Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls Guide

Unveiling the enchanting beauty of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls in Iceland and the tragic story behind these waterfalls.

Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

There are 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland, so it will be impossible to squeeze them all into one trip. But there are a few “big names” here on the island that are not to be missed, and some of these are Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls. Due to the small distance between these two waterfall siblings, it’s a sort of “get one, and another free” deal. Most who go to visit Hraunfossar will also stop at Barnafoss and vice versa.

This is also the reason why these falls are often mentioned together. So, if you’ve been wondering whether to add them to your trip itinerary or just want to learn more about them, stick around. We tell you everything there is to know about Hraunfossar and Barnafoss.

Hraunfossar Waterfall

Hraunfossar loosely translates to ‘lava waterfalls’ and is very descriptive of this unique waterfall. Hraunfossar Waterfall is unlike any other waterfall in Iceland. Instead of one giant powerful roaring over the cliffs, you have multiple tiny falls cascading into the river.

These falls also don’t originate from a river or lake at the top of the cliffs and are the result of hundreds of little streams of melted glacier water from Langjokull Glacier flowing across almost 900 meters of lava field (Hallmundarhraun) before it tumbles to the Hvita river below.

Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls

Where is Hraunfossar Waterfall?

Hraunfossar Waterfall can be found in Borgarfjördur in west Iceland. The falls are also conveniently located; getting to the falls from the capital city of Reykjavik won’t even take you 2 hours by car.

How Do I Get to Hraunfossar Waterfall?

There are a number of ways to visit Hraunfossar Waterfall:

Via Guided Tour

Because the waterfall is so close to the capital city, there are quite a few guided day tours that visit the falls. Simply book your spot, and they’ll take care of everything from transport to an experienced and knowledgeable guide to teach you everything there is to know about the falls and its surroundings.

Hraunfossar Waterfall

Via Car

We will always be big advocates for making a road trip out of it, since we believe it’s the best way to truly immerse yourself in the Icelandic landscape and explore the island. You are also in full control of your time and itinerary (unlike with a guided tour).

Getting to Hraunfossar Waterfall from Reykjavik is easy, and most roads are paved. All you need to do is to get onto the Ring Road route and turn towards Road 50. Thereafter, Road 518 will take you straight to the falls. Just park your car in the parking lot and take the short walk to the falls.

How Long Does a Visit to Hraunfossar Waterfall Take?

Most visitors take anything between 30 minutes to an hour at the falls. Along with the drive time, you’re looking at a trip of about 4–5 hours. Since it’s not a stop where you spend most of your day, it’s actually a very nice stop to have on a road trip. 

When is the Best Time to Visit Hraunfossar Waterfall?

This answer is twofold. Firstly, the falls and the Ring Road are open all year round, but you need to be a bit more careful during the winter season. This is because road conditions can be tricky to navigate and things can get pretty slippery on your walk to the falls.

You’ll also need to manage expectations, since a winter waterfall experience in Iceland looks a lot different from during the summertime.

Hraunfossar in winter

Don’t get us wrong; it can be a magical experience, you just shouldn’t expect any gushing water since most falls will sport long and glistening frozen tentacles creeping their way over the cliffs. If you do decide to visit the falls during the summer months in Iceland, it’s essential to keep in mind that summer is considered to be the peak season here on the island. And with the peak season comes the peak season crowds. To avoid getting stuck in the hustle and bustle whilst at the falls, you should go early in the morning.

What is the History of Hraunfossar Waterfall?

Hraunfossar was created by a volcano erupting from underneath the Langjökull Glacier (which is the second-largest ice cap in Iceland) more than 1000 years ago. Since then, plenty more eruptions have occurred in the area, which makes the surroundings of Hraunfossar an ever-evolving region, constantly being changed by ongoing eruptions throughout the decades.

Is Hruanfossar worth it?

Absolutely. Not only is it pretty, but it’s an incredibly unique site.

