There are Iceland waterfalls with drama, scale and opulence, others are subtle, elegant and picturesque. After much research, here is our list of the best waterfalls in Iceland.
Iceland is blessed with a unique geology. Active volcanos, huge glaciers and torrential rivers have carved the country up into a dramatic canvas ripe for extraordinary waterfalls.
There are waterfalls in Iceland that thunder and roar; powerful torrents crashing over rocky ledges to the valleys below. Others are subtle and elegant; slender ribbons of water flowing over picturesque hillsides. Many are backed by mighty mountains and framed by luminous green moss as they force their way through dramatic canyons framed by twisty columns of basalt rock.
There are literally hundreds of waterfalls in Iceland. Whether you’re touring the Ring Road or going off-grid into the highlands, it’s hard to go a day without driving past a waterfall that would be the headline act in any other country.
But this isn’t just any country, this is Iceland. And pulling together a list of the best waterfalls requires some arbitration, lest you end up with a list as long as Haifoss herself.
So, this isn’t every waterfall in Iceland. After lots of research and four trips to the country, this is our list of the most impressive, most beautiful, and most interesting waterfalls in Iceland.
Each one is worth going out of your way to see.
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1 – HAIFOSS
In our opinion, Haifoss is the best waterfall in Iceland, thanks to its multiple cascades and dramatic location.
The River Fossá drops 120-metres as a slender cascade down a sheer rockface layered in multiple colours of orange, brown and green. A second waterfall, Granni, drops just beside it, creating a magnificent dual waterfall in a massive, deep canyon. With green fields on the top and several tributaries of the river charging towards the falls, it’s a spectacular sight.
Haifoss is not far from the Golden Circle but it requires a 4×4 vehicle to get there. It’s only 20 minutes along Route 332 (off Route 32), but it’s a bumpy 20 minutes. Haifoss is an excellent stop on a day trip to Landmannalaugar.
2 – SKÓGAFOSS
Skógafoss is one of the most recognisable waterfalls in Iceland. This wide torrential cascade falls neatly into a pool surrounded by rocky moss-covered edges. The walls surrounding the waterfall were once the coastline before it receded to its present location. Today, the former sea cliffs create a physical distinction between the low coastal areas and the Iceland highlands.
With a width of 25 metres and a drop of over 60 metres, on those rare sunny days, the spray from Skógafoss often produces a single or double rainbow. It’s the classic single drop waterfall that has appeared on everything from Marvel to Walter Mitty movies.
Skógafoss is right on the Ring Road in the south of the country. There’s free parking and the toilets are 200ISK.
3 – DETTIFOSS
Dettifoss is an elusive beast. Dropping 44 metres into a narrow canyon, the roar of the mighty falls is often more potent than the sight of the falls themselves. The largest waterfall by volume in Iceland and one of the most powerful in Europe, it’s a magnificent sight.
The falls are fed from the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River which flows from Vatnajökull the largest glacier in Europe. This river is responsible for a valley of wonderful falls. Selfoss lies just a few hundred metres upstream and Hafragilsfoss is a short drive downstream. All can easily be seen in one trip.
The west side of Dettifoss is the easiest access point with a paved road from the Ring Road and a large car park. There’s an upper and lower viewpoint and you can expect to get wet at both of them.
4 – HENGIFOSS
Hengifoss is the 3rd highest waterfall in Iceland but in many ways the most striking. A combination of red clay and black basalt has formed layers creating a beautiful backdrop to the slender 128-metre falls. It’s a stunning waterfall in a remarkable gorge in a slightly remote part of East Iceland.
Just downstream from Hengifoss, a smaller waterfall called Litlanesfoss is framed by some incredible basalt columns, rivalling the nearby Stuðlagil Canyon.
Hengifoss car park is a 30-minute drive from Egilsstaðir in the east fjords. From the car park (free of charge) it’s a 2.5 kilometre (1.5 miles) walk up to the falls which should take around 1 hour each way. Hengifoss Food Truck is right beside the car park serving a choice of meat or vegan soup, followed up by waffles and ice cream.
5 – SVARTIFOSS
Svartifoss is a beautiful waterfall whose distinctive feature is the pristine rows of black basalt columns that frame a lean, single 20-metre drop. Surrounding the wall of columns, grassy banks and a lovely rocky pool give Svartifoss a romantic edge over its rivals.
Known as the “Black Waterfall” in Icelandic, Svartifoss is one of the most popular and famous waterfalls in Iceland.
