Iceland, aptly nicknamed the land of fire and ice, is a dream destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. This Nordic island nation boasts a plethora of stunning landscapes, with its unique combination of geothermal wonders, glaciers, and volcanic activity.
Among these natural marvels, Iceland’s numerous waterfalls stand out as a major attraction, captivating visitors with their breathtaking beauty and unforgettable experiences. In this article, we will take you on a journey through the 10 best Icelandic waterfalls, each offering a glimpse into the enchanting world of this extraordinary land.
Gullfoss (Golden Falls)
Gullfoss, or the Golden Falls, is undoubtedly one of Iceland’s most famous and iconic waterfalls. Situated within the country’s Golden Circle—a popular tourist route that encompasses several natural attractions—Gullfoss captivates visitors with its raw power and beauty.
The Hvítá River feeds this magnificent two-tiered waterfall, with its waters plummeting dramatically into a narrow, rugged canyon. The waterfall’s unique shape, along with the mist that often creates stunning rainbows, makes Gullfoss a must-see destination.
The history of Gullfoss is as intriguing as its appearance. The waterfall was once the center of a heated conservation battle, as foreign investors sought to harness its power for hydroelectric purposes. However, the fierce determination of local landowner Sigriður Tómasdóttir helped to preserve Gullfoss, ensuring its continued existence as a treasured natural wonder.
Fast Facts About Gullfoss
- Waterfall Height: 32 meters (105 feet)
- Region: Southwest Iceland, within the Golden Circle
- Coordinates: 64.3271° N, 20.1199° W
How to Get to Gullfoss
Gullfoss is easily accessible from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, and is located approximately 120 kilometers (74.5 miles) away. The most popular way to reach Gullfoss is by driving or joining a guided tour that includes the Golden Circle route.
If you opt to drive, take Route 1 (the Ring Road) east from Reykjavik and then turn onto Route 35. The drive takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on road conditions and traffic.
Once you arrive at Gullfoss, there is a spacious parking area and well-maintained facilities, including a visitor center, a souvenir shop, and a restaurant. There are two main viewing platforms near the waterfall, offering different perspectives of this magnificent spectacle. Remember to dress appropriately, as the mist from the waterfall can make the area quite wet and slippery.
Seljalandsfoss is another iconic Icelandic waterfall, famous for its picturesque beauty and unique feature that allows visitors to walk behind the cascade. Fed by the Seljalandsá River, which originates from the famed Eyjafjallajökull glacier, this elegant, 60-meter (197 feet) tall waterfall is a sight to behold.
As you venture behind the waterfall, prepare to be mesmerized by the enchanting view of the surrounding landscape through the shimmering curtain of water.
Located near the Ring Road in South Iceland, Seljalandsfoss is a popular stop for tourists exploring the country. The well-lit footpath that leads behind the waterfall makes it a popular destination during the long summer days, and in winter, the area transforms into a wonderland of ice and snow.
Don’t miss the nearby Gljúfrabúi waterfall, a hidden gem tucked away inside a small canyon, just a short walk from Seljalandsfoss.
Fast Facts About Seljalandsfoss
How to Get to Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss is situated approximately 120 kilometers (74.5 miles) southeast of Reykjavik and is easily reachable by car or as part of a guided tour. If driving, take Route 1 (the Ring Road) southeast from Reykjavik, and you will find Seljalandsfoss just off the main road after about a 1.5 to 2-hour drive. There is a parking lot available on site, as well as restroom facilities.
While visiting Seljalandsfoss, make sure to wear waterproof clothing and sturdy shoes, as the path behind the waterfall can be wet and slippery. Keep in mind that during winter months, the path may be closed due to icy conditions.
Skógafoss, one of the largest and most striking waterfalls in Iceland, is situated on the Skógá River, near the southern coast.
This impressive waterfall boasts a width of 25 meters (82 feet) and a drop of 60 meters (197 feet), creating a thunderous spectacle as water plummets to the ground below. On sunny days, the spray from Skógafoss often produces vibrant rainbows, adding to its photogenic appeal.
Skógafoss is not only renowned for its size and beauty but also for the numerous legends and folklore surrounding it. One such tale speaks of a hidden treasure chest behind the waterfall, placed there by the area’s first Viking settler, Þrasi Þórólfsson.
In addition to its allure for history buffs and photographers, Skógafoss serves as the starting point for the popular Fimmvörðuháls trail, which leads between two glaciers and offers spectacular views.
