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Dettifoss Waterfall Hiking Guide

Updated: Apr 18

Welcome to your ultimate guide to hiking the Dettifoss, brought to you by the trusted experts at Campervan Reykjavík. With over a decade of experience in Iceland's travel and tourism industry, we pride ourselves on offering top-quality, budget-friendly travel solutions.


Our strong local expertise and in-depth knowledge of Dettfoss allow us to curate the best travel experiences for you. But what makes this majestic waterfall so special that it should be on your travel itinerary?


Let's dive into the world of this Icelandic natural wonder and find out.


Dettifoss

How Was Dettifoss Formed?


Dettifoss Waterfall, one of Iceland's most stunning natural wonders and a jewel among Iceland's waterfalls formed progressively following the last Ice Age. As glaciers melted, this led to a significant uplift of the landmass and ultimately birthed the cascade we witness today.


Researchers have adopted cutting-edge methods such as drone mapping and rock terrace dating to gain insights into the waterfall's formation speed and the landscape's transformation. Remarkably, Dettifoss has eroded the rock and retreated upriver at an estimated rate of 70 cm (28 in) per year for the past 10,000 years.


Concurrently, Iceland's landmass has elevated over 50 meters (164 feet) due to the combination of glacial melting and geological activity.


What Does Dettifoss Mean?


'Dettifoss' hails from the Icelandic language, where 'detta' translates to 'fall' and 'foss' means 'waterfall.' Thus, Dettifoss essentially means 'The Collapsing Waterfall,' a fitting name for this spectacular natural feature known for its powerful cascade of water.


How High Is Dettifoss Waterfall?


Dettifoss, often hailed as Europe's most powerful waterfall, boasts an impressive fall height. The Dettifoss fall height is approximately 44 meters (144 feet), with a width stretching to about 100 meters (328 feet), making it an awe-inspiring sight for any traveler.



How high is detifoss

Is Dettifoss the Most Powerful Fall in Iceland?


Yes, Dettifoss holds the esteemed title of the most powerful waterfall in Iceland and Europe. With an astounding water flow of approximately 193 cubic meters (6,815 cubic feet) per second, it showcases a spectacular display of nature's raw power, creating a mesmerizing mist and persistent roar that captivates every visitor who beholds it.


When Is the Best Time of the Year To Visit Dettifoss?


The best time to visit Dettifoss waterfall is during the summer months, specifically from June to August. During this period, the roads are most accessible, and the surrounding landscapes burst into vibrant life, offering visitors not only the majestic view of the waterfall but also the enchanting beauty of Icelandic summer. However, during this time, expect larger crowds of tourists.


What Is the Best Time of the Day To Visit Dettifoss?


The best time of the day to visit Dettifoss is early morning or late evening, when most Dettifoss tour groups are yet to arrive or have left. These 'golden hours' provide a soft, warm light, perfect for capturing stunning photographs. For tips on capturing the beauty of Dettifoss, check out our Iceland photography guide.


How Much Time Should You Spend at Dettifoss?


We suggest devoting at least two to three hours to fully appreciate Dettifoss. This will give you ample time to enjoy the vista, explore the surrounding area, and perhaps even take a short hike to nearby attractions like the Selfoss waterfall.


 how long is the hike to dettifoss fall

The Dettifoss Waterfall Hike


You can approach Dettifoss from two sides: the west and the east. The west side, known for its accessibility, features paved roads and well-maintained trails, allowing you to leisurely stroll from the car park to the waterfall in about 10-15 minutes, all while following the meandering river under the guidance of clear signage.


Contrastingly, the east side invites the more adventurous spirit, offering a rugged, 1-kilometer (0.6 miles) hike from Dettifoss to Selfoss, demanding a bit of scrambling over rocks and navigating trickier terrains.


While this path requires additional effort, it rewards you with an intimately close viewpoint of the waterfall, intertwining the thrill of adventure with the awe of nature's power, crafting an unforgettable Icelandic hiking experience.


What Is the Difficulty Level of the Dettifoss Waterfall Hike?


The Dettifoss waterfall hike is generally classified as medium difficulty. The western approach offers an easy, short walk suitable for all fitness levels. However, the eastern path demands a bit more effort, with its rugged terrain requiring some scrambling over rocks. Choose the side that aligns with your hiking skills and preferences.



Difficulty Level of the Dettifoss Waterfall Hike

What Should You Bring on the Dettifoss Waterfall Hike?


When embarking on the Dettifoss Waterfall hike, it's essential to be well-prepared. Here are some items we recommend you should bring:


  • Comfortable Hiking Shoes: Terrain can be rocky and uneven, so sturdy footwear is a must.

  • Water Bottle: Staying hydrated during your hike is vital.

  • Layered Clothing: The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable. Dress in layers to adjust to the temperatures.

