13 Best waterfalls in Iceland
You cannot visit Iceland and not chase waterfalls. The country has more than 10,000 waterfalls. It’s not just the famous waterfalls that are beautiful, but you come upon unknown falls on your road trip makes you stop the car on the side and say…wow!
Here I have listed down some of the more known ones that are major tourist attractions in this country. I have visited most on them on my Iceland ring road itinerary in summer and I write from my personal experience.
‘Foss’ means ‘waterfall’ in Icelandic and you would note most names for waterfalls in Iceland end with foss. Most waterfalls in Iceland are fed by glaciers. And while the force of water is the maximum during the summer months, some of these waterfalls turn into a fairyland during winters. They are year-round destinations.
Waterfalls in Iceland
The South coast of Iceland has many attractions: the largest glacier in Iceland, black sand beaches, ice lagoons and more. This popular area also has some incredible waterfalls amongst all its highlights. They are right on the main ring road before you reach the pretty town of Vik I Myrdal.
Skogafoss is a beautiful waterfall on the ring road towards Vik in south Iceland. A stop at Skogafoss is a must on any South coast Iceland itinerary. You can see some part of the falls from the main road itself. But the fun is to turn off the main road, there is a car park and a restaurant close to the waterfall. You must cross that and reach the bottom of the falls.
‘skogur’ means ‘forest and ‘foss’ is for waterfall in Icelandic.
This is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a height of about 60 meters. It is possible to walk very close to Skogafoss but be prepared to be drenched due to the heavy mist around the falls. Many days, you can see a rainbow looming over the falls due to the heavy mist.
There is a staircase with over 500 steps to take you to the top of the falls. But, in my opinion, the bottom part of the falls is far more beautiful than the top view. And unless you plan to hike the ‘Skogafoss way’ that starts at the top of the fall, you can avoid climbing the 500 steps.
Seljalandsfoss, like Skogofoss is on the ring road in south Iceland en route to Vik. The unique thing about this waterfall that you can get behind it. There is a small path that leads to the back of the waterfall, and you get glorious view of the waterfall and the surrounding areas from behind it. But do put your rain gear on because you will get completely drenched as you walk the full circle to come back to the front.
Seljalandsfoss drops with a thunderous sound some 60 meters on the rocky ground. It has its origin from the glacier Ejyafjallajokull.
While not as famous as Skogafoss or Seljalandsfoss, Svartifoss is still quite popular waterfall in south Iceland. It is in Skaftafell within Vatnajokull national park. Svartifoss is unique due to the basalt columns that surround it. Hikers and nature lovers trek to this beautiful waterfall of just 20 meters drop. Svartifoss is named for its cliffs of hexagonal basalt columns. They may remind you of those seen at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Svartifoss is also known as the Black Waterfall (due to the basalt columns surrounding it). You can hike on a well-marked trail from Skaftafell visitor center to this waterfall. The hike is moderately difficult and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours round trip.
Waterfalls in Iceland – Golden Circle route, near Reykjavik
Everyone on their first visit to Iceland does the famous Golden Circle route in Iceland: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall.
Gullfoss or the ‘Golden falls’ are perhaps the most popular waterfall in Iceland due to its proximity to Reykjavik. This waterfall has 2 stages: a shorter cascade of about 11 meters height, and then a higher waterfall with a drop of about 21 meters. The canyon walls on both sides of the falls descend deep into the Gullfossgjufur Canyon.
There are several walking trails and viewing platforms around Gullfoss. But make sure to stay on the designated paths, as the terrain is slippery and may prove dangerous.
Thingvellir national park is the most visited attraction on the Golden Circle route for its unique geology and history. Almannagja Gorge within the national park marks the edge of the North American continental plate. Oxarafoss drops in 2 stages over the cliffs of Almannagja Gorge. You can walk the path on this gorge upto the waterfall.
Oxarafoss has a height of about 13 meters and the water hits the smooth rocks at the base.
Europe’s largest waterfall is on the Diamond Circle route in North Iceland. The Diamond Circle comprises the Asbyrgi canyon, the mighty Dettifoss, Lake Myvatn and the whale watching capital of Husavik. A visit to the northern part of the country is incomplete without its popular waterfalls.
Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. There are easy steps made from the car park to this waterfall. And the thunderous sound gets louder as you get closer. Dettifoss is located inside the Vatnajökull National Park and is 100 meters wide and drops 45 meters deep into Jokulsargljufur canyon.
You can view the falls from both the west and the east side. The west side has railings and steps. The east side gets you closer, but you need to be extremely careful on the large boulders. There is nothing between the boulders and the falls! If you are visiting Akureyri or Lake Myvatn area, you cannot miss a stop at Dettifoss.
