Iceland is a well-known paradise for photographers but also for nature lovers, with its 103,000 km2 of raw nature. There is no other place on earth to experience fully what nature has to offer, from active volcanoes, mountains, glaciers, lava fields to the northern lights or the midnight sun.
When it comes to relaxation, there is nothing more soothing than the sound of running water. Iceland is home to a number of large and powerful waterfalls, so different from each other… Here is my selection of the best waterfalls you can easily encounter during a road trip around the island… Embrace nature, escape the stress of your busy life and let’s travel to Iceland together!
The South of Iceland is famous for its iconic and easily accessible waterfalls, and Skógafoss is one of them, with a width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters. It may seem familiar to you as it appeared in the film Thor, the Dark world. A trail leads to the top (via metal stairs to the right of the waterfall) and up to the Skógá river valley.
You can enjoy a beautiful view of the valley but it can be challenging to climb all these steps! A lot of tourists are always packed there, as it is easily accessible from the main road, even with a regular car, but I still recommend braving the crowds and having a look!
Hjálparfoss is also situated in the South of Iceland, but at the entrance of the Highlands and quite far away from the coastline. However, it is easily accessible as it is located roughly 30 km East of Flúðir, at the end of road 32.
From the car park, it is an easy descending walking path to the falls. Hjálparfoss is a double waterfall that joined at its base, where the rivers Fossá and Þjórsá join, with a very unique look!
Kolugljúfur is a beautiful gorge (20-25 m deep and 2 km long) situated in the North of Iceland. The legend tells this was the home of Kola the troll and the waterfall inside this gorge was named after her. Kolufossar is breathtaking, with the numerous falls plunging into a deep gorge.
You can reach these falls when driving West from Blönduós for about 50 km. Once you reach Kolugil Farm, which stands beside the Víðidalsá river, you are not that far away!
When driving in and out the Westfjords, you can’t miss this iconic waterfall, also called “The Mountain falls”. This is in fact a series of waterfalls, with a cumulative height of 100 meters, but the biggest and the most photographed one is Dynjandi waterfall.
This waterfall came from Dynjandisá river, a glacial river that dropped off a cliff, forming a bride’s veil shape waterfall that was approximatively 30 meters wide at its top and 60 meters at its bottom.
Below the main waterfall, a series of 6 cascades connected the glacial water to the sea. The names of the other waterfalls are Hæstahjallafoss, Strompgljúfrafoss, Göngumannafoss, Hrísvaðsfoss, Hundafoss and Bæjarfoss.
I recommend hiking on top to be able to see all these little falls downstream of Dynjandi! Situated roughly at 45 minutes from Þingeyri, this was my favorite waterfall of the Westfjords!
Another amazing waterfall is also located at the entrance of the Highlands, six kilometers West of Húsafell on Route 518. Hraunfossar means “lava falls” because the waterfall consists of countless springs of clear water emerging from under the edge of the Grahraun Lava Field and flowing into the Hvítá river. It’s quite unique and beautiful!
Goðafoss waterfall is situated in the North part of Iceland, also called “the waterfall of the Gods”, and sometimes nicknamed by some locals as “The Beauty” in comparison to “The Beast” (which is Dettifoss). It could not be truer; this waterfall is wonderful, and very pleasing to the eye!
From the car park, there is a short path to the waterfall and it is easily accessible! You have the choice of going down to the river level to look at the waterfall from its base or to go up to where you can see the waterfall from its top. You can decide to do both and I would recommend doing so!
There is also a footbridge that provided a convenient access from the West to the East bank as well as a more frontal view of Geitafoss, which was a smaller waterfall further downstream of Goðafoss.
Selfoss is a horseshoe-shaped waterfall located in the north of Iceland, near the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, inside the Vatnajokull National Park. The falls are not very high (11 meters) but gorgeous.
There is a short straightforward walking path upstream of Dettifoss. Many people will stop at Dettifoss and go no further … but Selfoss is just as good, believe me!
Hengifoss waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland. The top of Hengifoss is about 450 meters above the sea level. To reach the waterfall, you have to pass near a first waterfall, Litlanesfoss, with its surrounding basalt columns, at 2 km from the car park. The hike seems short but it is quite steep!
If you continue for another 2 km, you will reach Hengifoss. The red patterns on the cliffs are quite impressive and it’s something we don’t typically see in other waterfalls. The red stripes are layers of red clay sandwiched between layers of basalt. When the lava flowed over the acidic soil, the iron reacted with oxygen, resulting in reddish colors in the intermediate layers.
Gullfoss, also named “the Golden falls”, is probably one of the most visited waterfalls of the whole country, as part of the “Golden circle”, a popular day tour for most tourists visiting Iceland for the first time. A very slippery trail descends to the gorge carved out by the falls and leads to brinks of both the lower and upper tiers of Gullfoss.
From there, you can enjoy the power of the water plunging into a 32 meters deep and narrow canyon. On sunny days, you can enjoy a shimmering rainbow over the falls. You will probably end wet from the mist generated by this powerful waterfall, but it’s worth it!
Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall (for the record, it’s the waterfall you can see in Prometheus). The milky color of the waterfall is apparently due to the presence of the sediment-rich waters of the Vatnajökull glacier.
From the car park to Dettifoss it’s a 30 minutes walk to the brink of the falls. By the time you reach the falls, you will be completely drenched by the drops and mist blown away from the waterfall… don’t forget your waterproof!
Author: Gin, from the blog Darwin on the rocks and around the world, is a travel blogger who is in love with Iceland. For more information about this magical place, have a look at her blog. Photo credits: https://beautifuliceland.worpdress.com
Would you visit Iceland just to see these amazing waterfalls? I know I would.