Waterfalls in Iceland: 21 Must-See Cascades - WBCB: The Valley's CW |

Waterfalls in Iceland: 21 Must-See Cascades

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Planning your trip to Iceland isn’t a simple task. It can be quite a daunting task to balance your time between all the attractions you want to see! Do you visit the Golden Circle? Snorkel Silfra Fissure? Drive the Ring Road? Seek out & soak in Iceland’s hot springs? or do you simply go chasing waterfalls in Iceland?

In a country with an abundance of natural beauty Iceland’s waterfalls are second to none! They are an attraction in themselves and a huge draw for tourists to Iceland. In fact, there are so many waterfalls it seemed as if we were searching for somewhere safe to pull over every 15 minutes during our trip around the ring road.

Continue reading to discover what we believe to be the 21 top waterfalls in Iceland.

ICELAND WATERFALLS MAP

To make your search for these giants easier we’ve put together a map of the best waterfalls in Iceland. Each waterfall we discuss in this post is listed and labeled. I’ve numbered the waterfalls counterclockwise around the island following the most popular Iceland Road Trip Route. Check it Out!

THE 21 BEST WATERFALLS IN ICELAND

Iceland’s waterfalls vary in size, shape, and intensity but they all induce a sense of awe and wonder when you’re standing in front of them! And while there are hundreds if not thousands of waterfalls scattered across Iceland we picked just 21 of the most impressive, impactful and accessible to share with you today.

WATERFALLS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

The golden circle route is something you’re no doubt familiar with if you’ve been planning a trip to Iceland for any length of time. This sightseeing route is a common day trip from Reykjavik and includes stops at a variety of interesting spots including (typically) Gullfoss waterfall or ‘Gold Falls’.

If you’re self-driving the Golden Circle route however, there are other waterfalls along the way you should take the time to find & explore!

1) OXARARFOSS

Oxarafoss is a Unique waterfall. It flows into the rift between continental tectonic plates!Oxarafoss is a Unique waterfall in Iceland.It flows into the rift between continental tectonic plates!

No doubt when you choose to visit the Golden Circle you’ll plan to check out Thingvellir National park.

Here the earth’s tectonic plates pull apart relentlessly, slowly tearing Iceland in two. The rift left behind and the lake are both geologically and culturally significant, Iceland’s first parliament met here, but they’re far from the only attractions!

Oxararfoss waterfall flows from the high plateau above Thinvellir and into the rift before making its way down and into the lake.

A short well-graded hike through the fault from Thingvellir Visitors Center (or Parking Lot P5 if you’re also taking part in the Silfra Fissure Snorkeling tour) will get you to Oxararfoss. Where a perfectly positioned viewing platform allows getting up close and personal or snapping a great photo!

2) BRUARFOSS WATERFALL

Bruarafoss Waterfall can be a tough one to find!Bruarafoss Waterfall can be a tough one to find!

Bruarfoss is still relatively unknown and considered a hidden gem along the Golden Circle Route. Located on the Bruar river in the south-west of Iceland, this series of small cascades is a big deal in its own light.

While visitors need to get off the beaten path to find this waterfall, when they do they’re rewarded with thousands of small rivlets dropping into a stunningly deep blue river which you’d expect to be photoshopped until you see it in person.

Getting to the Bruarfoss waterfall isn’t straight forward. Like many areas of Iceland, the infrastructure wasn’t designed to accommodate the huge amount of tourist traffic visiting the area now. Some other guides will attempt to route you through a piece of private property and vacation rental housing to get to here. The proper way to access Bruarfoss however is by parking on route 37 near the bridge over the river (look for the parking lot) and then walk 15-20 minutes upstream to the falls. Be a good tourist, don’t trespass!

3) GULLFOSS

The Golden Circle’s largest waterfall, and biggest tourist attraction, Gullfoss waterfall is claimed by Icelanders (keen travelers themselves) as the most beautiful waterfall in the world. While that’s debatable, it is indeed beautiful and has made its way onto many lists of the most beautiful waterfalls on the planet.

Gullfoss waterfall IcelandGullfoss, on the Golden Circle, is another popular waterfall in Iceland.

Rushing 40km across the lowlands from Langjkull glacier—the second largest in Iceland—these ever-flowing waters drop over 32m in two distinct steps to the bottom of a rugged canyon that flows south to the coast.

Gullfoss is usually quite crowded during high season. Getting here early or late are great ways to avoid the crowds!

There are two parking lots at Gullfoss. Both provide a good view of the waterfalls and easy access to the various trails. My preference for viewing is definitely the lower parking lot. It offers a few great overlooks to get a feel for the place and probably the best angles for photographing the falls.