Fast Facts About Skógafoss
How to Get to Skógafoss
Skógafoss is located approximately 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of Reykjavik and is accessible by car or as part of a guided tour. To reach the waterfall, drive along Route 1 (the Ring Road) from Reykjavik towards the southeastern coast.
The journey takes about 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. There is a parking area available near the waterfall, as well as restroom facilities and a small café.
When visiting Skógafoss, consider climbing the staircase to the right of the waterfall for a stunning view from the top. The steps can be steep and wet, so wear suitable footwear and exercise caution. Also, remember to bring waterproof clothing, as the mist from the falls can leave you quite damp.
Svartifoss (Black Falls)
Svartifoss, also known as Black Falls, is a striking waterfall situated within the Skaftafell area of Vatnajökull National Park. The waterfall is named for its unique backdrop of dark, hexagonal basalt columns, which resemble a pipe organ and create an otherworldly atmosphere.
The basalt formations were shaped by the slow cooling of lava, resulting in this stunning natural wonder. The contrast between the dark basalt columns and the white, cascading water makes Svartifoss an extraordinary sight to behold.
In addition to its aesthetic appeal, Svartifoss has served as an inspiration for Icelandic architecture, most notably Reykjavik’s famous Hallgrímskirkja church. A moderately challenging hike through the national park leads to the waterfall, offering visitors a chance to experience the beauty of Skaftafell’s diverse landscapes, including glaciers, mountains, and lush vegetation.
Fast Facts About Svartifoss
- Waterfall Height: 20 meters (66 feet)
- Region: Southeast Iceland, within Vatnajökull National Park
- Coordinates: 64.0275° N, 16.9750° W
How to Get to Svartifoss
Svartifoss is located approximately 326 kilometers (202.5 miles) southeast of Reykjavik, within the Skaftafell area of Vatnajökull National Park. The most convenient way to reach Svartifoss is by car, as public transportation is limited. Drive along Route 1 (the Ring Road) from Reykjavik towards the southeastern coast, and then turn onto Route 998, which leads to the Skaftafell visitor center.
The journey takes about 4 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. There is a parking area at the visitor center, where you can also find restrooms, a café, and an information desk.
To reach Svartifoss, you’ll need to hike approximately 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) from the visitor center, following a well-marked trail. The hike takes about 45 minutes to an hour each way, with some uphill sections. Be sure to wear suitable footwear and bring water, as well as weather-appropriate clothing.
Dettifoss, located in the remote northeast of Iceland, holds the title of Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Fed by the glacial waters of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River, Dettifoss is an awe-inspiring display of nature’s raw power.
The waterfall’s thunderous roar and massive volume of water create a mesmerizing and unforgettable experience for visitors. The waterfall has a width of 100 meters (328 feet) and a drop of 44 meters (144 feet) into the rugged canyon below.
The dramatic landscape surrounding Dettifoss has been featured in various films, including Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller, Prometheus. The striking contrast of the milky white water against the dark basalt cliffs adds to the appeal of this natural marvel.
Nearby, you can also find two smaller yet impressive waterfalls: Selfoss, located upstream, and Hafragilsfoss, situated downstream from Dettifoss.
Fast Facts About Dettifoss
- Waterfall Height: 44 meters (144 feet)
- Region: Northeast Iceland
- Coordinates: 65.8147° N, 16.3842° W
How to Get to Dettifoss
Dettifoss is situated approximately 560 kilometers (347.9 miles) northeast of Reykjavik, and the most convenient way to reach it is by car or as part of a guided tour. To drive there, take Route 1 (the Ring Road) from Reykjavik towards the northeastern region, and then turn onto either Route 864 (from the east) or Route 862 (from the west).
Both routes lead to separate sides of the waterfall, offering different perspectives. Route 864 is a gravel road, while Route 862 is paved, so choose the route that best suits your vehicle and driving preferences. The journey takes around 7 to 8 hours, depending on the route and road conditions.
Keep in mind that weather conditions can change rapidly in this region, and some roads may be closed or difficult to traverse during winter months. It is essential to check the weather forecast and road conditions before embarking on your journey. Once you arrive, there are parking areas available, as well as marked walking paths to the waterfall.
Godafoss (Waterfall of the Gods)
Godafoss, or the Waterfall of the Gods, is a majestic and historically significant waterfall in the northeastern region of Iceland. The Skjálfandafljót River feeds this semi-circular waterfall, which stretches 30 meters (98 feet) across with a drop of 12 meters (39 feet).
The name Godafoss is rooted in Icelandic history, as it is said that when the country officially converted to Christianity in the year 1000, the law speaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði threw his Norse pagan idols into the waterfall, symbolically marking the transition to the new faith.
