This often overlooked waterfall in Iceland is the most voluminous waterfall in the entire country! While it doesn’t offer the drama of many other falls across the country, it is a great place for a stop, a small hike, and to take in the morning sun.
For visitors in the summer, the location is a popular salmon fishing spot. Other times of the year, it’s just a scenic stop on the never-ending “full of wonders” Route 1 that encircles the island.
Need to Know
Heading East/Southeast on Route 1 from Selfoss the exit is on the right-hand side. Only about a mile back you will find the parking lot and walkways that surround the area. The lot was not busy in early October, in the morning, but because of the popularity of these locations on Route 1 I imagine it picks up in groups towards the afternoon.
Wear shoes that have good traction – depending on the year, you can have ice (like I did) or just wet and muddy trails.
Bundle up – As with all of Iceland, layers, and water proofing/resistance are vital to stay happy.
Accessibility – This is one of the more accessible Icelandic waterfalls with many ramps versus steps to see the falls and enjoy them. Keep in mind the trails are a little rocky, so wheelchairs may have a harder time, but should still be accessible even in rainy weather.
A Little History and Future
Somehow, this is the mighty waterfall that has escaped hydroelectric development. In 1927, the government approved a plan to develop the area for a hydropower plant, but it didn’t happen. Meaning the area is still in its pristine natural state!
However, as of 2021 there are plans to set up a hydro plant underground that would greatly alter the natural flow and beauty of the area. Part of the reason I stopped was to see it before this potentially takes place. Residents of the region have protested this change and it will be something I follow.
Why You Should Go
As mentioned, this waterfall may be permanently altered if the hydro plant goes forward, creating a loss for sightseers, fishers, and the community at large. I do believe that if enough people care for its natural beauty, this can create more pressure to preserve it.
In addition to tourism pressure, it truly is a beautiful site – a mighty power of nature cutting through the landscape. Sheep grave on the hillsides, the mist is almost magical, the light in the early part of the day is stunning. Since there are less people around, one can also fully enjoy the spot in solitude and reflection. I don’t know about you, but I often find an almost religious experience in nature, and Urridafoss does not disappoint.
Barely a hike, this .1 mile walkway allows you to enjoy the location from various angles. Obviously, it can be wey, muddy, and icy (see above) but it’s worth a fun little trek. All Trails has a good summary on what to expect.
All around, add this little pit stop to your journey, if nothing else, but to stretch your legs and sit in peace with nature – you won’t regret it. 🙂