Háifoss, or ‘high waterfall’, nestled in Fossárdalur valley in the south of Iceland is the third tallest waterfall in the country after Morsárfoss and Glymur.
Fed by the river Fossa, Háifoss presents an array of contrasting colors from the two million-year-old cliffs nearby to the vivid green colored grass all across the valley. With a whopping 122 meters drop over geologically rich cliffs, this stunning natural backdrop is worth a visit.
History and folklore
Upon discovery in the late 20th century by the Icelandic geologist Dr. Helgi Pjeturson, it was deemed that this was the highest waterfall not only in Iceland but in the whole of Europe. This statement was later adjusted, once higher waterfalls were discovered all over the European continent.
It comes to no surprise that this picture-perfect area comes with a trail of mythological creatures and folklore: Visitors are told stories of ogre monsters, one of which lived near the waterfall, and came out at night to feed on fish, threatening anyone who dared to come near. One day a young boy threw a stone into the river. The monster entered his tent and attacked him and his friends. The boy was saved from death by the intervention of his companions, but suffered severe injuries. Similar tales have been reported for many areas throughout the “Land of Ice and Fire”, with the most popular characters in them being the trolls found in lore throughout the vast Norse world. In Icelandic mythology, the relationship of troll and ogre gives birth to demonological creatures that demand awe and respect from locals and tourists alike.
Háifoss and the nearby region
Apart from Háifoss, there is one other waterfall in close proximity each feeding from the same river, Fossa. The river splits into two separate parts a kilometer or so from Háifoss waterfall, each creating a beautiful cascade of their own. Granni waterfall (the Icelandic word for ‘neighbor’, ‘neighboring’) can be found at about 250 m from its larger sibling Háifoss. Its height is more modest – just over 101 m, and its power is also inferior in strength.
The two waterfalls, as well as the small nearby settlement, the historic agrarian farm Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng, are in close proximity to the notorious volcano – Hekla. During one of its violent eruptions in the Middle Age, the farm was destroyed and then rebuilt in the 1980s.
Getting to the waterfalls
The waterfalls are found in close proximity to the Golden Circle, therefore it is best to add this spot as a stop on your tour. From Fluðir, the drive takes roughly an hour to complete on road 332 and follows the river through the mesmerizing Þjórsárdalur Valley. Turn left on route 32 and follow the gravel road for about 7 kilometers until you reach Háifoss.
Some amenities are present for hikers and visitors alike: A parking lot on top of the waterfalls, a viewing platform on the south side of Háifoss and Hekla dominating the overall landscape in the distance.
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