Glymur waterfall hike: Guide to an amazing day hike in Iceland

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Iceland is heaven for those into hiking. There are so many day hikes that you can do in Iceland. Our introduction to Iceland started with Snaefellsnes Peninsula on the western side, known for its scenic coastal drives, stunning views of Snaefellsjokull glacier, lava fields and beautiful waterfalls. In a country featuring more than 10,000 waterfalls, Glymur holds a special place being the highest waterfall in Iceland that is accessible on foot. Glymur waterfall hike was the highlight of our 2 days of West Iceland itinerary.

Here is a complete guide on how to hike to Glymur waterfall in Snaefellsnes Peninsula. And 20 photos to inspire your wanderlust!

Glymur waterfall hike in a nutshell

At 198 metres, Glymur waterfall is the second highest waterfall in Iceland but the highest one that is accessible on foot. Glymur waterfall can only be viewed via a hike.

If you are wondering whether to do the hike or not, it depends on the time you are spending in Snaefellsnes Peninsula. If you are spending just a day here, then you may as well drive through West Iceland to cover many of the popular attractions. However, if you are spending 2 days or more in West Iceland and enjoy a beautiful day hike with verdant valley views, then do put Glymur waterfall hike on your itinerary.

The group photo with Glymur waterfall in the background.

It is a moderate-level summer hike with lovely views that can be covered in under 4 hours. You can climb upto the top of Glymur waterfall and take the same path back to get back. Or you can venture ahead, do the second river crossing to get on the west side of the waterfall and take a different path to come back. The distance would be a bit more for the round trip than the same path back, but the elevation remains the same.

Best time to hike: A log is put on the first river crossing sometime in June, so the best time to go is from June to September.

Distance: 6-7 km round trip (depending on the path you take back)

Elevation: 425 metres

Difficulty: Moderate (the climb to Glymur waterfall is challenging in parts for those who suffer from vertigo or have fear of heights)

Time taken: Under 4 hours for the round trip

(As you read the blog, you would note that we got lost on the way back, and it took us about 5 hours to complete the loop!)

Interested in more day hikes in Iceland? Do read – Hike the rim of Asbyrgi Canyon in North Iceland

Getting to Glymur waterfall trailhead

Glymur waterfall is to the northeast of Reykjavik. We had stayed in Grindavik the night before to get to the famous Blue Lagoon. It was a great idea to soak the long-airplane-travel fatigue in geothermal waters before the hike!

Post breakfast at the hotel, we put ‘Botnsa’ on Google maps and took off for Glymur car park. It was a lovely 1.5 hour drive through Hvalfjordur fjord to get to the Glymur Parking. It is only an hour’s drive from Reykjavik.

A beautiful drive on a cloudy day to get to Glymur parking.

We reached the car park at about 9 am and there were very few cars parked at this time. The car parking was full when we came back to it at about 230 pm. The car park has no toilets or food options, so factor that in.

Start of Glymur hike: Going through the cave

Glymur waterfall hike, hike to Glymur waterfall, highest waterfall in iceland
A clear day for a summer hike!

There is a signboard at the car park that you cannot miss. It gives some information about the area, the flora and fauna, the trails and the waterfall itself. You cross the gate and it is pretty much a flat path to walk on for about half hour. The trail is quite well marked at all points here.

The cave is quite large once you enter it.

Then you come upon what looks like a small entrance to a cave. We were confused for a moment here, but there is nowhere else to go! You get through the entrance and the cave becomes bigger. It leads to a path going downhill right to the river.

Take the path downhill to the Botnsa river.

First river crossing

June to September is the best time to do the Glymur waterfall hike. Sometime before June is when they put on the log and the rope that is required to cross the Botnsa river. I can’t imagine crossing the cold, fast flowing water without the log!

Glymur waterfall hike, hike to Glymur waterfall, highest waterfall in iceland
Imagine crossing this river without the log!

We were a large group: 4 adults and 3 kids. It took us some time to cross the boulders jutting from the river and then walk over the log holding the rope gingerly to cross. But we all made it without falling off, so that’s good.

Glymur waterfall hike, hike to Glymur waterfall, highest waterfall in iceland
First you slowly step from one boulder to another holding the rope.
Glymur waterfall hike, hike to Glymur waterfall, highest waterfall in iceland
And then the log makes it quite easy to cross.

Climb starts for Glymur waterfall hike

Soon after the river crossing, the climb begins.

Right after the first river crossing, there is a narrow steep path that you climb up. And then the uphill climb doesn’t stop. In some time, you start seeing the river below from a height.

Botnsa river in the background.

There are points where the path is very close to the cliff edge, and that can be terrifying for those who have fear of heights. I was a bit more vigilant as to where the kids were headed. though the hike per se was not difficult for them.

Glymur waterfall hike, hike to Glymur waterfall, highest waterfall in iceland
Posing besides a small stream on the trail.

There were a few hikers ahead of us and some behind us, but the trail at no time felt crowded or too busy. There is a small stream that you cross and then some more climb until you get to the first view of Glymur waterfall. The waterfall is nestled in a narrow canyon and the hike gives you a sense of achievement in reaching here. You would not be amiss in thinking of some inspiring waterfall captions at this moment.

