Iceland is home to myriad waterfalls, some that are too small to be named, but beautiful nonetheless. The north Atlantic climate brings much rain and snow, and the near-Arctic location produces glaciers that once they start melting in the summer months, produces the prime mix for feeding rivers and, of course, waterfalls.
While you’re visiting, you’ll also likely hear many of the local legends and sagas about the history of Iceland and how the waterfalls came to be, whether by volcanic eruptions or glacial melts. Many often have a historical tale or were affected by religious or political events. Immerse yourself in finding out all you can about Iceland’s top 10 waterfalls while you’re visiting, and it will surely only heighten your experience with the island country.
Naming the top 10 waterfalls in Iceland is ultimately a very subjective task. It just goes to show how many beautiful falls are found across the country! We’ve gathered our list with a nice mix of some of the most popular tourist stops, as well as a few waterfalls that might not be as well known. The entire experience of the waterfall, from the hike, to the size and the volume of water have all been considered when constructing our list.
We hope you find a few—or even all—of the waterfalls you were hoping to visit on your trip to the island country. Have fun and enjoy the majestic landscape!
Location: Hamragardar/Southern Ring Road, South Region, Iceland
The size and force of this waterfall is stunning when considering the rugged landscape that surrounds it. Seljalandsfoss is fairly narrow and tall, with a drop of about 60-63 meters. The cliff itself is said to be the former coastline of Iceland. This is a very popular waterfall in Iceland and is visible on the southern Ring Road.
One of the coolest factors with Seljalandsfoss is that there is a path that allows you to actually walk behind the falls, giving you amazing views from every side. Now how often can you say that you actually got to go behind a waterfall? It’s said that the spray from behind the waterfall actually caused the erosion that led to the pathway being possible. Catching these falls from behind at a sunset gives a particularly spectacular view—and one that will rival your other photos because of its unique angle.
Be aware that to get up close behind this waterfall you will want very sturdy hiking boots and waterproof clothing, as the mist from the falls will get you wet. You can take your time visiting this waterfall for about an hour and make stops to take photos, or you could probably do the whole visit in 15-20 minutes. This is a popular stop with tour bus groups, so be prepared to share the falls with crowds while you’re visiting. Otherwise, if you are traveling privately, go very early and you would be able to beat the crowds.
Location: Skjálfandafljót/Mývatn, Northeast Region, Iceland
Here we are going to discover Godafoss. The river Skjalfandafljot in the northeast is home to a number of beautiful waterfalls, including others such as Aldeyjarfoss, Hrafnabjargafoss, Barnafoss and Ullarfoss.
Of course we know that height isn’t always the deciding factor in what makes a waterfall beautiful. Godafoss is just 12 meters high and 30 meters wide, but it’s cut out of some breathtaking rock formations in the glacial river Skjálfandafljót. The experience of Godafoss is truly one of the most famous natural wonders of Iceland, and not to be missed in the Northeast Region.
The horseshoe shape of the falls gives Godafoss symmetry and a feeling of being surrounded by the falls. It’s not uncommon for the hike and subsequent interaction with the falls to leave a visitor feeling satisfyingly at peace and in balance. You’ll be mesmerized by the pure beauty of the place.
Both riverbank sides offer excellent paths to view Godafoss from both sides, and if you’re a photographer, this is a great place to test your skills. On the east side, you can either head down to the base or up to view the falls from the top. The west side has a much larger parking lot and therefore more traffic and visitors, and the walk is much shorter to view the falls. Whether your visit is during the warmer summer months or the snowy wintertime, you’ll be happy that you included this stop in your glimpse of Iceland’s waterfall offerings.
Location: Hvalfjörður, Capital Region/West Region, Iceland
If you are staying in Reykjavík, it’s worth your time to make a day trip to see Glymur. There is just something so amazing about seeing the rugged landscape around Iceland’s second tallest waterfall. Glymur stands at 198 meters high, and is such a treat for those who are willing to take the long hike to reach it. There are a few parts of the trail that are a bit rough, so please check the trail conditions before you go, and be sure you are in good enough health to make the climb.
Glymur is found nestled in the Hvalfjörður fjord, but you cannot see it from Route 1, like some of the waterfalls are visible on the Ring Road in the south. Glymur still holds its own place in the limelight, but Morsárfoss has taken over the title of tallest waterfall in Iceland. Glymur still garners the respect of those seeking a nice day hike not too far from the capital, and no matter what part of the country you are in, it’s hard not to appreciate the sheer power of water.
You can join a tour to hike to Glymur, or if you’re planning to venture there on your own, it will be about a 2-hour hike from the main road. You will want to be sure to pay close attention to the trail markers so as not to veer off the main path. On your way up the path, you’ll see a few glimpses of Glymur and some other falls cascading into the gorge that should give you the extra excitement to keep pressing on in your hike. Closer to the top you’ll get a more direct view of Glymur.
