Iceland is heaven for waterfall lovers. The country boasts over 10,000 waterfalls, and many are popular natural attractions (Gullfoss, Goðafoss, and Dettifoss just to name a few). However, of the 10,000+ waterfalls, nothing compares to the northern waterfall, Aldeyjarfoss. I stumbled upon this waterfall on the Internet while planning a trip to Iceland this past fall and as soon as I saw a photo of this small, but mighty waterfall, I was in love. I told my husband that we HAD TO see it NO MATTER what (it’s a good thing my husband is an easy going guy)!
With that, I began my quest of figuring out how to get there. Aldeyjarfoss is located in the northern part of Iceland’s highlands on the Skjálfandafljót River. Through research, I found that the only way to get there is by driving 40 kilometers on a dirt road (Road 842) through the Bárðardalur Valley, with the last few kilometers being an F road (a mountain road that requires a 4×4 vehicle). When I saw an F road was a part of the journey, my heart sank. We rented a FWD Toyota Aygo for the trip as a way to save money and as functional as that car is, there was no way it would be able to handle a rough road. Plus, only 4×4 vehicles are allowed on F roads so even if we’d been silly enough to try, it was not possible. So that begged the question: how would we be able to get there now? Thankfully, the F road portion is only three kilometers (1.8 miles), which we figured we were fit enough to walk. So, we decided we would drive the car to the beginning of the F road and then walk the remainder of the way to the waterfall.
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Side note: Prior to our excursion to Aldeyjarfoss, we decided to visit Dettifoss, the mightiest waterfall in Europe. We took Road 864, which is not an F road, to get there. And oh, that dirt road was in horrible condition. There were potholes everywhere, and we were frustrated, which led to some memorable husband and wife moments…or fights (anyone else had similar experiences on vacation, or are we alone?). With this experience in mind, we were concerned about the condition of the road on the way to Aldeyjarfoss. But, we decided the risk was worth it.
To our surprise, the dirt road to Aldeyjarfoss was very well maintained. There were few to zero potholes, and in my opinion, any car would easily be able to drive on that road. While traveling the road, we passed very few cars, so it was really easy to pull over if you spotted something that interested you. After driving for about an hour (give or take 10 minutes), we arrived at the beginning of the F road. The first kilometer or so actually didn’t look that bad. So, we decided to be rebels and take our little Aygo on the F road. We had no problems in this first part, but after you cross the bridge, the road looks pretty rough. We ended up parking next to an informational sign describing the F road. From there it was about a 2.5 kilometer walk, and it wasn’t too bad. There is some uphill and downhill parts, and it took us about 35 minutes to walk.
If you do choose to drive all the way to the waterfall, there is a parking area with some outhouses (beware: the outhouses smell HORRIBLE, but when you gotta go…you gotta go). From the parking lot, there is a steep, rocky trail leading to Aldeyjarfoss. The trail leads to a rocky, open area with a great view of the waterfall. Unlike other Icelandic waterfalls, there were very few people there (I think there were five or six), which added to the uniqueness of the area. Only one word can be used to describe the scene when you first see the waterfall: breathtaking. You hear the mighty roar of Aldeyjarfoss despite it being only 20 meters (66 feet) tall. You see the basalt columns that frame the waterfall and the river behind it (similar to the famous Svartifoss in Skaftafell). To top it all off, the water is unbelievably blue, just like the water at so many other waterfalls in Iceland.
Taking in this scene, I could not help but marvel at the beauty of our Earth. Nothing compares to the beauty that is so evident in nature. While looking at pictures of Iceland online, I thought the nature looked other worldly and that it would not be as beautiful as my home, Michigan, USA. That day gazing at Aldeyjarfoss, I realized how wrong I was. Michigan is not more beautiful than Iceland, and Iceland is not more beautiful than Michigan. Each place has a beauty that is so unique to that location and nothing can compare to it. Comparing the beauty of two places is like comparing apples to oranges, it simply does not work. With that realization, I took my time soaking in all that was around me.
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My husband and I decided to walk down the trail following the river behind the waterfall to get a better look at the basalt columns upper river. As we followed the trail, it seemed like the water got even bluer and the river rockier. Due to time and hunger, we turned around and headed back to our car. As we were driving back to our campsite, I felt grateful for my new realization. I hope that one day my husband and I can take our future kids to that same waterfall and that they will be able to experience nature like I did.