One time, just one time in your life, I beg you, just one time…Go to Iceland in July when the sun never goes down, make the drive to Akureyri, the most populated city in northern Iceland, and wait until at least midnight. Then once the clock hits 12:00 a.m., leave the city and drive to Godafoss. You’ll never forget the experience, and you’ll never regret the experience. There was no bigger highlight to Iceland than this magical moment that I stumbled across by accident in my opinion, and it stands as one of the most memorable experiences, not only of the trip to Iceland, but of my entire life. Here, let me explain:
Cliffnotes Version: If you ever go to Iceland, it is beyond worth it to make the trip northbound to see not only Godafoss, but the many gorgeous pieces of scenery all around it. Godafoss itself is a normal waterfall, and probably wouldn’t have been as spectacular during the day, but at “night” (if you can call this night time) it becomes a magical, nearly spiritual encounter. Make the trip and do this. Thank me later.
This one requires a tiny bit of backstory:
After The Golden Circle (read more here), my family and I decided that we would make the relatively short 4 hour drive to Akureyri. We left The Golden Circle around 9:00 p.m., we should’ve arrived to Akureyri around 1 in the morning, which would have been normal, but life isn’t normal sometimes.
We got lost, badly lost. We got a flat tire. We saw a giant glacier by accident. We met several friendly sheep. We drove to the top of a mountain that had no discernible road at times. We became desperate. The mountain ended up being a dead end and we had no clue how to get to anywhere.
We became hungry, and worried (a terrible mix). We all needed to use the bathroom really badly. We peed on a mountain next to some guffawing, nosy sheep. We began to wonder how we could survive in the wilderness of Iceland. Perhaps sheep was edible…the water in Iceland is all fresh and with lakes everywhere, we’d never run out of water at least. We had enough Oreos to last at least 1 more day….
Then we somehow retraced our path and made it back to the correct path. We arrived in Akureyri at 10 a.m., 9 hours later than we had expected after spending all night lost in the Icelandic wilderness. Checkout was at 11 a.m., we were so annoyed. We rented a hotel. We slept as a soldier might after being on the front lines of a war. We awoke around 8:00 p.m.
This is where the story of Godafoss comes in. Had we arrived to Akureyri on time at 1 a.m., we would have slept at a normal time, and visited Godafoss in the daytime when there would have likely been plenty of other venturers on the scene. But we didn’t go to sleep until like noon and then we woke up at dinner time ready for the day. We ate and left Akureyri, which is pictured above. That city is near a mountainscape that should be the default background of every computer screen on Earth. By the way this photo was taken around 11:00 p.m., and look how much daylight there is! I’m telling you, night time didn’t exist in July.
Regardless, since waterfalls don’t suddenly stop running in the middle of the night, we decided to head to Godafoss even though it was late. On the drive there we got to see some of the best of what Iceland has to offer. In the car it was like a panorama of glory. Out one window was a majestic mountain range, out another was a rolling hillside, out another was a pristine lake, out another were some sheep hanging out. It was the most action-packed calm of all time.
The scenery on the way to Godafoss was absolutely stunning. Coming to Akureyri was worth it just for this drive.
As you drive down the one road to Godafoss, you don’t even realize when you’re getting close as you can’t see it much from a distance. When we finally arrived, we saw only two or three other people in the entire place.
This is one of the three people who was there, at the base of the waterfall, far from us, trying to get that perfect shot from up close.
And then you see it. The waterfall.
When you Google “waterfall” or search on Instagram for the #waterfall, you’ll never see one at night. It’s not even something people think about doing. Why go to a waterfall at night?
Well our night time still had a bit of light, so that we could see everything, and fully appreciate the wonder of the waterfall. Now let me tell you something: I am so biased here. Godafoss is not the most powerful waterfall in Iceland, it’s not the tallest waterfall, it doesn’t fall from a ridiculously crazy cliff, it’s not even that big when you see it up close. So what makes it so special?
That for one full hour, I was alone with a waterfall. I had my own personal piece of Earth, and being alone among the most beautiful and peaceful environment that you could ever visit on the planet is truly something else. Kings used to own land the world over, but people always frequented locations like waterfalls. The King of a nation never had a waterfall like this all to himself. And yet I, a simple laymen, had Godafoss completely to myself. For one hour, I lived larger than some of the richest kings in history.
You’re all alone out there. The land is your kingdom, the world is yours. That’s what travel is all about…
That’s what made Godafoss a special experience. It encompassed everything I’ve ever loved about travel, the Earth, even spirituality, and it condensed it into an hourlong package of near bliss.
If you ever go to Iceland, or anywhere else on Earth for that matter, the thing that will stay with you for the rest of your life, will be the things that are off the beaten path. If that means that one night, in the middle of the night, you go visit a deserted waterfall, then go for it. Remember, the world is yours.
-The Wandering Toucan