The Gluggafoss Hike, Iceland

Gluggafoss (also called Merkjárfoss) is a beautiful waterfall in South Iceland, it can be visited with a short hike, and it’s a sort of hidden gem.

While it is not an entirely unknown waterfall, it does not get the credit it deserves. This is one very beautiful waterfall.

View of the Gluggafoss waterfall located in a narrow gorge reachable only via a short hike

The second step of the Gluggafoss Waterfall.

Perhaps it is because if you see it from afar, there does not seem to be much to look at. Nice perhaps, but like many other waterfalls in the area that are overshadowed by much bigger, famous ones.

Still, you have to get up close and upon its sides to admire its full beauty. I’d highly recommend including Gluggafoss in your itinerary,

Table of Contents


Overview of the Gluggafoss Hike

This is a short, easy walk, but some degree of carefulness is required. Some areas are wet and slippery.

Max Altitude   143 m
Distance   1.48 KM
Elevation gain   100m ↑ / 100m ↓
Hike time   00:20 / 00:30  Hours
Hike Difficulty   Easy walk
The hiking path leading to the Gluggafoss waterfall

The hiking path that leads to the second step of the waterfall.

How to get to Gluggafoss and Parking

Gluggafoss is only a short detour away from the south part of Road 1, or the Ring Road. here’s how to get there.

  • Driving Directions: Located on Road 261, you can reach Gluggafoss by turning on Road 261 in Hvolsvöllur if you are coming from the West. If you are coming from the East, you can also take Road 250. Be aware, however, road 250 is a dirt road a little rough in some places.
  • Parking: there is a large, free parking area right in front of the waterfall.
  • Public Transport: no public transportation options.
Lower step of a waterfall in Iceland

The lower step of Gluggafoss.


The Gluggafoss Trail

The first part is a nicely maintained path, which leads to the first step of the waterfall. From there, you can hike up into the relatively narrow gorge, where you can admire the second step of the waterfall.

Second step of The Gluggafoss waterfall located in a narrow gorge

The second step of the waterfall.

This is, to me, the most beautiful part of the waterfall. This is, however, a dead end. To continue the hike from here you would have to get back to the parking area, cross the small bridge across the river, and hike up the other side of the waterfall.

A little steep in places and muddy if it recently rained, the trail on the other side will allow you to reach the thread step of the waterfall. Here you can get good views inside the narrow gorge.

Third step of the Gluggafoss waterfall which can only be reached via a short hike.

The Third step of the waterfall.

I had to turn back here due to the sudden onset of extremely bad weather in typical Icelandic fashion, but the trail continued a bit further up the side of the hill. So if you can, keep exploring from here.

This is not a loop hike, so to get back to the Parking area, you’d have to turn back.

The Gluggafoss Hike Photos and Photography Tips

Personally, I’ve found the narrow gorge where the second step of the waterfall is to be the most photogenic. You will need a wide lens as it is a relatively small space. There is plenty of foreground choices in the gorge.

closeup photo of rocks with a waterfall in the background in Iceland.

There are several rocks in the gorge that you could use as a foreground. Taken at 14mm, three focus-staked images.

A good option is also shooting the waterfall from the bridge across the river, but you will need a telephoto line for that. The following photo was shot at 200mm, full frame. From the bridge, you can capture the waterfall’s second and last steps.

Long exposure photo of the Second and last step of Gluggafoss

The Second and last step of Gluggafoss, shot from the Bridge.

The third scenic point is the one on the opposite side of the river, where you can peek into the gorge and see the upper part of the waterfall. Best to have a lens that can reach up to 24mm, at least, as you cannot get close to this step of the waterfall.

The upper part of Gluggafoss, a double waterfall in Iceland

The upper part of Gluggafoss, shot at 24mm.

Lastly, you also may want to check out the neighboring waterfall Þórðarfoss. It’s just a short walk away. I had to skip it because of a very heavy rainfall.

Map of the Gluggafoss Hike

Here is the map. The trail actually continues further uphill for a bit, above the third step of the waterfall. I did not make it up there, but just in case, it seemed possible to continue for a bit.

Where to stay

Unless this is the last place you are visiting for the day, no need to stay in the area. You can easily include the short hike to Gluggafoss in any South Coast itinerary. there are, however, a few Guest Houses nearby.

Additional Resources

  • Do not miss another nearby gem, the Hike to Nauthúsagil and Nauthúsafoss.
  • Check out more Photo Hikes in Iceland here.
  • Discover the best hiking books and guides on Iceland.
  • Car or Camper Van Rentals

    I can definitely recommend two companies here:

    • Cars: Blue Car Rental, which is the largest Car rental company in Iceland, and for good reasons. Free Cancellation, Unlimited mileage, 24-hour breakdown assistance, SCDW, CDW, TP, and GP insurance are included in the price. Blue Car Rental is also located within walking distance of the Keflavik Airport, so you can be on your way to explore Iceland right away. I’ve always been happy with my rentals there, which is why I’m happy to recommend their services here on my blog.
    • Camper Vans: CampEasy. With CampEasy, you can rent 2WD or 4×4 campers alike. With a raised Chassis, larger tires, and extra insurance with reduced liability for river crossing, their 4X4 campers are the best choice for your trip into the Highlands. Their Website also provides extensive information about roads you can take and instructions on river crossings. Perfect choice for a hiking holiday in the highlands!

    These are my two favorite companies in each respective rental area, which I why I am happy to recommend both here. If you also like this blog, booking through them is a great way to support it. I’ll get a small commission fee at no additional cost, so you can essentially support the running costs of this blog for free too.