Skógafoss! An astonishing waterfall in Iceland. Read on and learn about the best time to visit, how to avoid the crowds and more must-know tips.
Skókafoss is an excellent year-round destination. However, the best time to visit depends on what you’re looking for. Less crowds and cooler conditions or pleasant temperatures with the downside of a packed and crowded place? Read our season overview:
Winter / Early Spring (November - April)
Although winter conditions can already occur in October, it’s usually November/December when heavier rain, strong winds, more fog and especially snowfall and ice are coming to Iceland’s south coast. It’s getting colder in winter months but not as cold as many visitors think. Average high temperature during the coldest months (December, January, February, March) is 3°C / 37°F. Be careful at the base of the falls, as it’s often covered with ice between November and April. Also keep in mind that days are short in winter. Between mid-November and the end of January there are only 4-6 hours of daylight on average. That’s important to know in case you want to photograph the waterfall: Sunset - Sunrise Reykjavik The great advantage in winter: It’s definitely less crowded. However, even in winter it can be a little busier at popular Skogafoss sometimes.
Late Spring / Summer / Early Fall (May - October)
The pleasant temperatures start in late May. On a warm summer in July or August day temperatures can even climb up to 20°C at times. Average daily sunshine in July/August is 5-6 hours. The perfect months terms of mild temperatures months are June, July and August. Great shoulder months for a visit without the harsher winter conditions as well less crowds and cheaper rates are May and September/October. July and August are the months when it gets very crowded with the highest rates for hotels and flights.
Avoiding the Crowds
Due to its popularity it’s usually very busy at Skógafoss, even more so in peak summer months. Tour busses, many cars, people to the falls and back from the parking lot. However, while some complain about the crowds, other visitors say it doesn’t feel too crowded, even during high season.There is definitely plenty of free parking, which means you don’t have to worry about getting a parking lot, even in July or August. Also the climb to the top is not too crowded since a good portion of the visitors stay at the base area. On the other hand, it’s a different experience to enjoy such a stunning waterfall with less people in general. The well-known way to dodge the crowds is visiting in the cooler months with less daylight. Although less crowded, you won’t experience real solitude at Skógafoss in winter, it’s just too popular. Thus, two other great options to avoid tourist crowds are:
- Visit Early/Late: Usually it’s a great idea to get to the famous waterfalls in Iceland very early to avoid the crowds. The reason: Most visitors and especially the tour busses usually don’t arrive before 10 a.m. However, at Skógafoss the early mornings can be busy in summer with campers due to the very close campground. Visiting later in the day? In general, after 5 p.m. crowds start to dissipate. Some even visit at night for real solitude. Tip: We wouldn’t drive directly from a hotel in Reykjavik. Rather check hotels close by (Skogar Hotels). They are pricier than in Reykjavik but it's worth it to stay closer. Then you can visit this waterfall twice: During daytime/morning and then later or even at night. That way you dodge the crowds enjoy walking around, take photos during different light conditions. Trust us, it’s 100% worth it! After your second visit or on the next morning you can continue to Seljalandsfoss and still have plenty of time. As recommend: It’s not a good idea to visit both waterfalls on one day starting from Reykjavik and returning there.
- Climb to the Top / Walk Along the Path: Even if you visit in peak season and the base area is packed: Climb the 400 stairs and then walk the path along the river. Many visitors stay at the base area, some walk to the top and only very few continue walking the path along the river. Check the details about this great path in the text below (How to Visit)
Weather and Climate
The south coast and it’s waterfalls experience cold winters (around freezing) and mild summer months with temperatures around 11°C (52°F). However, Iceland’s south coast experiences a milder climate in winter than you might think. This is due to the Gulf Stream that flows along the west and south coast, bringing pleasant air from the Caribbean. The summers are short with only 3 months where temperatures are considered warm. Regardless of the season: Weather in Iceland can change very quick. Always be prepared and pack an extra sweater as well as rain gear. Please note, that the temperature chart below shows the average high temps from a weather station (Stórhöfði) which is located 40 km from Skogafoss and on a small island. Degrees can vary at the waterfall.
'Skógafoss! With a stunning 60m drop it's one of the biggest and most impressive waterfalls in Iceland. The melting water from two glaciers feeds this waterfall, creating a thundering flow year-round. You'll be amazed by its sheer power.'
Skogafoss means 'Forest Waterfall' when translated. It is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland. One reason is probably that it's right on the main road (Ring Road) and can be easily seen from the distance while driving. While approaching Skogafoss from the highway, you already get the impression that you won't forget this amazing visit anytime soon. The drive from Reykjavik takes less than 2 hours (149 km, Google Maps Directions Reykavik - Skogafoss). Some say it can be visited from Reykjavik together with Seljalandsfoss, the other famous falls, within a day. However, Iceland experts don't recommend it: TripAdvisor - Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss Visit. Instead, follow our tips above and stay at least one night in a nearby hotel. It's totally worth it!
