Updated: Aug 29
Welcome to our Ultimate Guide to Waterfalls in Iceland, a land where fire and ice coexist, creating some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet.
This guide will take you on a journey through the country's most mesmerizing waterfalls, each with its unique charm and story. From the famous Gullfoss to the powerful Dettifoss and the charming Seljalandsfoss you can walk behind, we'll explore the beauty and majesty of these Icelandic gems.
Whether you're an adventure enthusiast, a nature lover, or planning your next trip, this guide is your passport to the stunning waterfalls of Iceland.
The Top 15 Waterfalls in Iceland
The top waterfalls in Iceland offer a unique spectacle of nature's power and beauty. From the most famous waterfalls in Iceland to the hidden gems, these Icelandic falls captivate visitors with their majesty and charm. Here is our curated list of the best waterfalls in Iceland that you simply cannot miss.
1. Svartifoss - 'Black Falls'
Svartifoss, also known as the 'Black Falls,' is one of the best Iceland waterfalls hidden within the stunning Skaftafell Nature Reserve in Vatnajökull National Park, southeast Iceland. This mesmerizing waterfall is renowned for its dark lava columns, inspiring Icelandic architects, notably in the design of Hallgrímskirkja, a famous church in Reykjavik.
The basalt columns, formed through the slow cooling of a thick lava flow, create a stunning backdrop for the waterfall, which drops approximately 20 meters (66 feet). The hike to Svartifoss from the Skaftafell visitor center is a straightforward, well-marked trail that takes about 1.5 hours round trip.
The journey offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, making it a must-visit for anyone exploring the natural wonders of Iceland. Svartifoss is also a popular destination for photographers and an especially beautiful site during winter.
2. Skógafoss - 'Forest Falls'
Skógafoss, also known as the 'Forest Falls,' is a famous waterfall in Iceland and a testament to the country's unparalleled natural beauty. Nestled on the Skógá River, this majestic waterfall boasts an impressive width of 25 meters (82 feet) and a dramatic drop of 60 meters (197 feet), making it a sight to behold.
Easily accessible and a favorite among tourists, Skógafoss is not just a visual treat but also a paradise for fishermen, thanks to the abundant char and salmon population in the river below. The waterfall's significant spray often creates a stunning rainbow when the sun shines, adding an ethereal charm to the already mesmerizing scene.
For the adventurous, a steep staircase leads to an observational platform above the cascade, offering a breathtaking panorama of the waterfall and the surrounding landscape. Adding to the allure of Skógafoss is a local legend about a chest filled with gold that was thrown into the waters by a local Viking chief.
3. Dynjandi - 'The Thunderous One'
Dynjandi, often referred to as the 'Jewel of the Westfjords,' is truly one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. Its name, translating to 'Thunderous,' encapsulates perfectly the power and grandeur of this natural marvel.
Located in the remote Westfjords, Dynjandi is a series of seven cascades culminating in a spectacular 100-meter (328 feet) drop, resembling a bridal veil. At the top, it is 30 meters (98 feet) wide and widens to 60 meters (197 feet) at the bottom.
The journey to reach Dynjandi is an adventure in itself, a 15-minute hike offering a glimpse of smaller waterfalls on the way. Each cascade is a unique spectacle, culminating in the grandeur of the final waterfall. The remote location ensures Dynjandi remains relatively untouched and unknown, thus preserving its pristine beauty and allure.
4. Godafoss - 'The Waterfall of the Gods'
Godafoss is one of the most famous falls in Iceland and a beloved landmark in the country's north. The name 'Godafoss' translates to 'Waterfall of the Gods,' an apt description for this stunning cascade that flows from the Skjálfandafljót River.
The horseshoe-shaped waterfall is approximately 30 meters (98 feet) wide and 12 meters (39 feet) high, creating a spectacular sight as it cascades into the river. The banks of the river provide an ideal vantage point to admire the powerful cascade of Godafoss. On either side, you can find steep cliffs with ancient basalt columns that add to the beauty of this incredible natural wonder.
