The best waterfalls in Iceland are the stuff of myths, legends, history, and folklore. The island nation is well known for its dramatic landscapes. It is known as the land of fire & ice so naturally, there are a plethora of waterfalls. There are literally so many waterfalls in Iceland it’s nearly impossible to count them all.
So how do you find the best Iceland waterfalls? In this post, we cover the best waterfalls in Iceland and where exactly to find them. I should also note that in Iceland nature is free, so you don’t have to pay anything to see these beautiful waterfalls up close!
The Best Waterfalls in Iceland
This waterfall may be the smallest on this list, but its location near the 463 meters high Mount Kirkjufell that sets it apart from the rest. It’s a hotspot for photographers as they can capture the waterfall with the iconic mountain in the background. Being on the Snæfellsnes peninsula so close to Reykjavik it’s also one of the most popular. Come here at sunset and you’ll be bumping shoulders with the outer tourists all vying to get their show.
If you’re looking for the best time to visit in Iceland it would have to be summer as the midnight sun creates an amazingly long “golden hour.” To capture the best possible photo of both Mount Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss you’ll need a wide-angle lens.
Hraunfossar literally translates to “Lava Waterfalls.” It’s hard to convey the beauty here as Hraunfossar is a combination of creeks and large and small cascades streaming out of the lava over a distance of about 900 meters.
A series of cascading waterfalls are formed from the Hallmundarhraun lava field and pour into the river Hvíta. The result is peaceful and serene. If you have been to Plitvice Falls in Croatia you can see the similarities.
These are some of our favorite waterfalls in Iceland and we were lucky enough to catch them as the birch trees turned orange. They are located near the small, but lovely town of Husafell. The surrounding area is one of the few areas in Iceland you can still experience a forest.
When we visited there was a parking attendant trying to collect 1000 ISK for parking at these falls, many people drove around him and didn’t pay the fee as enjoying nature in Iceland is free.
It’s a mesmerizing sight to watch the Hvítá River drop down a deep ravine. Make sure to bring your favorite travel camera and a rain jacket as the waterfalls produce a thick mist and frequent rainbows.
You can easily access the falls from a large parking lot with a pathway and steps that allow for visitors to walk along the edge of the mighty waterfall. There’s also a cafe, gift shop, and restroom nearby. Chances are you’ll be joined here with a few tour bus groups so try to avoid midday if you want to avoid the crowds.
Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls and for good reason. The massive 65-meter high waterfall gives you the chance to hike behind the falls for a unique perspective.
You’ll want to bring rain gear if you decide to stand behind Seljalandsfoss, or you will get soaked. It’s also important to note that in the winter times the path behind the waterfall may close due to slippery and uneven surfaces.
Seljalandsfoss is located just off the Ring Road on the South Coast before the town of Vik. It’s a stopping point for just about every tour and can easily be combined with a visit to Skogafoss.
If you could picture a waterfall in your head it would be Skógafoss. The classic shape of this Icelandic waterfall along with its convenient location and accessibility make this a waterfall a hit with everyone. Skógafoss is located right off the ring road eight before or after the town of Vik – depending on where you come from.
It was easily one of our favorites and most photogenic waterfalls on our Ring Road trip around Iceland. If you want to feel humbled just stand near the base of the waterfall.
What truly made the falls unforgettable for us is the ability to stand meters away from the misty base of the waterfall. There’s also a long staircase to the top of Skógafoss giving the most amazing views.
Dettifoss is said to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The waterfall is monstrous and one of the most impressive natural landscapes in Iceland. You can hike right up to either side of the waterfall and you’ll feel the ground tremble beneath your feet. Its remote location in the North of Iceland makes for far fewer visitors than waterfalls on the South Coast of Iceland. The waterfall was most notably featured in the opening scene of Prometheus, check out the epic visuals from Ridley Scott’s opening.
Goðafoss is one of most famous waterfalls in Iceland, but in my opinion, it certainly is not its most impressive. The waterfall in the Northeast is still spectacular none the less as its 30m wide and 12m high. What makes the waterfall significant is its historical importance. In the year 1100, the law speaker chose to convert from the Old Norse religion and to Christianity. In doing so he cast his old deities into the waterfall giving the waterfall its new name. Goðafoss or “Waterfall of the Gods.”
Goðafoss is well worth a stop on any Route 1 journey. There’s a parking area nearby and from there you can easily walk around the falls. We got lucky and saw kayakers braving it down the massive fall while we were there! There’s a rest stop nearby, but not much else so come prepared with food if you want to have lunch at the Waterfall of the Gods.
You might come to realize that names in Iceland are quite literal. Brúarfoss means “Bridge Fall,” due to the fact at one point a natural stone bridge had formed over the narrow gorge formed by the waterfall. The glacial waters here are a deep blue and the waterfall is prized for its beauty. Locals have even declared it “Iceland’s bluest waterfall,” which is saying something!
Bruarafoss is not as well known as some of the other waterfalls on this list as it’s not easily accessible from the main road. It’s located in the west of Iceland and is less than an hour and a half from Reykjavik, so if you’re up for an adventure and checking out a place many others don’t know about head here!