THE BEST WATERFALLS ON ICELAND’S SOUTH COAST

Iceland’s south coast is a mecca for waterfall chasers. Some of the best known (but most highly trafficked) waterfalls in Iceland are located on this narrow strip of lowlands between Reykjavik and Hfn. Here, just a short trip from Reykjavik you can have the quintessential Iceland waterfall experience without spending days driving.

4) SELJALANDSFOSS

Seljalandsfoss is one of the best known waterfalls around Iceland!Seljalandsfoss is one of the best-known waterfalls around Iceland!

Seljalandsfoss is one of the first waterfalls you’ll come across after the golden circle if you’re driving the ring road counter-clockwise.

It’s also probably the most visited waterfall in Iceland. It stands about 65m tall and flows over a steeply undercut cliff.

From the parking lot, a path leads you along the creek and then in behind the waterfall itself. Wandering behind the waterfall is a unique experience and a great photo opportunity but be sure to bring a coat, you’ll no doubt get soaked from the spray!

If you’re visiting in the winter or early spring be cautious of ice build up on the trail.

5) GLJFRABI

Gljfrabi waterfall is tucked away in the back of a slot canyon and gets missed my many travellers.Gljfrabi is tucked away in the back of a slot canyon and gets missed by many travellers.

Hidden in the cliffs just a few hundred meters away from Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall that’s missed by many visitors to the area & it’s easy to understand why.

Tucked deep into the back of a narrow slot canyon Gljfrabi (say that 3 times fast) isn’t immediately obvious but it is well worth finding!

To find Gljfrabi visit Seljalandsfoss and then head north on the footpath following the bottom of the cliff until you find yourself at a stream. You’ve found it! To get the full picture you’ll have to get wet though!

Walking into the slot canyon and its onslaught of spray truly is the best (and maybe most Icelandic) way to experience this waterfall. Hopefully you knew what to pack for Icelandand brought your waterproof jacket along!

6) SKOGAFOSS WATERFALL

Skogafoss is one of the best known waterfalls in Iceland. It’s found on the cover of countless magazines, travel brochures, and advertisements and for good reason. It’s one of the most easily accessible waterfalls in all of Iceland, but beyond that, it’s huge which leads it to be a popular spot!

Skogafoss is on of the most accessible waterfalls in Iceland. Skogafoss is one of the most accessible waterfalls in Iceland. You can drive nearly to the bottom of the falls.

Over 25m wide and 60m tall you’re well aware of the waterfall’s presence before you lay eyes on it. Because of the sheer amount of spray emanating from the falls you’re almost guaranteed to spot a rainbow if/when the sun peaks out from behind the clouds. It’s spectacular!

Access to the top of the falls is available via a steep path and stairway system that leads to an observation platform. Use caution on the stairs, they’re always damp and can be quite slippery! Following a trip to the top don’t forget to explore the adjacent village of Skoga which has an excellent open-air museum and restaurant.

Arriving early in the morning or late in the afternoon will ensure you miss the most congested times here.

7) KVERNUFOSS WATERFALL

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds of Skogafoss there’s a quiet waterfall for you only a 15-minute walk away. Tucked into the hills east of Skogafoss, Kvernufoss Waterfall is a hidden gem. While its nowhere near the scale of Skogafoss its a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the better-known waterfalls.

Follow the walking paths to the right of Skogafoss, over the fence stairs and into the horses pasture until you reach the creek.From the creek follow the obvious trail uphill into the canyon where you’ll find the waterfall and likely no one else!

8) SVARTIFOSS WATERFALL

Svartifoss waterfall and its stunning bassalt columns!Svartifoss waterfall and its stunning basalt columns, one of the stunning waterfalls of Iceland!

Svartifoss was one of the waterfalls I nearly missed, I hadn’t planned on stopping but chatting with other travellers the day before we’d heard all about it. Located in Skaftafell National Park this waterfall is well worth the hike!

As one of the few falls in Iceland that show off the islands volcanic nature, Svartifoss is teaming with hanging basalt columns that will take your breath away!

Below Svartifoss you’ll pass by Magnsarfoss, Hundafoss & jfafoss as you climb the trail to the main attraction. After the waterfall, it’s worth continuing another 15 minutes to the top of Sjnarsker for a spectacular panoramic view of the area. All the way from the highlands and glaciers to the north Atlantic ocean!

WATERFALLS IN EAST ICELAND

Eastern Iceland & its fjords are home to countless unnamed waterfalls & rivulets streaming from the snow-capped peaks, down the mountainsides and into the thrashing oceans below. While less accessible than many of Iceland’s other waterfalls they’re still worth the effort to seek out. Not only will you find some cool waterfalls but you’ll likely come across small villages and sights you otherwise wouldn’t have seen!

