The mighty Eyjafjallajökull glacier feeds countless rivers and streams that line Iceland’s South Coast, flowing towards the Atlantic Ocean.

One of these rivers, Skógá, tumbles spectacularly over a 60-metre tall cliff to become the mighty Skógafoss waterfall—an ever-popular stop where travellers seek out the double rainbow that routinely adorns the falls’ mist on sunny days.

Little further east is another favourite location, the black sand desert of Sólheimasandur; and it is a little-known fact that the formations of these two sites are interconnected.

According to legend, two Viking settlers, Þrasi and Loðmundur lived on neighbouring farms on each side of what is now known as Sólheimasandur. In those days, the area was not a desert, but verdant farmland of green fields and lush birchwood.

Between their estates there flowed a river called Fúlilækur, or ‘Foul River’—named after the strong smell of sulfur it emitted. Since neither Þrasi nor Loðmundur wanted this river near their fields, they alternately used magic spells to divert the water to the other’s land.

Little by little, this back-and-forth diversion of the foul river eroded away all vegetation, leaving behind the wasteland of black sand plains we now know as Sólheimasandur desert.

When Þrasi and Loðmundur finally realised the extent of the destruction they had caused, they decided to make peace, and together they cast a mighty spell that directed the river to fall onto the black sand plains a short distance from the ocean. Thereby, Þrasi and Loðmundur created the profoundly beautiful Skógafoss waterfall.