Iceland Mag

5 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Walking paths at a once "hidden" waterfall on Golden Circle can't handle traffic after its discovery

By Staff

  • Brúarfoss waterfall A small but picturesque waterfall, Brúarfoss is formed by the river Brúará falling into a narrow canyon which runs beneath the river. Photo/Kristján Már Unnarsson

In addition to majestic waterfalls like the powerful Gullfoss, Goðafoss or Skógafoss, Iceland has countless smaller waterfalls, many of which are no less captivating, even if they don't have the same quantities of water cascading down high cliffs. One of these is Brúarfoss waterfall, a small waterfall in the river Brúará in South Iceland.

Suddenly famous small waterfall

Travellers viewing Brúarfoss
Travellers viewing Brúarfoss The waterfall is best viewed from a small walking bridge downstream Photo/Kristján Már Unnarsson

Brúarfoss is so small it's not included on maps, and there are no roads leading to the waterfall. Instead visitors must drive into a holiday home area owned and operated by several labor unions, and then walk along unmarked walking paths through a low growing birch forest.

But the beauty Brúarfoss, and its popularity among photographers, and the fact that it is located right on the Golden Circle means that growing numbers of travellers have been making the trek to see this little gem. The popularity of Brúarárfoss has catapulted it into lists of the top ten beautiful waterfalls in Iceland and according to TripAdvisor it is one of the ten top attractions in Reykjavík - despite the fact it is 90 km (56 miles) from Reykjavík!

Walking paths can't handle traffic

Unfortunately the walking paths leading to Brúarfoss have been unable to handle this newfound fame. A few years ago the waterfall was visited by only a handful of hikers each day, today hundreds of travellers visit the waterfall, turning the narrow dirt paths into impassable mud. There have also been complains that some of the visitors are trampling through the grounds of holiday homes. 

Brúarfoss walking path
Brúarfoss walking path The narrow walking paths leading to the waterfall were never intended to handle hundreds of hikers. Photo/Þorgerður Sigurðardóttir

The local TV Station Stöð 2 talked to local farmers who say the steady stream of traffic only started last summer, and that it has continued to grow throughout the winter. They estimate that more than 2,000 people had visited the waterfall last weekend. Locals are particularly frustrated that some travel sites tell visitors to drive onto private property, and advice people they can park their camper vans in parking lots by the summer cottages in the area.

Locals consider closing roads leading to waterfall

Local farmers and people staying at the summer cottages in the area have grown tired of people trespassing on their grounds, the litter which comes with camper vans. Since there are no parking spaces for camper vans in the area overnight visitors have been parking their vans on any available grassy areas, destroying vegetation.

There are also no public toilets by these impromptu overnight parking spots, which has resulted in the campers popping into the forest to do their business, leaving toilet paper and other waste where children had previously been able to play and explore.

To deal with the problem the local farmers are considering closing the private roads with gates. The long term solution, however, is to build a new 3 km (1.9 mile) walking path from the main road to the waterfall, but this project lacks funding.

The history of Brúarfoss

The name of Brúarfoss translates as "Bridge-waterfall". It derives its name from a natural stone arch bridge which crossed the river. The arch has long since collapsed, but a in the early 20th century a new bridge was built at a crossing over the river, crossing the narrow canyon in the middle of the waterfall.

This road, which was built in 1907 when the King of Denmark visited Iceland, was used by the royal visitors on their trip to Gullfoss and Geysir, which means that the oldest "Golden Circle" actually crossed right across Brúarfoss waterfall. 

Historic photo of Brúarfoss bridge

The original Golden Circle In the early 20th century the road to Gullfoss and Geysir crossed Brúará on a bridge in the middle of Brúarfoss waterfall. Photo/Historic photo


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