Chasing Waterfalls in Iceland

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bruarfoss
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While Iceland is known as “The Land of Fire and Ice,” it really should be known as “The Land of Waterfalls.” There are waterfalls EVERYWHERE! Literally, at every turn, you will see a waterfall. I am not even exaggerating! They just pop out of the mountain sides, like daisies! You’ll be driving along the Ring Road and pass by countless small waterfalls.

As always we had a very ambitious itinerary, namely because yours truly wants to see as much as possible. 

Travel time was a major factor for us in considering which waterfalls we saw since we visited Iceland in October. The days were starting to get shorter and making it impossible to see all of the waterfalls on my list. We also only had a week, basically 6 days not including travel time, to see as much as possible.

This list includes all of the waterfalls we were able to visit as well as some that we weren’t able to make it to as honorable mentions. Hopefully I’ll be able to formally include them on the list as future updates!

How To Get To These Waterfalls

We’ve included a map at the bottom of this post with all of the GPS coordinates and locations for all of these waterfalls, including honorable mentions for those we weren’t able to see. 🙂

You can either pay for a GPS with your rental car (~$20 US) or bring your own. If you already have one sitting at home, it’s obviously free, all you gotta do is download a GPS map for Iceland and upload it onto your Garmin. We highly recommend plugging in your GPS coordinates ahead of time, less time wasted on the road!

We didn’t sign up for one with our rental (we brought our own), but they ended up giving us a car that already had a built-in GPS and some sights saved in there, so we totally lucked out!

The GPS coordinates are listed in directional North and West, depending on your GPS you may need to enter a negative sign (-) instead of “West.”

NOTE: Originally I wanted to provide directions to make things easier for you but GPS coordinates are MUCH more reliable than me. Most natural sights do not have an address listed and many streets in multiple cities and towns have the EXACT SAME names, so they’re VERY IMPORTANT in Iceland. For the record, I also used a GPS and coordinates. Don’t be this guy! Just plug them into your GPS and you’ll be good to go! 🙂

If you’re into physical maps, I’d recommend this one. It’s the same one we got, but we ended up relying on the GPS instead.

Fossar á Íslandi (Waterfalls of Iceland)

This list is presented in the same order as I visited them. 

TIP: I would choose the waterfalls you want to see based upon how they look in photos and how much time you have. (Keep in mind, the driving time.) Trust me, they’ll look 100x better IRL. If you drive the entire Ring Road, you’ll need at least 10-14 days, depending on your itinerary. You may also have less time to sightsee if you visit Iceland in the winter months since the days are much shorter which can mean as little as 4hrs of sunlight.

Iceland is a unique place that changes with the seasons. The view you get one month can be totally different the next. After visiting in the fall, I would love to visit again in the summer and winter (YAS ice caves!). 

Learn the Language

In Icelandic, “foss” means waterfall and “fossar” is the plural term; every Icelandic word with the suffix of “foss” is a waterfall.

gullfoss

Gullfoss

Also known as “Golden Falls,” this waterfall supposedly turns to gold when the sunlight hits it at a certain angle. We didn’t visit at the right time so unfortunately we didn’t get to see them change colors. It is one of the most well-known and most visited waterfalls in Iceland being on the Golden Circle route.

Legend has it that back in the early 20th century, Sigríður Tómasdottir saved it from being turned into hydroelectricity. She threatened to throw herself into the waters if it wasn’t preserved. Today, it remains a natural reserve and major destination for tourists.

Getting There:
Main sight accessible via Golden Circle route.

GPS Coordinates:
64.32251° N, 20.12916° W

 

bruarfoss

Brúarfoss

I’m just going to go ahead and say it, this was my favorite waterfall in Iceland. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way… This was the bluest waterfall we saw in Iceland due to the glacial water flowing through the falls.

It was a bit of a trek getting to this beautiful spot. Nevertheless it was still my favorite since it just made the reward that much better! 

It had rained a lot the week before we got to Iceland making the path SUPER muddy. Also there wasn’t much signage and we got lost on the way there. 

I have included some tips on getting there below and hopefully that will help you be less lost than us!

The route to Bruarfoss has changed within the past year since I’ve been there.

Previously you were able to drive in to the property for a 10ish minute walk to the waterfall, but the road and trails have been damaged due to the increase in foot traffic.

Please see the link below for the approved route based upon its status as a piece of private property.

