12 Gorgeous Waterfalls in Iceland
If you’re hoping to see some amazing waterfalls in Iceland, you’re not going to be disappointed. It would be tough to spend any time in Iceland without coming across a lot of them by accident! You’ll be able to see some waterfalls from the car as you drive around the country, but others can only be found by people prepared to hike up into the mountains.
Some waterfalls completely freeze in the wintertime, and others are steaming hot all year round, thanks to natural geothermal heat.
This article will tell you about 12 beautiful waterfalls you can check out on your visit to Iceland. But there are countless more than you can discover as you travel around!
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Háifoss is a stunning waterfall in the South of Iceland. The water falls more than 120 meters down the ancient cliffs, but the cascade is relatively narrow compared to many other waterfalls in Iceland. Seeing the waterfall mist float through the steep canyon is a real treat, but you will have to get your hiking boots at the ready. The 2.5-hour hike from Stӧng farm will take you along the river Fossá to the falls. (But don’t forget, you’ve got to do the same 2.5-hour hike to get back to your car!)
The hike may take you a while, but it’s a wonderful way to spend the day soaking up the Icelandic landscapes. Just bring plenty of food and water, and don’t forget waterproofs, even in the summer!
There is also an option for people with a 4×4 to take the dirt track to the car park near Háifoss. But you don’t want to attempt this with a normal car, or your brain will be rattling around in your skull the whole way there. (And you most likely won’t be insured for driving off the main roads!)
This gorgeous waterfall isn’t far from the golden circle. But the fact that it’s harder to access means you’ll probably have far fewer people around the share the view with. Look out for the second waterfall called Granni (neighbour), which keeps Haifoss company in the canyon.
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Dettifoss is nowhere near as tall as Haifoss, but it’s far wider. (We are talking 100 meters wide and 44 meters high!) This makes it one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe, with the ground rumbling beneath your feet as you get closer to the crashing water.
Detifoss is a couple of hours away from Akureyri, the largest town in the North of Iceland. This is also a famous region for whale watching, so don’t hesitate to take a wildlife boat trip while passing through the North of Iceland. You can get up to Detifoss in a normal car in the summer. But in winter, you would struggle to get there even with a 4×4.
A tremendous amount of mist comes flying off this waterfall, so don’t be surprised if you get wet from the viewing platform. And in winter, you want to be careful about the icy footpaths. Consider wearing crampons if the ground is frozen.
Godafoss is also in the North of Iceland. Some people call it “the beauty”, whereas Detifoss is known as “the beast”. That doesn’t mean that Detifoss is ugly! It just refers to the fact that Detifoss amazes people due to its power, and Godafoss will take your breath away because it’s so gorgeous to look at.
Godafoss means “the waterfall of the gods”. This is where, in the year 1000, the Norse Gods were forsaken by a chieftain called Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði, and the Christian god was claimed for Iceland. The legend goes that Lawspeaker Þorgeir threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall.
Whether or not you believe in the legend, this is still a beautiful place to visit. The waterfall crashes over a horseshoe rock formation, which you can safely enjoy from the viewing platform.
Godafoss is also spectacular to visit in the wintertime, but you’ll have to keep a close eye on the road conditions and stay away from the steep drops when it’s icy. If you do go in winter, don’t hesitate to visit the nearby Myvatn hot springs to heat up once you’ve finished exploring the ice.
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If you’re up for an adventure, you might want to visit Glymur. It’s not too far from the golden circle, but it’s not crowded because it takes some real effort to get there.
Glymur was known as the tallest waterfall in Iceland for many years until an even taller waterfall was found in 2007 called Mosárfoss. That doesn’t make Glymur any less impressive to check out, though. Water crashes 650 down a narrow canyon, which looks like something from another planet!
There are some gorgeous hikes to Glymur, but you need to be a fit and confident hiker to set out on those trails. You don’t need to be an Olympic athlete, but it’s not the best choice for a family or someone looking for a gentle walk. For example, you’ll have to cross rivers on logs and keep your balance with some steep drops not far from the path.
The trails from the nearest parking are well marked, and it’s only about 5km in distance. But it will feel much longer due to the steep terrain!
Don’t worry; you don’t have to hike up steep and nail-biting trails to find a good waterfall in Iceland. If you want to make things easier, you can head to Skógafoss instead. Thanks to its convenient location and beauty, Skógafoss is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland with tourists. If you want to avoid the crowds, you should aim to arrive early in the morning or later in the evening.
This impressive waterfall crashes 60 meters down the cliffs and is 25 meters wide, so you’re going to feel like a tiny any as you approach. (And you’ll get covered in waterfall mist, so make sure you’re wearing a waterproof coat!)
Getting to this waterfall isn’t hard at all. You just need to drive to the village called Skóga on the South Coast, and you’ll soon find it with the help of your GPS or local signposts. You can even see the waterfall from the road, so there is no missing it!
You can park near the foot of the waterfall, so you don’t have far to go to have a look. But if you’ve got the energy, it’s well worth walking up the hundreds of steps to the platform at the top, where you can have another fantastic view. Legend has it that a chest of treasure is hidden in the area, but no one has found it yet.
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What’s cool about Seljalandsfoss is you can follow the path into the vast cave behind the waterfall curtain. It’s well worth going inside this cave but be prepared to get soaked! So, any expensive camera equipment needs to be appropriately protected or put safely out of harm’s way.
There are some plans to build a visitor centre nearby, but they are slow in the making. It’s a wonderful natural site with lush green grass surrounding striking rocky cliffs. It will take a while to develop a sympathetic building design that everyone approves of.
