Svartifoss – Iceland - Atlas Obscura

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The unique waterfall in Iceland's south features a backdrop of geometric black lava columns. 


On paper, the Svartifoss Waterfall is nothing to write home about. It doesn’t enter the top 10 lists for size or volume, and it’s quietly tucked in a small national park in southern Iceland. But a picture is worth 1,000 words, and the black, hexagonal columns that frame the thin falls make it one of the most striking and unique waterfalls in the world.

Formed from lava flows in Skaftafell National Park, the Svartifoss are situated along a beautifully marked track a few kilometers into the park. Over centuries, lava flows cooled at a languid pace in Iceland’s frosty air, gently forming the stacked hexagonal crystals that provide the backdrop for the falls. Turned to a striking black color over its creation, the cliffs contrast with the green flora and cascading falls and provide the site with its name.

Although the falls are so beautiful you might be tempted to step in for a dip, it is far from recommended as the bottom of the falls are covered with sharp rocks. Instead, visitors should hike through the park to the falls, which were recently featured in the Bon Iver film clip, Holocene.

Know Before You Go

There is a marked track from Skaftafell National Park to lead you to Svartifoss

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