Iceland is well known for its many stunningly beautiful waterfalls. The waterfalls are as diverse as they are many, and they are all worth a visit. We have compiled for you the Ultimate List of the Must-See Icelandic Waterfalls, and we suggest that you try to see as many of them on your visit to Iceland.
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Glymur, One of the Highest Waterfalls in Iceland
Glymur Waterfall is the second highest waterfall in Iceland at 198 meters tall. It is located in Botnsdalur, a lovely valley at Hvalfjörður Hvalfjorður), which is a deep fjord that reaches far inland just north of Reykjavík.
The waterfall is a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Reykjavík, but to get to Glymur Waterfall you need to do a two-hour hike, which is well worth it for the views since the waterfall and the area around it are stunning. It is not so easy to access, so don’t forget to wear good hiking shoes for this, approximately, 4-hour round trip.
The path will take you to the Botnsá river trails, where you will go through a spectacular rock arch and cross a crystal clear river. If you manage to go high up, you will have a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape, Hvalfjörður is considered to be one of Iceland’s most beautiful fjords.
Before 2007, the waterfall was ranked the highest of Iceland, but the experts have now discovered a higher waterfall at Vatnajökull glacier, Morsárfoss, this waterfall has a drop of 228m. This is the actual highest waterfall in Iceland!
Seljalandsfoss, the One That You Can Walk Behind
Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. It is a very photogenic waterfall that plunges from ancient sea cliffs down over 60m into a shallow pool.
Seljalandsfoss is on the South Coast of Iceland, and it is only about a one-and-a-half-hour drive (120km) from Reykjavík. To reach it you need to take Road 249 leading to Þórsmörk (Thorsmork), the waterfall is very near to the Ring Road. You can access this area from the farm of Seljaland.
The river which feeds Seljalandsfoss is, Seljalandsá, which has its origins at the magnificent volcano glacier, Eyjafjallajokull. This cascade is unique as you can walk behind the water flow and see the waterfall and the world from a new perspective. Bring your raincoat as you will get wet from the drizzle.
During winter, the path is closed as it gets too slippery and dangerous, but during summer you have a great chance to see a rainbow on a sunny day. Many colorful wildflowers bloom and vegetation thrives around the waterfall because the mist from the falls keeps everything moist.
Gullfoss, The Superstar of the Golden Circle
Gullfoss waterfall is a majestic waterfall on Hvítá, a glacial river. The river flows from the lake, Hvítárvatn and the glacier, Langjökull. Gullfoss is 32 meters high but it plunges in two stages (one of 11m and the other of 21m).
Gullfoss waterfall is on the famous Golden Circle route in Iceland, and it is only a 1.5 hour-long drive from Reykjavík. The name Gullfoss means Golden (Gull) Falls (Foss), and watching the Golden Falls in the golden Icelandic sun is truly amazing. It offers a spectacular view of the strength as well as the beauty of the untouched Icelandic nature, it is certainly one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.
In addition to being a beautiful waterfall, Gullfoss has a strong history. In the early 20th century, many foreign investors wanted to harness the waterfall to produce electricity. Investors who indirectly rented Gullfoss from the original owners, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson, were planning to build a hydroelectric power plant, which would have totally destroyed the waterfall.
Sigríður Tómasdóttir, Halldór Tómasson’s daughter, was very strongly against the project, she walked to Reykjavík many times to further her cause, threatening to throw herself into the waterfall in protest, as the last hope. Finally, the project didn’t come to conclusion, thanks to Sigríður and her lawyer (who became later the first president of Iceland), Gullfoss was protected for the people of Iceland to enjoy. Nowadays, you can admire Sigríður’s memorial by the waterfall.
Svartifoss, the Black Waterfall
Svartifoss waterfall is in Skaftafell, Vatnajokull National Park. A very popular trail to the waterfall begins at the Skaftafell Visitor Centre, where you will find plenty of free parking. You will see signs of the different hiking trails here.
The hike to Svartifoss will take you around 45 minutes, including time for photo-stops, the distance is 2 kilometers. On the way, you will come across three other waterfalls which are well worth admiring: Magnúsarfoss, Hundafoss, and Þjófafoss.
Svartifoss means ‘Black Falls’, the dark lava columns that surround the waterfall inspired this name. They are the result of cooled lava and crystallizing molten rock. These unique basalt columns may look familiar, indeed the architect who created the famous Hallgrimskirkja (church) in Reykjavík got his inspiration from Svartifoss waterfall. Svartifoss is over 20 meters tall and it is free falling. Truly stunning.
Aldeyjarfoss in North Iceland
Aldeyjarfoss is a 20-meter-high waterfall with glacier waters flowing in a narrow fall, located in the North of Iceland. Only 90 kilometers from Húsavík, Aldeyjarfoss is worth a visit, but a 4WD is required if you are going on your own. You will have to drive 41 km each way into the Bárðardalur valley after you leave the main road (on roads 842 and 844), taking you off the beaten path.