Svartifoss is one of the most iconic waterfalls in Iceland as it is surrounded by basalt columns. The waterfall is located in Vatnajökull National Park, the largest national park in Europe. To reach the park you must hike around 30 minutes from the Skaftafell Visitor Center. It’s roughly 1.5km with a slight incline so just about anyone should be able to make the hike that passes two other waterfalls along the way.
The hike is well worth the views as you can see from the photo!
Háifoss is the fourth highest waterfall in Iceland. It’s a really impressive sight as the water rolls off the 122-meter sheer cliff to the Fossa River below. If you look in the photo above you’ll see the waterfall “Granni” to the right of Háifoss. I don’t want to show you the whole thing so you can be surprised when you get there. If you suffer from vertigo you won’t want to get too close to the edge here – it’s a long way down. It is possible to hike down if you know the way.
While we were visiting nearby Landmannalauger we convinced our guide to take us to Háifoss to grab some photos. I’m happy he did because our Happy Camper would not have done well on the worn road there.
The road up to the waterfall is rough for low clearance vehicles. While it is nothing compared to the roads we’ve seen in Africa we did see a stranded couple after busting their cars oil pan. So I would ensure a proper 4×4 or high clearance vehicle to make the trek to Háifoss.
This is the second waterfall in a stunning series of waterfalls on the Skjálfandafljót river. It’s similar to Svartifoss as you’ll find more dark-colored basalt columns. The black basalt columns mixed with the white waters of the fall create a beautiful scene. It all adds to the allure and rugged beauty that Iceland contains.
The waterfall is accessible on a two-hour detour from Goðafoss and requires a 4×4 to access it. Due to its inaccessibility, you could show up and be completely alone!
Map to the Best Waterfalls in Iceland
Plan Your Trip to Iceland
Book a camper!
A campervan is the best way to get around Iceland on a budget. While a camper is slightly more expensive than a car, you can sleep and cook in it! Meaning you don’t have to search for any hotels or deal with expensive restaurants in Iceland. Plus you get to sleep in nature every night and still use a heater if you wish! If you want to travel with a Happy Campers van like we did (and you should they are the BEST!) make sure to read our full review. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during high season.
When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
In my opinion, the best times to visit Iceland are June, July, September, October, and December – but it all depends on what you want! June-August is high season, but it is also summer in Iceland and when you will find the most pleasant temperatures. It’s also when you will experience the most amount of daylight and get the most of our of your trip. December is great because it is winter, you stand a strong chance of seeing the Northern Lights, it’s low season, and the temperatures haven’t gone to complete freezing yet.
However my personal favorite time to travel Iceland is during the fall months. It’s during September and October where you will see the leaves change vibrant colors around the country. Temperatures are still mild, and tourism is slowing down. You can see the full month by month breakdown for Iceland travel here.
Things to do in Iceland
There are literally so many things to do in Iceland I could write a book about it. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time so I’m showing you the ultimate Iceland bucket list here. Some things that are a must do are go to an Iceland swimming pool, soak in a natural hot spring, stand under a waterfall, and see the Northern Lights.
Photography Gear for Iceland
A high-quality camera is an important packing item for Iceland if you want some great shots while on your vacation. We travel with our Fujifilm Camera and 200mm telephoto lens. Drones have sort of taken Iceland by storm, and can capture fantastic footage as well. We had our DJI Mavic in Iceland, but make sure to use your drone responsibly as many locals are getting increasingly annoyed at the sight of them.
Whatever you do do not forget a tripod for Iceland – especially if you plan on photographing the Northern Lights. You’ll need one for the long exposures.
Is Iceland Expensive?
Iceland is mega expensive. One of the most expensive countries in the entire world actually. Make sure that you plan accordingly and in line with your budget. It’s certainly possible to do Iceland on a budget of less than $100 if you are camping, cooking all your own basic meals, and traveling by public transport or score a good deal on a rental. The good news is that nature is free, and you’ll be able to see Iceland’s beauty without paying for it. So yes – it’s completely doable to have an affordable Iceland vacation.
If you plan on drinking be sure to pick yo duty free alcohol before you leave the airport. A pint of beer can easily run you $15-$20!
Helpful Iceland Travel Tips
- Icelanders speak Icelandic, but every single person I came across spoke English.
- The local currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK). ATM’s are found throughout the country
- Have I mentioned Iceland is expensive as hell? Well, it is! Save money by eating in and cooking for yourself. Check out our Iceland grocery store guide for all the tips!
- Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world; however, it’s always important to use common sense when walking alone at night.
- Tipping is not customary in Iceland.
- Iceland has strong internet infrastructure and you should be able to easily stay connected.
- To feel more at home we use Airbnb you can check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code here. Or just take this coupon for your first stay!
- Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend Lonely Planet to get you through those wireless nights.
What to Pack for Iceland
Nothing will ruin your Iceland honeymoon more than getting hurt and not having insurance. We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around the world. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak. You can see all our other backpack recommendations below:
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun when you’re traveling. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
Goretex Rain Jacket
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy many times. Weather around the world can be iffy in October, so it’s best to be prepared. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof and really a great travel rain jacket. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
I love real books, but for traveling it can be easier to carry a lighter and more compact item like a Kindle. Plus, then you can download new books on the go!
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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