The photos and the videos do not give you a complete sense of the height of the waterfall or the depth of the valley below. It was quite windy here and we were careful while taking photos.

Glymur waterfall hike, hike to Glymur waterfall, highest waterfall in iceland
The first view of Glymur waterfall.
Glymur waterfall hike, hike to Glymur waterfall, highest waterfall in iceland
A closer look.

We climbed ahead here and soon got even better views of Glymur waterfall. At this point, we had to decide whether to go ahead to the top of the falls and continue down a different path. Or take the same way to go back, climb down, cross the river and then the cave. We decided to go ahead.

The second river crossing

Glymur waterfall hike, hike to Glymur waterfall, highest waterfall in iceland
Nearing the top of the falls.
Resplendent views of the valley.
Looking down to the river can feel scary.

You get stunning views of the valley and the surrounding areas as you climb to the top. You get to the top view of the waterfall and then comes a second river. No river log here! Well, we knew this even when we has decided to not take the same path to climb back.

Glymur waterfall hike, hike to Glymur waterfall, highest waterfall in iceland
The second water looks calm.

We took off our shoes and socks, held hands and plunged in the river water. A European or an American would describe the river water as really cold. But for an Asian like me, unused to such cold, the water was freezing! There were cold stones on the river bed, either they were smooth, slippery, making it difficult to balance or pointed, jagged, hurt the foot, making it difficult to walk. Oh, I so wish I had my shoes on. To top it all, the water current was strong and we had to hold on to kids’ hands and cross the river as a human chain.

We managed to cross the river somehow and were left exhilarated. There were very few hikers who crossed the second river.

Unmarked path on the other side

There are some nice views of the waterfall from the other side. We wanted to get down to the river bank and follow it back. There was an unmarked path that we followed in the beginning. Soon we came upon many stone piles and it got quite confusing to figure if there was a clear marked trail. We saw no signage anywhere.

It was nice and easy at the beginning.

We decided to climb down some rocks and soon came upon bushes and thicket that appeared impassable. There were no hikers around to consult and the kids were getting a bit antsy. We then decided to climb the rocky path back to get a better perspective of the land around us. none of us could make out a clear path ahead of us to get back to the car park. I have no photos of the rocky area around us because we were all busy figuring what to do next!

One person in the group was carrying a wi-fi dongle and tried to connect to Google Maps. The digital map showed a long and convoluted rocky path ahead, but in the absence of any signage or other hikers, there wasn’t much choice but to take it. After an hour of hiking on small stones, we were all warm, sweaty, tired and cranky. Thankfully it was a cloudy day and the sun wasn’t too strong. We had finished all the water and snacks on us. The kids by this time were accusing the adults of epic-parenting-failure!

Finally getting on the trail back

Glymur waterfall hike, hike to Glymur waterfall, highest waterfall in iceland
So happy to see this wide trail.

We somehow crossed the rocky winding path and saw a wide even trail. Google Maps still showed quite a long way ahead to the car park but at least, we knew this was the right track. it felt good to be walking on a dirt trail with only a few stones and pebbles. It was past lunch time and all of us were imagining large platters of food! Thankfully, there were lovely lupines on both sides of the trail to distract us.

Finally, we got back to the car park. About an hour to 1.5 hour detour. And yet, the Glymur waterfall hike was worth it! What an epic adventure hiking to the second highest waterfall in Iceland. And quite a different experience from our easy Asbyrgi Canyon hike in North Iceland.

What to carry for Glymur waterfall hike

We were all wearing good quality hiking shoes, a must for this trail. We also had put on a light rain jacket over our T-shirt and trekking pants. Each one of us had a light backpack with the following contents –

  • An extra layer like a fleece jacket that could be put on if it got cold. Weather is quite unpredictable in Iceland.
  • A water bottle. The good part about hiking in Iceland is that you can re-fill your water bottle from any flowing stream or river.
  • Sunglasses that kept coming off as it got too cloudy. We had put on sunscreen in the morning. But you can carry sunscreen if its a warm day or your skin is sensitive to the sun.
  • Snacks. The chocolate bars did get really handy when we lost our way coming down. I did mention there are no food options at the car park or or anywhere close to it.

We were not carrying extra shoes, though I did meet a couple of hikers who were fully prepared for the second river crossing and carried extra shoes and socks to change.

Planning a trip to Iceland?

If you have 10 days or more, I would suggest to take a self drive road trip across Iceland. See The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Itinerary.

For Travel Tips on the north region of Iceland, check The Diamond Circle Route.

For the best things to do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, check this post on West Iceland attractions

If you have less than 7 days in Iceland, don’t miss out on the popular Iceland South Coast Itinerary

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Author: Shweta Singhal

Hi! I am Shweta, the zest behind this blog . I play several roles – parent to a 6-year old, adventure enthusiast, travel blogger, generally open to trying out new things in life. Besides travel, I love books and theatre and art. I would love to hear from you; do drop a comment. Join me on Instagram / Twitter @zestinatote.

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