In the meantime, don’t hesitate to come to watch the sunrise at this beautiful waterfall. There will be far fewer crowds, and the early morning light makes the setting even more spectacular. Seljalandsfoss is easy to access from the ring road, not far from Hvolsvollur.
Faxi waterfall is in the golden circle area, but it’s not the most touristy of stops along the way. This isn’t the most “impressive” of all the Icelandic waterfalls, but it’s a lovely and tranquil spot, popular among fishermen thanks to all the salmon in the river.
There is a simple and welcoming restaurant by the river’s shores, where you can grab a pizza or some fresh fish to fuel yourself for the rest of your day exploring. In the summer, it’s lovely to sit out on the wooden deck and listen to the water as you have your meal.
So, if you were travelling around The Golden Circle and wanted somewhere beautiful to recharge – don’t hesitate to stop at Faxi.
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Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall is famous because of its beautiful surroundings more than the waterfall itself. It’s “only” 16 meters tall, which is not very big by Icelandic standards. But you’ll find it just in front of Kirkjufell mountain, which makes for a fantastic place to take some photos or just sit back and enjoy the view.
The water is crystal clear, and the lush green mountain looks like something from a movie set. (In fact, it really did appear in some movies and series, including Game of Thrones and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty).
You’ll find this beautiful waterfall and mountain on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, which is also known as “little Iceland” because it’s got so much on offer. You’ll find some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country on this peninsula, and it’s not too far from Reykjavik if you’ve got a rental car.
There are plenty more amazing natural sites in the area. So don’t hesitate to check out the fjords, mountains, cliffs, and glaciers in the region before heading back to the city.
Hraunfossar waterfall is different to all the other waterfalls we’ve mentioned so far in this article. It is a series of many smaller waterfalls that flow out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field and pour into the crystal clear Hvítá river below. The waterfall is famous for its turquoise colour, which is even more spectacular on a sunny day. (And if it’s not sunny in Iceland, just wait 5 minutes because the weather is always on the move!)
The combination of natural colours and textures is something that really cannot be described with words. It’s one of those places that makes you feel very small and insignificant, in the very best of ways. We recommend a visit here when the trees show off their fall colours, but it’s an extraordinary place to visit at any time of the year.
You can park close to the waterfall, so you don’t have to be an experienced outdoorsy person to enjoy this spectacular natural gem. Hraunfossar is just a short detour from Route 1 as you arrive at Haugar, a couple of hours north of Reykjavik. If you’re heading out for a ring road adventure, don’t hesitate to add it to your itinerary.
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If you’re an outdoorsy kind of person, you are definitely going to want to stop off at Skaftafell during your stay in Iceland. You’ll find this natural hiking area on the South Coast, towards the East. While you are here, don’t hesitate to go into the visitor center and find out about the best hikes for your experience level.
One of the easier hikes in the area will bring you to the waterfall called Svartifoss. This is famous because of the stunning black hexagonal columns that were formed in an ancient volcanic eruption. Once you factor in the waterfall crashing down the black cliffs, it’s hard not to be impressed!
The waterfall is beautiful all year round, but it will look very different depending on when you visit. In the winter, huge white icicles will be hanging from the black cliffs, which is really impressive to see. In the summer, emerald tufts of lush grass and moss appear on the rocks and soften the atmosphere. Both are lovely but in very different ways!
Once you’ve finished checking out Svartifoss, you can also hike to the Skaftafellsjökull glacier before making your way back to the parking area. There are some food trucks where you can grab a bite to eat if you worked up an appetite.
Gullfoss can be found along the golden circle sightseeing route, so it’s pretty popular with tourists. In fact, the name Gullfoss means “golden waterfall”, and it gave its name to the golden circle.
This incredible waterfall is a “double waterfall”, with the water falling over two separate stages. You’ll also find a café where you can grab some refreshments in the beautiful surroundings. The waterfall mist can look gold and fill with tiny rainbows in the setting sun, but it’s also a beautiful place to come and visit during the day.
Gullfoss is famous because it almost became a hydroelectric dam. But the daughter of the landowner, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, helped protect the waterfall from outside investors by endlessly campaigning to protect the natural site. This included hiring a lawyer (who would later become president of Iceland!) and walking long distances without any shoes to drum up support.
She is now seen as one of the earliest environmentalists in Iceland. And it was partly because of her relentless efforts that the hydroelectric project fell apart.
The final waterfall that we will tell you about is a cautionary tale! Brúarfoss is a beautiful waterfall in the Golden Circle area that was accessible to the public for many years. The path has recently been closed to the public because visitors left so much trash along the path.
This included human waste, as people would go to the toilet along the track. With this in mind, the landowners decided to close the footpath, and it’s not the first time this has happened in Iceland! Wild camping has become illegal virtually everywhere, and many caves have been closed down due to trash being left in them or damage being done.
Only a tiny minority of people treat nature like a bin or a toilet, but it affects everyone. So don’t forget to bring all your trash away with you, and don’t hesitate to pick up any that you see has been dropped along the paths. The more people respect the stunning Icelandic waterfalls, the less likely any more will be closed off for your next visit!
(If you need to go to the toilet in the wilderness, you need to follow the leave-no-trace principles of burying it in a 6-inch deep hole and removing toilet paper with you. Just going by the paths or on someone’s land isn’t okay!).
We hope you found this article helpful. There are honestly more waterfalls in Iceland than you could possibly visit, so these are just a few ideas to get you started. If you’re feeling inspired, don’t hesitate to read more of our travel tips or check out some of our hand-picked tours. We look forward to welcoming you to Iceland soon!