9 & 10) LITLANESFOSS & HENGIFOSS WATERFALLS

Litlanesfoss & Hengifoss show off some of Iceland's geological gems.Litlanesfoss & Hengifoss show off some of Iceland’s geological gems.

On the edges of Lagarfljt in eastern Iceland you’ll find these two unique but seldom visited waterfalls. Tucked away in the hillside beyond a small nondescript gravel parking lot Litlanesfoss & Hengifoss are excellent examples of columnar basalt, a product of rapid cooling of the age-old lava.

The hike to Litlanesfoss is short but steep but flattens out for a while as you make your way to Hengifoss. The full hike to Hengifoss is a 4.3KM out and back trail that will take you a few hours to complete depending on your fitness level.

11) GUFUFOSS WATERFALL

Located in the eastern Fjords above the small town and Fjord of Seydisfjordur Gufufoss is one of the largest waterfalls in eastern Iceland.

It’s worth visiting if for no other reason than the stunning drive over the mountain on the way down from Egilsstair required to get there. But, we’re not talking road trips in Iceland in this post so what about the waterfall?

Translated literally as “steam falls” Gufufoss lived up to its name, nearly enveloped in a cloud of spray. A convenient parking area just off the main road is hard to miss and the falls are only a 2 minute walk away.

WATERFALLS IN NORTHERN ICELAND

The most powerful waterfall in Iceland (& Europe for that matter) calls this rocky, barren northern stretch of the country home. So too do other well-traveled mega-waterfalls.

12) DETTIFOSS

Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Iceland(& Europe)Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Iceland (& all of Europe)

Sometimes referred to as ‘the beast’ in comparison to ‘The Beauty’ of Goafoss, to the west. This monstrous giant of a waterfall is guaranteed to leave you speechless. Over 365,000 liters (96,500 gallons) of water flows over it every single second making it the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe.

Does Dettifoss look familiar? It just might. The waterfall was used in the opening scenes of Ridley Scott’s 2012 Aliens prequel, Prometheus. Just another of Iceland’s starring roles.

Sitting across a100m wide canyon Dettifoss drops nearly one statue of liberty (or ~45m for the non-Americans in the room). Impressive is an understatement!

13) HAFRAGILSFOSS

If you’ve already come this far to admire Dettifoss and Selfoss, I’d urge you to take the time to drive a few extra kilometers to see the panorama of Hafragilsfoss and its surrounding canyon.

Located just upstream of Dettifoss this drop in the Jokulsargljufur canyon makes for another stunning waterfall. Minutes from the parking lot you’re presented with a stunning wide view of the canyon, waterfall and foliage of northern Iceland. So honestly, just make the effort, it’s worth seeing!

14) SELFOSS WATERFALL

Selfoss is a stunning ribbon of waterfalls in Iceland that proved difficult to photograph!Selfoss is a stunning ribbon of waterfalls in Iceland that proved difficult to photograph!

This one threw me for a loop so let me drop a little-hard earned knowledge on you

There is Selfoss waterfall and then there’s Selfoss town. While named the same they’re on opposite sides of the damn country. The way I was looked at when I started asking how to get to the waterfall upon rolling into town made it clear this is a common occurrence. Don’t be like me!

Selfoss’ main horseshoe-shaped waterfall is complimented by a ribbon of rivulets on the left side. When water levels are high enough this gives it a really unique look.

15) GODAFOSS WATERFALL

Witness the Power of Godafoss Waterfall In IcelandWitness the Power of Godafoss Waterfall

Over 30m wide and falling from a height of 12m Godafoss is a spectacular waterfall.

The story goes that In 1000AD the Lawspeaker of what would become Iceland, orgeir Ljsvetningagoi, made Christianity the official religion. Following his conversion, he disowned his now pagan Norse gods by throwing their statues into Godafoss. Hence the name that translates as “The Waterfall of The Gods”.

You’re able to walk right up to the rim of Godafoss. This makes for some amazing photo opportunities. If you’ve been reading for a while or know me you know I embraced those right away!

You can access the waterfall from both the east and west sides of the river. For access to the river approach from the east. For access to the photogenic rocks at the top of the falls you’ll want to come in from the west.

WATERFALLS IN WESTERN ICELAND

Western Iceland and the Westfjords were some of the most desolate and beautiful places I visited during my trip. Not only is the most stunning (in my humble opinion) waterfall in Iceland located here but the scenery is absolutely mind-blowing. Around every bend there lays a new adventure!