Location: near Egilsstaðir, East Region, Iceland
If you’re looking for a reason to spend a bit more time in the east of Iceland, the hike for Hengifoss will reward you. Standing tall at the top of of lake Lagarfljót at 118 meters, Hengifoss offers a striking view of a waterfall with unique red striping patterns in the rock. Layers of ash and volcanic lava oxidizing the rock, along with compression and time gave rise to this unusual red clay layers that aren’t seen in other falls on our list of Iceland’s top 10 waterfalls. Another reason why the unique history of Iceland’s volcanos and glaciers have really combined to provide one of the most striking and beautiful landscapes of the world.
In order to get closer to the falls, it takes about a 2.5 kilometer hike to get in, which is fairly steep in the beginning but flattens out as you get closer to the approach. About halfway into the hike you’ll also be able to view Litlanesfoss, which is surrounded by the basalt columns found at other waterfalls like Svartifoss, the inspiration behind the exterior design of Hallgrimskirkja church.
The path will get a bit dicey with some gravel-covered spots more prone to slips with wet weather, but with the right hiking gear and a decent weather day, you should be able to reach the base of the falls. Your total time here would probably be about two or three hours if you go all the way.
Location: Skaftafell, Svartifoss Trail, South Region, Iceland
Now let’s say you are an avid adventurer and you love to hike. Maybe you have a bucket list of items to check off in your lifetime, and visiting Iceland’s tallest waterfall just has to be part of your trip. Well, if you are willing to put in the time for a very long hike, you can be one of the few who has visited the hard-to-reach Morsárfoss.
In 2007, Morsárfoss passed Glymur as the tallest waterfall at 240 meters. It is located in the Morsárjökull Glacier, part of Vatnajökull Glacier, which is said to be Europe’s greatest glacier. As Vatnajökull starts to melt, many beautiful new scenic spots are being revealed.
If you are visiting in the mild summer months and want to camp in the area, head to Vatnajökull National Park in the Skaftafell Municipality. Nearby Morsárfoss is an information center and a campsite where you can begin the hike. This is really the only way to access the remote area. While you head to Morsárfoss, you’ll be thoroughly entertained by Hundafoss, Magnúsarfoss, the Skaftafellsjökull Glacier and Kristínartindar Peaks along the way. If you stay for an overnight or two in the camping area, you can traverse other trails that will lead you to Svartifoss or Bæjarstaðaskógur Wood.
5. Dynjandi (Fjallfoss)
Location: Arnarfjörður, Westfjords, Iceland
Now for those who want an adventure in the wilderness of the Westfjords, (one of the most remote areas of Iceland), head out to Dynjandi for a fabulous treat. The large lake Eyjavatn, which is 350 meters above sea level, provides the base for which the river Dynjandisá runs and thus feeds Dynjandi.
Dynjandi is very unique in its presentation, as its total drop is 100 meters, and the falls all drop in multiple stages that you can walk right up to see. At the top, Dynjandi is about 30 meters wide, and it gradually spreads out to 60 meters wide at the bottom. From the parking lot, up toward the falls on the hike, you’ll see about 7 waterfalls in a row, all named on the signposts.
Dynjandi has been beautifully described as a bridal veil, with the rock formations at the top falls giving it texture and shape the way over which the water falls down.
Whether you head over to Dynjandi in a group tour, or rent a car and travel privately, know you’ll be spending about five to six hours in the car from Reykjavík. Some also take the car ferry to Stykkishólmur at Breidafjördur Bay, to get out of the car and save on some driving time. It might be worthwhile to either camp overnight or find a spot to rent and stay, maybe in Ísafjörður.
Location: Þjórsadalur, South Region, Iceland
Known to be the third tallest waterfall in Iceland at 122 meters, Haifoss is a magical experience to witness with its neighboring falls, Granni, in the adjacent gorge. If you can see both of these falls at their peak flow, and catch them on a sunny summer day, you’ll likely be privy to stunning rainbows as well. Finding a gem like Haifoss in the Icelandic Highlands is truly quite a study in contrast of the desolate landscape and rushing falls.
Haifoss flows from the Fossá River, a tributary of the larger Þjórsá River. Once again we’re reminded of the true power of water—while the Þjórsá River cut a swath into the Þjórsadalur Valley, the Fossá cut a deep chasm. Both of the falls cascade over a cliff into a deep chasm, at the top of which you’ll get your best views of Haifoss. It’s not recommended to descend into the chasm—it’s a fairly big risk to attempt to see the base of the falls. As always, use high-quality footwear when hiking to Haifoss—the cliffs near the viewing area alone are a good reason. Most of the top 10 waterfalls in Iceland on our list are fairly rugged and remote, and it’s expected that you use common sense to decide which cliffs are safe and how close to the edge you can get.
