With a little over 10.000 waterfalls scattered all over Iceland’s territory, it comes as no surprise that this little island has one of the highest numbers of waterfalls of any other country in the entire world.
Some are found right next to the infamous Ring Road, making them easily accessible to all whilst others are hidden in mesmerizing gorges and challenging mountainous ranges, that can be reached only after a few hours of hiking.
Rest assured, no matter your physical ability or available time, Iceland has plenty of waterfalls to suit all your needs and desires!
The famous waterfalls
By far one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls, Gullfoss waterfall or ‘Golden waterfalls’ can be found a short drive from Reykjavík. Together with Geysir and Þingvellir, Gulfoss makes up Iceland’s most traveled sightseeing road, that of the golden circle.
This mesmerizing waterfall takes its waters from the Langjökull glacier before feeding in the Hvítá river and falling 32 meters from a beautifully formed double cascade. Access to the site is facilitated by wooden stairs found all around the area. During summer, a path allows visitors to get as close to the falls as possible, allowing a picture-perfect birds-eye view of the surrounding area.
Located just a stone’s throw away from the Ring Road, Seljalandsfoss is one of those places that you’re guaranteed to remember for years to come! This beautifully placed waterfall found in Katla GeoPark, whose waters originate from the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull drops from an impressive 60-meters. What’s even more impressive is the fact that a small path allows visitors to walk behind it, giving them a 360-degree view of the falls themselves. On a bright and sunny day, you can even see the coastline from behind the waterfall! It’s worth mentioning that the path can become extremely slippery at times, therefore extreme caution should be made!
A true favorite, Skógafoss waterfall can be seen only a short drive away from Seljalandsfoss. This 60-meter high and 25-meter-wide waterfall is by far a tourist favorite! Its mesmerizing powerful waters can be felt from hundreds of meters away. Due to the waterfalls, strong spray a rainbow or two often appear right next to it, giving it an ever more mesmerizing appearance. A 500-step path leads visitors to the top of the waterfall allowing them to enjoy the surrounding landscape from above. This is also the starting or ending point to one of Iceland’s favorite hiking trails.
Considered Europe’s second most powerful waterfall with a flow rate of just over 193 cubic meters per second, the beautiful Dettifoss waterfall in Northern Iceland is not to be missed! Found on the Diamond circle, its sheer size – 100 meters wide and with a 44-meter drop, is impressive in itself. The grey/white run-off color plunging straight into Jökulsárgljúfur canyon is due to the rich in sediment waters, giving it an interesting and different look. It’s a perfect pit stop for winter and summer alike.
Located in Skaftafell natural reserve, a part ofVatnajökull National Park lies the legendary Svartifoss waterfall. The iconic basalt columns adjoining Svartifoss have been an inspiration to Icelandic architects, Hallgrímskirkja church being one of these completed visions.
A short hike across Iceland’s diverse landscapes and natural sceneries take you straight to the waterfall, from where you can enjoy the falls and the splendid surrounding area. On your way to the waterfall, you’ll also get a chance to pass by three other smaller ones, Sjónarnípa viewpoint as well as Sel Farm. Should you wish to continue your adventure, you can opt to take one of the many available and clearly marked hiking routes.
Another gem in the North part of the island is the waterfall of the gods, also known as Goðafoss. The horseshoe-shaped waterfall is split in two, with water from the Skjálfandafljót river falling from a height of 12 meters. Goðafoss plays a large part in Icelandic mythology as it is said that after making Christianity the official religion of Iceland, Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall.
A top favorite, Dynjandi waterfall in Arnarfjörður in the Westfjords of Iceland, certainly never fails to impress. Found in the geographically oldest place in the whole country, and filled with an abundance of wildlife, contrasting landscapes, and raw beauty, Dynjandi waterfall must be on your bucket list when visiting Iceland! The waterfall itself impresses by its sheer size and captivating fairy-tale-like landscape. Thousands of little cascades made up from seven separate waterfalls are idyllically spread out over a 100 by 30-meter wide surface, forming a picture-perfect natural wonder, resembling a veil. The area is easily accessible straight from the car park, but as with most waterfalls in Iceland, the 30-minute hike leading you to the very edge of the falls is worth it! Although the area is open year-round, it is generally not advisable to visit come winter, as the Westfjords are known for their harsh conditions, surprising snowstorms, and an altogether unpleasant experience. Should you still wish to visit during this time of the year, it is advisable to always check the current road conditions.
Kirkufellsfoss alongside mount Kirkjufell is by far one of the most visited attractions of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, if not of the entire island. Although the waterfall itself isn’t that attractive on its own, pair it with the most photographed mountain in Iceland as a backdrop, and you’ll get quite a remarkable natural scenery. If you happen to be a Game of Thrones fan, you would have surely noticed Mt. Kirkjufell appearing in the saga.
The lesser-known waterfalls
If you’re looking for something more off the beaten path, Brúarfoss waterfall is the place to go! Placed in the western part of the country, near the famous Golden Circle route, it is the perfect add-on to any day trip. Although small in size, this pocket-sized waterfall is quite popular among tourists, especially for its memorable milky blue-colored waters that runoff the Brúará river.
