Hiking Iceland’s Waterfalls: Glymur

Follow the sign – Adventure ahead!

On day two of our epic Iceland Adventure, we took off on the Ring Road heading from Reykjavik to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

About an hour’s drive north of the capital, we stopped to hike one of Iceland’s most beautiful and legendary waterfalls – Glymur!

Glymur, fed by the Botnsá River, is the second tallest waterfall in Iceland. It stands at a staggering 650ft (198 m) and used to have the bragging rights of being numero uno, but in 2011, it fell to second place after the mighty Morsárfoss was officially “discovered.” Yeah, I’m with you – how did Iceland not know of a huge waterfall? How could they miss Morsárfoss when it measures 787 ft (240 m) ???? Ok, gotta throw the Icelanders a bone – it seems that a lot of the Morsárfoss is covered with snow and ice from a glacier so no one could “officially” measure it until 2007. Fair enough.

Back to Glymur.

This is the trailhead – full of rocks.

Getting here is an easy drive on a highway that snugs the beautiful coastline. After turning off the highway, you’ll travel about 2miles to its parking lot. It’s free and safe to park here. To get to the trail, you’ll go through a gate, walk on a flat – but rocky – trail for about a mile, pass through a cave, and then on to the river where the real adventure begins.

Like much of Iceland’s history, Glymur is tied into folklore and legend. The legend is about a man who got turned into a whale for betraying a woman and refusing to baptize her kid, so in spite, she cursed him and turned him into an angry whale.

This new man/whale created havoc in the fjord, killing several fishermen, including two sons of a priest. Naturally, the priest wanted revenge for his loss. So he used himself as bait and tricked 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.

If you’re going to schlep to the top, I promise you won’t explode from exhaustion, but you’ll be huffin’ and puffin’.

Was not expecting this: To get to the falls – Iceland’s second tallest – you go through this cave

At the river’s edge is a crossing with a bridge made from a single log and a thin cable to help with your balance. You walk on some raised rocks, but even in August the water was roaring so yeah, you’ll get wet. It was so fun crossing the river this way – a little nerve rattling and you need to concentrate. You need to be in the moment – this is not the place to pose for your Instagram and this is not a hike for the little ones.

Thank goodness there was a rope and a log to help us cross the river

Once across the river, we caught our breath, shared high-fives, and then started making our way up, up, and up.

My traveling partner for this Icelandic Adventure – My brother, James

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. Steep spots along the trail have additional “hand lines” to assist scrambling up the rocky slopes – but I was grabbing hold of these “lines” for dear life. ANDDDDDDDD many of these “lines” did not feel securely tethered. We’re from Colorado and used to hiking in the backcountry, but Icelanders are made out of heartier stock – this is no nanny state. You’re on your own, they expect you to know what you’re doing – there’s no hand-holding.

Have power bar – will power to the top!

There are several places to stop, catch your breath and breathe in the absolute beauty. It’s a glorious hike and the views are awe-inspiring.

There are several “natural” spots to stop and catch your breath

Once you make it to the peak of Glymur, you have 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. The Glymur Falls Loop is 4.9 miles, with a 1,335 ft elevation gain, and takes around 4 hours to complete. We didn’t do the loop, we had a full day planned so we headed down the same way we came up and I gotta tell you, I don’t feel like we were cheated one bit. If climbing up the steep parts was challenging, going down them presented a whole other thrilling (terrifying/exhilarating) experience.

My favorite memory: This is how my brother cools off after a hike – just dunks his head in the freezing waters of the Botnsá

Glymur’s name comes from a similar Icelandic word,” glymja”, which means boom, rumble, resound, or echo. And this hike is booming, it will rumble your heart and the memory of experiencing Glymur will echo in your soul forever.

Nothing feels better than a great hike to the top AND bottom of Glymur

Three Things to Know Before Going

  • This is not a walk for young kids.
  • There are no facilities – “Go” before you go & pack snacks – there are no restaurants or cafes.
  • Wear waterproof boots or shoes – you’ll be crossing a river and you will get wet.

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