Visitors to Godafoss will be captivated by its beauty and serene surroundings. The waterfall is easily accessible and offers multiple viewing points, allowing you to appreciate its grandeur from various perspectives. During the winter months, the area transforms into a magical, frosty wonderland, making for stunning photographs.
Fast Facts About Godafoss
- Waterfall Height: 12 meters (39 feet)
- Region: Northeast Iceland
- Coordinates: 65.6820° N, 17.5433° W
How to Get to Godafoss
Godafoss is located approximately 430 kilometers (267 miles) northeast of Reykjavik and can be reached by car or as part of a guided tour. To drive there, take Route 1 (the Ring Road) from Reykjavik towards the northeastern region.
The journey takes about 5 to 6 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. Godafoss is situated just off the Ring Road, making it a convenient stop for those exploring the area. There is a parking area near the waterfall, as well as restroom facilities and a small café.
Remember to wear weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes, as the area around the waterfall can be slippery. For photography enthusiasts, consider visiting during sunrise or sunset for the best lighting conditions.
Hraunfossar (Lava Falls)
Hraunfossar, or Lava Falls, is a unique and enchanting series of waterfalls in West Iceland. Spanning nearly 900 meters (2,953 feet) along the Hvítá River, Hraunfossar is formed by water streaming out of a porous lava field, which was created by a volcanic eruption over a thousand years ago.
This distinctive origin gives the waterfall its name and sets it apart from other Icelandic waterfalls. The azure blue water seeping through the lava rocks creates a fascinating visual display, offering a glimpse into the geological history of the region.
In close proximity to Hraunfossar, you’ll find another captivating waterfall, Barnafoss, which has its own intriguing folklore. The Húsafell area, located nearby, is also worth exploring, offering various outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and cave exploration.
Fast Facts About Hraunfossar
- Waterfall Height: Varies, as it consists of numerous small cascades
- Region: West Iceland
- Coordinates: 64.7023° N, 20.9775° W
How to Get to Hraunfossar
Hraunfossar is situated approximately 125 kilometers (77.7 miles) north of Reykjavik and can be reached by car or as part of a guided tour. To drive there, take Route 1 (the Ring Road) from Reykjavik towards the northwest, then turn onto Route 50, followed by Route 518.
The journey takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. There is a parking area near the waterfall, along with restroom facilities and an information center.
When visiting Hraunfossar, be sure to follow the marked walking paths and take the opportunity to explore the nearby Barnafoss waterfall. Wear suitable footwear and weather-appropriate clothing, as the terrain can be uneven and weather conditions may change rapidly.
Kirkjufellsfoss is a small but picturesque waterfall located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland. With the iconic Kirkjufell mountain as its backdrop, the waterfall has become a popular photography spot and a must-see destination for travelers exploring the peninsula.
The combination of the cascading water, vibrant green moss, and the pyramid-shaped mountain creates a fairy-tale-like scene, especially during the long summer days or when the northern lights dance across the sky in winter.
There are a few viewing platforms around Kirkjufellsfoss, offering different perspectives of the waterfall and its surroundings. Be sure to take your time exploring the area and capturing the perfect shot of this stunning Icelandic landmark.
Fast Facts About Kirkjufellsfoss
- Waterfall Height: 5 meters (16 feet)
- Region: West Iceland, Snæfellsnes Peninsula
- Coordinates: 64.9417° N, 23.3061° W
How to Get to Kirkjufellsfoss
Kirkjufellsfoss is located approximately 180 kilometers (111.8 miles) northwest of Reykjavik and can be reached by car or as part of a guided tour. To drive there, take Route 1 (the Ring Road) from Reykjavik towards the northwest, then turn onto Route 54 (Snæfellsnesvegur), which takes you along the southern coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
As you approach the town of Grundarfjörður, follow the signs to Kirkjufellsfoss and Kirkjufell mountain. The journey takes about 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. There is a parking area near the waterfall, but restroom facilities are limited in the area.
Glymur is Iceland’s second-highest waterfall, boasting an impressive 198-meter (650-foot) drop into a narrow canyon. Located in the Hvalfjörður region of West Iceland, Glymur was once considered the country’s tallest waterfall until being surpassed by Morsárfoss in 2011.
The waterfall is nestled within a dramatic landscape of lush green moss, steep cliffs, and a striking basalt column cave, making it an adventurer’s paradise.
Visiting Glymur requires a moderately challenging hike, but the breathtaking views of the waterfall and its surroundings make the effort worthwhile. The trail includes crossing a river on a log bridge, traversing narrow paths along the canyon’s edge, and climbing steep inclines.
