The land of fire and ice, Iceland is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful countries. Driving around the landscape is a cinematographer’s dream that includes volcanoes, glaciers, black-sand beaches, fjords, and much more. But our focus in this post will be on the natural feature Iceland might be most known for, WATERFALLS.
From large and powerful falls to tranquil cascades, Iceland is among the best places to chase waterfalls. The island country contains numerous glaciers whose meltwater produces several dramatic waterfalls. Combined with the stunning natural scenery, each Iceland waterfall creates images that mimic a fairytale.
You’ll notice that nearly all the waterfalls in Iceland end in ‘foss,’ and that’s because foss is Icelandic for waterfall. Many Iceland waterfalls can be reached on the famous Ring Road 1 that encircles the entire country. However, some will require a detour or a hike from the carpark to capture the dramatic views. We’ll break down all the info for these 10 waterfalls that you must add to your Iceland bucket list.
No epic Iceland waterfall list will exclude this enchanting cascade that’s part of any classic Golden Circle tour. Only around 1 hour and 40 minutes driving distance from Reykjavik, Gullfoss is easily accessible for a day trip from the Icelandic capital. Nestled in the Hvítá river canyon in Southwest Iceland, Gullfoss has always been one of the country’s most storied natural attractions.
Whether you join a tour or decide to drive the Golden Circle route, a 4WD car won’t be needed unless you visit during the winter. Reaching Gullfoss is an easy detour off Ring Road 1 via Route 35 to the parking lot. If you’re coming from Reykjavik, we recommend saving time to visit Strokkur geyser and Þingvellir National Park.
The Hvítá River flows from the Langjökull glacier and makes a dramatic, two-tiered drop into a narrow gorge. The first cascade measures 11 meters (36 feet), then it makes a steeper plunge of 21 meters (69 feet) beneath the sharp canyon walls. As you walk along the pathway, the rush of the water overwhelms you, and rainbows often form above the canyon.
Nicknamed “Waterfall of the Gods,” Godafoss is steeped in mystery and one of Iceland’s most breathtaking natural wonders. The waterfall is located right off Ring Road 1 in North Iceland, and a 4WD isn’t required unless driving in the winter. Godafoss can easily be reached on a day trip from Akureyri, the second-largest city in Iceland.
The 12-meter (39 feet) waterfall gently falls from the river Skjálfandafljót and produces a magical sight that’s entrenched in history. According to an Icelandic tale, Iceland faced pressure from Norway to convert to Christianity around 1000 AD. Prominent Viking lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði decided Iceland would adopt Christianity as its official religion, but the Vikings could still practice Norse in secret.
Legend has it, Þorgeir tossed his Pagan statues into the beautiful waterfall to symbolize Iceland’s acceptance of the new religion. It’s unknown today if the story is accurate, but the dramatic tale fits with the majesty of Godafoss.
Although it lacks the height of other waterfalls in Iceland, Godafoss impresses with its incredible width of 30 meters (98 feet). The cascade flows over a horseshoe-shaped rock into a majestic pool that’s surreal on a sunny day or beneath the Northern Lights.
While driving on Ring Road 1 along the South Coast of Iceland, you’ll spot one of Iceland’s most famous images. With a drop of 60 meters (197 feet) and a width of 25 meters (82 feet), Skogafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. The parking lot is right beside Ring Road 1, and 2WD vehicles are okay most times of the year.
A short walk from the car park takes you along the Skoga river to the base of the mighty cascade. If you’re brave enough to get drenched, standing next to Skogafoss is a heart-racing experience. Whenever the sun is shining, glistening rainbows stretch across the cliffside to create that stunning photograph.
To stretch your legs, you can also walk a staircase to capture a panorama above the waterfall and the surrounding landscape. You’ll often find nesting seabirds here and will see the Skoga river flow towards the coastline.
Just a 25-minute drive from Skogafoss on Ring Road 1, Seljalandsfoss is another majestic waterfall on Iceland’s South Coast. The 60-meter waterfall plunges against a rocky cliffside, and there’s a walking path that takes you behind the cascade. Prepare to get soaked when hiking around the waterfall during summer, but the path is inaccessible in the winter.
The angle behind Seljalandsfoss produces a breathtaking picture facing the coastline. Thanks to this unbelievable panorama, Seljalandsfoss is among the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland. The carpark sits right beside Ring Road 1 which makes it one of the most accessible waterfalls in Iceland. You can normally easily reach the parking lot with a 2WD vehicle.
Known as “Iceland’s bluest waterfall,” Bruarfoss enchants visitors with its mesmerizing shades of blue. Bruarfoss lacks the size of many other waterfalls in Iceland but packs a punch with its surreal beauty. Glacier meltwater flowing into the Brúará River gives the waterfall its spectacular color. An interlinked web of streams gently drops into the turquoise pool, and the surrounding countryside creates an enchanting backdrop.
