Kvernufoss is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland — in fact, it’s my personal favorite waterfall in Iceland! This 30-meter waterfall is absolutely stunning, with a unique cave behind it, and it’s conveniently located along “waterfall alley” in one of the busiest parts of South Iceland.
Yet Even so, Kvernufoss is something of a hidden waterfall and doesn’t get nearly as many visitors as its neighbors. Here you can have an airy, calm experience without the pulsating crowds from tour buses.
After visiting more than 25 waterfalls on my road trip around the Ring Road in Iceland, Kvernufoss is my favorite. It takes a lot to take that top spot when you consider all the competition.
Let me share with you everything that makes Kvernufoss amazing — because I really love this place! It’s without a doubt a hidden gem of Iceland.
What Makes Kvernufoss Special?
Probably the most special thing about Kvernufoss Waterfall is that you can walk behind it! There’s a walking path leading you around the side of the waterfall, getting you pretty wet in the process, and it takes you to a surprisingly large cave behind the falling water.
My other favorite thing about Kvernufoss is that it isn’t nearly as crowded as other popular waterfalls on the South Coast of Iceland. I visited the waterfall with my friend Amanda, and we saw maybe around 30 people altogether on the hiking path and at the falls. We even got the cave behind the waterfall to ourselves for 10 minutes, which was amazing for photos!
Kvernufoss is a world away from Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, two of the most popular waterfalls in the country. You have to shuffle through a long line to walk behind Seljalandsfoss; Skógafoss’s parking lot is full of buses.
But bus tours don’t come to Kvernufoss, so it’s spared the worst of Iceland’s mass tourism. Why don’t they come here when Skógafoss is next door? I’m not sure, but I think one reason is that the hike is 20 minutes each way (bus tours like to go places they can get in and out quickly), and another is that you need to climb a stile (a little ladder that goes over a fence).
For the record, I find that the single best way to enjoy less crowded places in Iceland is to simply go where buses don’t go. Fjallsarlon, Tröllaskagi, Gluggafoss, and Kolugljúfur Canyon are four of those. Add Kvernufoss to that list!
And finally, Kvernufoss is a truly beautiful waterfall. A short hike leads you to a mossy gorge, the canyon filled with mist and covered with lush greenery, the water falling in gentle streaks. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a rainbow.
Between the lush beauty and the off-the-beaten-path feel, Kvernufoss is a winner. I loved it so much!
Yes, buses stop in Skógar at the campsite, which is a 1.8 km or 20-minute walk from the Kvernufoss trailhead.
Kvernufoss is right off the Ring Road, next to the Skógar Museum and just east of the famous waterfall Skógafoss.
Kvernufoss is free to visit, but parking costs 500 ISK ($3.50 USD), which you pay online through the Parka app.
Visiting Kvernufoss requires climbing a stile over a fence, which unfortunately keeps it inaccessible to many. If you have mobility challenges, I recommend visiting nearby Skógafoss waterfall instead, which has a flat pathway from the parking lot.
Yes, there is a bathroom in the Skógar Museum, which is next to the Kvernufoss parking lot. It’s free if you pay for parking. This is the only spot for trash cans, too.
How to Get to Kvernufoss Waterfall
You can get to Kvernufoss three ways: driving, taking public transportation, or taking a guided tour from Reykjavík.
How to get to Kvernufoss by driving: The trailhead to Kvernufoss is next to the Skógar Museum; right off the Ring Road. There is a parking area specifically for Kvernufoss that charges 500 ISK ($3.50 USD) for parking, which you can pay via Parka.is or the Parka app.
I strongly recommend downloading the Parka app before your trip, as Parka.is is a buggy site on mobile. If you select English, they automatically send you back to the site’s homepage, making you go around in circles.
How to get to Kvernufoss by public transportation: There is a bus from Reykjavík to Skógar that stops at Skógar Campsite, just off the main road and close to Skógafoss waterfall. From here it’s walking distance to the Kvernufoss trailhead: 1.8 km, or about a 20-minute walk.
How to take a day tour to Kvernufoss from Reykjavík: Finally, is it possible to see Kvernufoss on a day tour from Reykjavík? Yes! I could find only one tour that does it — but you see six waterfalls in a single day on this tour, including some offbeat ones.
From the trailhead you begin the short hike to Kvernufoss: it’s about a 15-20 minute walk each way, depending on how fast you walk.
The hiking trail is almost entirely flat until you get closer to the waterfall, at which time you take a short but steep hill into the canyon. Here the falls are first revealed to you.
Because part of this land is on private property, there’s a stile that you must cross. It’s a small metal ladder that takes you up and over the fence. It’s a bit awkward getting up and down, and unfortunately this is a barrier for people with mobility challenges. There is no other way around it; you must climb it.
From here, you follow a mostly flat path until you hit the River Kverna. A short climb up a hill will deliver your first glimpse of the waterfall.
From then, the time is yours. Have a seat on the grass and take in the view. Photograph it from every angle. Get up close and enjoy the spray on your face.
Then it’s time to go behind it!
Going Behind Kvernufoss Waterfall
The best part of Kvernufoss is going behind the waterfall! This part of the hike is on uneven rocky terrain. It’s an out-and-back hike — you enter and exit the same way (unlike Seljalandsfoss, where you go in one direction and out the other).
You will definitely get wet on your way behind Kvernufoss, but once you’re behind the waterfall, it’s actually pretty dry. There’s a lot of space in the cave it’s surprisingly cozy. You can even take out your nice camera here.
Honestly, if I were bringing a picnic with me, I would eat it back here. You can’t get a cooler location!
Photography-wise, you will need to have a wide angle lens — the wider, the better — to shoot behind the waterfall. This is the only way you’ll be able to capture the entire cave opening, as you can see in the photo below.
