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Not big or huge in any sense but impressive nevertheless. Barnafossar waterfalls in Iceland. PIC Paul Hutchinson

Not big or huge in any sense but impressive nevertheless. Barnafossar waterfalls in Iceland. PIC Paul Hutchinson

Y ou know sometimes the small things can somehow be more impressive than big things? You might well keep this in mind when you arrive at the site of Barnafossar in Borgarfjordur in Iceland. The name Barnafossar, mind you, meaning Children’s Falls.

You see, the site is very small. Much smaller than you are led to believe from fancy brochures and fancier websites. So small, actually, that it might even disappoint at first glance.

The site of Barnafossar deep in Borgarfjordur valley in Western Iceland is extremely nice in summertime. The whole area was once upon a time totally blanketed with lava from volcanoes now buried deep under Langjokull glacier creating a deep layer of molten rock on top of the everything.

In time the river Hvitá, White river, made its route through the lava fields down to sea and in the process created some stunning scenery. Barnafossar is probably its finest work as it is the only spot where the river takes a fall so to speak. Not a huge fall but enough to make your jaw drop a little. Then the pièce de resistance. The water has created some deep and very narrow gorges for its flow.

As all beautiful natural things it is hard to describe but certainly 100% worth a visit and still there are two more things you should know that makes a visit here much more impressive.

One is that a few meters downstream from Barnafossar you will see the equally beautiful, but very different, Hraunfossar falls. These are streams of water joining Hvitá river from UNDER the lava blanket. Quite impressive sight although these falls too are not huge either and in fact, it is debatable if they are falls indeed. Some categorize those as trickles. But even so, the most majestic trickles you´ve seen.

Hraunfossar means lava falls and make perfect sense. But the name of Barnafossar might bewilder a few people. It means Children´s falls and the reason is far from apparent.

For an answer one must dig into myth and history. Old tales tell of two young boys from nearby farm bored to death at home. They snuck out to go play around the falls which had at that time a natural stone bridge right across it. While crossing the bridge the boys suddenly become very dizzy, fell into the river and tragically drowned. When their mother realized this she cast a spell on the stone bridge declaring that anyone crossing it would also fall and drown. Some time later an earthquake demolished the bridge.

Tours available:  One of very best day trips available from Reykjavik takes you around these parts. Through Thingvellir National Parks over a mountainous road close to impressive glaciers before heading down the whole Borgarfjordur valley and taking in Hvalfjordur fjord on the way back. Only small groups, Credit and debit cards welcome. From May to September. Contact for details.