Iceland is home to many of the world’s most beautiful and powerful waterfalls. With so many brilliant falls spread out along the country, many travelers may find it difficult to know where to begin. If you only have so much time to explore the island, how does one choose which falls to visit? How do you get to these Iceland waterfalls once you’ve decided?
Getting to These Iceland Waterfalls
Many travelers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts even base their Icelandic vacations entirely around sightseeing these magnificent waterfalls. If you’re thinking about taking a trip to view the uniquely beautiful waterfalls of Iceland, here are your ten best options and how to get to them.
Personal note: We were two of the tourists who based our Iceland vacation on sightseeing some of the best Iceland waterfalls. Our extensive eight-day itinerary took us to seven of the ten below. Please note that there are hundreds more incredible waterfalls in Iceland. This list is based on our personal experiences and extensive research.
From the top of the plateau to the bottom of the gorge, the waters of Hengifoss fall down over 420 feet. This makes Hengifoss one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland. The name Hengifoss means “Hanging Falls.”
The star attraction of this waterfall is the gorgeously striped-plateau that stands behind it. Stripes of red clay between the dark basalt result in a stunning view, one of the most popular viewpoints in East Iceland. These red strata patterns are the result of millions of years of volcanic eruptions. The bright red color of the stripes comes from the oxidization of the iron in the clay.
Getting to Hengifoss
The parking area is located about 30 minutes from Egilsstaðir, in East Iceland. Take route 931 when Highway 1 curves left. Continue down this route for about 23 kilometers until you reach a T-junction, where you’ll turn left. From there, follow the signs that point to Snæfells. You’ll find the parking lot around half a kilometer past the sign after you cross the Hengifossá river.
From the parking lot, head through the gate and up the flight of stairs. This hike is moderately steep, but not too difficult for experienced hikers. The trail ascends rapidly, allowing a gorgeous view of the valley and Lake Lagarfljot. A little past one kilometer into the hike you’ll reach Lítlanesfoss, another waterfall with a spectacular view.
When you’ve had your fill of the view of this first waterfall, continue down the trail on a slightly softer slope. After eventually crossing a tiny wooden bridge, you’ll reach a mound of grey sand and ashes where you’ll see Hengifoss about a kilometer in the distance.
Continue hiking around 600 meters to reach the river, where you’ll get a closer look at the magnificent view of Hengifoss. When you’ve had your fill of this one-of-a-kind view, continue back down the same way you came.
Dettifoss is often reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. At 45 meters high and 100 meters wide, it has the most volume of any waterfall in Iceland. The mist from this extremely large waterfall can be seen from several miles away.
There’s an excellent observational platform where small groups can view the falls up close, which overlooks both the falls and the neighboring countryside. There is a lot of mist surrounding Dettifoss, so be prepared to get wet.
Getting to Dettifoss
From Akureyri, the largest town in Northern Iceland, this waterfall is located about 2 hours away on the Þjóðvegur road to Hólsfjallavegur. After you pass the sign for Lake Mývatn, turn onto road 862.
This will lead you to a gravel road on the West bank of the waterfall. The conditions of gravel roads in Iceland can vary, so travelers are advised to always be aware of road conditions. During bad weather or unsafe conditions, this road may be closed.
There is another path on the East side of the waterfall through road 864. This route is less safe, and part of it is simply a dirt track, which may cause more potential hazard in bad weather. Access to this road is often closed from November to May due to weather.
A few kilometers away from Iceland’s south shore sits Skogafoss, one of the country’s most popular waterfalls. This majestic fall reaches a height of about 60 meters and a width of about 25 meters. A major reason for the popularity of Skogafoss is how easy it is to find. When traveling on the southern Ring Road, the falls can easily be seen in the distance from your car.
Climbing the 370 steps to the top of the waterfall will reward you with an astounding view of the Icelandic southern coastline. The heavy mist created by the falls ensures that there are always rainbows around the area, which makes for many great photo opportunities.
