The Best Waterfall Hike in Iceland

Hiking to Glymur Falls

So, to be clear, Iceland is an absolutely magical place, and chances are no matter which waterfall you choose to hike to you will enjoy it.

However…

Glymur Falls was without question the best combination of an enjoyable hike and a great waterfall. Not too many hikes give you a river crossing, a cave, great scenery, a good climb, AND reward you with a gigantic waterfall. And if Instagram pics are your thing, there was a lot of opportunity for that, too.

Getting There

Alex and I chose to do this hike on a whim, during a day of long driving down the eastern coast of Iceland. We were returning from the Westfjords; after visiting, we were sure nothing would beat it. We were wrong.

Because Alex had access to a Google Maps on his phone, we were able to use that. If your phone doesn’t work overseas, and you rent a car, make sure to also rent a GPS. Otherwise, you may have luck with some tour companies; I’ve added a link to one at the bottom of the post.

Off of the main road, the road to Glymur’s parking lot quickly becomes gravel. Even for a two wheel drive, it’s not a problem. Just be careful. When we went, a light rain was just slowing, and the parking lot was overfull, with people parking along the road leading to it.

From the parking lot, the trailhead was obvious and well-labeled. Don’t be intimidated by the iron door. It opens when you push on it. The trail area shares land with some sheep as well, so don’t be surprised if you see some!

The Hike

For this hike, hiking boots are essential. If they’re waterproof, even better. The hike itself starts out through some low grasses and scrub. It crosses over a few small streams, which when there are a lot of people can make the trail a bit muddy. It starts out as a relatively easy and flat walk, giving you a great view of the valley and surrounding mountains. There are a few major waterfalls leading down into the valley, and you’ll find yourself wondering which waterfall is Glymur.

Right before the trail reaches a cave, it splits into two ways. This eventually allows the trail to be hiked as a loop, which I highly recommend in good weather. To hike as a loop, keep to the right. You’ll find yourself with some great views of Glymur’s river below you. Then, head down into the cave!

Glymur’s Unique Geography

The path leads you down through the cave. Give yourself time to adjust to the difference in light, as it’s actually quite dark inside! The other side will deposit you alongside the riverbank. If you are a newer hiker, you may find the next part challenging: you will have to cross the river with only a thin wire to assist you. The important thing to remember is to not rely too heavily on the wire. Pay attention to where you place your feet. Again, this is where waterproof hiking boots will help give you peace of mind.

The hike then begins a steep climb out of the valley. As it had just rained, it was muddy when Alex and I began the climb. This made the trail pretty slippery, but luckily there was a lot of wire there to assist hikers as well.

It’s on this part of the climb that you begin to realize what you’re in for! Smaller waterfalls of different sizes passed by all around us, pouring down the ever-taller gully in the mountainside. They were pretty enough to warrant a hike in their own right.

Near the Top

When Glymur first comes into view, it is breathtaking. The falls crash down an incredible drop as seabirds dart across the deep open air of the gully. Ferns, moss and other greenery cling to the sides of the cliffs. It’s very “Jurassic Park”.

There’s many great places to stop and look at the falls, so if you find an obvious spot crowded, don’t worry. We passed so many beautiful places for pictures that we eventually just stopped taking them! At this point, I wasn’t sure how the trail could possibly loop. There was a great chasm between the two trails, but I could see people heading down from the other side. Surely they connected somehow? We continued up the trail.

 

At the top of the plateau, we turned around. The view had only gotten better. Now we could see all the way to the fjord, and the ocean beyond. We could see the way the water had carved so much rock away to create such a deep channel. Alongside the green of summer, it was beautiful. It demanded to be seen. So we sat and looked.

A Cold Crossing

From the top, we could finally see where the trail crossed. It passed again over the river, though this time it was right before the waterfall! This frightened me, until I noticed how shallow the water was. For such a powerful waterfall, the river before it was surprisingly mild. The water did reach almost to the knee, though, and required bare feet.

The water was COLD! So cold, it was painful after more than a few seconds. And this was in August, so I’m sure it only gets colder other times of the year.

Though shallow, the river was wide here, and it took a while to make the

crossing over slippery rocks. I was relieved when I was able to get my warm shoes and socks back on my feet. Be careful here. The rocks on bare feet are pretty slippery.

Is This Hike for You?

From my (limited) experience, I would consider this hike intermediate. Alex and I are in decent hiking shape, and it took us about four hours round trip. This included stops to sit and appreciate the scenery. This hike is certainly doable for a newer hiker, as long as they are in reasonable shape. The trail climbs steeply, and the river crossings require a certain degree of balance. This hike would be difficult in anything but hiking boots, though there were a few foolhardy folks in sneakers.

If you consider yourself a solid hiker and have the right shoes, I would strongly recommend this hike. The beauty is unlike any of the other waterfalls that you can view by just getting out of your car. This one is worth the effort. Being only a 90 minute drive from Reykjavik, it’s easily accessible and won’t take all day. There are other hikers around, enough to easily find someone, but without being crowded. If you’re visiting in summer, and you like waterfalls, you will love this hike.

Interested in hiking as part of a group?

Extreme Iceland Tour Group

For more general information:

Guide to Iceland post

Have you hiked to this waterfall before? How was your experience?