We used our iPhones for the super-wide shots, as we did throughout the whole trip. They came out pretty well!
How Much Time to Spend at Kvernufoss
I recommend planning to spend about an hour at Kvernufoss — 15-20 minutes to walk it, and at least 20 minutes to enjoy it. If you’re a photographer, you know you’ll need more time, so plan for that!
Once the other visitors left, Amanda and I were the only people behind the waterfall, so we spent around 15 minutes just shooting photos and videos! (Of course I had to get a video of my troll dance!)
I recommend getting photos of you silhouetted by the waterfall. It’s an angle that works well.
Kvernufoss in Winter
While I visited Kvernufoss in August, you can definitely visit Kvernufoss during the coldest months of the year. However, the trail freezes over in winter, so this should only be undertaken if you have appropriate winter hiking gear, including crampons.
It’s not safe to walk behind the waterfall in snow — there’s too much ice covering the rocky terrain, and those icicles above could easily fall and impale you. Please do not test this. It’s not worth it.
Respect Kvernufoss, whether you visit in the summer months or the winter months, and don’t risk your health.
Where to Eat Near Kvernufoss
I highly recommend the cafe in the Skógar Museum. Amanda and I grabbed lunch here after visiting Kvernufoss and we were delighted by how the cafe was covered in (fake) flowers! It was almost like a Kardashian wedding.
As usual, we ordered two of the cheaper items on the menu — a fully loaded hot dog and a bowl of vegan mushroom soup with homemade bread — and enjoyed them both. They also have some very cute cakes and pastries if you want a sweet treat.
There is a bathroom in the lobby of the museum, which is free to use if you’re a museum or cafe customer or if you paid for Kvernufoss parking.
Where to Stay Near Kvernufoss
Kvernufoss is located in Skógar, a very small town about two hours from Reykjavík and a 30-minute drive from Vík. You can stay in Skógar overnight if you’d like, but I actually recommend you stay in Vík instead as it’s a good base with lots of hotels and restaurants.
A lot of tours leave from Vík, like Katla Ice Cave (a unique ice cave you can even visit in the summer!), plus you have Reynisfjara Beach, the most famous black sand beach of Iceland!
Top-Rated Luxury Hotel in Vík: Hótel Kría — Incredible modern look, clean minimalist rooms, and superb mountain views.
Top-Rated Mid-Range Hotel in Vík: Puffin Hotel — A decent sized hotel close to town with comfortable beds and a nice breakfast. I stayed here on my trip and would definitely stay here again.
Top-Rated Budget Hotel in Vík: Guesthouse Carina — Very simple rooms in a big guesthouse with sweeping views over Vík town.
Top-Rated Hostel in Vík: The Barn — Modern and sexy, with comfy beds, a bar, and both dorms and private rooms.
Don’t Forget Your Waterproof Gear!
Yes, you absolutely need head-to-toe waterproof gear in Iceland, no matter what time of year you’re visiting. You’ll get wet going behind Kvernufoss, and absolutely drenched going behind Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi.
I saw a family walk behind Kvernufoss wearing jeans and hoodies (you can make them out in a few photos above) and it pained me to see them all come out with water-spattered sweatshirts. Definitely not comfortable on a road trip.
At the bare minimum, I recommend a rain jacket with a hood to wear on top of your warm jacket; rain pants to wear on top of your hiking pants or leggings, and waterproof boots. I wore Hunter wellies and they were wonderfully waterproof, even walking through the river at Gljúfrabúi with them, but next time I want to get good hiking shoes that are also waterproof. I have my eye on these Merrell waterproof hiking boots.
You may want a waterproof camera sleeve for your camera. I didn’t bring one and kept my camera under my raincoat when I went under the waterfall, but if that freaks you out, serious photographers, get the sleeve!
More Cool Spots on the South Coast Iceland
The South Coast is one of my favorite parts of Iceland — it’s filled with so many incredible treasures! It’s also my top recommended day trip from Reykjavík. (This day trip is a good one, though keep in mind there’s no Kvernufoss as tours tend not to go there.)
The South Coast is rich in waterfalls, and you must visit Skógafoss with its tall, wide waterfall (after all, it’s practically next door to Kvernufoss). Also nearby are Seljalandsfoss, which you can also walk behind, and Gljúfrabúi, a waterfall in a cave that will get you so wet!
While these three waterfalls are very popular with bus tours, just down the road is less-visited Gluggafoss, where you can walk behind the lower tier falls and have a little cozy nook to yourself.
Vík, of course, has its famous black beach, Dyrhólaey viewpoint, and access to Katla Ice Cave.
And if you’re up for something offbeat and awesome, I highly recommend spending the night on the Westman Islands, which are a 35-minute ferry ride from the South Coast.
Is Kvernufoss Worth It?
Absolutely! Kvernufoss is my favorite waterfall in Iceland; of course it’s worth it! If you’re low on time as you explore the South Coast, I still recommend making Kvernufoss your top priority.
Invest your time here. You can still visit Skógafoss, but that one is easier to run up to, take a photo, and leave. Kvernufoss is the one where you’ll be glad you spent the extra time.
I hope Kvernufoss will become one of your favorite waterfalls, too.
More on Iceland:
- 35 Awesome Things to do in Reykjavík, Iceland
- Things to Know Before You Visit the Blue Lagoon, Iceland
- Why Iceland is Great for First-Time Solo Female Travelers
- A Look Inside the Sky Lagoon, Iceland
- Sail Through the Sky with FlyOver Iceland
- Snorkeling Silfra: The Cold Neon Waters of Iceland
Have you been to Kvernufoss? Any tips for visiting?