16) DYNJANDI WATERFALL

Dynjandi Waterfall in IcelandThe immense Dynjandi Waterfall is a must-see spot in the West Fjords!

The Dynjandi waterfalls in the seldom visited West Fjords were one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland! This cascading monster drops over 100m (330 feet) and spans from 30m wide (at the top) to well over 60m wide at the base.

Translated as “mountain falls” Dynjandi was fitting and a real treat to lay eyes on as we made our way down from the summit of road 60.

A newly constructed (in 2018) and well-maintained trail climbs to the main falls from the parking lot passing a torrent of other falls in the process. It took just 15 minutes to climb to the top but more than 90 minutes to come back down as I explored & photographed all the other waterfalls.

It amazes me that so many people bypass the West Fjords and Dynjandi too. “It’s too far” we heard, “there’s nothing out there” said another. They couldn’t have been more wrong! Combine this waterfall with some of the West Fjords amazing hot springs and quaint villages and you’ve got a side trip you’d be silly to pass up!

17) GRUNDARFOSS WATERFALL

If you’ve already decided to come visit Kirkjufellsfoss (below)—and you should—then you’d be amiss to leave the area without checking out Grundarfoss too! You’ll find the waterfall tucked into the hillside behind the small town of Grundarfjrur nearby falling nonchalantly into a farmers field.

You can hike along the edge of the river and the pasture fencing but it’s known to be a muddy trek and you cant get overly close to the falls. This one is a zoom photo from the parking area unless you can sweet talk the farmer into allowing you onto their land.

18) KIRKJUFELLSFOS

A quaint but charming waterfall located on the flanks of the stunning Kirkjufell (church) mountain stuns visitors year round.

Here at Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, a small cascade rushes down the lush hillside towards a tidal lagoon on the edge of the Snaefellsnes peninsula just outside of the small town of Grundarfjrur.

Kirkjufellsfoss, waterfalls in IcelandKirkjufellsfoss is one of the stunning waterfalls in Iceland!

While travelling in Iceland you become almost desensitized due to the sheer scale of some of the waterfalls. It’s easy to overlook this small waterfall as you drive by. But by taking 10 minutes to explore the falls and the view you’re presented with a look back towards the road that stuns. This classic view proves the age-old advice of not judging a book by its cover.

As a photographer Mt. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss were places that were high on my priority list early in my trip planning efforts. It’s become a very popular spot with photographers and tourists alike over the years. In fact, as I sat there waiting on sunset with my camera gear, no less than 15 ‘serious’ photographers and countless other visitors came and went.

Kirkjufellsfoss is best visited during the summer when you’ll find it glowing under the midnight sun. But even in the winter, Kirkjufellsfoss manages to charm visitors with a thin veil of ice clinging to the rocks as if hanging on for dear life.

It’s easy accessibility and epic beauty make Kirkjufellsfoss one of the best waterfalls in Iceland!

RELATED READ: PHOTOGRAPHING WATERFALLS LONG EXPOSURE HOW-TO

19) HRAUNFOSSAR

At Hraunfossar groundwater flows out from the lava field joining the river At Hraunfossar groundwater flows out from the lava field joining the river and creating an interesting sight!

Hraunfossar is an interesting change from the other waterfalls on this list. Formed by hundreds of small rivulets flowing from the porous rock of the Hallmundarhraun and pouring into the passing Hvita river.

A protected site in Iceland since 1987 Hraunfossar is a perfect stop to grab a coffee (the stand at the parking lot is open all summer), stretch and admire the view.

With a maximum height of only about 3m, it may not inspire awe like some of the other waterfalls in Iceland, but as a photographer I was captured by its beauty. As a bonus, the Vgelmir lava tube is very close by, two attractions for the price of one!

20) GLYMUR WATERFALL

Long thought to be the tallest waterfall in Iceland this slender & sly cascade hides away in the canyon on Iceland’s southwest shores. Glymur recently had to hand over the crown however as it was downgraded to the 2nd tallest waterfall in Iceland following the discovery of a bigger (though maybe not more impressive) waterfall on the south coast.

Glymur Waterfall is Iceland's 2nd largest. Glymur Waterfall is Iceland’s 2nd largest. Photo Sigurdur Jonsson/Flickr

Getting to Glymur involves a three hour 7.5km round trip hike that gains about 240m of elevation and even passes through tunnels and caves in the landscape. The trail is best hiked in the late spring and summer when water levels drop. In the early spring when I visited the required river crossing was impassable and we got only the slightest glimpse of the falls.

