Visitors to Iceland may have a difficult time avoiding waterfalls — after all, there are over 10,000 of them! But while every Icelandic waterfall is beautiful, a select few are true natural wonders. From the highest streams to the most unique rock formations, here are Iceland’s top 10 most spectacular waterfalls.
The Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Iceland
Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls comprise stunning cascades of water and dramatic cliffsides, each unusual in its own way. These are the famous waterfalls that will make your jaw drop:
Seljalandsfoss – The Waterfall You Can Walk Behind
No trip to South Iceland is complete without a stroll behind Seljalandsfoss. The falls plummet down from sea cliffs, dropping 200 feet (60 meters) into the Seljalands River. Walking paths at the cliff base lead you directly behind the torrents. Don’t forget to bring your poncho — the refreshing spray is part of the fun!
Gullfoss – The Waterfall Powered by Glaciers
Gullfoss Waterfall is sourced from the second-largest glacier in Iceland, Langjökull. Hiking the path along the waterfall, you will feel the ground tremble beneath your feet. Gullfoss is a mandatory stop when traveling around the famous Golden Circle.
Gullfoss is made up of two separate drops situated at a perpendicular angle from one another. The cascade of water disappears into the Hvítá River Canyon. On sunny days, the falls shine like gold.
How to get to Gullfoss: From Reykjavik, take the Ring Road until you reach the turn-off for Route 35. Take Route 35 for 42 miles (68 kilometers) until you reach Gullfoss.
Svartifoss — The Cathedral of Black Lava
Svartifoss means “black falls,” a reference to the inky black lava columns surrounding the waterfall. The surroundings of Svartifoss provide some of the best photo ops in Iceland, whether under the Midnight Sun or the Northern Lights.
How to get to Svartifoss: The hike to Svartifoss is an easy 45-minute hike from the Visitor’s Center at Skaftafell, the biggest national park in Iceland. To get there, take the Ring Road east from Reykjavik approximately four hours until you hit the sign for Skaftafell.
Aldeyjarfoss – The Earth’s Amphitheater
Standing on the banks of Aldeyjarfoss, you will feel that you have entered the amphitheater of the gods. The glacier waterfall is surrounded by a cliffside of ancient basalt rock formations. Standing tall like organ pipes, these basalt columns are multicolored and almost perfectly symmetrical. This is one of northern Iceland’s most stunning natural sights.
How to get to Aldeyjarfoss: You’ll need a vehicle with four-wheel drive if you plan on going to Aldeyjarfoss by yourself. Take Road 842 from Goðafoss, which will then turn into mountain road F-26. Watch out for the sheep!
The Highest Waterfalls in Iceland
Officially, the highest waterfall in Iceland is Morsárfoss at 785 feet (240 meters). Morsárfoss was discovered in 2007 in East Iceland. Glaciers frequently melt into new waterfalls in Iceland, which is why scientists are still making new discoveries.
Unfortunately, Morsárfoss is nearly impossible to access. The next-highest waterfalls in Iceland, however, leave a mighty impression. Here are the highest waterfalls in Iceland that you can see with your own two eyes:
Glymur — The Giant
Glymur is the king of Iceland’s waterfalls. At 623 feet (190 meters) tall, Glymur is officially the second-highest waterfall in Iceland. The waters of Glymur cascade down from the steep cliffs of Hvalfjörður, one of Iceland’s deepest and most isolated fjords.
Glymur is less than two hours north of Reykjavik by car. Leave Reykjavik, hike Glymur, and return to the city only a few hours later.
How to get to Glymur: Take the Ring Road north and turn right on Route 47, which will take you to the Glymur parking lot. Then set off on the three-and-a-half-hour hike to the waterfall.
Hengifoss – The Natural History Lesson
No waterfall is a greater testament to the wonders of nature than Hengifoss, located in the East Fjords. Hengifoss is widely considered the most beautiful waterfall in eastern Iceland. At 420 feet (128 meters), it is also the third-highest waterfall in Iceland.
Hengifoss tells the story of the geological formation of Iceland. The waterfall is set in an enormous cliff of basalt rock streaked with fiery red stripes. These red stripes are made of clay that settled in the rock during volcanic eruptions 5-6 million years ago.
How to get to Hengifoss: The waterfall is only 21 miles away from Egilsstaðir, the main city in East Iceland, which is serviced by its own airport. Take Highway 1 from Egilsstaðir and choose between two routes: either east or west along the famous Lagarfljót Lake. Both routes provide stunning views.
Háifoss — The High Falls
When Háifoss was first discovered in the early 19th century, it was believed to be the highest waterfall in Iceland – hence the name, “high falls.” Today we know that Háifoss is the fourth-highest waterfall, but it still keeps its name.
Háifoss is 400 feet (122 meters) high. Tucked between the South Coast of Iceland and the entrance to the Icelandic Highlands, this is the perfect destination for eager hikers.
How to get to Háifoss: You’ll need a car or SUV with four-wheel drive for part of the route. Take the Ring Road east from Reykjavik. When you pass Selfoss, turn left onto Road 30 and then right onto Road 32. Another 28 miles along mountain roads will bring you to Háifoss.
The Largest Waterfalls in Iceland
Each of these giants is sure to leave a lasting impression. These are the largest waterfalls in Iceland (and Europe) in terms of vastness and sheer force of power:
Dettifoss — “The Beast” and the Largest Waterfall by Volume in Iceland
Dettifoss earned the nickname “The Beast” for a reason. The most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss produces an enormous volume of water. At Dettifoss, 193 m^3 of water charge over the edge of the falls each second. Standing by the rushing torrents of Dettifoss, you can feel the force of nature vibrating under your feet.
Dettifoss is a good spot to visit all year round, but you can also find unique tours of Dettifoss in the off-season.
How to get to Dettifoss: Driving along the Ring Road, take either Road 864 or 862 (only 864 is asphalted). These roads are treacherous much of the year, so it’s a good idea to jump on a tour with experienced guides and drivers.
Goðafoss – The Waterfall of the Gods
Goðafoss is 40 feet (12 meters) high, yet it stretches about 100 feet (30 meters) side-to-side. This great vastness makes Goðafoss one of Iceland’s most astounding.
Goðafoss is said to play a significant role in Icelandic history. According to legend, in the year 1000 CE, Parliament Lawspeaker Þorgeir Þorkelsson decided that Iceland should convert from paganism to Christianity. He then threw his statues of Norse gods into the waterfall. Whether or not this story is true, there is no denying that Goðafoss is the stuff of gods.
How to get to Goðafoss: Driving along the Ring Road, you can’t miss the sign for Goðafoss. Just head northeast.
Hraunfossar — The Waterfall that Emerges from Lava
Technically, Hraunfossar isn’t just one waterfall — it’s thousands. Hraunfossar, which translates to “the lava falls,” is made up of many rivulets that spurt out of a lava field and pour into the Hvítá River. The crystal clear water of the falls seems to magically emerge from the hardened lava.
A one-hour drive from Reykjavik, Hraunfossar is located conveniently on the way to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, also known as “Iceland in a Nutshell.” Only a short hike away from Hraunfossar flows the Barnafoss Waterfall, known for its electric blue waters.
How to get to Hraunfossar: Take the Ring Road north until you turn right onto Route 50. Then take Route 518 towards Reykholt until you see the sign for Hraunfossar.
With so many wonderful waterfalls in Iceland, you may have a difficult time picking just one or two to see. Luckily, many of our tours ensure that you get to see as many of these stunning natural phenomena as possible in one trip!