Ultimate Guide to the Svartifoss Waterfall Hike: Tips + Trails

by | Last updated Aug 13, 2023 | Best Hiking Europe, Iceland

No road trip to Iceland’s south coast is complete without a detour to see Svartifoss Waterfall. Svartifoss translates to “Black Waterfall” due to the stark contrast between the towering black basalt columns and the water. It takes some effort to get there, but I promise the Svartifoss Waterfall hike will be worth your sweat. Let me guide you through everything you need to know to make this hike happen.

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Quick Overview 

  • Hiking time: 60 minutes roundtrip.
  • Allow about 1.5 hours for the hike + photos.
  • Difficulty level: Easy-moderate because it does require you to hike uphill to get there. Of course, this means the return hike is downhill.

Map of the Svartifoss Waterfall Hike

Svartifoss Waterfall is about 4 hours from Reykjavik. Needless to say, you will not be doing this drive as a day trip from Reykjavik. Iceland is big and vast and requires lots of driving in-between places.

We did a road trip to Iceland’s south coast over the course of several days.

We made the town of Vik our home base while we explored the southeastern side of Iceland which includes Svartifoss.

Svartifoss Waterfall Hike Map

Reykjavik to Svartifoss Map

Vatnajökull National Park includes the national parks in Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur. Type in Skaftafell Visitor Center in Google Maps.

The trailhead to Savartifoss Waterfall begins at the visitor center, which is right off Route 1 (Ring Road). To get oriented, please see the map below.

Overview of Svartifoss Waterfall Hike Map

Svartifoss Waterfall Hike Map

Step-By-Step Hiking Experience

No entrance fee.

After we parked at the Skaftafell Visitor Center, we checked the map at the kiosk and jumped on the trail. The first waterfall we encountered was Hundafoss.

Nice, but that’s not why we came. We continued on.

Hundafoss Waterfall in Iceland

Hundafoss Waterfall

From the visitor center, the well-marked trail takes you through a campsite before turning right uphill. This hike required just enough effort to get the blood pumping.

Svartifoss Waterfall Hike Trail

Svartifoss Waterfall Hike Trail

The easy-to-navigate trail will wind its way around until you eventually come across an informational plaque.

At that point, Svartifoss Waterfall can be seen in the far background. Almost there!

Hike to the Svartifoss Waterfall in Iceland

Svartifoss Waterfall informational plaque

A bridge will intersect the Svartifoss Waterfall trail towards the end of the hike. You will see the bridge to the left of the trail.

This viewpoint offers another great photo option of Svartifoss Waterfall.

Viewpoint of Svartifoss Waterfall over foot bridge

Viewpoint of Svartifoss Waterfall over foot bridge

Svartifoss Waterfall as seen from the foot bridge

Svartifoss Waterfall as seen from the foot bridge

After navigating over a few sections of the trail that are lined with wooden planks, we reached the stairs to the final viewing platform.

When we went in July, there were only a handful of other tourists. I’m not sure if we just lucked out. The more likely reason is that we started this hike late, around 5:45 pm.

This is the beauty of visiting Iceland in July during the Midnight Sun! Plenty of daylight hours to do everything you want.

Stairs leading to the viewing platform of Svartifoss Waterfall in Iceland

Stairs leading to the viewing platform of Svartifoss Waterfall

Viewing platform Svartifoss Waterfall

Viewing platform for Svartifoss Waterfall

Standing in front of Svartifoss Waterfall

Standing in front of Svartifoss Waterfall

This is not the tallest or widest waterfall in Iceland, but it certainly wins points for being one of the more unique ones.

It has a Game of Thrones-esque vibe with its towering hexagonal basalt columns. This 65-foot waterfall was so inspirational that the iconic Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik was designed after it. See the similarities?

Svartifoss Waterfall in Iceland

Svartifoss Waterfall

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik Iceland

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland

After getting our fill of yet another one of Iceland’s beautiful 10,000+ waterfalls, we headed back on the trail. There are two options for your return hike.

Go back the way you came, which is on the eastern side. Or cross over the bridge that offered that first viewpoint and hike along the other (western) side to make it a loop trail.  

Svartifoss Waterfall in Iceland

See the bridge in the middle? If you want to make it a loop trail, cross over the bridge and hike the western side. Or go back the way you came.

We were short on time, so we hiked back the way we came.

If you decide to do the loop trail, it tacks on a little more time (2-2.5 hours total) and distance (3.4 miles roundtrip). The loop trail also offers views of a few more waterfalls and a turf house.

Icelandic turf houses are very interesting-looking. These homes are constructed with turf around their frames, which offers superior insulation. They seem to blend right into nature.

Icelanders no longer live in turf houses, but you can still see some of these well-preserved homes dotted throughout the country. See below for an example.

Icelandic turf house

Courtesy of Getty Images: Laufás turf house

Extra Hike: Skaftafellsjokull Glacier

I regret not including the glacier hike in our whirlwind of a trip, but we only could fit so much in with our limited time in Iceland.

If you have another hour or so to spare, definitely hike the easy 2.3-mile roundtrip trail to Skaftafellsjökull Glacier. The trailhead starts at the Skaftafell Visitor Center and navigates along a well-marked path.

Refer back to the map at the beginning of this post. 

How many places in the world can you hike right up to a glacier? This is on my list for next time!

Check out the official Vatnajökull National Park’s website for a list of all the hikes.

Skaftafellsjökull Glacier

Courtesy of Getty Images: Skaftafellsjökull Glacier

Final Thoughts

If you are visiting Iceland’s south coast, Svartifoss Waterfall is a great detour on your road trip. You will get a nice little workout in and get a chance to see one of the more unique Icelandic waterfalls.

If you have the time, squeeze in that extra hour to hike right up to the Skaftafellsjökull Glacier.

Vatnajökull National Park is certainly worth a visit and is just one of the best 19 things I recommend doing on your Icelandic adventure!

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Questions about our Svartifoss waterfall hike?

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