When I return to Iceland I’ll make another attempt on Glymur, but for now getting up close & personal with Iceland’s 2nd tallest waterfall is just another checkbox on my bucket list.

TIPS FOR VISITING ICELAND’S WATERFALLS:

As with every attraction in the country, the waterfalls in Iceland can become a real zoo during peak season. The best way I found to enjoy them was to visit outside of the peak season

 

There’s no “best” time to visit Iceland however, so if you’ve already booked your airfare and are going to be visiting during prime time I have a few more tips to help you make the most your visit to Iceland’s waterfalls:

  • Get there early or visit late. The majority of the crowds you’ll find at Iceland’s waterfalls will be visiting the area by tour bus. The constant in/outflow of tour groups make the falls a crazy place and even getting a good photo will take significant effort. To counteract this, visit the waterfalls before 9AM or after 4pm when the majority of the tour buses have yet to arrive or have already left.
  • Bring Rain Gear. You will get wet! No if’s and’s or but’s about it! If not walking to or exploring the waterfall then when the wind changes and sprays you down like a fire hose. Be prepared! We talked about what to wear in Iceland a while back.
  • Be Patient. Everyone wants their photo. If you’re patient you’ll end up with a gap or lull in visitors to get yours just how you want it.
  • Go Further Afield. The waterfalls away from Iceland’s south coast and golden circle see only a fraction of the visitors that their more accessible counterparts do. If you’re driving the ring road or have your own set of wheels this is the best option.

Following these tips should make your waterfall chasing a little more comfortable!

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY WATERFALLS IN ICELAND?

Another question I seem to get asked a lot is “why are there so many waterfalls in Iceland?” Aside from the obvious, rugged terrain and glaciers I had no way to answer. So I did a little research.

 

The answer it turns out, lays in the climate of Iceland. It’s position in the fierce North Atlantic ocean produces frequent rain and snow for much of the year and it’s arctic latitudes solidifies much of this into glaciers year after year.

Because of the high precipitation over the winter and glacial melt in the summer there is always a large amount of water trying to make it back to the sea. Couple these high flows with Iceland’s rugged volcanic topography and you’re bound to have thousands of stunning waterfalls.

WHICH IS ICELAND’S LARGEST WATERFALL?

If you find yourself asking “what’s the biggest waterfall in Iceland?” you’re not alone! A lot of people want to know which waterfall in Iceland wears the crown, and so did I! So I did a little research! It turns out that the answer isn’t quite so simple. Which the largest waterfall in Iceland is all depends on how you’re defining “largest”.

 

Dettifoss is Iceland’s (& Europe’s) most powerful waterfall by water volume but its not to tallest.

The highest waterfall in Iceland was long thought to be the impressive Glymur Falls at a dizzying 198m tall. Recently however a new waterfall was discovered near the Morsrjkull glacier that measures up a full 30m taller than Glymur at 228m!

Morsarfoss is officially the tallest waterfall in Iceland!Morsarfoss is officially the tallest waterfall in Iceland, but maybe not the most impressive

This new waterfall, Morsrfoss, is officially the tallest waterfall in Iceland but it’s also one of the least accessible, at least for seeing up close! A distant view of the falls can be had from the peak of Kristnartindar, a short hike away from Skaftafell. From here the waterfall is still a little over 6km away so you may still need some binoculars to get a good view!

Guided hikes are available for those wanting to get up close and personal with Iceland tallest waterfall and willing to put in the effort. Trekking over the ever changing glaciers is something not for the faint of heart but can be arranged with most tour operators in the area.

WATERFALLS OF ICELAND VIDEO

A small preview of the waterfalls in Iceland. Honestly, watch this and then tell me you don’t want to go see them all! Stunning!

THE WATERFALL CHASERS TAKE AWAY

Iceland’s waterfalls are EPIC to say the least! No doubt they are one of the country’s main tourist draws. These waterfalls are just the tip of the iceberg though, there are countless others scattered around the country. Each is stunning in it’s own right so it’s hard to choose a favorite or name one the best waterfall in Iceland.

 

I have my favorites, and I’m sure you’ll find your own too. But whatever you do, don’t miss out on visiting these waterfalls!

RELATED READ: HIDDEN HOT SPRINGS IN ICELAND YOU’VE GOTTA FIND

I hope this blog post gave you some insight into my favorite waterfalls in the land of fire and ice. Maybe it even helped you find some falls you would’ve otherwise missed. Either way, if you enjoyed this post I’d love if you’d share it with a friend who’s planning to visit or on Social media, every click counts! You’d probably enjoy our other posts about Icelandhere.

Have you been to Iceland? Which of the Icelandic waterfalls was your favorite? Drop us a comment below!

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