Important Note: This waterfall is located on private property and due to increased tourists visiting the area this may or may not be accessible at the current time. My intent is not to encourage people to trespass, but it was accessible during my trip in October 2016. There has been some destruction of the property due to cars and foot traffic so the route has since changed and the hike to the falls has more than doubled. 

Getting There:
Accessible via Golden Circle route, though not one of the main attractions.

GPS Coordinates:
64.2642283° N, 20.5158467° W (waterfall)

Latest Directions for Bruarfoss:
https://thelightdiaries.com/2012/10/28/finding-bruarfoss/

Öxarárfoss

Öxarárfoss

This waterfall wasn’t originally on our plan but as we were walking through Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, we figured why not? It’s there anyways only further down the path between tectonic plates, nbd. This waterfall was decent, I would consider it to be one of the smaller waterfalls on the list.

Getting There:
One of the sights included within Þingvellir, accessible via Golden Circle route.

GPS Coordinates:
64.255706° N, 21.130217° W (P5 parking lot for Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, parking costs 500ISK here)
64.265906° N, 21.118523° W (waterfall)

Fossarétt

Fossarétt

This was a cute little waterfall we passed by on our way to Glymur. It’s a 5-minute pit stop, but if you’re short on time, you can definitely skip this little guy. 

GPS Coordinates:
64.352789° N, 21.454609° W

hruanfossar

Hraunfossar

This waterfall was one of the coolest we saw during the trip! It’s basically a ton of smaller waterfalls in one, but you also don’t see the source of the waterfalls unlike most of the other waterfalls in Iceland. The water seemingly appears out of nowhere and drops into the river, this is due to the water flowing from the lava field.

I loved seeing this set of waterfalls in the autumn, the changing leaves added more color and vibrance to my photos! This waterfall also shares a parking lot with Barnafoss so it makes for a nice 2-in-1 visit. 

GPS Coordinates:
64.701728° N, 20.978902° W

barnafoss

Barnafoss

This waterfall is named, “Children’s Waterfall,” in memory of two children who fell in and were swept away in the rapids. 

You can see and feel the strength of the waterfall in person but it’s a lot less picturesque than Hraunfossar which is across the way from this waterfall. We spent most of our time at this stop at Hraunfossar.

GPS Coordinates:
64.701728° N, 20.978902° W

Kolugljúfur

This waterfall was  a bit hidden and unexpected. You drive down a gravel road and all you see is grass and farm lands along the sides of a river. 

All of a sudden the GPS is telling you you’re there and you look down two giant holes in the ground to see the waterfall. 

It seems to move calmly and peacefully until it drops into the waterfall where the river splits off into approximately 6 streams only to recombine at the bottom.

GPS Coordinates:
65.332458° N, 20.569832° W

godafoss

Goðafoss

This is one of the more famous waterfalls of Iceland, it’s unique horseshoe-shape is easily recognizable from photos. 

This waterfall was pretty amazing, but we didn’t actually stay that long because we got there super early in the morning and it was freezing still and there was ice on the floor from the waterfall spray. 

My photos are from the trail area as my shoes didn’t have much of a grip and I was afraid of slipping off the cliff. 

This waterfall was amazing and I highly recommend seeing this, especially if you’re driving the Diamond Circle.

Getting There:
Main sight accessible via Diamond Circle route.

GPS Coordinates:
65.68560° N, 17.54612° W

dettifoss

Dettifoss

This is the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe, ‘nuff said! 

It’s so insane how you can see the sheer power of it even in photos. 

It is definitely worth the visit, if not just to see the waterfall, the large boulders and basalt columns in the surrounding landscape are also extraordinary. 

Fun fact: This waterfall, also on the Diamond Circle route, was featured in the movie Prometheus.

One major thing to note is that this portion of the route can be closed once the snow comes so keep that in mind when attempting to visit, always look at the road conditions.

The main reason we came to this waterfall on the eastern route was to get the best possible view of Dettifoss. And that we did! 

Supposedly on from the western side you can see the power of Dettifoss in a more in-your-face kind of way because you’re actually physically closer to the falls, but we were still able to get a good grasp of the sheer intensity of it. We haven’t driven the western route yet, so we can’t officially confirm, but we have seen photos and they look amazing! 

There is a short hike from the parking lot down to the cliffs to see Dettifoss.

Dettifoss and Selfoss are about ~1.5mi/2.5km hike.

Getting There:
Main sight accessible via Diamond Circle route; however accessibility may be limited pending road conditions.