History and Getting to Skogafoss
According to an old legend, a Viking hid his hoard of gold under the falls. Throughout history, many people have tried to find the gold. One famous story says that a young man found the chest and tied a rope to the chest handle ring. As he pulled, only the ring came off. This ring was later used for the church door at Skogar, and is still on display at the Skogar museum.
The drive from Reykjavik to Skogafoss along the Ring Road is just under 100 miles. It’ll take you about two hours to drive from Reykjavik to the falls and the neighboring town of Skogar. This is one of the simplest waterfalls to find in Iceland. Simply head east along the Ring Road until you see the falls on the left. Although you can see the falls with your own eyes easily enough from the road, most GPS systems recognize Skogafoss as a location, so you should have no trouble finding it.
Háifoss is the second tallest waterfall in the country, falling around 122 meters. What makes Háifoss stand out is its conjunction with its neighboring fall, Granni. The Icelandic name Granni means “neighbor.” As such, these twin falls come as a sightseeing package deal, sitting side-by-side in the þórárdalur valley in Southern Iceland.
The Long Drive to Haifoss
To get to Háifoss, head South on Ring Road from Reykjavik. You will drive past several small towns, as well as Selfoss, the largest town in South Iceland. About 15 kilometers past Selfoss, you’ll turn left at the sign for Route 30 towards Flúðir. 18 Kilometers later, you’ll turn right onto Route 32. Drive 40 kilometers down this road and you’ll come to a small gravel road on the left, with a sign for Háifoss and Stöng.
Continue driving down this gravel road, which is longer than expected, and you’ll eventually end up at the parking lot. From here, you’ll need to walk a short distance to the falls. The path to the best view of Háifoss and Granni slopes gently downhill and there is no strenuous hiking or climbing required to reach the falls.
The most difficult part of reaching Háifoss is the drive there. The roads in Iceland can be rough, especially for 2wd vehicles, and the gravel roads leading to these falls are no exception. A 4wd vehicle is recommended for those who wish to travel down these paths. That said, a standard 2wd vehicle can make the journey if you travel slowly and carefully, avoiding damage to the underside of the car and tires. Allow for extra time in your schedule if you’ll be driving down these roads in a standard vehicle.
Gullfoss, meaning “Golden falls,” is Iceland’s most famous waterfall. A large reason for its popularity is that it’s one of three major attractions on the extremely popular Golden Circle Tour. Seeing Gullfoss makes for an excellent day trip from Reykjavik.
What makes Gullfoss stand out are the two distinct right-angle drops that drops that span the entire width of the Hvítá River. The total cumulative drop of the falls is around 32 meters, with the upper drop having a height of 11 meters and the lower drop being 21m tall. The falls appear to be even higher when viewed from the main overlook, however, as they fall into the narrow gorge.
Gullfoss on the Golden Circle
The drive from Reykjavik to the falls takes about 90 minutes. To find Gullfoss, start from Reykjavik and drive about 54 kilometers east along the Ring Road. Near the town of Selfoss, you’ll spot route 35 on the left. Follow route 35 for about 70 more kilometers to reach the waterfall. On the way, you’ll pass by Geysir, another main attraction in the Golden Circle tour, as well as some other towns including Reykholt and Bláskógabyggð.
There are two parking lots for Gullfoss. There’s a lower, smaller one on route 334 and a larger upper one next to the visitor center off route 35. The turn to the smaller parking area on route 334 is located about 700 meters before the larger parking lot off of route 35.
Seljalandsfoss sits along the southern coast of Iceland, fed by melting water from the famous glacier-capped volcano Eyjafjallajokull. While the front side of these powerful falls are quite beautiful, the main attraction is actually the path that leads behind the waterfall. The water cascades over a steep cliff, making it possible to walk behind the waterfall. This offers a great view of the waterfall and its surroundings from the inside.
