The name of this country suggests it’s chilly and icy. But instead Iceland appeared to me as astonishing place in the middle of nowhere with absolutely fantastic colours of nature. Yes, sometimes wet. Ask ordinary islander what does he think about his country and he will definilely reply that he loves Iceland and its nature, but not weather. In summer icy face of this island melts and showers on visitors with unexpected rain sometimes, but most often with its breathtaking waterfalls.
For finding waterfalls you just need to follow signs ”foss”, which in Icelandic language means a falling stream. Here every waterfall’s name ends with ”foss’, so you will not mix it with glacier (”jokull”) or lake (”vatn”). No wonder why icelanders still believe in spirits and trolls – standing near loud and massive portion of water rushing down with grand speed you can only think about how miniature you are in a scale of nature. And not surprising that the most common words people normally say near Icelandic waterfalls are ”Oh my God!” These what I said near Godafoss – a first stream which impressed me much. By the way, it was the most connected to gods – it translated as a waterfall of the gods. The name comes from 1000 AD, when the country converted its religion from paganism to Christianity. As Vladimir the Great, a prince of Kievan Rus, threw all pagan idols into the river Dnipro in 10th century, Icelandic lawspeaker with unpronounced name Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði did the same but with Godafoss. And after more than 1000 years the stream that falls from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters still keeps its name and makes everyone admire.
My next admiration catched me near the most powerful waterfall in Europe called Dettifoss. I guess not only me, but also well-known director Ridley Scott, who filmed it as a starting point for birth of organisms in his movie Prometheus. Do you remember the episode in the beginning of the film when some scary alien jumps into the massive waterfall? Its grey and frightening waters belong to 100 m wide Dettifoss. We were also those filming this wet monster in the episode of Traveline about Iceland. Just imagine that 193 m3 of water flow every second from the 45 m height to the bottom of Jökulsárgljúfur canyon!
But even more impressing is that you can come very close to the edge. And to stand near river, which in few centimetres will fall down with incredible speed, is surprisingly not scary, and you can even touch the water. For me it was quite a meditative scene to watch how it works: the totally grey dirty water runs to the grey abyss, surrounded by grey rocks. Only fresh-green grass and hundreds of tourists bring you to reality and to this Earth, because surroundings remind some other planet.
To avoid crowds of people you can do what my filming crew did – come a bit further up the current by foot. And there will be another amazing waterfall, worth of a hike. It’s less popular, cos it is far from the road, unlike Dettifoss. But Selfoss is much wider and personally for me – more spectacular. It may look like a cascade, formed by several waterfalls, but in reality this is only one. Just like its famous ”brother”, Selfoss’s also situated on the same river with difficult name Jökulsá á Fjöllum, which takes its waters from the biggest glacier of Iceland.
It is difficult to say which one is my favourite Icelandic waterfall, but Svartifoss is one on my priority list. It is much smaller compared to previously mentioned, but it has unbelievable natural decoration, which reminds me of bee’s cells and a pipe organ due to its hexagonal columns. Actually they made a base of the main Icelandic church in Reykjavik, as their shape inspired local architect. And so now in the centre of island’s capital stands lordly and grey Hallgrimskirkja church, just like a Svartifoss, but without water. The name of this magical waterfall means Black Fall, reffering to lava columns. But everything around it is coloured in green and white due to rich vegetation and great layer of Vatnajokull glacier.
When you drive on the National road number1 in the south of the island you will not miss Skogafoss, as it is just impossible to miss this gigantic stream and lush vapor, seen from far away. Literally ”forest fall” is surrounded by light-green vegetation – this colour I saw only in Iceland and nowhere else! Skogafoss rizes to 60 metres hight, which makes it one of the biggest in Iceland. In the past this part of land was under the water, so the waterfall was actually a sea cliff. But when the coastline had receded seaward, melted waters from nearby glaciers had found their way to the Atlantic ocean in this place. By the way, one of such glaciers (Eyjafjallajokull) not long ago gave not only water, but lava during scandal recent eruption.
They say that you can spot a rainbow here almost everytime during sunny days. But I was lucky to see double rainbow, even to walk on it just like in some kind of fairytale. But in cartoons they never warn you what will be after walking on a rainbow. The lesson I gain myself after trying – you will be totally wet!
Another place with incrediable rainbows is Gullfoss (= Golden Falls). Being part of so-called Golden Circle, it makes a great stop on the way to valley of geysers and National park Thingvellir. The most full-flowing waterfall of the country is reachable by car from towns Selfoss or Reykjavik. When I saw it first, I was sure that this is a place where tecktonical plates separate and open their lips just like some starving mouth. Tricky river Hvita flows sharply down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” of a canyon, so it reminds that river simply vanishes into the earth.
But when you come closer to another viewpoint (luckily there are several) the trick will be solved. This is not a crack in the Earth, but the way river turns and hides after the cascade. In Iceland I realized the nature is the most talanted and intelligent magician. It can create such masterpieces that near them everyone feels imperfect.