Waterfalls In Iceland

Famous waterfalls in Iceland: Everything you need to know

Iceland is well-known for its beautiful landscapes, and waterfalls in Iceland are some of the most stunning on the planet. You will undoubtedly have seen many of them appear on your Instagram, often accompanied by people in bright yellow jackets.

While Iceland is no longer a secret, visiting these waterfalls in person is still a worthwhile activity. You will find a parking lot at many of the main ones, making it easy to get around by car if you wish to.

You can also — in some cases — hike in the areas surrounding the falls. That’s the case for the likes of Vatnajökull National Park and Thingvellir National Park, both of which will make you feel like you’re on another planet sometimes.

Of course, visiting the famous waterfalls in Iceland is pleasant enough for those that don’t wish to hike or take photos. You will find a wide selection of falls throughout the country, including an impressive number close enough to Reykjavík for a day trip.

This article will guide you through the top 15 waterfalls in Iceland. We’ll show you the best ones in the country’s south, along with outlining the must-see ones elsewhere. Let’s begin our adventure.

How many waterfalls are there in Iceland?

Knowing the exact number of waterfalls in Iceland is difficult because the country’s geography is ever-changing. In total, some people have suggested that you will find more than 10,000 waterfalls dotted throughout this unique island in the north.

But despite the wide number of waterfalls in Iceland, many aren’t named. Nonetheless, well over a hundred of them have actual names — and you will find several waterfalls in the south of the country.

However, waterfalls in Iceland aren’t restricted to one region on the island. You will find several in the southern stretches, but there is also a large number of waterfalls in the north. Many of these don’t receive as many tourists as most people visiting Iceland for the first time stick to the south.

Map of waterfalls in Iceland

To help you get a better understanding of where the most famous waterfalls in Iceland are, having a map handy is a good idea. Below, you’ll find a map of Iceland that features some of the top waterfalls we’ve added to our list.

Falls in Iceland within the Golden Circle

The starting point for many tourists on their first trip to Iceland is the Golden Circle. And that isn’t surprising; besides being close to Reykjavík, it has some of the country’s most wonderful natural attractions.

Beyond that, it’s steeped in history; for example, Thingvellir is where Iceland first declared its independence from Denmark in 1944.

The Golden Circle spans roughly 190 kilometers. You will find geysers, volcanic craters, and much more.

You will also find a selection of waterfalls in the Golden Circle, and we’ve listed three of the most famous ones below.

Waterfalls In Iceland

Gullfoss

Gullfoss is one of the most visited waterfalls in the Golden Circle; if you join a tour operated by one of the country’s tourist companies, you will stop here as part of the trip. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the entire country, and you will be astounded by the sheer force of the falls when you visit.

The Gullfoss waterfall forms part of the Hvítá River, which flows for around 40 kilometers. In the past, individuals from abroad have attempted to use the waterfall to generate electricity — but those efforts were not fruitful.

Today, Gullfoss is protected by the Icelandic state. You can reach the waterfall in around an hour and 45 minutes from Reykjavík; it’s just over 100 kilometers outside the capital. Alternatively, as we mentioned, you can join a tour — though you will not get to spend as much time as you might like.

Considering the power of Gullfoss, you can’t view the falls from the bottom. Instead, you will find a viewing platform that looks over it. Consider going at least once during all four seasons; the landscape changes dramatically.

Waterfalls In Iceland
Credit: James Petts

Öxárfoss

Located in Thingvellir National Park, the Öxárfoss waterfall doesn’t get as much attention as some of the others on our list. But that’s not because it isn’t worth seeing; it’s simply because Thingvellir has so much to see within its parameters.

Öxárfoss is close to the parking lot when you head to the park, and it’s part of the Öxará River — hence its name. If you visit the waterfall during the winter, you might find that you’re treated to the particularly scenic sight of a frozen waterfall. Many of the rocks at its base also freeze over.

Unlike Gullfoss, you can see Öxárfoss from the bottom. Of course, you’ll need to be careful during the colder months — as it can be quite slippery.