The falls are in the Skaftafell Nature Reserve just off the Ring Road in southern Iceland. From the car park it’s a 45-minute walk to the base of the falls on a gradually climbing path. There are no facilities at the falls, but the visitor centre has plenty of parking, a café, camping ground, toilets and you can also organise glacier walks and other Arctic Adventures.
6 – GOÐAFOSS
Goðafoss is one of the easier waterfalls to get to which also makes it one of the most popular. If Dettifoss is the beast of Iceland’s waterfalls, then Goðafoss is the beauty.
Cascading over a wide horseshoe shape with a separating rock in the centre, the falls are between 9 metres and 17 metres high. Surrounded by low-lying lava fields that give the water a blue-green pattern, Goðafoss is a contender for the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland.
The “waterfall of the Gods” is rich in folklore with tales of Christianity, trolls and pagans adding their own brand of mystery to Goðafoss. There are plenty of opportunities to keep an eye out for them on the viewing platforms which are on both the west and east side of the falls. You can easily walk between them in about 20 to 30 minutes.
Goðafoss is right on the Ring Road in the north of Iceland. It is 30 minutes’ drive from Akureyri and 40 from Myvatn.
7 – ALDEYJARFOSS
Aldeyjarfoss is a dramatic waterfall fed by the Skjálfandafljót river which drops 20 metres as a powerful cascade to an icy-coloured pool at the base of the falls. Aldeyjarfoss earns its place as one of the best waterfalls in Iceland because of the basalt columns that surround it. Some are straight and symmetric as they stretch up the sheer-sided walls, others are curved and twisted; bent out of shape from the force of the water.
Slightly off the beaten track, Aldeyjarfoss feels like the understated gem in a land of superstars. It’s a bold and dramatic waterfall, yet often devoid of visitors.
Aldeyjarfoss is around 40 minutes from the Ring Road heading south on route 844. About 5 kilometres before the falls, the road turns into the F26 and from here you need a 4×4 to continue. Read our guide about driving the F-Roads in Iceland for more information.
8 – HRAFNABJARGAFOSS
This tongue-twister of a waterfall was a pleasant surprise for us.
Just 5 minutes further south on the F26 from Aldeyjarfoss, Hrafnabjargafoss is an amphitheatre of powerful water curving around a central rock. Although only about 5 metres high, the unique horseshoe shape provides a vantage point where it feels like you are surrounded by water. With large flat boulders, moss-covered sides, and great highland views, it’s a gorgeous location.
The river that feeds Hrafnabjargafoss – the Skjálfandafljót River – also supplies Goðafoss and Aldeyjarfoss. But the crowds haven’t followed the stream down this far, so go while you still can.
9 – GULLFOSS
The Golden Circle is a collection of three mighty sights: the historic parliament at Thingvellir; the gushing vents at Geysir; and the waterfall at Gullfoss. A popular day trip from Reykjavík, it makes Gullfoss possibly the most visited waterfall in Iceland. But deservedly so.
Wedged into a crevice of the Hvítá canyon, Gullfoss makes an abrupt turn after falling down a curved staircase that plunges in two stages, 11 metres initially then 21 metres a little further on. The result is dramatic; a massive waterfall disappearing into a void, leaving behind a magnificent plume of spray.
You won’t have Gullfoss to yourself, but it’s an unmissable thing to do in Iceland.
Gullfoss is in the southeast of Iceland, 1 hour, 45 minutes’ drive from Reykjavík. There are 2 car parks (both free), plus a café, souvenir shop, and toilets. If you have a 4×4 you can continue on from Gullfoss for a further 1 hour, 30 minutes to reach the geothermal wonderland of Kerlingarfjöll.
10 – SELJALANDSFOSS
Like Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss was once the sea cliff and from behind the car park it’s easy to make out the coastal formation. Less forceful than Skógafoss, what makes this lovely 60-metre waterfall distinctive is the fact you can walk behind it.
A thin, rocky trail heads behind the falls where you are guaranteed to get wet while enjoying this unique perspective. After doing the trail behind the falls, continue the short distance to Gljúfrabúi, another waterfall flickering behind a narrow canyon cavity.
Seljalandsfoss is located in southern Iceland right by Ring Road, making it popular and busy. The car park costs 800 ISK for 24 hours and regularly gets full. The falls are lit at night, which is often a good time to come to avoid the tour buses.
The waterfall is at the beginning of the F249, a road that transports you to the magical wonders of Thórsmörk, which is well worth spending a day exploring.
