Who said, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls?”. Well, they definitely were not talking about Iceland – the country has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, and they serve as the perfect natural backdrop when hiking and exploring nature.
The waterfalls are literally everywhere, you can’t escape them! 🙂 They come in all kinds of forms and sizes and each and every one has its own wonders, but of course, some are more imposing than others.
As a local who has visited most of the places in the country, It’s not an easy task to choose just a few to write about since so many of them are full of wonders. This list is a mix of the most famous and wonderful waterfalls and some treasures that not many get to see.
If you need a bit of inspiration for your next trip, these are the 10 best waterfalls in Iceland to visit:
PRO TIP: If you want to hunt down even more waterfalls here is a map with information about over 200 waterfalls in Iceland.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is located along the southern coast of Iceland, just 128 km from Reykjavík.
You can easily go behind the waterfall too and that is what (partly) makes it special!
Because of its close proximity to the Ring Road and splendid natural features, it’s one of Iceland’s most visited and famous waterfalls. Also, it’s considered one of the most picturesque waterfalls and is vital to visit during your stay in Iceland!
This beautiful waterfall is a part of the river Seljalandsá. The water running down the waterfall runs from the famous glacier-capped Eyjafjallajökull volcano. The volcano beneath the glacier erupted in 2010 and caused many difficulties at airports all over Europe. This waterfall is very powerful with a drop of 60 meters. It cascades over steep cliffs, and that’s definitely the best secret about it and the most attractive feature.
The path runs behind its water flow, there you can truly enjoy a specific view from behind the waterfall. You want to make sure to prepare yourself to get dampened from the mist of the waterfall and the rocks of the path behind the waterfall can be slippery. This path is even more slippery during the winter months and due to a risk of falling ice, the path is closed during the winter months.
Skógafoss waterfall is probably best described as breathtaking! It’s a ~2-hour drive from Reykjavík (or just 30 km from the first one on my list). You can drive your car almost to the front of this waterfall, then it’s a two-minute walk to the fall on flat ground. If you want you can get rrrreally close to the waterfall too!
I recommend wearing waterproofs as it creates a lot of water mist. Next to the falls is a path of steps where you can walk along the waterfall, to a higher viewpoint. The path is steep so make sure to bring appropriate shoes because it is a 15 minutes hike. When you get there you won’t regret it cause the view is amazing!
Skógarfoss waterfall falls from ancient sea cliffs west of Skógar, from Skógá river which has its sources from below Eyjafjallajökull glacier and from the westernmost part of Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Where the Skógá river emerges on the ridge, the river flows on a layer of hard rock, and the water is distributed evenly along the waterway, which creates a uniquely shaped waterfall where it falls down to a level surface of 62 meters.
The waterfall is about 15 meters wide, but on the west side of the center of the waterfall, a small gap forms in the waterfall which breaks it up a bit. When there’s a lot of water in the river, this gorge disappears and the waterfall becomes continuous.
PRO TIP: There is also a camping area next to Skógarfoss waterfall so you can spend a night there marveling at it when it gets dark.
Gullfoss (nicknamed “The Golden waterfall”) is one of the destinations on the famous Golden Circle of Iceland, where you’ll experience stunning Icelandic nature features at Thingvellir National Park, Geysir world-famous geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall in just one day.
They actually wanted to build a hydroelectric power plant (thus destroying the fall) back in the early 20th century! A brave wonder woman named Sigríður Tómasdóttir tried her best to protect nature (she even threatened to jump into Gullfoss) and eventually the project was cancelled.
Golden Circle is an easy day trip from Reykjavík, whether you go on an organized tour, by taxi or rental car and I promise that you´ll be seeing a lot of other amazing things in the area outside the famous waterfall.
This waterfall is located in the canyon of Hvítá (river in southwest Iceland). It drops down 32 meters (105 ft.) in two stages, first 11 meters (36 ft.) high, and then 21 meters (69 ft.), into the 2,5 km (1.6 mi) long crevasse below.
