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Three Waterfalls of Southern Iceland

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“Don’t go chasing waterfalls”. Words of advice from TLC, the greatest American girl group of the 1990s. No doubt it’s a catchy refrain, but what a terrible message! Why should three women who achieved their own dreams dissuade their fans from “chasing waterfalls”? To stick to the rivers that they’re used to? I suspect T-Boz and co. were trying to nip future competition in the bud. And it’s not just bad advice on a metaphorical level. As we’ve discovered in Iceland, waterfall-chasing can be very rewarding indeed.

Svartifoss Travel
Svartifoss

We read that the Hallgrímskirkja had been inspired by Iceland’s geography, but until gazing upon Svartifoss, we didn’t understand how literal the inspiration had been. The church’s architect reversed the color scheme from black to white, but otherwise Mother Nature has a solid case for copyright infringement.

The “Black Falls” are found in the Skaftafell National Park. The park itself is one of these massive Icelandic places where you could hike for days through valleys and across glaciers without seeing another soul. So it’s merciful that the park’s best waterfall is just a couple kilometers from the entrance. Svartifoss isn’t especially powerful but, with a backdrop of pitch-black basalt columns arranged behind the water like a curtain, it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Skógarfoss Iceland Photos
Skógarfoss

A rectangular sheet of water which falls straight down for 60 meters and produces an awe-inspiring splash, Skógarfoss might be the most classic “waterfall” we’ve ever seen. Most waterfalls are like, you tell a group of five-year-olds to draw a circle, and their sketches are basically correct, definitely “circles” in the general sense of the word. But then little Julie turns in this absolutely perfect circle, and you’re vaguely unsettled. Skógarfoss is like that. Almost creepy in its perfection, just like that weird little Julie.

Waterfall Panorama
Seljalandsfoss

Even more impressive than Skógarfoss or Svartifoss, is Seljalandsfoss, found just twenty minutes west of Skógar. This massive cascade is visible from the ring road, not far off from Reykjavík, so it’s a sure bet that every single tour bus will be making a stop. The first time we visited was at the end of a very long day tour, when our guide gave us all of fifteen minutes to fight past the other groups and briefly bask in the waterfall’s glory.

The second time was a lot more fun. We had our own transport, were with friends, and arrived at around 10pm. The hour was late, but the Icelandic summer sun was still out, and we had the entire waterfall to ourselves. Seljalandsfoss is incredibly loud and drops directly into a deep pool, producing a thick sheet of spray. But the best part is the path which loops around behind the waterfall, allowing you to view it from every angle.

Locations on Our Map: Svartifoss | Skógarfoss | Seljalandsfoss

We visited these waterfalls as part of the Glacier Lagoon Tour and one by renting a car from SADcars

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Svartifoss
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Basalt Columns Svartifoss
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August 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm Comments (6)

A View of Reykjavík from the Hallgrímskirkja

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A light-gray concrete space shuttle pointed to the stars, the Hallgrímskirkja is Reykjavík’s most instantly recognizable landmark. Set atop a hill, the Lutheran church is visible from miles away, and its tower offers one of the best views of the city.

Church Blog Iceland

Construction began on the “Church of Hallgrímur” in 1945, just after Iceland won its independence, but the fledgling country had to wait for 41 years before their new place of worship was ready for business. The architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, took his sweet time, but the result was worth it. Geography is an important part of Icelandic identity, and the Hallgrímskirkja is meant to resemble a volcano, with walls that are modeled on the hexagonal basalt columns formed by cooling lava.

Outside the church is a heroic statue of Leif Eriksson, who landed on the coast of Newfoundland around the year 1000 and became the first European on North American shores, half a millennium ahead of Columbus. The statue was a gift from the USA in celebration of the 1000th anniversary of Iceland’s parliament, the Alþing. The placement of a Viking statue in front of a church might seem strange, but in fact makes sense. Leif was among Iceland’s first Christians, having willingly converted in the year 1000. And it was during a mission to proselytize the new religion that he accidentally discovered North America.

The church is named for Hallgrímur Pétursson, a 17th-century reverend and Iceland’s most noted hymnist. Surely, he would have been proud to see the gigantic organ inside the church which bears his name. Standing at 50 feet, with over 5000 pipes, it’s the church’s only real interior feature, and lures the world’s most accomplished organists to Reykjavík for special concerts throughout summer.

But the best reason to visit the Hallgrímskirkja is for the incredible view over Reykjavík. An elevator takes you straight to the top of the tower, where you can enjoy a 360° panorama. Reykjavík might not be particularly impressive in size, but it is quite beautiful. From the tower, the colorful houses look particularly quaint against the majestic backdrop of mountains and ocean.

Location of the Hallgrímskirkja

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Hallgrímskirkja From Above
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Hallgrímskirkja Stained Glass
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July 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm Comments (4)
Three Waterfalls of Southern Iceland "Don't go chasing waterfalls". Words of advice from TLC, the greatest American girl group of the 1990s. No doubt it's a catchy refrain, but what a terrible message! Why should three women who achieved their own dreams dissuade their fans from "chasing waterfalls"? To stick to the rivers that they're used to? I suspect T-Boz and co. were trying to nip future competition in the bud. And it's not just bad advice on a metaphorical level. As we've discovered in Iceland, waterfall-chasing can be very rewarding indeed.
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