You’ll likely want a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to access the gravel road to Haifoss. If trying to get to Haifoss in the winter, be sure to check the road condition before you leave to ensure it is passable.
Location: Skógar/Southern Ring Road, South Region, Iceland
Now Skogafoss is one waterfall not to be missed. Locals and tourists alike place it near the top on almost all waterfall lists for Iceland. At 25 meters high and 60 meters wide, the sheer size of the falls gives you a glimpse of why Skogafoss is so popular. And the volume of water gives it that thunderous waterfall experience that amazes everyone when you can actually feel the pulse of it inside your body.
What’s nice about Skogafoss is that almost anyone can enjoy it. The approach is quite flat along the riverbed and is easily traversed to get to the base of the falls. Getting so close to a waterfall base is often an unusual occurrence, so that likely adds to the popularity of Skogafoss. Now if you are a thrill-seeker, you can also climb a long set of stairs/steps to the top and get quite a different view. You can look back upriver or even out to the Atlantic from the top.
The spray from Skogafoss will definitely get you wet. You’re likely already equipped with the proper gear for Icelandic weather, but this one is a guarantee. Make sure to have good quality waterproof shoes for the climb to the top, if you’re going to try it. If you’re willing to brave bad weather and wait out a rainstorm, the mist from these falls produces spectacular rainbows if the sun peeks its head out.
Location: Vatnajökull National Park/Jökulsárgljúfur, Northeast Region, Iceland
In a close race to the top, Dettifoss is number two on our review of the top 10 waterfalls in Iceland. This waterfall is definitely the most powerful in all of Iceland, and it is said to be Europe’s most powerful waterfall as well because of its height and water flow combined. You should plan to make space in your trip to visit Dettifoss.
Dettifoss is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which flows from the Vatnajökull glacier. Like others on our list, the massive volume of water cascading down the 45 meters simply awes one to the incredible fury of nature. Dettifoss is 100 meters wide, and water flows at 500 cubic meters per second at high flow, so you know that you’re witnessing raw power. This loud falls, contrasted with the vastness of the Icelandic landscape really completes the picture of stark beauty.
At Dettifoss you have the lovely option of viewing the falls from both the east and west banks. Down from the east side parking lot, you can walk about 20-30 minutes and reach the bank for viewing. This is a more popular option for visitors as the drive in is much smoother. For the west bank, you’ll definitely want a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, but you don’t have as much competition with sightseers. You’ll spend about 10-15 minutes hiking before being rewarded with a cliff that offers a front-and-center view of Dettifoss. There’s nothing quite like Dettifoss to remind us of our small place in the vastness of nature.
Location: near Haukadalur/Golden Circle/Hvítá River, South Region, Iceland
Gullfoss is well-known as one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls and one of the most visited attractions on many itineraries. It comes as no surprise that Gullfoss wins the prize for number one on our list of the top 10 waterfalls in Iceland. Once you experience it yourself, you’ll understand why!
It’s located on the Hvita glacier river and is very unique in its presentation. Gullfoss contains two drops of 11 meters and 21 meters for a combined total of 32 meters of height. When viewing Gullfoss from the main visitor center observation area, the angle of the falls as it empties into a gorge makes it appear that the water is falling into the earth.
Gullfoss translates to “golden waterfall,” which references the glacial sediment in the water that, when hit with sunlight, reflects its golden-brown color. The sheer power of the glacier water really adds to the overall experience and effect of viewing the falls.
If you are visiting during the summer months and are able to view the falls in sunlight, you will likely be rewarded with rainbows. Even in the winter months, the unique layout of the span of the river and these falls will still be amazingly beautiful. The staircase to view the falls from the top will likely be closed for weather, though.
We sincerely hope that our review of the top 10 waterfalls in Iceland has sparked your desire for getting out and finding adventure in the beauty of nature. Whether you’re a world traveler ready for some serious hikes to traverse the unique features of Iceland’s beauty, or are just looking for easy options to park and view the falls from nearby, you’ll find it all on our list. You can travel deep into the rugged landscape in the Westfjords, or stay on the main Ring Road in the South to discover why so many come to Iceland for its world-renowned scenery.
It must also be said that your experience when travelling to the waterfalls will be very dependant on the weather at your time of visit. Morning shadows can also play a part in your photographs and how well you can view the falls. Winter viewing of the falls, while they are frozen can be very beautiful, but the sunlight of the summer months will naturally lend itself to more rainbows and more water volume over the waterfalls. Either way, always be prepared for wet weather with quality raincoats and very sturdy hiking boots, as well as extra socks.
Truly we understand that you have many attractions all vying for your attention in Iceland. But if seeking out nature is part of how you relax, you’ll come home from your visit with a very mellow attitude and your mind filled with the unforgettable landscape and amazing beauty of the waterfalls of Iceland.