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The Best Waterfalls in Iceland

    Updated: 29th January 2024

    Skogafoss waterfall, Iceland
    Credit: Martyn Smith

    Discovering Iceland’s Spectacular Waterfalls

    Your journey to Iceland promises an encounter with some of the most stunning waterfalls in the world. With cascading waters set against dramatic landscapes, each one offers a unique spectacle. Here’s a friendly guide to navigating these natural wonders.

    Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is one of Iceland’s most famous falls. What makes it distinctive is the path that leads you behind the waterfall, providing a truly immersive experience. Dress warmly and prepare for a misty adventure.

    For those yearning for a hidden gem, Kvernufoss is a less crowded but equally mesmerising waterfall. Tucked away near Geysir, it’s a serene spot ideal for a reflective pause.

    In the northeast within Vatnajökull National Park, Dettifoss impresses with its sheer power. Billed as Europe’s most forceful waterfall, it’s a magnificent display of nature’s might.

    Gullfoss Waterfall, also known as the ‘Golden Falls’, is part of the iconic Golden Circle route. Its two-tiered cascade creates a splendid visual and is easily accessed from Reykjavik.

    Lastly, Svartifoss is famed for its black basalt columns, resembling organ pipes. Found in Vatnajökull National Park, it’s a stunning backdrop for photographs.

    Remember, safety comes first; stay within marked paths and respect nature. Whether you’re a photographer, a nature lover, or simply after a peaceful retreat, Iceland’s waterfalls won’t disappoint.

    Planning Your Waterfall Adventure

    Before embarking on a journey to Iceland’s majestic waterfalls, it’s essential to consider the optimal time for your visit, how you’ll get there, where you’ll stay, and the safety measures you should follow.

    Best Time to Visit

    The ideal time to witness the cascading beauty of waterfalls in Iceland is late spring to early autumn (May to September). During these months, you’ll experience longer daylight hours, providing ample time for exploration. Notably, summer (June to August) can be particularly magical, as some locations offer the mesmerising experience of the midnight sun.

    Travel and Accommodation

    To explore Iceland’s waterfalls, you’ll likely start your journey in Reykjavik. For convenience, consider renting a vehicle, which offers the flexibility to visit waterfalls at your own pace. As for accommodation, you have various options, from hotels and guesthouses to camping sites close to natural attractions. Organised tours are also available for those preferring guided excursions, such as expertly crafted walking holidays.

    Safety and Guidelines

    Safety is paramount. Always adhere to marked paths and signage. Wear sturdy, waterproof footwear, and be prepared for sudden weather changes by carrying waterproof and warm clothing. Remember, Icelandic terrains can be slippery and uneven, so exercise caution, especially when hiking to less accessible waterfalls like Hengifoss.

    Top Waterfalls in the South of Iceland

    When you’re venturing through the South of Iceland, embracing the raw beauty of cascading waterfalls is an experience like no other. Here’s a short guide to ensure you don’t miss the most striking waterfalls in this region.

    • Seljalandsfoss: Perhaps one of the most enchanting waterfalls you’ll encounter, Seljalandsfoss is unique with a path that allows you to walk behind the thundering cascade, drenched in mist and wonder. Remember to bring a waterproof jacket, as you’ll get a bit wet! Learn more about Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfrabúi.
    • Skógafoss: This is a waterfall you can’t miss, cascading from ancient sea cliffs with a drop of 60 metres, creating a constant rainbow on sunny days. After a short hike, you’re rewarded with picturesque views from the top. Discover more about Skógafoss and other spectacular waterfalls.
    • Rauðárfoss: For something less frequented yet remarkably beautiful, Rauðárfoss, with its red hues, is a hidden gem located near Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Its unique colour and serene location make for an unforgettable stop.
    • Systrafoss: This waterfall, connected with tales and legends, tumbles in two separate streams, giving the impression of sisters, hence the name ‘Sisters’ Falls’. The nearby hike to the mountain and Systravatn lake is well-worth the panoramic views you’ll find. Explore more about Systrafoss Waterfall.

    Remember your camera to capture the awe-inspiring power and beauty of these natural wonders!

    Must-See Waterfalls in the North

    When travelling through North Iceland, your adventure wouldn’t be complete without witnessing the stunning waterfalls this region has to offer. Each one has its own unique charm, from dramatic drops to the serene flow of water over basalt columns. Here are some you simply can’t miss:

    Goðafoss
    Arguably the centrepiece of northern waterfalls, the Waterfall of the Gods is steeped in history and beauty. The river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of 12 metres over a span of 30 metres, creating a vision that’s both powerful and peaceful. It’s easily accessible and not far from the main road, making it a convenient stop.

    Dettifoss
    Prepare for the raw power of Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Located in Vatnajökull National Park, Dettifoss will leave you in awe with its sheer force and majestic presence.

    Selfoss Waterfall
    Just a stone’s throw from Dettifoss is Selfoss. Slightly less known but equally mesmerising, Selfoss offers a wide curtain of water that complements its more powerful neighbour.

    WaterfallHeightNote
    Goðafoss12mHistorical significance, easy access
    Dettifoss44mMost powerful in Europe
    Selfoss11mClose to Dettifoss, broad cascade

    Do bring your waterproof gear as the spray from these waterfalls, especially Dettifoss, can be substantial. To experience the full grandeur of these sites, take a moment to soak in the stunning vistas and the sounds of nature at its best.

    Hidden Gems: Secluded Waterfalls Off the Beaten Path

    Iceland’s rugged landscapes house many well-known waterfalls, but it’s the hidden cascades off the beaten path that offer a sense of adventure and tranquillity. If you’re an intrepid traveller, these lesser-known waterfalls may captivate your heart.

    • Aldeyjarfoss: Located in North Iceland, this waterfall offers a dramatic 20-meter drop into a large basin. Surrounded by striking basalt columns, Aldeyjarfoss contrasts the classic beauty of its more famous counterparts with its rugged, unique surroundings.
    • Hengifoss: Hengifoss, in East Iceland, is the third highest waterfall in the country. It’s surrounded by layers of red clay and basaltic strata that create a striking backdrop for the falling water. Despite being one of the tallest, it’s often overlooked for more accessible waterfalls.
    WaterfallLocationUnique Feature
    AldeyjarfossNorth IcelandBasalt columns
    HengifossEast IcelandRed clay strata

    Discovering these off-the-grid locations, like the ones mentioned on Guide to Iceland, allows for a more serene experience. Ensure you’re well-prepared for hikes, as some of these spots require a bit of effort to reach. Your reward is the chance to witness the raw beauty of Iceland without the crowds, which is worth every step.

    Check out our 7 day ring road itinerary which will take you past most of these incredible waterfalls!

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