Godafoss is also steeped in history and legend, with references dating back to 1000 A.D. when Norse lawspeaker a Ljósvetningagoði threw his idols into the falls as a symbol of Iceland's conversion to Christianity. The story, along with the jaw-dropping beauty of Godafoss, makes it a must-see waterfall for anyone visiting Iceland.
5. Gullfoss - 'The Golden Falls'
Gullfoss, or 'The Golden Falls,' is a sight to behold. As one of the waterfalls near Reykjavik, it is a must-visit for anyone touring the famous Golden Circle route. Fed by the Hvita glacier river, Gullfoss majestically cascades down two tiers into a narrow river gorge, dropping a total of 32 meters (105 feet).
The waterfall's name, which translates to 'Golden Falls,' is a testament to its breathtaking beauty. But Gullfoss is not just about the visual spectacle. It's a place steeped in history. In the early 20th century, it was at the center of a controversy when British investors planned to harness its energy for a hydroelectric plant.
However, Sigridur Tomasdottir, a local farmer's daughter, fought a legal battle to protect this natural wonder. Her successful campaign ensured that Gullfoss remained untouched, and today, it stands as a symbol of Iceland's commitment to preserving its natural beauty. A visit to Gullfoss is not just a feast for the eyes but a journey through Iceland's rich culture and history.
6. Reykjafoss - 'Smoke Falls'
Reykjafoss, often called 'Smoke Falls,' is one of the closest waterfalls to Reykjavik, just a 43-minute drive away. Despite being lesser known, this 20-meter (65-foot) waterfall is a hidden gem that cascades into the Huseyjarkvisl River, creating a stunning spectacle.
Its relative obscurity means you can often enjoy its beauty without the crowds, making it a favorite among those who discover it. The waterfall's proximity to Reykjavik and its breathtaking beauty make it a must-visit for any waterfall enthusiast or nature lover. And if you're up for a unique experience, don't miss the chance to take a dip in the nearby Fosslaug geothermal pool.
So, if you're planning a trip to Iceland, make sure to add Reykjafoss to your self-drive itinerary. It may not be one of the most well-known waterfalls in Iceland, but its unparalleled beauty and proximity to Reykjavik make it a must-visit destination.
7. Dettifoss - 'The Beast'
Dettifoss, aptly named 'The Beast,' is the biggest waterfall in Iceland, heralding the raw and primal energy of the country's natural landscape. Located in North Iceland within the vast wilderness of Vatnajökull National Park, Dettifoss is fed by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River, which originates from the largest glacier in Europe, the Vatnajökull glacier.
This breathtaking waterfall boasts a staggering volume of 193 cubic meters (6,816 cubic feet) per second, making it not only the most powerful in Iceland but also the second most powerful in Europe. With a width of 100 meters (328 feet) and a plunge of 44 meters (144 feet), the sheer magnitude and force of Dettifoss are a sight to behold.
The thunderous roar of the water and the misty spray that envelops it create an unforgettable spectacle of raw, untamed beauty. Whether you're a nature enthusiast or a casual traveler, visiting Dettifoss will surely be a captivating highlight of your Icelandic adventure.
8. Morsárfoss - 'The Highest Waterfall In Iceland'
Immerse yourself in the grandeur of Morsárfoss, Iceland's tallest waterfall, standing at an awe-inspiring height of 228 meters (748 feet). Discovered in 2007, this colossal waterfall is a testament to the dynamic nature of Iceland's landscape, unveiled by the melting of the Morsárjökull glacier.
Nestled within the pristine wilderness of the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, part of the Vatnajökull National Park, Morsárfoss is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. However, its remote location and the challenging terrain make it a thrilling adventure for the intrepid explorer. The safest way to witness its majesty is through the challenging 18-kilometer (11-mile) Kristínartindar Peak Ascent.