GPS Coordinates:
65.81467° N, 16.38458° W (waterfall about 1-1.5km hike from parking lot)
65.821740° N, 16.379382° W (east-parking lot)
65.812486° N, 16.400197° W (west-parking lot)

kirkjufellfoss

Kirkjufellfoss

I’m just going to go ahead and admit that I wanted to come here for the gram and see the waterfall with Kirkjufell in the background, so I was not going to rest until I had that photo! 

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I will also admit that after seeing so many beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland, this one would be best described as “meh” by itself. 

BUT, that’s one big “but,” when viewed with Kirkjufell in the background, it’s so much more beautiful, especially in the fall with autumn vegetation. 

I will also say that we drove about 4 hours (round trip) out of the way just to see this waterfall and Kirkjufell and it was well worth it! 

However if you don’t have time, skip this, it’s pretty far out of the way if you’re not planning on going to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. 

GPS Coordinates:
64.92794° N, 23.30855° W

Gljúfrabúi

Gljúfrabúi

Part of the South Coast portion of the Ring Road, this waterfall is also known as the “Secret Waterfall.” It is located behind a boulder-topped narrow entrance and hidden within a cave. It’s a pretty interesting site and well worth a visit. Seljalandsfoss is right next door as well so both are easily accessible.

DO wear waterproof clothing and shoes if you are planning to go into the cave to see the waterfall, otherwise you will get pretty soaked . We only took a peek of the waterfall from the outside but we would definitely consider getting a closer look in warmer weather. Also note that during certain times, accessibility to the waterfall maybe more difficult due to the water levels.

Getting There:
Easily accessible along the South Coast of Iceland.

We didn’t actually drive ourselves along the South Coast since we took a glacier hiking tour that took us down here. 🙂

GPS Coordinates:
63.620806° N, 19.986449° W (waterfall)
63.616058° N, 19.992457° W (parking lot – shared with Seljalandsfoss)

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

This is the waterfall, made famous by the ‘gram, that you can walk behind. It is located next to Gljúfrabúi along the Ring Road. It fits the “two birds, one stone” bill if you’re on a time crunch.

Seljalandsfoss-behind

Facing the waterfall, the horseshoe-shaped path starts on the right side of the falls, leads you up the hill and behind the waterfall from which you exit around it from the left. This waterfall is pretty cool because you can get behind it, but remember to bring a waterproof jacket as you may get some waterfall spray on you! Also because of that spray, the paths can be slippery and muddy so be careful as accidents have happened in the past, people have fallen off the cliff. 

Getting There:
Easily accessible along the South Coast of Iceland.

We didn’t drive ourselves to this waterfall, the tour that took us here.

GPS Coordinates:
63.615705° N, 19.988756° W (waterfall)
63.616058° N, 19.992457° W (parking lot – shared with Gljúfrabúi)

Skógafoss-zoom

Skógafoss

Yet another famous-by-the-gram waterfall, but this one’s famous for its rainbows. 

Rainbows happen often at this waterfall due to the way the sunlight hits the water. To me, this waterfall is definitely worth going to as it’s the only waterfall that delivered on its rainbow promise, since I wasn’t lucky enough to see a rainbow at Gullfoss.

Do note that Gullfoss has a strong and steady stream of water which makes it insanely pretty, but the tourist count is very high.

Getting There:
Easily accessible along the South Coast of Iceland.

The tour took us here as well. 🙂

GPS Coordinates:
63.532027° N, 19.511183° W (waterfall)
63.529464° N, 19.512835° W (parking lot)

Foss á Siðu

Foss á Siðu

This is a smaller waterfall located on private property off of the Ring Road. 

It is behind a chain so you can’t really get as close up of a view, but it’s a pretty stop if you have the time, otherwise I’d skip. 

You will have already seen better in Iceland at this point if you’re going in the same order that we did. 

Getting There:
Easily accessible along the South Coast of Iceland.

This was another waterfall we saw on our tour. But our guide mentioned he’d only take us here if we had time.

GPS Coordinates:
63.853621° N, 17.872074° W

Honorable Mentions

We didn’t make it to these, but they’re on our bucket list for the future!

Faxi (Vatnsleysufoss)

This was a last minute addition to our itinerary (I also tried to add in Haifoss but we didn’t have time to drive out there either, see below).

Part of the reason I added this was because its along the Golden Circle route and on the way to our destinations.