Always use caution when walking the path behind Seljalandsfoss, as it is consistently wet and can be very slippery. During the winter months, the path behind the waterfall is closed due to the risk of falling ice. These foot trails are mostly flat and accessible to hikers of any skill level, although you should be prepared to get wet. This is definitely the most visited of the major Iceland waterfalls.
Getting to Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss is another waterfall often included in the Golden Circle route. Beginning at Reykjavik, following Road 1 east for about two hours, which will eventually lead you to Road 249. You’ll be able to see Seljalandsfoss easily from the Ring Road. Turn left here and head down the short path to the parking area.
From the parking area, it’s only a short walk to the base of the waterfall. From this point the trail splits and loops around in two directions. The left trail takes hikers up to a small platform next to the cascade and the right trail takes hikers up a slight hill and behind the waterfall itself.
Both trails a short, and visitors to Seljalandsfoss can walk both trails easily. Another trail branches off from the left fork and proceeds along the cliffs, providing more views of the waterfall, before ultimately arriving at a separate waterfall, Gljúfurárfoss.
Svartifoss is located in Skaftafell, an area in Vatnajökull National Park, in Southern Iceland. Due to its location in this heavy tourist area, and about 20 minutes west of Hof, Svartifoss is a popular sightseeing destination for visitors.
Many people visiting Icleand take the round trip on Ring Road. If you’re heading from Reykjavik, continue on Route 1 until you reach Kirkjubæjarklaustur in the south. On the road between Kirkjubæjarklaustur and Hof, you’ll spot a sign for Skaftafell. This is where you’ll find the trail to Svartifoss. There is a large parking area at the Skaftafell visitors center. Here, you’ll find information about hiking trails and the park, including a map to Svartifoss.
Hiking Up to Svartifoss
The hike to Svartifoss is around 2 kilometers, which should take you around 60 to 90 minutes. It’s a fairly light and easy hike, so you won’t have to be an expert to get there. You’ll walk up the trail, through the campsite, and slightly upwards to an elevation of around 140 meters. From here the path will take you down into a ravine where you’ll get a great view from below the waterfall, including the magnificent basalt columns that surround it.
After enjoying the view you should walk up the basalt column steps on the other side of the ravine, where you’ll be able to see more gorgeous angles of the falls. From the top of the steps, follow the path all the way down to the campsite and back to the visitors center.
Dynjandi is located in Vestfirðir, way out in the remote Westfjords. It’s the largest and most popular waterfall in the Westfjords. This waterfall certainly lives up to its name, as the Icelandic word dynjandi is translated to “thunderous.” In reality, Dynjandi is not one waterfall, but a collection of seven smaller waterfalls which tier down, with a cumulative height of 100 meters.
Each of the seven sections of the waterfall has a separate name corresponding to it. The main tier of the fall is Dynjandi. Then there are the sub tiers, respectively named Bæjarfoss, Hundafoss, Hrísvaðsfoss, Göngumannafoss, Strompgljúfrafoss, and Hæstajallafoss.
Getting to Dynjandi
Starting from Breidafjördur Bay, the drive to the falls should take about an hour or so. Drive north on Route 610 for about 500 meters, then turn right onto Route 62. Follow Route 62 for a little over 5 kilometers and turn left onto Route 60, which will junction with Route 63. Around 30 kilometers past the junction, turn left at the sign for Dynjandi. Follow the road downhill until you reach the parking area.
Although the Westfjords seem to be very remote, you may be surprised to see how tourist-friendly the facilities at Dynjandi are. There are well-established walkways, clean toilets, plenty of parking space, and informational signage. Despite its remote location, this area is a popular destination for tourists and travelers and is a common stop for tour busses.
The hike up to the falls immediately begins to climb uphill through a combination of slopes and steps. This is a moderately difficult hike, as certain sections of the path can be steep and rocky, but it should be doable for anyone with a reasonable amount of fitness. In between each workout are signposts explaining the name of each of the waterfall’s sub tiers, allowing time and space for a rest. Going back downhill is a breeze, and the views of the Arnarfjöður and surrounding terrain are breathtaking.