If you're lucky, you might see it from Route 1. But remember, it's over 19 kilometers (12 miles) away from the road, so don't forget your binoculars! If you're looking for a truly unique and off-the-beaten-path experience in Iceland, Morsárfoss is not to be missed. It's a place where nature reigns supreme and offers a glimpse into the unspoiled beauty of the Icelandic wilderness.
9. Glymur - 'The Grand Canyon of Iceland'
Glymur, often referred to as 'The Grand Canyon of Iceland,' is the second-highest waterfall in Iceland, plunging 198 meters (650 feet) into the stunning Hvalfjordur fjord. Located in Southern Iceland, it is not only one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the country but also one of the most accessible.
The best way to experience Glymur is to take the 4-hour hike, which will bring you through a lush canyon carved by the beautiful Botnsa River. The trek isn't particularly difficult but requires some planning and preparation due to its length and elevation changes.
At the end of it, you will be rewarded with a majestic view of the waterfall and the surrounding mountains. Glymur is truly a sight to behold: its thunderous roar and misty spray create an experience that will stay with you for life. You can also read our guide about other highlights of South Iceland to get an even better feel of the area.
10. Öxarárfoss - 'The Jewel of Thingvellir National Park'
Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of Öxarárfoss, the 'Jewel of Thingvellir National Park,' one of the best waterfalls near Reykjavik. Just a 52-minute drive from the city, this waterfall is a must-visit, especially during the enchanting Iceland winters.
Nestled within the tectonic rift of the North American and Eurasian plates, Öxarárfoss cascades from a height of 13 meters (43 feet), creating a mesmerizing spectacle. The icy winters transform the waterfall into a frozen masterpiece, attracting daredevil ice climbers from around the world. But the allure of Öxarárfoss extends beyond its natural beauty.
It's steeped in history, having witnessed the evolution of Iceland's parliament since 930 AD. As the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, locals look to the waterfall, which is said to prophesy the year ahead by running red with wine for prosperity or blood for impending war.
11. Seljalandsfoss - 'The Fairytale Waterfall'
Seljalandsfoss, often hailed as the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland, is a spectacle that seems to have been plucked straight out of a fairytale. Standing at an impressive height of approximately 60 meters (197 feet), this waterfall is a must-visit when touring the south coast of Iceland.
One of the unique features of Seljalandsfoss is a footpath that leads you behind the waterfall. This path offers an extraordinary perspective, allowing visitors to witness the waterfall's power from a close range. However, be prepared to get soaking wet from the drizzle, so don't forget your raincoat! During the winter, the path behind the waterfall is closed due to safety reasons, as it can get slippery and dangerous.
But don't let that deter you! Seljalandsfoss is lit up during the winter months, creating a stunning spectacle against the snowy landscape. Just a 120-kilometer (76 miles) drive from Reykjavík, the road to Seljalandsfoss is easily accessible and a must-visit for anyone touring Iceland. As you approach, you can spot the waterfall from the ring road, growing larger as you get closer.
12. Hrauneyjafossar - 'Lava Falls'
Hraunfossar, also known as 'Lava Falls,' is a series of enchanting waterfalls in Iceland that are a must-visit for any traveler. These falls are unique as they emerge from rivulets streaming out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field, spanning a distance of about 900 meters and with a drop of 12 meters (39 feet).
The waterfalls pour into the Hvítá River, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that is a testament to Iceland's volcanic past. Located in West Iceland, Hraunfossar is near the historic settlement of Reykholt and the powerful Barnafoss waterfall. The area is rich in Icelandic folklore, with tales of hidden caves within the lava field, including Víðgelmir, the country's longest cave.
Legends also speak of the lava field being home to trolls and bandits in the past. When visiting Hraunfossar, be prepared for a journey into Iceland's geological and mythical history. The falls are a testament to the volcanic activity that once dominated the area, and their beauty is a reminder of the tales that have been woven around them.
