Iceland’s second tallest waterfall descends gracefully in streaming ribbons down a 200 meter (658 ft) drop into a massive canyon adorned in lush green moss. Located near Hvalfjordur Fjord (Whale Fjord), Glymur waterfall is linked to a local folkloric tale about a mythical whale that swam up the waterfall into the lake at the top where, eerily enough, whale bones have been found.

Glymur is the second-highest waterfall in Iceland. Icelanders had long regarded it as the tallest waterfall in Iceland until a newly measured waterfall, Morsarfoss, surpassed it in 2011. 

Glymur lies at the rear end of the Hvalfjordur. Since the opening of the tunnel under this fjord, most people bypass the area. However, it is a very beautiful part of the Hvalfjordur with some tall mountains and forests. If you have the time to drive it, we recommend the trip.

The Botnsa river runs from the Hvalvatn lake and,  after a short distance, falls down alongside the Hvalfell mountain into a steep canyon. You can access the waterfall from a parking area at the end of the road. In addition, well-equipped hikers can view the waterfall from marked paths on the east side of the river Botnsa.

How to get to Glymur

Finding Glymur isn’t hard. Glymur waterfall is about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik. You need to drive into the rear end of the fjord instead of taking the tunnel under the fjord. Look for a sign by the road telling you when to turn right. You can park your car in a parking lot not far from Botnsa river. From there, you can hike one two trails leading to the waterfall. The northern trail has a better view of the waterfall. We recommend that check the weather forecast and dress accordingly, since the hike can take up to 4 hours. Additionally, we advise wearing good outdoor shoes and bringing some water and snacks.

The tale of the Red headed whale

A common folk tale might tell of the waterfall’s name origin. An elf woman transformed her human lover into a red-headed whale because he would not acknowledge he was her child’s father. People called the newly transformed whale “Raudhofdi” (Redhead). The whale lived in Faxafloi bay where he angrily attacked ships.  A Lutheran priest serving at Saurbaer church in Hvalfjordur fjord decided to kill the whale after Redhead attacked his two sons while they were fishing.  Through sorcery and trickery, the priest lured the whale deep into the fjord and up the river Botnsa. The whale managed to swim up Glymur waterfall until he reached Hvalvatn lake (Whale Lake), where he died of exhaustion.

Interstingly enough, people have found whale bones in the lake!