Selfoss is part of the same canyon as Dettifoss. Selfoss is 100 meters wide but only 11 meters deep.
The Dettifoss car park has a diirect path leading to this waterfall. Or you can visit Dettifoss from the west side and there is a trail to the north that leads to Selfoss.
Another waterfall in North Iceland worth visiting is the Godafoss, or the ‘waterfall of the Gods’. It is on the ring road between Akureyri and Myvatn. Godafoss can be viewed from both the east and the west side. This waterfall is beautiful, it has a width of 30 meters and a drop of 12 meters.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is called ‘Iceland in miniature’. You get stunning coastal rides, lava fields, a view of the Snaefellsjokull glacier, the Northern lights and the most photographed mountain in Iceland (Kirkjufell). Like other regions of Iceland, this area also has beautiful waterfalls.
Hraunfossar is situated in the western part of Iceland, approximately 125 kilometers (78 miles) from Reykjavik, the capital city. It is nestled in the vicinity of Borgarnes, a small town in the Borgarfjörður region.
Unlike traditional waterfalls that plunge from cliffs or mountains, Hraunfossar’s name translates to “Lava Falls” in Icelandic. This is because the water seems to magically appear from beneath the porous lava field, creating a series of countless tiny cascades and streams that flow into the Hvítá River.
The waterfall itself is part of the Hvítá River, which flows through a lava field known as Hallmundarhraun. Hraunfossar is located very close to another famous waterfall called Barnafoss, which is just upstream from Hraunfossar.
Dynjandi, also known as Fjallfoss or Thunderous, is a stunning waterfall located in the Westfjords region of Iceland. It is often considered one of the most impressive and beautiful waterfalls in the country.
Dynjandi is situated in the remote and rugged landscape of the Westfjords, in the northwestern part of Iceland. It is a remote area, which adds to the sense of wilderness and natural beauty surrounding the waterfall. Dynjandi is not a single waterfall but a series of waterfalls that cascade down a mountainside.
Glymur is in Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland. At a height of 198 meters, it is the second tallest waterfall in the country. This waterfall can be visited only a hike. It is nestled in a narrow canyon and fed by the river Botnsa.
There is a river crossing that you need to cross during the hike. This log is put sometime in May end or June, so the Glymur waterfall hike is possible only during summer months (June to September). As you hike up to Glymur, you get wonderful views of the lush valley and the coast far away.
Bjarnarfoss is a two-tiered waterfall nestled in the hills in Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It is right behind the town of Budir. The waterfall is 80 meters tall and makes for a great photo with mountains as its backdrop. The waterfall flows from the edge of the Hallmundarhraun lava field. Hallmundarhraun formed after an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the nearby glacier of Langjokull, the second largest ice-cap in Iceland.
We saw the Bjarnarfoss from the main road on our West Iceland itinerary. It is most convenient to visit, should you decide to do that. There is a car park close to the main road and a walking path to the waterfall. This walking path gets slippery during winter time so best to see the falls from the road at that time.
We landed upon Gufufoss on the scenic road drive from Egilsstadir to the town of Seydisfjordur. There is no name marking on the site and no one around at the time we went. We parked the car on the side and got down to explore this beauty.
Gufufoss is located just outside Seydisfjordur. This waterfall is approximately 88 meters tall. Gufufoss means ‘steam waterfall’, earning its name due to the heavy mist it creates when it hits the rocks. We caught quite an amount of spray as we walked closer to the falls. The most uncrowded place we went to in all of Iceland, but East Iceland due to its distance from Reykjavik sees hardly any crowds and has unspoiled beauty.
Hope you enjoyed this wrote-up on some of the best waterfalls in Iceland. The amazing part about a road trip across Iceland that while many of these waterfalls would be part of your itinerary, you would come upon incredible nameless falls during your drive.
Walk over lava fields, hike to glaciers and volcano craters, visit the dramatic black sand beaches and natural ice caves, look for Icelandic wildlife and just enjoy the natural landscape of Iceland. And you would note that this stunning natural landscape is incomplete without its beautiful waterfalls. Don’t forget to try some Icelandic delicacies such as the Pylsur hot dog acclaimed by Bill Clinton as the best hot dogs in the world and they can be found all over Iceland.
Author bio: Shweta has always been passionate about travel and immersing in new experiences. Having been to over 40 countries, she blogs at Zest In A Tote to bring family-friendly itineraries and tips, destinations, and luxury stays to her readers. Her belief in family travel needn’t be boring and one can do a mix of local culture & food, adventure activities and relaxation, all with family. Connect with Shweta on Facebook or Instagram.
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