Imagine an amphitheater of “organ pipes” carved out of a grass-topped lava field with a 20-metre waterfall plunging down its center into a roiling pool of green water.
It sounds impressive, but seeing is believing, so Leah and I navigated to Skaftafell, a nature preserve in southeast Iceland that belongs to Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland’s largest park with 18% of the island’s land mass, where Svartifoss is one of the featured attractions.
We arrived at the Visitor Center parking, and cursed the ATMs for making paying for parking so difficult. We hiked through the campground before arriving at the Visitor’s Center.
I was literally speechless. Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður? Really!? How could there possibly be a word with a V, a K, two Js, and a letter that’s stuck between a b and a p? And how about the pronunciation? And what does it even mean?
But there was no time for questions. We were there to hike, and there was a waterfall to explore.
We caught the trailhead past the same campground and began our ascent. The trail was wide and steep at the start. So much so, that metal mats filled with crushed stone lined the path to keep erosion at a minimum. We caught our first view looking east when we cleared the trees.
We continued above Gomlutun, across Estragil gulley on a footbridge, past two waterfalls (Hundafoss and Magnusarfoss),
until we reached the approach to Svartifoss.
My pulse quickened. I sensed this waterfall was special. I zoomed in until the falls filled my frame, and I lingered before I pressed the shutter.
I raced around the side of the canyon for another perspective…from the bottom.
Svartifoss translates to “Black Falls” and it lives up to its name,
as it showcases a splendid backdrop of charred columns of basalt.
Svartifoss was the inspiration behind Gudjon Samuelsson’s design of Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland’s celebrated cathedral in Reykjavik.
We were down the mountain and at the Land Cruiser after 2.0 hrs. in Skaftafell, which included our lunch at the overlook and a potty break.
It was time for more sightseeing down the road, and we were on a schedule!
But first, some unanswered questions:
- Apparently, Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður is a real Icelandic word,
- pronounced: https://forvo.com/word/vatnaj%C3%B6kuls%C3%BEj%C3%B3%C3%B0gar%C3%B0ur/
- and meaning “Glacier of Lakes” National Park
Water and Ice, Part Two follows…