In a country referred to as the Land of Fire and Ice, it should come as no surprise that we have our fair share of water here. And all this water has to go somewhere. Lucky for us, our mountainous terrain provides the perfect conditions for powerful waterfalls. In fact, we have over 10,000 Iceland waterfalls here on the island!
And whilst it may be quite a feat to visit all 10,000, there are definitely a few waterfalls in Iceland that are considered to be must-visit sites. In this article, we explore some of our most famous waterfalls in Iceland, so you can decide which to add to your trip itinerary.
The 15 Best Waterfalls in Iceland
If you ever get your hands on a waterfalls in Iceland map, you will most likely find the following popular Iceland waterfalls on it:
This is probably the waterfall best known as “the Iceland waterfall you can walk behind”. Seljalandsfoss is one of the southern Iceland waterfalls here on the island and makes for some pretty impressive photos.
This waterfall stands at an impressive 60 meters tall. It is famous for allowing visitors to capture stunning photos of the falls or the Icelandic landscape from behind a veil of water. Visiting Seljalandsfoss Waterfall will require you to hike, but don’t worry; the hike isn’t long and is considered to be very easy. It’s roughly 2 kilometers to there and back and will take no more than 40 minutes depending on how fast you walk.
The name Gullfoss means “golden falls” in Icelandic. There are numerous stories about why it is called the “golden falls”. One says that it’s due to the golden hue the glacial water gets as the sun shines on it. Another says that it refers to the rainbow that can often be spotted in the mist and spray of the falls.
But our personal favorite is that a Viking dumped his treasure and gold in the falls. But whatever the reason, Gullfoss Waterfall is one of the most impressive of the Iceland falls. It is found right in the southwest of Iceland, along the Golden Circle Route. And despite not being very tall, it makes for a pretty picture with its multistep cascade along the 90-degree bend of the Hvita River.
Gullfoss Waterfall should actually be seen as two separate waterfalls, with the first cascade of 11 meters and the second of 21 meters. Gullfoss is one of the waterfalls near Reykjavik in Iceland and is often one of the first stops for those on a Golden Circle road trip.
Skogafoss Waterfall is one of our biggest Icelandic waterfalls. It impresses in both length and width, clocking in at 60 meters tall and 25 meters wide. This is also one of the waterfalls you can get up close and personal with and the falls can be viewed from below or from the top by climbing the stairs to the top.
But a word of warning. You want to keep your raincoat and other waterproof clothing by; otherwise you will get completely soaked by its powerful mist and spray. Similar to Gullfoss there is a legend that says that a Viking settler hid his treasure behind the falls, but we don’t recommend that you go looking for it.
Godafoss Waterfall in Icelandic means “waterfall of the gods” and it does not necessarily come from what you may assume. It is believed that Godafoss is the symbol of the island’s conversion to Christianity.
Apparently, a Viking leader called Porgeir Ljosvetningagodi threw all his pagan statues into the falls. He did so as a sign of the island’s commitment to the new religion. The water here plummets over a 30-meter wide rockface shaped like a horseshoe. So, even though it’s not a very tall waterfall with its highest point reaching just 17 meters, it still makes for a pretty impressive view.
Svartifoss Waterfall is without a doubt one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. In fact, it has served as inspiration for many here on the island. If you ever find yourself at Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, you should ask yourself if it looks familiar. Svartifoss means “black falls” and it’s easy to see why.
The falls have a drop of only 20 meters, but it’s the hexagonal black basalt columns that make Svartifoss one of the most famous waterfalls here in Iceland. The basalt column cliffs remind one of a church organ, and that seems like it wants to embrace the falls.
Just like Svartifoss, Dettifoss Waterfall can also be found in Vatnajökull National Park. But as the official winner of the title of ‘most powerful waterfall in Europe’, you need to be prepared to get drenched at Dettifoss. Its mighty roar will amaze you! It is a massive 100 meters wide and 45 meters high.
Dettifoss is one of the north Iceland waterfalls and many count it as a stop during their Diamond Circle road trip, or make it a day outing from Akureyri.
Glymur Waterfall is Iceland’s second-tallest waterfall, clocking in at an astounding 198 meters! You will need to hike to Glymur Waterfall, and it is a bit challenging with rocky climbs and a river crossing. So, this is probably not the waterfall for you if aren’t feeling a little adventurous.
The hike will take about 3.5 hours, depending on how fast you hike. But just know that this is a very rewarding hike as well, with absolutely breathtaking views for those who complete it.
Haifoss means “high waterfall” in Icelandic. And although not quite as high as Glymur, it’s still a staggering 128 meters tall, making it the fourth-highest waterfall in Iceland. Haifoss Waterfall is very close to Hekla volcano, so you’ll either be able to spot it on your way to and from the falls or even make it your next stop.
