Location: 65.366461, -17.336941
Height: 66 ft / 20 m
Just downstream from Goðafoss, you can find Aldeyjarfoss. Aldeyjarfoss is a small waterfall with a single drop for 66 ft. What it lakes in height, it makes up for in beauty. Similar to Svartifoss, Aldeyjarfoss is surrounded by an amphitheater of basalt columns.
These basalt columns are formed from the rapid cooling and contracting of lava. The lava that creates these formations has high concentrations of iron and magnesium, which helps accelerate the cooling process. The basalt columns also have an extra feature called columnar jointing, which gives the basalt columns surrounding Aldeyjarfoss their hexagonal shape.
The name Aldeyjarfoss is enough to give any native English speaker trouble, but the name does mean “Aldey Island Fall.” Perhaps this is a connection to Eldey Island, a small outcropping ten nautical miles of the Reykanes Pennisula. This tiny island was the last known breeding ground for the Great Auk. While Aldeyjarfoss and Eldey are very different, Aldeyjarfoss is also a breeding ground for birds, specifically geese, and falcons.
No only is Aldeyjarfoss known for its geoligocial beauty, but also its turbulent waters. Aldeyjarfoss is formed from the Skjálfandafljót spilling into what has been described as a cauldron. This has attracted many photographers, but also thrill-seeking kayakers.
Aldeyjarfoss was once the location for the Guinness World record of the highest free fall in a kayak. In 1996, Shaun Baker became the first to set this record on Aldeyjarfoss.
Now many kayakers have gone over much higher waterfalls but Aldeyjarfoss is still a dangerous waterfall. Only a few brave souls have attempted these turbulent waters, and many have left with broken bones.
So even though it’s overshadowed by Goðafoss, Aldeyjarfoss is well known and fearfully respected in the kayaking community.
Length: 1.4 mi / 2.25 km
Elevation gain: 239 ft / 73 m
Route Type: Out & back
The hike to view Aldeyjarfoss takes only around 10 minutes or less. AllTrails has it listed at a 1.4 mi hike, including another waterfall called Ingvararfoss. It is classified as an “out & back” trail but follows a thin loop.
On your way to the waterfalls, you will be walking through the ancient Bárðardalshraun lava field and alongside the Skjálfandafljót river. The hike is relatively easy but holds very high reviews for those who have seen its beauty.
The road to access the trailhead does become an F-road, which means you will need a 4×4. It is possible to start your hike at the beginning of the F-road instead. Because it is in F-road and the Northeastern Region, this road is only accessible in the Summer months.
Viewable from Road?: No
Nearest Major Town or City: Akureyri
Distance from Reykjavík: 287 mi / 462 km
It should be noted that Aldeyjarfoss is in a pretty remote area of Iceland. It is only a little over an hour from Akureyri, “the capital of the north.”, but it is a 6 hr drive from Reykjavík. Most of the trip will take place on the Ring Road, Route 1, but then turn onto Bárðardalsvegur Eystri, Route 842. As mentioned above, you will need a 4×4 vehicle to access Aldeyjarfoss. Route 842 becomes F26 and is only open during the summer months.
While the North part of Iceland can be a challenge to access, it does offer some of the most incredible views. Plus, it’s possible to see Goðafoss, Ullarfoss, Aldeyjarfoss, and Ingvararfoss in a single trip. You could also include Barnafoss and Hrafnabjargafoss, a bit further south of the Skjálfandafljót River.