Thjofafoss (Kirkjubæjarklaustur)


Thjofafoss (or Þjófafoss) is a waterfall in the south of Iceland in Skaftafell/Vatnajökull National Park, a popular touristic site to visit. Thjofafoss is the first waterfall you see going to the more famous Svartifoss.

The hiking trails in the park are well signed. Walking to the Svartifoss takes about 60-90 min walk (2 kilometers). The trail is easy and leads slightly uphill. At the Visitor centre in Skaftafell, which is open all year round, one can get information on how to get to Svartifoss waterfall.

After walking 250 meters from the visitor centre through the campsite take you slightly upwards into the mountain heath in Skaftafell (elevation is 140 meters in 1.5 kilometers). From that point the path will take you down into the ravine below the waterfall). After enjoying the waterfall and its surroundings you should walk up the basalt column steps on the other side of the ravine and follow that path all the way down to the campsite via Lambhagi. When visibility is good It is recommended to do a little extra loop to the viewpoint at Sjónarnípa on the way down.

There are several other waterfalls in Skaftafell. From the second parking: Heygotufoss, Hundafoss, Magnusarfoss and Svartifoss. Be sure don’t to focus only on Svartifoss because these are really worthwhile a visit. I missed most of them heading to Svartifoss, a shame.

Info Skaftafell

Skaftafell was a manor farm and a local assembly site during the Middle Ages until it was acquired by the Church. The estate subsequently became a possession of the Danish monarchy. The original farmhouse stood at the foot of the heath, at a site called Gömlutún (Old Hayfields), where ruins can still be seen.

As the course of the River Skeiðará moved closer, several fields slowly disappeared under layers of sand, and during the years 1830-50, the farm was relocated about 100 m up the hillside with the construction of three new farmhouses. Two of them are still in use although the third was abandoned in 1946.

By the middle of the twentieth century, farming methods in Iceland had changed. Even though three families shared the Skaftafell landholding, its cultivation was difficult and a change of land-use was inevitable. The weather conditions in Skaftafell are favourable and the land was considered ideal for forestry by the Iceland Forestry Service. Around 1957 the Service began discussions with the landowners on the purchase of land suitable for forestry. The purchase never took place, as the landowners ‘wanted to preserve their land and not change it into a foreign forest’.

In 1960 the suggestion was made to declare Skaftafell a national park. The arguments were, among other things, the spectacular natural beauty of the area, including the incomparable view of Iceland’s highest mountains. Other considerations were that the area boasted the biggest valley glacier, the most extensive sand flats and more fertile and varied vegetation than most other areas in the country.

In February 1961, the Nature Conservation Council (now the Environment Agency of Iceland) decided to recommend the establishment of a National Park in Skaftafell. The recommendation was approved by the Ministry of Education in May the same year. A national park in Skaftafell was officially established on 23 August 1968 by a government regulation.

In June 2008, Skaftafell National Park was integrated with the newly established Vatnajökull National Park.
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About Thjofafoss (Kirkjubæjarklaustur)

RegionSuðurland, Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla
LocationKirkjubæjarklaustur - Skaftafell
RiverSkeiðará, Skaftafellsá
Best visitSummer

Most nearby waterfalls

WaterfallDistance (linear)Rating
Magnusarfoss 1 km
Svartifoss 2 km
Morsárfoss 15 km
Stigafoss 43 km
Nupsarfoss 55 km