The stunning view surrounding the waterfall will make you feel like you are in a fairytale world. Indeed, as the huge amphitheater of basalt columns welcomes the water flow, the sight is stunning. This is certainly one of Iceland’s most photogenic gems, thanks in part to its amazing symmetry.
Both sides of the waterfall are pretty, but the north bank offers even more impressive photo opportunities. On the north side, the hike to Aldeyjarfoss is beautiful and easier to access, whereas, on the south bank you would need to stumble down a rocky hill, but you will get the chance to see the whole of this round basin-like ‘rock-face’.
Goðafoss, the Waterfall of the Gods
Goðafoss waterfall, or ‘Waterfall of the Gods’ is around 12 meters tall but it has a width of around 30 meters, making it one of the largest and most imposing waterfalls in Iceland. It is located in the North of Iceland, under a one-hour drive from Akureyri, along the Ring Road by the farm, Fosshóll.
This waterfall is famous in the Icelandic Sagas, it is also connected with one of the most important events in Icelandic history. The conversion to Christianity in the year 1000. In those ancient times the Lawspeaker of the Icelandic Parliament of that year, Þorgeir Þorkelsson, lived only a few kilometers away from the waterfall.
He was then a Pagan Priest and was strongly wondering if the Icelandic people should keep practicing Norse Paganism or convert to Christianity. He decided in favor of Christianity and became a Christian himself, he didn’t forbid Pagans to practice their religion, though, but they were only allowed to do so in private. To make his decision official, Þorgeir went to Goðafoss, taking his heathen idols with him, and hurled them into the waterfall.
The Stunning Háifoss
Háifoss waterfall is one of Iceland’s tallest waterfalls, at 122 meters tall. The name Háifoss means ‘High Falls’ or ‘Tall Falls’, because of the size of the waterfall. This waterfall is on the river Fossá, it is located in South Iceland, close to Hekla volcano, at the entrance to the Icelandic Highlands.
Discovered in the first decade of the 19th century, it was thought to be the highest waterfall in Europe. The name stuck, even when other higher waterfalls were discovered later on.
Right next to this waterfall, flowing on a two million years old cliff, you will find another waterfall called Granni, which literally means ‘Neighbor’. Háifoss is a stunning waterfall that is a short two-hour drive from Reykjavík. Follow the Ring Road in an easterly direction, after passing Selfoss turn left (Road 30) then after 17 kilometers turn right (Road 32) and you will enter into Þjórsárdalur, a great valley.
You will then need to travel another 45 kilometers to get to the seven-kilometer-long mountain track leading to Háifoss, this is only accessible with a 4WD vehicle. You can also enjoy the hiking trail if you want to get some more exercise before you see the mind-blowing view.
Dettifoss, the Beast
Dettifoss waterfall, often referred as “The Beast” is not only the most powerful waterfall in Iceland but the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. Each second, 193 m3 of water rushes through this 100-meter wide and 44-meter tall waterfall.
If you stand close enough to the waterfall you can feel the earth tremble beneath your feet. It’s amazing to feel the true power of nature so close to you. You, maybe, saw this waterfall in the opening scene of Prometheus (2012), in which it ‘stood in’ for an alien landscape.
Dettifoss is located in North Iceland, on the glacial river, Jökulsá á Fjöllum, which flows from the magnificent Vatnajökull glacier. Driving along the Ring Road from East Iceland, you can choose between the roads numbered 864 and 862, but only Road 864 is asphalted between Dettifoss and the Ring Road.
Both roads can be closed during winter due to snow and poor conditions. The section of Road 864 which leads from Dettifoss to Road 85 to Húsavík and Kópasker, is an extremely rough gravel road, which needs a 4WD vehicle. To get more information about road conditions, consult the official Icelandic road information website.
Skógafoss, One of Iceland’s Most Well-Known Waterfalls
Skógafoss waterfall is one of Iceland’s most well-known waterfalls, partly because of its proximity to the Ring Road. Just two hours away from Reykjavík, it is located close to the little village of Skógar, on the Skogá river which gave its name to the waterfall.
Skógafoss is 60 meters tall (197 feet) and 25 meters wide (80 feet), making it one of the taller waterfalls in all of Iceland. Skógafoss waterfall is very powerful, and due to the amount of spray it produces, rainbows and even double rainbows can usually be observed on sunny days.
From the parking lot, you can easily walk closer to the waterfall, it is even possible to hike to the top if you are willing to climb around 500 steps. If you reach the top, and the climb is well worth it, you can admire the beautiful waterfall from above.
