Glymur is the second tallest waterfall in Iceland. It stands at a staggering 650 ft (198 m). It held the title as the tallest waterfall in Iceland until 2011. Morsárfoss officially surpassed Glymur once the fall was finally measured after being discovered in 2007. Glymur is a name from a similar Icelandic word, glymja, which means boom, rumble, resound, or echo. It’s a fitting name considering how the water crashes down from the fall’s impressive height. While only being the second tallest waterfall in Iceland, it is still one of the most impressive waterfalls that you can see. Glymur does require a hike to reach. Still, it is far more accessible than its taller cousin.
Glymur finds it’s water source from the Botnsá river, which runs from the Hvalvatn lake. The lake rests at 1,240 ft above sea level and is 591 ft deep. The Botnsá river also carves out a deep canyon filled with vivid green moss and nesting birds on the cliff-sides. With the jagged rocks, lush greenery, and creatures flying in the canyon, Glymur is often described looking like a scene from Jurassic Park.
Like much of Iceland’s history, Glymur is tied into folklore and legend. There are different versions of the story, but they all ultimately tell something similar.
The legend is about a man who got turned into a whale for betraying the trust of a woman. The woman belonged to the Huldufólk, also known as the “hidden people,” or a “fairy,” as told by some versions of the legend. The man betrayed the woman’s trust by refusing to baptize her child, so in spite, she cursed and him. This cursed caused the man to turn into an angry whale.
The whale was named Rauðahofði, meaning red-head, as the man was known for wearing a red hat in his previous life before becoming a whale. Once he became a whale, he created havoc in the fjord, killing several fishermen, including two sons of a priest. The priest wanted revenge for his loss. So he used himself as bait and had a plan to trick the whale into traveling up the Botnsá river. The whale pursued the priest up the river until finally reaching a lake, where the whale exploded from exhaustion (probably from scaling Glymur).
The lake is now known as Hvalvatn, which means “whale lake.” Interestingly enough, it is reported that whale remains were found in the deep lake.
Glymur is also a popular hiking area, with Glymur Falls Loop being one of the most beautiful hikes Iceland has to offer. The Glymur Falls Loop is 4.9 mi, with a 1,335 ft elevation gain, and takes around 4 hours to complete. The hike is only rated at a moderate difficulty according to users at AllTrails, but be warned; this trail is not to be taken too lightly. The path is not risk-free, and accidents have occurred.
The hike will take you along and across the lower Botnsá river. There is a crossing with a bridge made from a single log, so some balance is needed and expect to get your feet wet. The hike includes some gorgeous sights, including walking a rock arch. The trek continues alongside the river, but the elevation begins to increase as the canyon starts to form. This path will continue until you reach the top of Glymur, but offers not only amazing views of mossy canyon but also of the valley and fjord behind you. If you venture up this trail be on the lookout for “Tongue Cliff” for that fantastic selfie.
Upon reaching the peak of Glymur, you are given the option to trek back the way you came or continue to make the loop with a second crossing on the upper river above Glymur. There are some variations to the trail, including an additional hike to Hvalvatn lake for the more advanced trekkers.
The beginning of Glymur Falls Loop Trail is only around 45 minutes from Reykjavik. On a map, you can find it sitting at the back of the Hvalfjörður.
Traveling from Reykjavik, you will need to head north on Route 1 (Þjóðvegur). Then you will be heading toward the fjord turn right onto Route 47 (Hvalfjarðarvegur) before the Hvalfjörður tunnel. Route 47 will continue to take you along the fjord. As the road to the end of the fjord, you will cross a small bridge crossing where Botnsá river enters the fjord. Shortly after the bridge, you will see Botnsdalsvegur road off to the right, with a sign pointing you to the parking lot for Glymur.
It is also easy to find and navigate to with access to Google Maps. For those who like to pre-plan their adventure, Street View is available on route 47 but not on Botnsdalsvegur. You can see the road and the blue signs pointing to Glymur from Route 47’s street view.