13 Must See Waterfalls in Iceland
The waterfalls in Iceland are stunning and we spent an amazing 18 exploring the country and visiting many of those waterfalls. You will see waterfalls throughout the country, whether they are one of the top Instagrammed waterfalls in the world or a waterfall created just because it is raining. The waterfalls on this list are in order of us visiting them as we drove clockwise around Iceland. While I have called this post 13 Must See Waterfalls in Iceland, there are actually 17 waterfalls on this list. Some of the waterfalls are in easy walking distance from each other, so I have included them together. This is by no means a complete list but these are some of our favourites from our visit.
If you are considering doing a road trip in Iceland, read my 11 Tips for Driving in Iceland.
1 – Glymur Waterfall
Glymur waterfall is the second tallest waterfall in Iceland with a drop of 198m. It is one of the more difficult waterfalls to reach with a hike and water crossing as you can see in the photo below. If you are prepared and have a reasonable level of fitness, you should not find this hike difficult.
Once you have crossed the river, you have a steep but reasonably short climb. There are chains to assist you up the slop. When you reach the top, the view of the waterfall opens. You can hike to the top of the waterfall if you have the time.
2 – Hraunfossar & Barnafoss Waterfall
Hraunfossar waterfalls in actually not one waterfall but a combination of falls created from streams, large and small, cascading over lava rocks over a length of 900 metres. The name of the waterfall actually means lava (Hraun) waterfall with the water coming down from under the Hallmundarhraun laval field.
A short walk from Hraunfossar waterfalls, you will find Barnafoss waterfall. Rather than being a waterfall, it is more a series of rapids. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t any less spectacular. The name Barnafoss means “waterfall of children”.
The Folklore of Barnafoss
The folklore of Barnafoss is a tragic one. The story goes that a wealthy widow who lived nearby left her two you sons to attend a church event nearby. She told her sons to stay at home, and under no circumstances, go outside. Unfortunately they did not do as they were told. They decided to follow their mother, but take a short cut across a natural stone arch bridge across the river. As they were scared, they held each others hands as they crossed. But as they reached the middle, the made the mistake of looking down. They lost their balance and fell into the raging river below.
When their mother returned from church, she could not find her sons. A witness told the mother of the fate that befell her sons. The ending of this tale varies. Some say the mother was so grief stricken she demanded the bridge be torn down. Other endings say she turned to witchcraft and placed a rune on the bridge causing anyone who crossed it to fall to their deaths. It took an earthquake to shatter the rune and the arch.
What is the real story? Well it could equally be a fable made up to have Icelandic children respect their parent..
3 – Kirkjufellsfoss
Kirkjufell (or ‘Church Mountain’) and Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall are found on the northern side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjordur. Kirkjufell is considered to be the most photographed mountain in Iceland and many of the photos you see of the mountain include Kirkjufellsfoss.
The combination of the mountain, the waterfall and river flowing into the inlet provides a true picture perfect moment.
4 – Dynjandi Waterfall
Dynjandi is like no other waterfall in Iceland. It is the first of seven waterfalls cascading one below the next. Dynjani itself drops around 100 meters, resembling a bridal veil widening from 30 meters at the top to 60 meters at its base. Whether approaching the waterfall by road or ocean, you will be in awe of the sheer size of this waterfall.
If you want to visit Dynjandi Waterfall, see my Guide to Dynjandi.
5 – Koluglijufur Canyon & Waterfall
Koluglijufur Waterfall is a short drive from the ring road and is not well know which means there are fewer people visiting. There is a road bridge across the river which gives you a great view of the waterfall and the beginning of the canyon.
6 – Godafoss Waterfall
It was overcast and raining on the day we visited Godafoss Waterfall. But it didn’t diminish how impressive this beautiful waterfall is. Godafoss, located in the north of Iceland, falls from a height of 12 metres and spans 30 metres.
If, like me, you are enthralled by Icelandic history, it is interesting to note that the waterfall plays an important part in that history. The name Godafoss means waterfall of the Gods. Prior to the year 1000, the Icelandic people, many of whom were Norwegians, worshipped the Norse gods like Thor, Loki, Odin and Freya. However, before 1000AD, Iceland was being pressured to discard their old pagan beliefs for Christianity. The priest Pergeir was given the responsibility of making a decision about converting to Christianity. He is said to have meditated for 24 hours before declaring Iceland as a Christian country. It is said that on his way home, he passed the waterfall which was near where he lived and tossed his pagan Norse gods carvings into the waterfall. Hence the name, Godafoss.