Legend (Treasure Chest)
A legend has it that a Viking with the name of Þrasi Þórólfsson hid a chest of gold under the falls. That was supposed to happen around the year 900 AD. Later many locals tried to find that chest. One almost made it: He was able to tie a rope to the ring on the side of the chest. However, he didn't succeed to pull the whole chest. The only thing he retrieved was the ring itself. This ring was then handed over to the church of Skógar, where it was used for the church door. Now you can find this legendary ring at Skógar Museum, which is located only 1.7 km (5 minute drive) from the falls. The actual gold chest has not been found as of this point of time. Today, when locals see the rainbows appearing from the underneath the fall, they say it's the reflection of the hidden gold chest.
Skogafoss waterfall is situated on the Skoga River. It is fed by two glaciers which are the water sources for the falls: Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. The waterfall cliffs were once the actual coastline, which receded into the sea over hundreds and thousands of years. Nowadays the shoreline is about five 5 km south of Skogafoss. The waterfall stretches to over 25m (100 feet) creating a wide curtain of water. Due to its stunning height of 63 m (227 feet) it produces large amounts of spray and of course those famous rainbows on a sunny day.
How to Visit
Many people visit Iceland's waterfalls via tours in busses or jeeps. Others with a rental car. Arriving at Skogafoss, you'll notice that the parking lot is right at the waterfalls. After you get out of your car or bus, there are basically three options: 1. Stay at the base area 2. Climb up the stairs 3. Climb up the stairs and walk even farther along the river to discover more waterfalls.
Stay at the Base Area
Even if you stay at the bottom and don't climb up, it's worth visiting this waterfall. On a sunny day there are multiple rainbows visible. The closer you get to the base of the falls the more visible they are. But be prepared to get wet, especially when you get closer. Many visitors report that the spray of the falls get you wet quickly, even from a distance.
Climb the Stairs
There are stairs located at the eastern side of the falls. You have to climb those 430 stairs to get to the upper viewing platform. It's strenuous but definitely worth it and highly recommended. Also most visitors report, besides the steep climb, it never feels dangerous. The stairs are wide enough for the 'two-way traffic' with visitors climbing up and those coming down. When you're up there make sure to fully turn around and enjoy the stunning views. Depending on the weather and time of day you'll even get a view of Dyrholaey in the distance.
Walk Along the River
On the top viewing platform you'll notice a fence. Some people think it's not allowed to cross it. However, it definitely is. There is even a ladder to help you getting over it. You can now walk along the Skoga river on a pathway for a few minutes or even longer. There are many gorgeous small and medium sized waterfalls to discover. You can even walk behind one as well, which is already visible from the road. We highly recommend to discover these smaller falls. You'll also walk away from the crowds. Some visitors come back a second day to walk on this path longer than the day before. Please note: This walking path can be closed at times. In spring 2018 it was closed for weeks to ensure the safety of visitors and to protect the vegetation. Rain and melting snow from the winter made it impassable.
Must-Know Things and Tips
Visiting Skogafoss is an amazing experience. However, to make the most out of your visit you should read on for more must-know tips:
- Restrooms: Available at the parking lot, but not the best and not the cleanest as well. Also, you have to pay for them with cash. However, sometimes the paybox is broken and you can use them for free.
- Rainbow(s): The waterfall always creates large amounts of spray/mist. That's why on a sunny day you will usually see a single or even more rainbows. When the sky is overcast there are no visible rainbows of course.
- Strong Wind/Car Damage: The wind is so strong at times, that there are reported cases of ripping the cars door off the hinges. It's unlikely but possible. When there is extremely strong wind open the door with one hand, while holding it in its place with the other hand.
- Waterproof Clothing/Shoes: The title of one visitor review reads: 'We got soaked!'. The spray of the waterfall will get you wet. Even more when you get closer. Wearing waterproof shoes and a waterproof jacket is definitely a good idea if you want to get close to the falls.
- Ice: The base area and pathways can be icy in winter months. Be prepared for ice from November until April. It's possible to hop around on the rocks which are often ice free. However, in the coldest months, ice crampons are a good idea. At least wear shoes with good traction. The stairs leading up to the platform are usually ice free, because of the metal grate construction.
- Climb and Walk: See the 'How to Visit' Section for more details. Climb up the 400 stairs and then walk the path along the river. You'll not only get away from the crowds, but also discover many other smaller waterfalls along the way.
- Photos: The most difficult thing is to take photos without many others. During daytime there will be a lot of visitors walking in and out of your frame. Follow our tips above on how to avoid the crowds. Otherwise be careful of the spray, which can damage your camera. If you don't own a camera which is splash-proof you might want to use a waterproof case. Someone holding an umbrella is also helpful. Make sure to photograph from many perspective and angles: As close as possible and even as far as possible from a spot at the road.
- Camping: There is a wonderful camping site right at Skogafoss! There is a fee but it's very small. The spectacular sound coming from the waterfall when you wake up is and amazing experience.
- Entrance Fee: None. Free parking as well. Except the fee for using the restrooms.