13. Kvernufoss - 'The Windy Waterfall'
Tucked away in a gorge in South Iceland, Kvernufoss, also known as 'The Windy Waterfall,' is a hidden gem among the waterfalls in Iceland. Standing at a height of 30 meters (98 feet), this waterfall is a sight to behold. Despite its proximity to the popular Skógafoss waterfall, Kvernufoss often remains overlooked by travelers, making it a serene and less crowded spot for nature lovers.
The journey to Kvernufoss is an adventure in itself. A 20-minute hike by the river, with a few rocky climbs, leads you to this majestic waterfall. The trail starts from behind the Skógar museum and takes you through a gorge, Kvernugil, by the lovely Kverna or Kvernuhólsá River.
The waterfall remains hidden until you stand right by the river and look into the gorge.
In the summertime, visitors can walk behind Kvernufoss, feeling the power of the waterfall up close. However, in winter, it's too slippery and risky due to falling icicles. So, if you're planning a visit to this waterfall, remember to check the season and prepare accordingly.
14. Aldeyjarfoss - 'The White Waterfall'
Among the top waterfalls in Iceland, Aldeyjarfoss holds a special place with its stunning basalt column backdrop. Nestled in the Skjálfandafljót River in North Iceland, this waterfall is a hidden treasure, often overlooked due to its off-the-beaten-path location. Aldeyjarfoss plunges 20 meters (65 feet) into a turbulent pool, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.
The journey to Aldeyjarfoss is a 41-kilometer (25-mile) drive into Bárðardalur Valley from the main road. The waterfall is set in the ancient Báðardalshraun lava field, which erupted some 9,000 years ago. The basalt columns surrounding the waterfall are a sight to behold, displaying a range of colors from grey to brown to yellow to orange.
A visit to Aldeyjarfoss offers more than just the waterfall. The surrounding landscape, the hike, and the drive are equally captivating. The waterfall can be visited from both the north and south banks, each offering a unique perspective. Just keep in mind that you will drive on F-Roads, which are only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles. So, be sure to plan your visit accordingly and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of this hidden Icelandic gem.
15. Haifoss - 'The High Waterfall'
Háifoss, known as the 'High Waterfall,' is a stunning spectacle and one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. Nestled in the Fossárdalur valley, it stands as the country's third-tallest waterfall, reaching an impressive height of 122 meters (400 feet). This gigantic waterfall is fed by the river Fossá, which flows into the Þjorsá, the longest river in Iceland.
A visit to Háifoss offers more than just the waterfall itself. A second waterfall, Granni, cascades right beside Háifoss, adding to the grandeur of the scene. Moreover, the notorious Hekla volcano, one of the country's most explosive, is within sight, adding a thrilling backdrop to the landscape.
Háifoss is not just a natural wonder; it's also steeped in local folklore. Stories tell of an ogress who once called this place home, adding a layer of mystery and intrigue to your visit. Reaching Háifoss requires a bit of adventure, as the journey involves a drive over a bumpy gravel road. But the reward is a breathtaking view that encapsulates the raw beauty of Iceland's landscapes.
A Comprehensive 12-Day Itinerary To The Best Waterfalls In Iceland
Unleash the adventurer within as you embark on this comprehensive 12-day itinerary to the best waterfalls in Iceland. This enchanting journey takes you through the unspoiled beauty of Iceland's landscapes, each day unveiling another mesmerizing waterfall.
We recommend renting a campervan in Iceland for this expedition. Why? Well, because our campervans and motorhomes come equipped with all you need for a comfortable and safe journey.
Plus, they're perfect for exploring the remote areas of Iceland's countryside where these waterfalls are located. So, let's dive into this incredible itinerary!
Day 1: Reykjavík to Golden Circle
Start your journey with the Golden Circle, where you'll find two of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland: Gullfoss and Öxarárfoss.
Day 2: Golden Circle to South Coast
Proceed to the South Coast, where you can visit Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. You can also fit in Kvernufoss, which is close by.