Although the initial path has been closed off for tourists for a few months, the newly built one takes visitors from the parking lot to the waterfall in a little over an hour or so each way.
Hraunfossar or ‘lava falls’ found in the western region of the country, is a visually different type of waterfall, made up of a series of springs coming from deep within the Hallmundarhraun lava field and falling on the side of Hvítá river’s banks. A pallet of beautiful colors of vegetation can be seen above the falls during the summer and autumn months, whereas during the colder months, the landscape metamorphoses into a true winter wonderland.
A short walk along the banks of Hraunfossar lies Barnafoss rapid waterfall. Its turbulent turquoise blue waters are associated with a dark history, that is if you believe the tales told in the Icelandic Sagas.
Located in the East part of the country near the picturesque village of Egilsstaðir, and highly visible from the road, Hengifoss waterfall imposes its presence with its spectacular 128-meter drop. Apart from its sheer size, the waterfall also strikes with its colors – layers of red clay intertwined with basalt rocks, giving it a particular yet memorable look.
Found in the western region of the country, about an hour’s drive from the capital of Reykjavík lies Glymur waterfall. Up until 2011, it was thought that Glymur was the highest waterfall in Iceland before the receding Vatnajökull glacier revealed the 228-meter Morsárfoss waterfall, stealing its number one place. Nonetheless, Glymur’s impressive 198-meter drop is still the tallest one that most will probably ever get a chance to see from up close in Iceland as Morsárfoss is simply just too hard to reach! To reach Glymur, you’ll have to strap on your hiking boots and be prepared for some uphill cardio for at least an hour or so before reaching your endpoint. Getting there by car is easy. You follow Route 1 before turning onto road 47 in the Hvalfjörður fjord. A sign will guide you to a parking lot from where your hike begins. Although the hike itself isn’t so strenuous, muddy paths, uneven terrain, and river crossings are just part of the overall adventure. Upon reaching the top of the canyon, you’ll have mesmerizing views over the moss-filled canyon and Iceland’s pristine untouched nature.
Also referred to as Faxi waterfall or ‘Vatnsleysufoss’, this lesser-known but still strikingly beautiful fall is found on the Golden Circle drive – a perfect option for those wanting to explore Iceland’s lesser crowded natural attractions. Flowing on the river Tungufljót, fed by glaciers coming from deep within the country’s highlands, this 80 meters wide and just 7 meters in height waterfall has excellent viewing platforms where you can comfortably enjoy the sights nearby. A fish ladder – seen on the side of the falls also indicates that it’s a popular fishing location.
Idyllically nestled in between basalt rock formations, a little off the main round in Southern Iceland is the Hjálparfoss waterfall. A perfect add-on when heading towards Landmannalaugar! The drive to the waterfalls themselves is quite scenic as it passes just by Hekla’s scenic lava fields. You can reach the falls by driving along a gravel road just off Route 32 for a few kilometers until you reach the parking lot.
The ‘high waterfall’ or Háifoss, found in the south of Iceland fed by the river Fossa, a bit further along Hjálparfoss is the third tallest waterfall in the country after Morsárfoss and Glymur. The contrasting colors of the region paired with the waterfall’s impressive 122-meter drop over geologically rich cliffs is truly a sight of its own. Even though it’s only found a stone’s throw away from one of Iceland’s most popular tourist routes – that of the Golden Circle, the waterfall is not visited by many people. It’s a shame because its particular rugged landscape and raw beauty are truly a sight worth seeing! Access to the falls is pretty straightforward: from the car park, you’d only need to walk a few minutes to reach the best viewpoint overlooking the falls, its neighboring waterfall ‘Granni’ as well as the surrounding area. Should you wish to hike down to the falls, it will take you about 4km or an hour and a half one-way to do so. Two paths allow you to hike directly to the water’s edge. Be aware that the terrain can be slippery and uneven therefore extreme caution must be exercised if you choose to hike down.
The ‘hidden’ waterfalls
The mesmerizing Kvernufoss is one of those hidden gems that should not be missed! Discovered only a stone throw from the famous Skógafoss waterfall, the impressive 30-meter-high fall is masked in a picturesque gorge, surrounded by cliffs and birds circling above. An even bigger selling point is the fact that one can walk directly behind the falls, by following a marked trail. It should be noted that during winter, the path might become extremely slippery therefore caution should be exerted.
If you’re looking to explore the less explored – as hard as that can be in a country like Iceland where no stone is left unturned, then Gljúfrabúi waterfall is just up your street. After discovering its notoriously popular neighbor – Seljalandsfoss, to the left of the waterfalls, you’ll pass by a few smaller ones before reaching Gljúfrabúi’s gorge. At first, it might not seem like there could be anything interesting past this dark and narrow entrance, but believe us, there is! If the water level is not too high and you can comfortably make your way through the gorge without getting too wet, then you’re in for a real treat. A few meters past the entrance, you’ll find Gljúfrabúi waterfall, tucked in what seems to be a cold and damp bat cave. It is essential that you bring your waterproof gear, as if you haven’t already gotten drenched at Seljalandsfoss, you definitely will here! If you want to explore the area even further, why not climb up the steep path leading you to the top of the cave. You’ll have a birdseye view over the stumbling waterfalls all the way up to the coastline.
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