To get to Öxárfoss, you can drive from Reykjavík. The journey should take you around 50 minutes. Close to the waterfall, you can also see where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are separated from one another. 

Waterfalls In Iceland
Credit: Abderrahman Ait Ali

Faxi

Another scenic waterfall in Iceland is Faxi, also known as Vatnsleysufoss, if you fancy trying to pronounce that. This is another of the main waterfalls in the Golden Circle, and you will often find smaller crowds than what you’ll see at Gullfoss.

If you’re lucky, you might also find an Icelandic horse or two in the summer.

Faxi is on the Tungufljót river and is one of the wider waterfalls on our list. You can go hiking around the area, and here, you will see a rarity for Iceland: trees. The waterfall is around 12 kilometers from Gullfoss.

At Faxi, you’re also allowed to fish for salmon. Moreover, the waterfall has a restaurant located close by.

To get to Faxi, the journey will take you around an hour and 30 minutes when driving from Reykjavík. It’s just over 100 kilometers away from the Icelandic capital.

Waterfalls in Southern Iceland

Once you’ve been to the Golden Circle, you’ll have a taste of what Iceland has to offer. And if you’re like most people that visit the country, you’ll be craving even more. If you head a little further afield from Reykjavík, you’ll find a wide selection of extra waterfalls that are well worth visiting.

Like the Golden Circle, you can visit the majority of these with your car. However, in some cases, you can also join a tour to get there.

Below are some of the best waterfalls in Iceland’s southern stretches.

Waterfalls In Iceland
Credit: joiseyshowaa

Brúrarfoss

One of the most incredible waterfalls in Iceland is, undoubtedly, Brúrarfoss. Its shape is one of the most unique on our list, and — if you already know about it — it’s most likely because of the stunning blue color.

Brúrarfoss is, like Gullfoss, on the Hvítá River in the south of Iceland. The reason that the waterfall is so blue is because of the Langjökull Glacier, which — if the question comes up in a pub quiz — is the second-biggest in Iceland.

Close to Brúrarfoss is another waterfall called Miðfoss. Brúrarfoss is around an hour and a half from Reykjavík by car.

Unfortunately, due to littering, trespassing, and other nuisances, you cannot currently take the walking path to Brúrarfoss. The waterfall is on private property, and landowners have opted to close the path.

Waterfalls In Iceland
Credit: Simisa

Háifoss

Perhaps the best waterfall in Iceland is Háifoss, which has been featured in many photos on social media. Háifoss is on the Fossá river, which is popular with people looking to enjoy a bout of salmon fishing. Standing at 122 meters, Háifoss is the third-tallest waterfall in the country.

Háifoss is close to two other waterfalls: Granni and Hjálparfoss. All three of these are not far away from Hekla, which is one of the most famous volcanoes in Iceland.

At Háifoss, you can enjoy a view of the waterfall from above; you should remember to take good hiking shoes, though, because it can be a tricky hike. You can also walk closer to the bottom of the waterfall.

To get to Háifoss, you’ll need to drive for roughly just over two hours. The waterfall is just over 140 kilometers away from Iceland’s largest city. You can also find guided tours, which you might find helpful if you’re a beginner hiker or you don’t have a driving license.

Waterfalls In Iceland

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

One of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland is Seljalandsfoss, which is incredibly popular with tourists. It looks incredible from all angles, and the waterfall is also one of the country’s most accessible. It’s less than half the height of Háifoss, but don’t let that put you off from visiting.

Seljalandsfoss is in close proximity to several other major tourist attractions in Iceland. Among those are Reynisfjara Beach, which you may recognize from the Game of Thrones TV Series, and the stunning Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

At Seljalandsfoss, you can get right up close to the waterfall. And by that, we mean you can enter a tunnel underneath it. It’s needless to say that taking a waterproof jacket is a good idea, but the views are stunning.

Seljalandsfoss is just under two hours away from Reykjavík. If you can, try to visit around sunrise or sunset; the lighting is especially beautiful at these times of the day.