For those who complete the trek, the reward is an up-close encounter with one of Iceland’s most awe-inspiring waterfalls.
Fast Facts About Glymur
- Waterfall Height: 198 meters (650 feet)
- Region: West Iceland, Hvalfjörður
- Coordinates: 64.3953° N, 21.2833° W
How to Get to Glymur
Glymur is located approximately 60 kilometers (37.3 miles) northwest of Reykjavik and can be reached by car. To drive there, take Route 1 (the Ring Road) from Reykjavik towards the north, then turn onto Route 47, which takes you along the southern shore of Hvalfjörður.
Keep an eye out for a small parking area and a sign indicating the trailhead for Glymur. The journey takes about 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. There are no restrooms at the trailhead, so plan accordingly.
Before embarking on the hike to Glymur, be sure to wear suitable footwear and weather-appropriate clothing, as the trail can be challenging and conditions may change rapidly. The round-trip hike takes about 3 to 4 hours, so bring water, snacks, and a fully charged phone or camera to capture the stunning views.
Dynjandi, also known as Fjallfoss, is a magnificent and powerful waterfall located in the remote Westfjords region of Iceland. Often considered the jewel of the Westfjords, Dynjandi is a series of seven waterfalls that culminate in the main cascade, which resembles a bridal veil.
The waterfall’s unique shape and grandeur make it a must-visit destination for those venturing into the Westfjords. The combined height of all seven cascades reaches approximately 100 meters (328 feet), with the main Dynjandi waterfall accounting for 60 meters (197 feet) of the total drop.
The area surrounding Dynjandi is characterized by dramatic fjords, rugged cliffs, and unspoiled natural beauty. A short hike along a well-maintained trail leads to the base of the waterfall, providing a perfect vantage point to admire its splendor. Along the trail, you’ll pass the smaller waterfalls that make up the Dynjandi cascade, each with its own charm.
Fast Facts About Dynjandi
- Waterfall Height: 100 meters (328 feet) in total, with the main cascade at 60 meters (197 feet)
- Region: Westfjords
- Coordinates: 65.7322° N, 23.1998° W
How to Get to Dynjandi
Dynjandi is located approximately 370 kilometers (229.9 miles) northwest of Reykjavik and is best reached by car or as part of a guided tour. To drive there, take Route 1 (the Ring Road) from Reykjavik towards the northwest, then turn onto Route 60, which leads into the Westfjords.
As you approach the town of Hrafnseyri, follow the signs for Dynjandi. The journey takes about 5 to 6 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. Keep in mind that some roads in the Westfjords can be rough or impassable during winter months. There is a parking area near the waterfall, along with restroom facilities and picnic tables.
When visiting Dynjandi, be sure to wear appropriate footwear and clothing, as the terrain can be uneven and weather conditions may change rapidly. The hike to the waterfall is relatively short but can be steep in some sections, so take your time and enjoy the surrounding beauty.
Honorable Mention Iceland Waterfalls
Although we’ve covered the top 10 Icelandic waterfalls in this article, the country is home to many more spectacular cascades worth mentioning. Some honorable mentions include:
- Öxarárfoss: Located within the Þingvellir National Park, this waterfall is not only beautiful but also steeped in history, as the park was the site of Iceland’s first parliament.
- Háifoss: At 122 meters (400 feet) tall, Háifoss is one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls, featuring a dramatic drop into a rugged canyon.
- Geitafoss: While we’ve already mentioned Goðafoss in our top 10, its close neighbor, Geitafoss, is worth a visit for its stunning plunge into the Skjálfandafljót River.
- Kvernufoss: Hidden away in a gorge near Skógafoss, this lesser-known gem offers visitors a more secluded and tranquil experience.
- Hengifoss: Located in the Eastfjords of Iceland, the hike up to this waterfall results in one of the most amazing viewpoints in all of the country, with bright red striations in lava rock, and one of the tallest waterfalls in all of Iceland.
Our Final Thoughts on the Best Waterfalls in Iceland
From the iconic Gullfoss to the remote Dynjandi, Iceland’s breathtaking waterfalls are truly a testament to the country’s diverse and dramatic landscapes.
Each waterfall offers a unique experience, whether it’s an easy stroll to a viewing platform or a challenging hike up a rugged canyon. Exploring these natural wonders is a must for any visitor to the Land of Fire and Ice, as they showcase the raw beauty and power of Iceland’s geological formations.
Whether you’re a photography enthusiast or simply a lover of nature, Iceland’s waterfalls are sure to leave you in awe and eager to discover more of this captivating country.