11 – AXLAFOSS
By Icelandic standards, Axlafoss is the baby of the family with a drop of a mere 8 metres. But it’s a beautifully set waterfall in an under-visited part of Iceland. Fed by the Hólmsá river, it is an elegant curve around a wide jagged section of the canyon that forms a photogenic scene.
Axlafoss is located under the gaze of the mighty Mýrdalsjökull glacier in a remote area of Iceland’s central highlands. The best way to see it is on a day trip to Maelifell; a green cone-shaped volcano surrounded by black sands that is one of the most mesmerising views in Iceland.
Getting to Axlafoss requires a 4×4, a sense of adventure and 4 to 5 hours of your time, but it’s well worth it. All the details are in our guide to visiting Maelifell.
12 – KIRKJUFELLSFOSS
For some reason, Kirkjufellsfoss has become the poster child for Iceland waterfalls. We initially thought the accolades were slightly undeserving. It’s a nice enough setting with a cone-shaped mountain off to one side providing a nice background for the three relatively humble falls, but nothing that quite warranted its ubiquity in online searches.
But we have to admit, it does have something. It might have been the storm we only narrowly missed, or the rainbow that leapt from its side, or a good end to the long drive down from the Westfjords. Whatever it was, there’s something about Kirkjufellsfoss that charms you more than you might think.
Either way, it’s just off the main road that loops around the Snaefellsnes peninsula, so it’s worth popping in.
13 – DYNJANDI
Known as the Jewel of the Westfjords, Dynjandi is a majestic waterfall in Iceland with a 100-metre cascade that fans out down a rocky cliff face. Starting at a width of 30 metres and slowly spreading, the foaming water stretches to 60 metres by the time it reaches the bottom. It’s a spectacular display.
There are 6 smaller waterfalls under Dynjandi and you can visit them all on the 15-minute walk up to the base of the main waterfall. By the time you get to the foot of Dynjandi, you’ll understand why the name means “resounding” in Icelandic. Be prepared to get wet as you admire the power of this unique Iceland waterfall.
Dynjandi is in the Westfjords, between Dynjandisvogur Bay and Arnarfjörðurfjord. It is a long way from Reykjavík, but there are plenty of other great attractions in the Westfjords to savour on route.
14 – HRAUNFOSSAR
Hraunfossar means lava falls and it’s fascinating to see how the elements have combined to create this gentle but pleasantly mesmerising Icelandic waterfall.
Formed by a series of rivulets streaming over 900 metres, the waters of Hraunfossar plunge over the Hallmundarhraun lava field before continuing along the Hvítá River. The effect is a long scenic waterfall stretching along the banks of the river backed by views of Langjökull glacier.
Just a few minutes’ walk away, another waterfall, Barnafoss, surges down a narrow rocky valley. There’s a short walkway connecting the two, very different, waterfalls.
Hraunfossar is in western Iceland, on the edge of the remote highlands. If you come via the 550 Kaldidalur Road you’ll need a 4×4 to get here, but head round via Reykholt and you can reach it in a 2WD.
15 – ÞJÓFAFOSS
On the east side of the Merkurhraun lava fields, þjófafoss is a short but powerful waterfall that forms part of the country’s largest hydroelectricity supplier, Landsvirkjun.
þjófafoss is one of 3 major waterfalls on the Þjórsá river, the longest in Iceland at 230 kilometres. The wide falls pour into a scenic lake with Mount Burfell in the background. It’s not the largest or most spectacular waterfall in Iceland but the setting, on the edge of the lava field in this remote corner of the country, makes it well worth visiting.
The water is controlled by the electricity company, and the flow of the falls has been significantly reduced from its natural levels. During summer there is ample glacial melt to feed the falls, however over the dryer winter period, there may be little to no water.
þjófafoss is 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) down a dirt track from Route 26 which can easily be driven in a 2WD.
MAP – BEST WATERFALLS IN ICELAND
Our favourite waterfalls in Iceland are spread around the country, but most can be seen on a road trip around the Ring Road. For more information about how to go about seeing these amazing sights, have a look through our Iceland itineraries.
PLANNING YOUR ICELAND TRIP
Iceland is an excellent destination for semi-adventurous travellers who like to get off the beaten track and immerse themselves in stunning scenery. Here’s some more reading from us to help plan your journey to the land of fire and ice.
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ALL ICELAND CONTENT
GENERAL TRAVEL TIPS
OTHER GREAT DESTINATIONS
Reykjadalur Thermal River
Visiting Thórsmörk in the highlands
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