7 – Dettifoss & Selfoss Waterfalls
The day we visited Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfalls was the day we had the worst weather on our Iceland trip. It was windy and raining heavily all day. But that wasn’t going to stop us seeing these spectacular waterfalls.
These waterfalls are in close walking distance to each other. They are also able to be viewed from both sides. It takes about an hour to drive to the other side. Due to the weather we didn’t do this.
Dettifoss is reputed to be the biggest waterfall in Europe in terms of volume of water flowing over it. The volume varies from 200 to 500 cubic metres of water per second.
Selfoss is in the shape of a horse shoe and is a series of smaller waterfalls.
8 – Skogafoss Waterfall
Skogafoss is probably one of the most famous and most photographed waterfalls in Iceland. Found just of the Ring Road on the Golden Circle, it also means that it has huge numbers of tourists visiting it daily.
The waterfall itself is 60 metres tall and it is well worth climbing the 370 steps to the viewing platforms at the top of the waterfall. The views are spectacular.
Be prepared to get a bit wet if you want to get up close as there is a lot of mist from the waterfall. But also be ready to get photos of the rainbows that result from that mist.
The Legend of Skogafoss
The local legend is that a Viking named Thrasi, one of the first Viking settlers in the area, buried a chest filled with gold in a cave behind Skogafoss waterfall before his death in 900 AD.
Many attempts were made to retrieve the gold after Thrasi’s death but to no avail. All they could do was pull the ring on the side of the chest off. As the ring broke off, the chest was lost forever.
The ring was given to a local church and can now be found on display at the Skogasafn museum.
9 – Seljalandsfoss & Gljufrafoss Waterfalls
Many people would recognise Seljalandsfoss as the waterfall you can walk behind. On the day we visited it was very windy so we didn’t get to walk behind it. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t any less spectacular.
Seljalandsfoss is easily accessable from the Ring Road on the Gold Circle and is only 120 km from Reykjavik.
When visiting Seljalandsfoss, make sure you take the short walk to Gljufrafoss. Just follow the sign posts from Seljalandsfoss. You will find the 40 meter high waterfall hidden away in a small canyon.
You can walk through the opening in the rocks into the base of the waterfall. But be prepared to get wet. Also as the only way to get into the waterfall is over the water covered rocks, be careful not to slip. But it is well worth getting wet to see this beautiful waterfall.
10 – Faxi Waterfall
Faxi waterfall, while not having the dramatic fall of many of its famous counterparts is still worth a very short detour to see. It is only 12 km’s from Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir which is also a popular attraction.
The waterfall, while only having a drop of seven metres, it is 80 metres wide. There is a car park just of the road, but keep an eye out for the sign because it is easy to miss.
11 – Gullfoss Waterfall
Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. Located on the Golden Circle it is about 113 km or a 1.5 hour drive from Reykjavik. The waterfall is actually in two parts. The first has a drop of 11 metres and the other 21 metres.
When you visit Gullfoss, be prepared to get wet. About 140 cubic metres of water flow over the waterfall every second. That force creates a lot of mist so getting close means getting wet and leaves the pathways slippery.
In the early 20th century, Gullfoss was at risk of hydroelectric development, but after a long battle by one lady, Sigridur Tomasdottir, the waterfall was saved. It is now under the protection of the Icelandic government.
12 – Oxararfoss Waterfall
Oxarafoss is found in the Pingvellir National Park and is a short distance from the Silfra tectonic plates. It is reasonalby easy to access being only a short walk from the car park.
Unlike other waterfalls on this list, Oxarafoss is actually human made, even though this was back in the 9th century. It has been discovered by geologists and historians that the flow of the river Oxara was altered to bring water to members and visitors of Althingi (the Icelandic Parliament) which met at this site during this period.
13 – Troll Waterfall
One of the great things about visiting Troll Waterfall was that even though we visited Iceland in September, we were the only ones here. To get to the waterfall, you will need to drive on an unsealed road and then walk to the waterfall.
We loved the fact that we had this waterfall to ourselves after the crowds at some of the much more famous waterfalls.