Day 3: South Coast to Vík
Travel towards Vík and visit the beautiful black waterfall, Svartifoss, in Skaftafell Nature Reserve, part of the Vatnajökull National Park.
Day 4: Vík to Höfn
Proceed along the South Coast to Morsárfoss. This is one of the less visited falls due to its difficult accessibility, so it would be best to consult local advice before planning to visit. End the day at the seaside town of Höfn.
Day 5: Höfn to East Fjords
Take the scenic route to the East Fjords, where you'll get a chance to see Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss. Although these aren't on the list, you might as well add them to your itinerary.
Day 6: East Fjords to Mývatn
Next, drive to the Mývatn area. You can visit Dettifoss and Selfoss, which are in the same area, and also Godafoss, which isn't too far.
Day 7: Mývatn to Akureyri
Continue your journey to the northern town of Akureyri, visiting Aldeyjarfoss along the way.
Day 8: Akureyri
Day 9: Akureyri to Westfjords
Head to the Westfjords, where you can see Dynjandi. Rauðasandur Red Sand Beach is also a must-see attraction in the area.
Day 10: Westfjords to Snæfellsnes
From the Westfjords, make your way to Snæfellsnes Peninsula and check out Haifoss, the highest waterfall in Iceland.
Day 11: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Drive towards the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. End the day at Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, both of which are situated in a beautiful lava field. You can also fit in a visit to the nearby Gerðuberg Cliffs, which are made of basalt columns that create an impressive sight.
Day 12: Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Reykjavík
Head back to Reykjavík and visit Glymur waterfall, a hidden gem, and Iceland's second-tallest waterfall. You can also fit in Reykjafoss, Hrauneyjafossar, and Haifoss, three of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland.
Essential Items for Your Icelandic Falls Adventure
It's essential to come prepared if you want to see the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. After all, as you journey through Iceland's remote areas, you'll be miles away from the comforts of civilization. Here are some must-have items for a safe and enjoyable experience that sets you up for success!
A Four-Wheel Drive Vehicle: If you're planning on visiting any of the more remote falls, you'll need a reliable four-wheel drive vehicle. You can rent one from us at Campervan Reykjavik, which will come with all the necessary equipment.
Waterproof Clothing: It goes without saying that you should bring waterproof clothing for your trip. Whether it be rainwear or boots, make sure to pack according to the weather.
Warm Clothing: Layering is key when it comes to Iceland's unpredictable climate, so make sure you bring along plenty of warm clothing.
Hiking Gear: Depending on where you're going, there may be some rough terrain, so make sure to pack appropriate hiking gear, such as sturdy walking boots and a first-aid kit.
A Camera: Last but certainly not least, make sure you bring a camera to capture all the breathtaking views. Don't forget extra batteries and memory cards!
With these items, you'll be ready for your Icelandic waterfall adventure. So what are you waiting for? Start planning, and let the journey begin!
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the waterfalls in Iceland.
How many waterfalls are there in Iceland?
There are over 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland. However, some of the most spectacular and easily accessible ones are Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Svartifoss, Dettifoss, Háifoss, Glymur, and Aldeyjarfoss.
Which waterfall in Iceland is best?
Skógafoss is considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. However, each waterfall has its own unique charm, and you may find a different favorite depending on your personal taste.
Can you swim in Iceland's waterfalls?
No, swimming in Iceland's waterfalls is not recommended as they are very powerful and the currents could be dangerous. It's also very cold, and you might risk hypothermia. However, some of the smaller waterfalls have shallow waters which can be used for wading.
Is it safe to visit Iceland's waterfalls in winter?
Yes, however, you should take extra caution as roads may become slippery due to snow and ice. Make sure to check weather reports before setting off on your journey. Also, it's important to dress appropriately and wear the right gear for cold weather.
Do Iceland waterfalls freeze?
Yes, the waterfalls in Iceland can freeze during winter. However, due to their immense power, they don't completely freeze, and you will still see some open areas at the bottom of the falls. Watching them in this state is a remarkable sight!