Gullfoss takes the gold for being the largest volume of falls in Europe, with an average flow of 141 cubic meters (5.000 cu ft.) per second during summertime and 80 cubic meters (2.800 cu ft.) per second in the winter.
Dettifoss is a waterfall in Vatnajökull Glacier National Park in Northeast Iceland. Dettifoss is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum, the second-longest river in Iceland that originates in the glacier Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest ice cap by volume.
Dettiffiss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe (an average water flow of 193 m³ per SECOND!)
It is 100 meters wide and it drops 44 meters down to the canyon Jökulsárgljúfur. In the same canyon are two more imposing waterfalls, Selfoss (There is also a southern town with the same name) and Hafragilsfoss.
There are not many places like this one where you truly experience the smallness of man as clearly as by this magnificent waterfall. Traveling to the waterfall you’ll take the road that encircles Iceland. It can be a challenge going there in the winter even with a 4×4 car (summer is completely fine), so be careful!
NOTE: in case you are wondering, the most powerful waterfall in the world is Niagara Falls.
Hraunfossar, translated as “Lava Waterfalls”, refers to countless clear, cascading springs that flow from Hallmundarhraun lava. The water from Hraunfossar seeps out through the lava and flows into the Hvítá River. The lava field around Hraunfossar formed after the eruption of one of the volcanoes located under the Langjökull glacier (Iceland’s second-largest glacier).
Hraunfossar is among the most popular destinations in the west of Iceland. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Borgarnes town located on a peninsula at the shore of Borgarfjörður. And the best part is there is another waterfall just above Hraunfossar, called Barnafoss or Children’s waterfall (next on my list).
Barnafoss or “Children’s waterfall” is mostly spoken of in association with Hraunfossar. Both are located within a short walking distance of each other. Just like its neighbor, it takes its water from Langjökull glacier, located east of the waterfall. The same glacier that feeds the powerful Gullfoss waterfall.
Why Children fall though? The folktale tells that two boys tried to cross the rock bridge but they both fell into the river and drowned. The grief-stricken mother demanded the bridge to be destroyed.
Barnafoss is one of the many waterfalls in Iceland that were created from glacial water which affects the color of the water, from time to time. Generally, the color of the waterfall is very distinctive light blue not unlike the Blue Lagoon.
Barnafoss is not at all an average waterfall, it’s more like a series of rapids bursting from under the pitch-black rock surroundings. The water running through the waterfall is so clean that you can drink it right out of the rivers! So I recommend bringing a bottle to taste it.
In about a 10 min walk north from Seljalandsfoss (#1 on my list) you will find a 40-meter tall waterfall called Gljúfrabúi. It is hidden behind a substantial cliff called Franskanef so at first, you only see the top part of it. The river feeding Gljúfrabúi waterfall falls down into a deep canyon and then out of the canyon under the cliff wall.
Keep your eyes open for this one, it is hidden in a canyon and if you don’t know where it is, you might just miss it overall! Here is a Google map link just in case.
Even though thousands of people visit Seljalandsfoss, within a one-kilometer distance many don’t notice Gljúfrabúi waterfall or know about it. If you want to get a better view of the waterfall you have to travel a few meters through a narrow valley, then a small space opens up and you’ll see the Glúfrabúi waterfall fall.
For an even better view of the waterfall you can climb up a cliff wall. There are nice paths and chains to support yourself on the worst sections. You need to be very careful! Even when getting up and trying to look down the canyon. It is definitely worth it taking the path, where you will capture one of Iceland’s most breathtaking gems where the surroundings are made of mossy walls, silver mist, and black lava.
Dynjandi waterfall is located in Arnarfjörður in the Westfjords. Its height is 100 meters and actually, it’s the largest waterfall in the Westfjords. Dynjandi is truly a diamond and the most monumental of all the Icelandic waterfalls and sometimes it’s called the Queen of Westfjords.