A little bit farther on, there is an amazing hiking trail called Fimmvörðuháls, which is 25-kilometer long, just perfect if you arrived in the morning and have the whole day free. On your way back down the steps, it is amusing to look at the faces of people going up and to remember that you looked exactly the same.
The waterfall is connected to a legend. It is believed that behind the waterfall there is a chest filled with gold and treasures, waiting to be found. The legend says that Þrasi Þórólfsson, the first Viking settler at Skógar, hid the precious chest underneath the waterfall around year 900 and that the first man to retrieve the chest can keep the treasure.
Hraunfossar, the One that Appears from the Ground
Hraunfossar waterfall, meaning ‘Lava Falls’, is located in Borgarfjörður, near Húsafell, on the way to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It is only 60 kilometers north of Reykjavík, which is about a one-hour drive. At Hraunfossar you can observe a unique natural phenomenon as the clear water seems to magically appear from the lava.
In fact, the cold spring water just surges through the ground and flows in thousands of tiny streams, resembling low rapids, as it drops down into the Hvítá river. The waterfall is, though, best described as a low wide arc of rivulets extending over a distance of 900 meters (2.953 feet).
The water comes directly from Langjökull glacier, it takes around fifty years to travel through the Hallmundarhraun lava field, which was created by the eruption of one of the volcanoes under Langjökull glacier.
This waterfall often appears to have unique turquoise blue water, although sometimes it looks milky white, depending on the weather and the season. Against a black and green background, this place is always really photogenic. The waterfall has been a protected National Monument since 1987.
Barnafoss, the Very Blue One Next to Hraunfossar
You will also find a hiking trail leading to the nearby Barnafoss waterfall, the name means ‘Children’s Falls’. There is also a coffee shop, which is only open during the summertime, and a pedestrian bridge across the river. The viewpoint at the parking lot offers a breathtaking view over Hraunfossar and the Hvítá river.
Kirkjufellsfoss, the One with the Most Beautiful Background
Kirkjufellsfoss is a low waterfall flowing into the Kirkjufellsá river, which flows down from a volcanic mountain ridge called Helgrindur. It is located near the small town of Grundarfjörður on the northern side of Snæfellsnes, a peninsula in West Iceland. This beautiful five-meter high waterfall is divided into three separate flows.
You will see a famous picture of Kirkjufellsfoss if you search for Iceland on Google Images, showing the waterfall from a certain angle, with Mount Kirkjufell in the background. Kirkjufellsfoss is, nowadays, one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland despite its small size.
Everybody wants to take the same picture that looks just like a postcard, this is one reason why you are likely to see so many visitors with tripods and cameras trying to catch the right angle.
The waterfall is glorious in any season, during winter if you have the chance to see the Northern Lights above the waterfall this is magical. During the summer, with the natural light that the midnight sun offers it is very different but equally magical.
If you don’t mind appearing in a picture, you can walk to a viewing point above the waterfall or around and behind it to be closer to nature and see the impressively clear water from different angles.
Hengifoss, the Most Beautiful Waterfall in East Iceland
Hengifoss, which means ‘Hanging Falls’, is the second highest waterfall in Iceland, before the discovery of Morsárfoss at Morsárjökull glacier in 2007, Hengifoss, dropping 128 meters (420 feet), from the plateau into a breathtaking gorge was the highest. In terms of height the Morsárfoss waterfall has certainly dethroned Hengifoss and every other Icelandic waterfall.
Hengifoss is located 34 kilometers away from Egilsstaðir, the major town in East Iceland, which has all main services and its own airport. When you leave Highway 1 at Egilsstaðir you can choose between two routes to Hengifoss: driving to the east or the west side of Lagarfljót lake.
The distance is the same in both cases, the difference is that on the west side (route 931 to Fljótsdalur and Skriðuklaustur), you will be on a gravel road for part of the journey, whereas the route on the eastern bank is more popular as you will go through the magnificent forest of Hallormsstaður. You will also get a great panoramic view of Mount Snæfell. At one point, you will even be able to admire the waterfall falling from the plateau.
It takes about 40 minutes to an hour each way to hike from the parking lot, the round trip is 5 kilometers. On the way, you will see another beautiful waterfall called Litlanesfoss, surrounded by impressive basalt columns. Litlanesfoss drops 30 meters in two steps before it cascades into a small pool-like area, this river then flows into the Lagarfljót lake, where Lagarfljótsormurinn, the worm-like monster is rumoured to live.
The hike to Hengifoss is an upwards climb, it can get a bit physical but there are benches along the way, so you can take a break. The colorful rock surrounding the waterfall shows different layers from volcanic eruptions which occurred during the Tertiary period, when Iceland was being formed. The various red stripes that you can see around Hengifoss are sediments and old soil, the red color stems from the oxidation of the iron in the clay.
If you want to find a great restaurant, you will find this at the Skriðuklaustur Visitor Centre, which is 5 kilometers from the car park.