Kirkjufellsfoss is a low-lying but gorgeous waterfall near Kirkjufell mountain, on the north side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The name Kirkjufellsfoss is translated as “Church Mountain Falls.” Many photographers enjoy taking shots of the falls with the scenic mountain in the background. In fact, Mount Kirkjufell is often cited as the most photographed mountain in Iceland, due to its distinct shape and coastal location.
Kirkjufellsfoss is a very short waterfall, especially when compared to the other looming giant falls that Iceland is home to, but the scenery that surrounds it makes this place a popular destination for visitors and nature enthusiasts.
The falls drop down over 16 meters in two broad steps, with the stream leading into a lagoon. The upper tier of the fall drops about 8.5 meters in two to five separate plunges, depending on the current volume of water in the stream. The lower tier is split in two, plunging down another 8 meters. Just below the falls a is a large lagoon with the freshwater stream pooling on one side and the ocean on the other.
Location of Kirkjufellsfoss
You can see Kirkjufellsfoss from Route 54 on the north side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, about 2.5 kilometers west of the town of Grundarfjörður. There is a parking area west of the lagoon where the falls are distantly visible, and clear trails leading to the bridge at the top of the falls. The trail is easy, and there is no strenuous activity needed to get up close to the falls.
The Icelandic name Glymur, which sounds like “glimmer,” means “a clash or ringing.” Gymur is the second tallest waterfall in Icleand, falling down an astonishing 196 meters. While it remains a Icelandic tourism staple, this waterfall was once an even more popular attraction for travelers of the Ring Road, which used to go around Hvalfjörður where these Iceland waterfalls are located.
This was until the toll tunnel that went under the fjord bypassed the old road and became the new route for the Ring Road. As a result, travelers can find a quieter experience here than in the old days, which to many is a huge bonus.
Getting to Glymur
To find Glymur, start from Reykjavik and drive north on the Ring Road for about 24 kilometers, where you’ll come to a fork right before the tunnel going beneath the Hvalfjörður. Turn right, avoiding the tunnel, and onto Route 47. Continue on this route, alongside the fjord, for another 35 kilometers. Just past a bridge at the head of the fjord, there is turnoff with a sign leading to the falls. Head 3 kilometers further to the Glymur parking area and trailhead. The drive should take just over an hour.
The entire hike is about 7.5 kilometers. Depending on your pace, the entire loop could take up to four hours. The first part of the hike will take you through some relatively flat terrain of the Botnsdalur valley, which is famous for its lava fields and beautiful vistas. A highlight of this hike is going through the Þvottahellir Lava Cave, also known as the ” Wishing Cave.”
Once you come out on the other side of the cave, you’ll reach a river that can only be crossed by walking on a tree log. Be careful not to lose your footing. There’s a rope hanging above the log that you can use for extra support while crossing.
The Top of Glymur
From there, you’ll have two options for reaching the top. You can choose to go the north route or the south route, but locals and frequent travelers recommend taking the south side on your way up, as it will offer a better view of the waterfall. You can take the north side on your way down. After the river, the trail can get pretty steep, but there are ropes along the path for you to hold onto.
The final leg of the hike will take you high above Glymur, and then back down to the falls where you can take in the breathtaking view of the valley. When you’ve had your fill, follow the Northern path down. This is a much easier route that also offers wonderful views of the waterfall, before eventually rejoining the main trail at the first river crossing. You can follow the trail all the way to the parking lot.
Wrapping Up Iceland Waterfalls
Iceland is a mecca for those who don’t follow TLC’s advice and decide to go “chasing waterfalls”. There are hundreds upon hundreds of Iceland waterfalls packed into a small island the size of Ohio. We highly recommend Iceland top your waterfall bucket list. In fact, World of Waterfalls, arguably the best aggregator of waterfall locations online, lists Dettifoss as #8 and Gullfoss as #7 on their list of the top 10 waterfalls in the world.