Waterfalls In Iceland

Skógafoss

Another waterfall in the south of Iceland, and one that isn’t too far from Seljalandsfoss, is Skógafoss. It’s roughly the same height as Seljalandsfoss and is another popular tourist hotspot. As you might have guessed from its name, the waterfall is on the Skóga river.

When translated directly to English, Skógafoss’ name means “The Forest Waterfall”. Skógafoss is not far from the notorious Eyafjallajökull volcano, which disrupted flights across Europe after erupting in 2010.

Like Seljalandsfoss, you can get pretty close to Skógafoss. And again, you’ll definitely want to bring a waterproof jacket for your trip here. If you visit on a sunny day, you will also be able to see a couple of rainbows at the foot of the waterfall.

To get to Skógafoss, you’ll need to drive roughly two hours southwest of Reykjavík. The waterfall is just over 155 kilometers outside of the Icelandic capital.

Waterfalls In Iceland
Credit: Tiffany Bailey

Gljúfrabúi

Perhaps one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland is Gljúfrabúi, which is also probably one of the trickiest to pronounce. The name in English translates to “Canyon Dweller”, and it is — like Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss — in the southwest of the country.

The waterfall is hidden behind a canyon with a narrow entrance, which makes for particularly scenic views when you’re up close.

At Gljúfrabúi, you can walk close to the waterfall. When you’re there, it’ll make you feel like you’re in a well or something similar; if you look up, you’ll see what looks like a hole.

Gljúfrabúi is in the same region as Seljalandsfoss, and the two waterfalls are less than one kilometer away from each other. As such, you can choose which you’d like to visit first — and if you wish to spend an extended period of time in the area, you may want to consider staying overnight.

Waterfalls In Iceland

Kvernufoss

Another waterfall that you’ve probably seen photos of before is Kvernufoss, which is close to Skógafoss in Southern Iceland. If you want to spot Icelandic horses, you will find a sizable population of them around the waterfall.

You can hike in the area around Kvernufoss, but you should keep in mind that it’s pretty slippery during the winter. The waterfall is one of the smaller ones on our list, standing at around 30 meters tall.

Kvernufoss is close to the Ring Road that laps Iceland, and it’s worth checking out if you’re going to see Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss anyway.

Waterfalls In Iceland
Credit: Rémih

Morsárfoss

What is Iceland’s biggest waterfall? That prize would belong to the gigantic Morsárfoss. Standing at 228 meters high, Morsárfoss is in Vatnajökull National Park — which is the most prominent national park in Iceland and also home to Europe’s biggest glacier.

Morsárfoss is an example of how Iceland’s landscape is ever-changing. The waterfall only became visible in 2007 after a glacier melted. Since then, however, measuring the height accurately has been far from an easy feat.

Because of its location, Morsárfoss is incredibly challenging to reach. If you wanted to get close, you would need to hike over a glacier — which would require special equipment and a local guide. Considering that the glacier is moving, you’re better off trying to observe from afar.

If you want to see Morsárfoss from further away, you can hike from Skaftafell to Krístiartindar, which is still six kilometers away from Morsárfoss.

Waterfalls In Iceland
Credit: twiga269 ॐ FEMEN

Glymur Waterfall

Until the discovery of Morsárfoss, Glymur was believed to be the highest waterfall in Iceland. However, it’s still one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland; at 198 meters, it’s the biggest. Moreover, it’s among some of the country’s most wonderful scenery.

While Morsárfoss is nigh-on impossible to reach without glacial hiking experience and a guide that knows the area, Glymur is a little more accessible. The hike will require crossing waterways and is quite rocky, so you should ensure that you’re prepared.

When you reach the top, you will find an incredible view of Glymur — and you’ll be off the tourist trail at the same time. As such, you shouldn’t have to worry about contending with huge crowds most of the year.

Glymur is just over an hour away from Reykjavík by car, plus the hike required to see the waterfall.

Waterfalls In Iceland

Svartifoss

Svartifoss is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, and it’s arguably the most famous as well. If you’ve spent an ounce of time researching Iceland itineraries, you will almost certainly have seen a picture of this waterfall at least once.