It’s not among the most popular waterfalls in Iceland or among the most admired ones and I am truly not sure why as it is fascinating! If you want to see the real unspoiled nature of Iceland you absolutely should pay a visit! You won’t regret it I promise!
Below Dynjandi waterfall you will find five other waterfalls: Bæjarfoss, Hundafoss, Göngumannafoss, Strompglúfrafoss, and Hæstahjallafoss. It’s possible to walk behind Göngumannafoss and all six waterfalls can be seen from the shore.
Hjálparfoss or “Help waterfall” is a double waterfall at the bottom of the Fossá River in the valley Þjórsárdalur, just before it merges with the Þjórsá River. This two stepped waterfall falls down to a large abyss, surrounded by unique basalt formations.
The basalt rocks around the waterfall create a beautiful frame around the whitewashed water. Hjálparfoss is at a distance of 30 km from Flúðir town, and it’s a ~2-hour drive from Reykjavík. Also, Þjófafoss waterfall and Háifoss waterfall are not far from Hjálparfoss waterfall.
Morsárfossar (Morsár waterfalls) are the waterfalls that fall from underneath the rock belt at the bottom of Morsárjökull (Morsár glacier), an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull glacier in Vatnajökull National Park. The Morsár waterfalls weren’t discovered until 2007 after the melting of the Morsár glacier.
After they were found, Morsár waterfalls became the tallest waterfall in Iceland measuring 30 meters taller than Glymur (which before 2007 was the tallest waterfall in the country).
Morsárfossar can be viewed from a 16 km distance from the mountain peak Kristínartindur. The Kristínartindur Peak Ascent trail is 17.8 km. with a 1009 meters elevation gain. If you decide to hike this path you can view several other waterfalls on your way including Svartifoss. I recommend that you bring binoculars to see Morsárfossar (it’s still at a distance of 6 km).
If you however want to view Morsárfossar even closer, you´ll have to hike over the moving glacier. It’s not recommended unless you are accustomed to glacier tunnels and have the necessary equipment, crampons, ice ax, and safety harness with a lifeline and you know how to use it. Also, you or someone with you needs to be familiar with the area.
The waterfalls plunge almost 300 meters off the rock cliffs and ice waterfalls have gradually formed a white cruciform runner in front of the bottom of the valley. On a summer day, you don’t have to wait long to see glacial ice fall from the ridge with heavy thunder. In front of the glacier tongue is the Morsár lagoon, which is expanding due to the retreat of the glacier.
Frequently asked questions
🏞️ What are the most scenic waterfalls in Iceland?
Gullfoss waterfall is the most popular destination as it’s one of the destinations on the most famous tour in the country, where you´ll see various natural wonders. Seljalandsfoss waterfall is my personal favorite mainly because you can fully encircle it during the summer and capture stunning pictures behind the waterfall.
🤑 Are the waterfalls in Iceland free?
Visiting the waterfalls in Iceland is free as most of Iceland’s attractions are. Parking is also free of charge and the falls are open 24/7. But in some places, you need to pay a small amount to use the restroom. And of course, you need to get there and that includes expenses, depending on how you are planning on going.
📍 When can you see waterfalls in Iceland?
You can see waterfalls in Iceland all year round. Although visiting some waterfalls is recommended to visit during the summer so you can experience all their features, like Seljalandsfoss waterfall for example, the path running behind its water flow is closed during the winter months. But waterfalls like Gullfoss, Skógafoss, Barnafossar, Hraunfossar, and more can be visited all year.
I have shown you my top 10 favorite waterfalls in Iceland and all their magic and different features. I just love to experience the wonders of the waterfalls, hear the different sounds coming from nature and see so many kinds of nature at the same place.
I hope you enjoyed reading my post as much as I enjoyed writing it! Or, even better, I hope you will use my tips when chasing those waterfalls in person!
Are there any waterfalls that you’ve visited and would add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.