Stuðlafoss, or the Basalt Column Waterfall, is a beautiful waterfall in the eastern region of Iceland. Interestingly, it is similar to the famous Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell National Park, except the basalt stacks are in reverse. Stuðlafoss resembles steps, whereas the stacks in Svartifoss are on top of each other, leaning forward. But like Svartifoss, the volume of water is low and mostly from small streams originating from the morse above. The surrounding area and background of the waterfall are stunning. Interesting moss that lives and grows inside the waterfall can also be found at Stuðlafoss. The regularity and size of the basalt column, fascinating vegetation, and pile of rocks in the foreground are all factors that contribute to the uniqueness of this magnificent waterfall.
Should this waterfall be on your list?
If you are traveling along the Ring Road in Iceland or creating a list of things to do in the country, Stuðlafoss is definitely a place you should visit, especially if you plan to go to the Stuðlagil canyon. As I recommend in my article about Stuðlagil, you should hike along the east side of the Jökulá river to get to the Stuðlafoss waterfall. It is one of the hidden gems of the Icelandic landscape and was, for a long time, a secret place known only to the local outdoor enthusiasts. Although it is possible to see Stuðlafoss from Road 923 on the west side of the river Jökla, this natural wonder is best viewed up close, especially if you are a photographer. Like Stuðlagil canyon, this is a place that you should visit between early June and October. It is by no means enjoyable to visit in April or May—everything, including the path, is muddy, colorless, and difficult to traverse, which is not a very interesting experience. At that time, the melting water contributes to the flow at this time of year, causing the volume to increase substantially; sometimes, farmers at Klaustursel even have to deal with their reindeers falling down the waterfall after drowning in the river! In spring, Mother Nature isn’t always in her best dress and is a bit moody after the cold winter.
How to get to Stuðlafoss
After turning south on Ring Road 1, close to Skjöldólfsstaðir on Road 923, drive for about 14 kilometers to Klaustursel Farm. The journey is basically a 28-kilometer loop back and forth from the main road. Once you reach the farm, you will find a new bridge on the river Jökla. There is a parking lot to the west of the bridge; you can park here if you’d like to hike on the other side. After crossing the bridge to the east riverbank, hike down the path for about two kilometers to reach Stuðlafosss. You can also cross the bridge in your car and drive down the narrow dirt road to the waterfall, where the farmers have built a new parking lot. Either way, you can go a bit farther to see Stuðlagil, the magnificent basalt column canyon I introduced and named in 2016, which is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland.