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Gljúfrabúi Waterfall: A Hidden Gem Near Seljalandsfoss

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Every country has its little hidden secrets, and Gljúfrabúi waterfall is one of Iceland’s finest. Gljúfrabúi (also known as Gljúfrabúifoss) is a 40-metre high waterfall on Iceland’s south coast, not far from the incredibly popular Seljalandsfoss. While it may not be quite as famous as its nearby friend, that certainly doesn’t mean it is any less impressive.

Translated into English as “canyon dweller” or “dweller of the gorge”, Gljúfrabúi waterfall is a true beauty hidden away below steep cliffs. The waterfall cascades down into a little cave with light pouring in from above — a truly beautiful sight that is worth veering off the beaten path to see!

Here is everything you need to know about Gljúfrabúi waterall, including how to get there and what absolutely shouldn’t be missed.

Highlights

Gljúfrabúifoss is a waterfall that truly sneaks up on you, making it an incredible and unique sight. One of the highlights of your visit to the Gljúfrabúi waterfall will most certainly be your first glance of it, likely as you peek through the cliff that almost entirely covers its lower half.

Another highlight of your visit to Gljúfrabúi waterfall is that you can get much closer to it than you can with Iceland’s other, more popular waterfalls — including Seljalandsfoss. In fact, you could walk right under Gljúfrabúifoss! Do be careful if you decide to approach the falls, however, as the rocks can become very slippery.

Finally, you may even have the waterfall to yourself! While nearby Seljalandsfoss is typically very busy, especially during prime tourism season, Gljúfrabúifoss remains generally unknown and doesn’t attract anywhere near as many visitors.

Lowlights

When visiting most waterfalls, you can expect to get wet, and Gljúfrabúi waterfall is certainly no exception. Because you can walk right up to the falling waters of Gljúfrabúifoss, it is best to wear rubber boots and a rain jacket to protect yourself from the drizzle.

You may also find it a little difficult to take nice photos on your visit to Gljúfrabúi waterfall, as its location within a cave means there is little light during most of the day. The spray from the waterfall also makes it difficult get a snap of your visit. Test out some angles and artificial lighting to try and capture this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Gljufrabui waterfall is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland
Unlike most popular waterfalls in Iceland, you can walk right under Gljúfrabúifoss! Imagine the countless photo ops!

Gljúfrabúi waterfall: At a glance

  • In order to actually reach the waterfall, you must wade through the gorge in front of it. Crossing the water is generally easy, particularly in the colder months as there is normally less water in the river (due to it being frozen), but do be careful of slippery rocks.
  • You can also see Gljúfrabúi waterfall from above by climbing the path on the hillside beside it. You will have to hold on to a chain to get through some particularly steep parts, however. (If you’re afraid of heights, this probably isn’t the right route for you. Stick to the river — you’ll thank us later)
  • The cliff that partially covers the Gljúfrabúi waterfall is called Franskanef, which translates to “the French nose”.
  • Gljúfrabúifoss falls from the same cliff as Seljalandsfoss.

Even if you choose to hike to the top of Gljúfrabúifoss, your visit shouldn’t take too long. Many visitors to the falls pack in an extra activity after their visit, such as glacier walking at the nearby Solheimajokull glacier.

How to spend a day at Gljúfrabúi waterfall

Leaving Reykjavik, head towards the South Coast along Iceland’s Ring Road. Because you will pass Seljalandsfoss on your way to Gljúfrabúifoss, it is well worth your while to make a quick stopover at the more visible, more well-known waterfall as well. Be sure to check out our guide on Seljalandsfoss to find out how to best spend your time there.

The easiest way to reach Gljufrabuifoss is via the path at Seljalandsfoss. Cross the bridge beneath Seljalandsfoss and you will find a path creeping along the cliff. As you walk, you will see several small falls tumbling down from the hills above. Just a few minutes later (it is not a long walk) you will happily stumble across Gljúfrabúifoss, peaking out at you from its hiding spot behind the cliff!

Get ready to enter the wet, muggy cave where you’ll find the base of the Gljúfrabúi waterfall. While it may be narrow, the entrance to the cave in the cliff’s surface should be very obvious as you approach the falls. You will have to walk through the water below in order to get up close and personal with Gljúfrabúifoss.

If you want to see even more of Gljúfrabúifoss, leave the cave and climb the narrow path up the cliff. From there, you can see the cascading falls from above!

Still haven’t had enough waterfalls for the day? Head back to Route 1 and drive another 25 minutes to see Skogafoss, another popular waterfall in Iceland. If you’re tired of waterfalls and want to see something else, go to Thórsmörk and check out some famous hiking trails and natural beauty. It is just another hour’s drive along Road 249 (Thórsmerkurvegur).

A pink sunset from behind Seljalandsfoss
An evening sky as seen from behind Seljalandsfoss.

How to get to Gljúfrabúi waterfall

While Gljúfrabúi waterfall may be well hidden, it is fortunately less than a kilometer away from the more popular Seljalandsfoss, so finding and accessing the falls is relatively easy. Drive for about 1.5 hours along Route 1 (Iceland’s Ring Road) before turning left at the intersection for Road 249. Seljalandsfoss will be well marked and easily visible from the road, while Gljúfrabúifoss will be visible on your right-hand side just a couple of minutes later. Rather than driving to the falls, however, we recommend walking there via the path from Seljalandsfoss. 

Check out more self-drive tours on the Ring Road to explore the unspoilt beauty of Iceland.

A visit to Gljufrabui waterfall may not be particularly easy, but that certainly does not mean it’s not worth a visit! The magical views that await you after you make your way into the cave surrounding Gljúfrabúifoss will leave you wondering why the site isn’t more popular — and why you waited so long to visit beautiful Iceland. 

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