Haifoss has some interesting folklore attached to it that’s a mixture between a Grimm’s fairytale and a Hollywood horror movie. It is said that there is an ogress that fishes trout from the falls and is extremely territorial. So, when a group of travelers came camping by the river and the teenage boy in the party threw a rock into the river, the ogress became furious.
She waited till nightfall and everyone went to sleep before she snuck up to the boy’s tent and started pulling him out by his feet. Lucky for the boy, his friends woke up, grabbed his arms, and pulled him from the ogress’ clutches.
Hraunfossar is not just one, but a series of Iceland waterfalls. And they are absolutely beautiful! As the name suggests (Hraunfossar translates to Lava Falls in English), these various little waterfalls flow over the cliffs of the Hallmundarhraun Lava Field into the Hvita River. Many who visit the falls here in west Iceland also go to Barnafoss Waterfall, which is pretty much “next door”.
Oxarfoss Waterfall is often the next stop for visitors after stopping at Gullfoss Waterfall whilst in Thingvellir National Park. The waterfall’s name is very indicative of its origin, flowing from the Oxara River. It is one of the island’s smaller falls, measuring only 13 meters high and six meters wide. But it is definitely one of Iceland’s prettiest falls, as it tumbles over the rocky cliffs into an even rockier pool below.
Because of its beautiful aesthetics and its proximity to Gullfoss, the falls can be quite busy during the peak season summer months. So be sure to get an early start to try and avoid the crowds. If you’re visiting the falls during the winter time, it also promises to be an impressive sight with the pool of water below as well as the waterfall itself usually being completely frozen!
Selfoss Waterfall can usually be found on a visitor’s Diamond Circle road trip itinerary, along with Dettifoss that’s a mere kilometer away. Selfoss Waterfall is often confused with the town called Selfoss. The town is situated in the south of Iceland, whilst Selfoss Waterfall is in the northern parts of the island.
Selfoss Waterfall is fed by the Jökulsa a Fjöllum Glacier River that originates from Vatnajökull Glacier. We recommend that when visiting Selfoss you view it from the east side, as you struggle to get a clear view from the west.
Hengifoss is an incredibly special waterfall here in Iceland. Where else will you find a fall located next to a lake and facing a forest? But this is not the only reason why Hengifoss Waterfall is so popular. Not even the fact that Hengifoss is the third-tallest waterfall in Iceland, standing tall at 128 meters, is the reason. It’s because visiting Hengifoss feels like you are visiting a strange alien planet.
The towering cliffs of the Hengifoss falls, have these strange red and black streaks running across them. This is because of red clay and black basalt that can be found in the cliff face that act as a backdrop to the falls. To reach the falls, you will also need to take a short hike (roughly an hour). Although the hike is pretty easy, there are some steep climbs, and extra precaution and patience will be needed if you have smaller children in your party.
Dynjandi Waterfall is an incredibly unique waterfall in the Westfjords. Except for the fact that it holds the title as the largest waterfall in the Westfjords region (clocking in at 100 meters!) with 5 smaller falls falling (we couldn’t resist) right underneath it, it has very unique features.
Many comment that it looks like a wedding cake with its various tiers and the white water rushing over the cliffs looking just like icing draping over the cake. Dynjandi Waterfall really is a treat – but in sight, not in taste (although we can’t know for sure).
Kvernufoss can almost be perceived as one of Iceland’s forgotten waterfalls, and for the life of us, we can’t understand why. This waterfall in the south of Iceland is practically the next-door “neighbor” of Skogafoss Waterfall.
We can’t help but wonder if it’s simply not that people want to take on the hike to the falls, which can be pretty challenging at certain points. Either way, if you would like to go and visit this hidden gem, you will not be disappointed as the falls drop 30 meters into a gorge with a beautiful basalt cliff backdrop.
Aldeyjarfoss is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland because of two distinguishing trademarks; its black basal column cliffs and its icy bright blue water. Since the waterfall is situated in the Highlands of Iceland and can only be reached via the F-roads, you will need to have a 4x4 vehicle to get to the falls.
But if you do, you will not be disappointed. This waterfall is a favorite amongst photographers with its beautiful contrast between the black cliffs and the white of the gushing water.
Iceland Waterfalls: an Absolute Must on Any Iceland Itinerary
You simply cannot come to Iceland and not visit at least a couple of our most famous waterfalls. Since many are so close to the main road trip routes, it’s easy to rent a car in Reykjavik and add a few of the falls as stops along the way.
Now that you know how many waterfalls there are in Iceland (10 000, remember?), it would be a pretty ludicrous mission to visit them all. But use our guide and see which of these 15 falls interest you the most, and be sure to visit them during your trip to the island.