Barnafoss Waterfall

Barnafoss loosely translates to ‘children’s waterfall’. This name has a lot to do with the story surrounding the falls, which we will get to a bit later. Barnafoss Waterfall is stunning since it also differs from what we normally think of as a waterfall (mass amounts of powerful water rushing over cliffs and plummeting to the depths below).

Barnafoss Waterfalls

This waterfall is more horizontal in orientation and gushes through a narrow canyon. This is also why, much like a river, its depth and strength is heavily influenced by melting glacial water and rainfall.

Where is Barnafoss Waterfall?

Barnafoss Waterfall can be found in Borgarfjördur in west Iceland (literally just a short walk from Hraunfossar Waterfall). And, as we already mentioned, the falls are also conveniently located; to get to the falls from the capital city of Reykjavik won’t even take you 2 hours by car.

How Do I Get to Barnafoss Waterfall?

The answer is, exactly the same way that you’ll get to Hruanfossar Waterfall (whether it’s via a tour or a self-drive trip). Getting to Barnafoss Waterfall from Hruanfossar Waterfall simply requires a short walk.

Is Barnafoss worth it?

How Long Does a Visit to Barnafoss Waterfall Take?

Since it’s situated right by Hraunfossar Waterfall, visiting Barnafoss Waterfall directly afterward will not impact the duration of your trip much. It will still take roughly 4-5 hours when taking travel time into account as well.

When is the Best Time to Visit Barnafoss Waterfall?

As is the case with Hruanfossar, you’ll be able to visit the falls all throughout the year, but you’ll need to take the seasons as well as the peak season crowds into consideration. Although Barnafoss is not the type of waterfall where you’ll find frozen tentacles creeping over cliffs, but rather what appears to be a river frozen in time and covered with a thick blanket of snow.

What is the History of Barnafoss Waterfall?

There is a very tragic tale surrounding Barnafoss Waterfall. Now, like most legends in Iceland, how true the story really is no one will ever know. The story goes that there once lived a very wealthy woman on a farm in Hraunsas, very close to Husafell. On Christmas Day, she and the rest of the family went to church in Gilsbakki. For some reason, her two boys stayed behind.

What is the history of the Barnafoss?

She gave them very clear instructions to keep to the house and not go out, but as boys so often do, they got bored and restless and inevitably ventured outside.

In those years, there was a natural stone arch that connected the two sides across the Hvita River. Although beautiful, the arch was quite treacherous and very few actually used it to cross the river. It was extremely narrow and if you were to fall, it was quite a distance to the raging waterfall below.

Unfortunately, the children saw their lack of adult supervision as the perfect time to do everything they’ve always wanted and were told not to. Holding hands to keep each other steady and balanced, they slowly started to make their way across the stone arch.

This story actually may have had a different ending if they didn’t look down halfway across. Whether it was both or one that pulled the other we’ll never know, but, looking down into the tumultuous waters far below them, they grew dizzy, fell, and drowned.

Their mother was absolutely devastated by the tragedy. And in her grief and rage, she destroyed the stone arch and cursed it, stating that no one who dares cross the falls will live to tell the tale. That is why any local, to this day, will always tell you not to try and cross the Hvita River at Barnafoss Waterfall.

Is Barnafoss worth it?

Most definitely. It’s a beautiful sight with an intriguing backstory, and since it’s such a short walk from Hraunfossar, you really have no excuse not to visit the one waterfall and not the other.

Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls

Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls; Which Waterfall in Iceland is the Best?

We often get asked this question as if there is some sort of competition between the falls, or there’s some type of decision that needs to be made about visiting one or the other. Huranfossar Waterfall and Barnafoss Waterfall are so close to each other that most see them as one waterfall location, so there’s no reason why you should miss one of them.

And they are each incredibly unique falls with unique features, comparing them would be like comparing apples and pears. We highly recommend that you make these falls a stop along a Ring Road road trip. Simply rent a car in Reykjavik after you’ve landed at Keflavik, and let your adventure full of exciting sights and activities around Iceland begin!

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