Bruarfoss rests on the popular Golden Circle route, but there’s much confusion on how to reach the falls. The former trail to this beautiful spot went through private property, and a combination of trespassing and mistreatment of the landscape led to its closure to the public.
Fortunately, a new hiking path can help you reach Bruarfoss, and other scenic falls in the area. The official Bruarfoss carpark sits beside Route 37 and takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Reykjavik by car. To reach Bruarfoss from the carpark, you’ll need to trek 3 km and bring proper hiking boots due to mud.
Located inside Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, Dettifoss is one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls. The mighty cascade hit the big screen with an appearance in the 2012 science-fiction film Prometheus. At 44 meters high and 100 meters wide, Dettifoss overwhelms you with immense size. Standing next to the waterfall plummeting into Jökulsárgljúfur canyon will require a rain jacket.
Dettifoss sits just north of Ring Road 1 on the popular Diamond Circle route, and the town of Akureyri makes a fantastic base to depart. From Ring Road 1, turn onto either Road 862 or 864 to reach the West Side (862) or East Side (864) carpark.
Road 862 is made of tarmac and suitable for a 2WD during pleasant weather conditions. However, Road 864 is a simple gravel road, and you’ll require a 4WD to venture to the East Side during summer. Whichever side you choose, a short hike through moonscapes and rocky terrain is required to reach the canyon’s edge.
Svartifoss is one of the waterfalls in Iceland that is located inside Vatnajökull National Park in South Iceland, Svartifoss has one of the more dramatic settings of any Iceland waterfall. The slender cascade plunges in front of black basalt columns. Its distinct wall of hexagonal columns forms a stunning backdrop to the fall and inspired the design of Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavik.
Svartifoss requires a bit of a hike, but the carpark is easily accessible from Ring Road 1. From the Skaftafell Visitor centre, the uphill trek is about 1.5 km and a roundtrip takes around 90 minutes. Although the base has lots of strewn rocks, you can get close to the falls for a spectacular photo. On your way to Svartifoss, you’ll pass other scenic waterfalls in this gorgeous area of South Iceland.
Gljufrabui remains a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by those in the know of Iceland’s scenic beauty. Just 150 meters from the more famous Seljalandsfoss, Gljufrabui is perched inside a rocky gorge. The 40-meter waterfall tumbles into the ravine and is one of the South Coast’s many stunning images. Since it’s only a short walk from Seljalandsfoss, combining the two falls in one trip is a must.
You can use the same carpark beside Ring Road 1, and you won’t have to worry about a lengthy hike. However, don’t forget your waterproof boots and jacket since you’ll likely get wet inside the gorge. Staring upwards at the cascade flowing into the canyon’s pool is worth it.
Kirkjufellsfoss sits in front of Mt. Kirkjufell and forms arguably Iceland’s most iconic image. Thousands of visitors make the journey to the Snæfellsnes peninsula to get a photo of the waterfall and “Church Mountain.” Whether you snap a picture during the midnight sun or beneath the Northern Lights, you won’t leave disappointed.
Located just outside Grundarfjörður, Kirkjufellsfoss requires a detour from Ring Road 1. If you’re driving from Reykjavik, head north on Ring Road 1 until you reach the town of Borgarnes. From there, head along Route 54, turn on Route 56, and back on Route 54 to the Kirkjufellsfoss carpark. Once you turn off Ring Road 1, the drive takes around 1 hour and 25 minutes.
With pleasant weather, a 2WD vehicle will be fine to reach this area of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. However, be cautious of road conditions if you plan on visiting Iceland during the winter. The carpark sits beside the road, and a walkway leads you to the series of waterfalls in Iceland that make up Kirkjufellsfoss. Flowing into the river Kirkjufellsá, the short cascades forms a majestic backdrop with Mt. Kirkjufell towering above you.
10. Dynjandi Waterfall
Situated in the remote Westfjords, Dynjandi might be the most visually stunning among all waterfalls in Iceland. The 100-meter waterfall gently cascades down a rocky staircase in front of rugged landscape. Dynjandi is the largest waterfall in the Westfjords, and the base is an incredible 60 meters wide.
The carpark sits directly beside a majestic fjord, and the mountainous landscape will leave you speechless. On the hiking path to the Dynjandi Waterfall, you’ll pass six other waterfalls adorning the rocky terrain. The hike should only take you about 15-20 minutes but prepare yourself for a climb.
To reach Dynjandi, it requires a lengthy detour from Ring Road 1, and the carpark is around 360 km from Reykjavik. From Ring Road 1, you’ll veer onto Route 60 for the scenic drive to the Dynjandi carpark. The Westfjords are one of Iceland’s most isolated locations, and it’s not recommended to embark on this drive in winter. Although a 2WD can access most roads in the Westfjords during summer, some are gravel, and conditions can unexpectedly change.
Check out: The Ultimate Iceland Packing List
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