Hraunfossar & Barnafoss Waterfalls

64 42′ 06.3″ N 20 58′ 43.2 W

This is a busy parking lot for such a rural area. I choose my spot along the fence, then turn off the engine. “Don’t forget to turn the lights off,” Monique reminds me and I touch the dial to ensure it is in the off position. There is a café just up the path and we are hoping to have a little something to eat and use the facilities but this is no ordinary bathroom break. We follow the noise of the rushing water just down the bank on a well-worn path. Within a couple of hundred metres we see the falls. It is breathtaking and none of us can say anything but “wow.” Awe-inspiring indeed. We are drawn forward, continuing on the path to a grassy viewing area straight across from the cascade.

We follow the path, not knowing how far this trail goes. Just around a few corners we see a viewing platform. “Oh, look at that,” Tracy points upstream. We take lots of selfies and trade off taking photos of each other. The view looking back is just as striking as it was directly across from the cascade. The trail continues. “Should we keep going?” I ask and Monique turns and takes the lead, we all follow. According to my watch we have completed just under a kilometre. We pick away along the roped off path over a bridge and onto a high point.

Just over the side of bridge there is a description of why it is called Barnafoss (the children’s falls). We stop to read: “The following story accounts for the name Barnafoss (children’s waterfall) and for the disappearance of a stone arch that use to bridge the river. One Christmas day, the household at Hraunsa’s went to attend mass with the exception of two children, who were to stay home. When the people returned the children had vanished but their tracks led to the river. The children had fallen off the stone arch and drowned. Their mother then had the arch destroyed to prevent the reoccurrence of such a tragedy”.

-The Barnafoss Plaque Historical notes. English version

After reading the story of the children, a quietness creeps over me. I stared a little harder at the frothy current, the steep-sided walls and the abrasive lava rocks. I raised my shoulders up, securing the zipper of my coat a little tighter. It is September 1st, how cold would it be here at Christmas time? Does the river freeze, were they walking across ice? I shook my head to dislodge the vision that crossed my mind. No one, let alone two children, would have survive these forces of nature.

Video from where the rock arch was, through the rock cut below me out of view then onward downstream under the walking bridge

We walk up onto the final look-off, stepping over mounts of lava that had cooled into swirls and layers like scalloped icing on a decorated cake. This place has so many juxtapositions -fire and ice, destruction and beauty, awe and sadness.

We make our way back down the path and head inside the cafe to warm up. We are a little disappointed when we enter. For such a large building with high vaulted ceilings, it consists of a few tables and metal chairs that remind me of a school cafeteria. There is a counter with limited baked goods, they had a soup of day and a small buffet-stand that was empty. We must have missed lunch.

Monique says she isn’t hunger, Mary says she starving, “I could go for bite or at least a hot drink,” I say looking over the baked goods. Not wanting to dismiss Mary’s expression of hunger, I say, “I am sure we’ll find another place on the way.” I stare at what is on offer for a moment then place my order with the cashier.

“I will have a hot tea with milk and one sugar please,” still eyeing the cookies, undecided if I’m getting one when the moment passes and I have to pay for the tea. “Do I pay you for the washrooms here?” I ask the cashier. She says since I bought something, I can use it free. “I will be back for my tea.” I step outside and join the line for the outdoor water closet. When I am done I pick up my tea and head towards the others. Tracy says, “I bought cookies.” She holds up the bag for us to take one. “Oh yum you read my mind,” I reach in the bag for one. “Thank you, I looked hard at them,” I say, breaking a piece off. They melt in my mouth. With all of us now back in the car, we put the next destination in the phone’s GPS and head out. Next stop is Deildartunguhver Geothermal Area, Please join us again on our driving tour of Snaefellasnes peninsula.


If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, you can make a contribution to ensure the continuation of this blog. Thank you- Kelly MacKay



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