklaustur before you reach your destination at Skaftafell Visitor center and its car park.
The best way to get close to Svartifoss waterfall is to park your car at the Skaftafell Visitor Centre and hike to the viewing points of the falls.
Hiking to Svartifoss
Hiking to the stunning falls is easy and the path is well marked but if you are traveling in winter you will want to be prepared with ice spikes for your shows and proper sturdy soles.
The path from Skaftafell Visitor Centre is well marked and it about a 5,5 km (3,4 mi) at length both ways. If taking this path you will walk through the camping ground (GPS: 64.0084268° N 16.9980739° W) and follow the trail uphill where you will reach a viewing point providing you with a splendid view of the basalt falls.
From the viewing point, you have the option of a walk further into the ravine and ascend the natural basalt steps on one side.
At this point, you can add a little bit to the path and it will take you to the viewing point and dial at Sjónarsker giving you a good sense of direction and where the nearby attractions are located. Sjónarsker is about 310 meters (1017 ft) above sea level.
On the way back you will get the opportunity of visiting an old turf house, Selið, and explore the way the Vikings (and many Icelanders up until 100 years ago) used to live.
Some like to visit Lambhagi as well which is yet another beautiful place inside Skaftafell. The name Lambhagi translates to “lamb meadow” as farmers used to milk sheep at this location and keep them and their lambs overnight. When the lambs and ewes were reunited you could hear their bleating which gave the place its name.
Magnúsarfoss & Hundafoss
Svartifoss isn’t the only stunning waterfall you will find on the path leading from the camping ground. When hiking to Svartifoss you can easily stop for views of the waterfalls Magnúsarfoss and Hundafoss on the trail.
Hundafoss is the first waterfall you can see on the path to Svartifoss. Although not clearly visible you will hear the stream and see the waterfall with only a few steps taken to go around the trees that block it.
The same goes for Magnúsarfoss, which can be seen from the East bank on the way to Svartifoss, it is best to keep your and eyes and ears open and look out for sounds of falling water as it is, as well, hidden between trees.
Svartifoss Hike “The Challenging Version”
If you are looking for a challenge and to spend a longer time period inside Skaftafell National park there is another way to hike around Svartifoss. This trail is about 16,7 km (10,4 mi) and goes across Skaftafellsheiði heath to the foot of the sharp peaks of Kristínartindar in between the two stunning glaciers, Skaftafellsjökull and Morsárjökull. Fun Fact, at Morsárjökull you will find Iceland’s highest waterfall, called Morsárfoss.
Accommodation and Hotels near Svartifoss
There are plenty of ways to spend the night in Skaftafell National Park or near Svartifoss waterfall.
- Hotel Skaftafell
- Adventure Hotel Hof
- Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon
- Fosshotel Nupar
- Adventure Hotel Geirland
- Icelandair Hotel Klaustur
- Hotel Laki Efri
- Magma Hotel
- Hali Country Hotel
Cabins or Cottages
- Hörgsland Cottages
- Lækjarborgir Guesthouses
- Hvoll Guesthouse
- Dalshöfði Guesthouse
- Guesthouse Skálafell
- Guesthouse Gerdi
Camping near Svartifoss Waterfall | Skaftafell Camping
If you are looking to go camping anywhere in the area Skaftafell is the ideal spot and for many local outdoor enthusiasts an ultimate favorite to spend the night.
Skaftafell Camping Ground
1st of May to the 30th of September
Service available on site:
- Sinks with Cold & Hot Water
- A Cafeteria / Restaurant
- Wheelchair Access
- Walking Paths
- Washing Machine & Tumble Dryers
- Waste Disposal for Mobile Homes
1st of May to the 30th of September
Service available on site:
- Cooking Facilities
- Sinks with Cold Water
- Seating Area
- Washing Machines & Tumble Dryers
Tips for Visiting Svartifoss
Don’t forget to bring your camera, you are going to want to document this stunner!
Be mindful of the slippery rocks around the waterfall and please follow the signs and the rules the park rangers have set to keep both you and the fragile nature safe.
Don’t miss out on the other waterfalls, Hundafoss and Magnúsarfoss.
Do a glacier hike, you are just too close to Europe’s largest glacier to miss out on the opportunity of touching its glacial ice!
If you are there in summer:
Have a picnic in the fertile oasis between glaciers and volcanoes, there are so many benches and other nice places in the national park and in good weather it truly is a memorable experience.
If you are there in winter:
Make sure you visit one of the many Ice Caves that can be found near Svartifoss in wintertime. You will need to join a guided tour but the day tours aren’t expensive and the experience is like no other.
Svartifoss in Winter
Vatnajökull National Park and Skaftafell National Park are true paradises in every season but the areas are perfect in Winter. With all its Ice Caves and Glacier Hiking options, adventurous souls are sure to have plenty to do!
Svartifoss waterfall is most of the time well accessible in wintertime and incredibly beautiful. Just be sure you are properly dressed, in warm clothes and sturdy soled shoes with ice peaks or a good grip. We also recommend asking the park rangers or the people working at the information desk inside the Skaftafell Visitor center about the trail before setting off, just to be sure!
Interesting Places Near Svartifoss
- Magnúsarfoss Waterfall
- Hundargoss Waterfall
- Skaftafell National Park Information Center
- Vatnajökull Glacier
- Svínafellsjökull Glacier
- Foss á Síðu
- Hvannadalshnúkur the Highest Summit in Iceland
- Falljökull Glacier
- Skaftafellsjökull Glacier
- Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
- Skeiðará Bridge Monument
- Mt. Lómagnúpur
- Öræfajökull Glacier
- Hofskirkja Church
- The Diamond Beach
- Heinabergslón Glacier Lagoon
- Kálfafell Hamlet
- Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
- Kirkjubæjarklaustur Village
- Kirkjugólf basalt columns
- Systrafoss Waterfall
- Stjórnarfoss Waterfall