  • Raincoat or Windbreaker: Protect yourself from possible rain or strong winds.

  • Camera: You'll want to capture the views of the waterfall.

  • Snacks: Hiking can be energy-draining. Carry some light snacks to keep yourself fueled.

  • Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, sun protection is crucial.

  • Binoculars: Enhance your sightseeing experience with a closer view of the surroundings.

  • Backpack: To comfortably carry all your essentials.

Are There Any Facilities Available at Dettifoss?


Yes, there are facilities available at Dettifoss. You can access restrooms by the parking areas on both sides of Dettifoss. On the east side, along Road 862, the toilets are open year-round. On the west side, along Road 864, restrooms are open from mid-June to mid-September only.


Note: There are no food vendors or restaurants near Dettifoss, so make sure to bring your snacks and drinks.


Dettifoss waterfall hike

Where Is Dettifoss Waterfall Located?


Dettifoss Waterfall is located in Northeast Iceland, within the vast and wild landscape of Vatnajökull National Park. The location of this magnificent place is on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River, which originates from the Vatnajökull glacier and gathers water from a vast expanse in Northeast Iceland.


The waterfall's exact geographical coordinates are 65.8147° N latitude and 16.3846° W longitude. Accessible by two main roads, Road 862 on the west and Road 864 on the east, visiting Dettifoss waterfall is a must on your Iceland road trip.


How Do You Get to Dettifoss?


Reaching Dettifoss, you have a few transportation options, each with its own merits and considerations. Here are some ways to get around Iceland and reach Dettifoss:


  • Self-drive allows flexibility and leisurely exploration, especially if you opt for a campervan, which provides both transport and accommodation. However, navigating Iceland's weather and terrains requires caution.

  • Dettifoss Tours offers the expertise of local guides and a hassle-free journey but with a predetermined schedule.

  • Public transport is budget-friendly, yet services to remote areas like Dettifoss might be limited and seasonal.

How Do You Get From Reykjavík To Dettifoss?


Getting from Reykjavík to Dettifoss involves a journey of roughly 521 kilometers (323 miles). The most convenient mode of transportation is to self-drive, which typically takes around 6 to 7 hours. This gives you the freedom to explore Iceland's diverse landscapes at your own pace.


In our opinion, renting a campervan in Reykjavík is hands down the best way to undertake this journey. It not only provides flexibility in scheduling but also solves accommodation issues, offering a unique blend of comfort and adventure.


To reach Dettifoss, start from Route 1 (Ring Road), heading northeast from Reykjavík, then switch to Route 864 or 862, depending on which side of the waterfall you want to approach.

Camper rental Iceland

Nearby Attractions You Can Visit on the Same Day


Exploring the vicinity of Dettifoss, you'll discover a wealth of attractions that can be visited within the same day, each offering a unique slice of Iceland's enchanting natural beauty:


  • Selfoss: A neighboring waterfall to Dettifoss, showcasing a wide, stunning cascade amidst scenic landscapes, just a short hike away.

  • Goðafoss Waterfall: This beautiful, wide waterfall, whose name means 'Waterfall of the Gods,' is about a 1.5-hour drive from Dettifoss.

  • Lake Mývatn: A geothermal area with a stunning lake, hot springs, and unique geological formations, offering a diverse and fascinating exploration. It's roughly an hour's drive from Dettifoss.

  • Akureyri: A charming town just over 2-hours drive from Dettifoss, known for its vibrant culture, scenic views, and rich history.

  • Ásbyrgi Canyon: This horseshoe-shaped depression is a part of the Vatnajökull National Park, located about a 30-minute drive from Dettifoss. Its unique shape, according to legend, was formed by the hoof of Odin's horse, Sleipnir.

Where To Stay Near Dettifoss


If you're looking to extend your stay near this natural marvel, there are several accommodation options to consider. Here are some of the places we recommend:


  • Dettifoss Guesthouse: Situated a mere 30 minutes from the waterfall, this guesthouse provides a cozy and convenient stay, ensuring you're close to the action while enjoying a comfortable rest.

  • Kaldbaks-kot Cottages: Located approximately an hour away, these cottages offer a serene and homely environment amidst the stunning Icelandic nature, providing a peaceful retreat after a day of exploration.

  • Ásbyrgi Campsite: A mere 30-minute drive from Dettifoss, this campsite nestles you within the natural wonders of Vatnajökull National Park, offering a genuine and immersive Icelandic camping experience.


 dettifoss guesthouse accommodation options

Experience the Power of Dettifoss Waterfall


Embark on a journey to Dettifoss and witness the unparalleled beauty and power of nature's creations. From the thunderous roars to the delicate mists, every element of Dettifoss invites awe and admiration. Don't miss the chance to create unbelievable memories amidst the majestic landscapes of Iceland. Your adventure awaits!


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