Svartifoss is one of many attractions in Vatnajökull National Park. The waterfall is characterized by black basalt columns; its name in English is “the Black Waterfall”. You will need to hike to get to the waterfall, which is around 20 meters tall.

Since Svartifoss is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Iceland, you can expect to be accompanied by crowds much of the time. You will find a camping area nearby. In the same area as Svartifoss, you will find a couple of other waterfalls.

Waterfalls in the rest of Iceland

As you can see, you will find a lot of waterfalls in Iceland dotted across the south of the country. Many are within easy driving distance from Reykjavík, meaning you can pick at least a couple of them when visiting Iceland for an extended period of time.

But if you spend all of your time observing the waterfalls in the south of Iceland, you will miss out on some gems elsewhere. Below are some of the best waterfalls to visit in other parts of the country.

Waterfalls In Iceland
Credit: Superbass

Dettifoss

While most tourists don’t visit the north of Iceland, you will find a well-developed tourism infrastructure. And on top of that, you can enjoy fewer crowds than you would find in other parts of the country.

If you want an idea of how big Vatnajökull National Park is, Dettifoss forms part of it. But while Svartifoss and Morsárfoss are in the southwest of the country, Dettifoss is in the northwest. The waterfall is the most powerful in Iceland, and only the Rhine Falls in Switzerland beats it for pure power anywhere in Europe.

Dettifoss is 44 meters high, with a width of 100 meters. It’s in the Diamond Circle, which is the northern equivalent of the Golden Circle. Consider basing yourself in Húsavík, which is around an hour from the waterfall.

Waterfalls In Iceland

Goðafoss

Sticking in the north of Iceland, we’ll next go to Goðafoss. This is another of the most famous waterfalls in the country, and it is yet another example of the power of Iceland’s nature.

Goðafoss is around 12 meters tall; you can hike in the surrounding areas. Like Dettifoss, Goðafoss is part of the Diamond Circle.

If you want to visit Goðafoss, you can stay in Húsavík. However, Akureyri is also not too far away — so you can pick based on accommodation availability and where you’d prefer to stay.

Waterfalls In Iceland
Credit: Shawn Harquail

Kirkjufellsfoss

Kirkjufell is the most famous mountain in Iceland, and it’s on the bucket list for many people visiting the country. But while enjoying the wonders of this unique peak, it’s easy to forget how stunning the surrounding area is.

At Kirkjufell, you will also find a small set of waterfalls. These falls typically feature in shots of the mountain, but they’re often an afterthought. Nonetheless, you can enjoy them up close and even walk on a bridge crossing over them.

At Kirkjufellsfoss, you can also enjoy a wonderful view toward the neighboring towns.

Waterfalls In Iceland

Svöðufoss

For many travelers, Kirkjufell is the main reason that they visit the wonderful Snæfellsnes Peninsula. But to ignore the other natural wonders in this part of Iceland is a foolish mistake. Like in many other parts of the country, you will find various waterfalls away from the iconic mountain already mentioned.

Svöðufoss is a waterfall that many people miss when in the Snæfellsnes area, but it’s one of the more accessible ones on our list. At 10 meters high, it’s not too tall — and the walk is also friendly for even non-experienced hikers.

Svöðufoss is attractively placed with basalt columns nearby, along with a domineering mountain not far behind. You can view the waterfall both from the top and bottom.

Iceland has many beautiful waterfalls worth visiting

We’ve only covered a small selection of the many waterfalls in Iceland worth checking out. You could easily have enough for at least four trips if you tried to visit all of the main waterfalls in the country, and we hope that this guide has at least made things a little easier when picking an ideal starting point.

You will find waterfalls throughout Iceland, so perhaps the best starting point is to determine where you’d like to visit the most. From there, you can figure out the practicalities. And, of course, you’ll need to determine whether you’re okay driving — or whether you’d rather join tours.

Once you’ve visited Iceland, you might find yourself very sad to leave. Some tourists have loved the country so much that they’ve stuck around and made this remote island their home. There are pros and cons to doing so, and you can find those out here.

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