This wide waterfall is very beautiful and is similar in look to Gullfoss, but smaller. Like Gullfoss, there are also distinct boulders in the middle that make it look like there’s a small island at the base.

I have also heard that you can salmon fish there, there is a ladder to the left of the waterfall for fishing purposes.

Getting There:
Accessible via Golden Circle route, though not one of the main attractions.

GPS Coordinates:
64.2260° N, 20.3384° W

Glymur

This made the honorable mention list because we were literally halfway there! However the waterfall is nestled behind a few cliffs and weren’t able to see it from where we turned back. SADFACE 🙁 

glymur_hikeglymur_cave

Back story: Seeing this waterfall requires hiking about 4.7mi (7.5km) to get to, said hike also requires fording a river on a log, crawling through a cave, and climbing a mountain with cables. Unfortunately the week before we flew into Iceland, it rained a lot and the log was swept away (like it is every year) and there was no trail for us to continue ahead to the other side. We knew it was a looping route, so we tried to take the return way up (from the northern side) but we lost the trail and ran out of time since we still had to drive 5 hours to Akureyri that afternoon.

This was the tallest waterfall in Iceland until recently and it’s a scenic hike so we will definitely give this hike another shot.

I highly recommend wearing waterproof hiking boots for this trail as it’s very rocky and does require a good amount of climbing, so you’ll want that level of support and grip. Plus if you’re planning on going glacier hiking in Iceland, you’ll need them anyways! ;p

Also it is important to note that this hike is on private property as well. The log to ford the river is usually available every summer, whether it’s there in the spring depends on when the landowner is able to install it. It disappears again sometime during the fall, whenever the heavier rains come and sweep it away.

Check the map below to see a photo of the waterfall.

Getting There:
Be sure to take 47, which goes around the Hvalfjörður Fjord, instead of the Ring Road (1), Glymur is unaccessible directly from the Ring Road. If you drive through the tunnel, I’m sorry you’ve missed your turn because that’s on 1, and you’ve just driven across the fjord instead of around. The tunnel also has a toll (as of August 2017 – 1,000 ISK ~ $9.40), so you really don’t wanna miss that turn. 😝

GPS Coordinates:
64.385013° N, 21.293471° W (parking lot)
64.390980° N, 21.252025° W (waterfall)

Selfoss

This is one of the waterfalls close to Dettifoss along the Diamond Circle route. The look of this waterfall is similar to Hraunfossar, it resembles the combination of thousands of tiny waterfalls in one.

We traveled to this sight on the eastern route which was an unpaved, gravel path along the river to see the various waterfalls. Again, this portion of the route can be closed once the snow comes so keep that in mind when attempting to visit, always look at the road conditions.

From the eastern side, the horseshoe shape of Selfoss is less obvious; however we chose this route because we wanted to get a better view of Dettifoss.

There is no road that takes you directly to Selfoss so the best way to get here is hiking from Dettifoss. Make sure you plan ahead for that as we got to Dettifoss too late to do this hike so we missed Selfoss.

The hiking route on the eastern side from Dettifoss to Selfoss (~1.5mi/2.5km loop) is pretty challenging since there are a ton of boulders along the trail to climb over.

The view of Selfoss seems to be better from the western route so we are planning to do that on our next visit to Iceland! 🙂

Check the map below to see a photo of the waterfall.

Getting There:
Main sight accessible via Diamond Circle route; however accessibility may be limited pending road conditions.

GPS Coordinates:
65.805614° N, 16.385505° W (east-waterfall)
65.805404° N, 16.389147° W (west-waterfall)

Svartifoss

This waterfall is best-known for the basalt columns surrounding it. It also requires a decent hike to get to but it looks to be pretty worth it.

Check the map below to see a photo of the waterfall.

Getting There:
Accessible via the Southern Coast, but requires a 1-2hr hike.

GPS Coordinates:
64.027439° N, 16.975351° W (waterfall)
64.016388° N, 16.966153° W (parking lot)

Aldeyjarfoss

This waterfall is close to the Diamond Circle route and can be reached by driving past Godafoss from Akureyri. This waterfall, like Svartifoss, is also surrounded by basalt columns.

Check the map below to see a photo of the waterfall.

Getting There:
Main sight accessible via Diamond Circle route; however accessibility may be limited pending road conditions.

GPS Coordinates:
65.366394° N, 17.336984° W (waterfall)

Haifoss

This waterfall was one of my time-permitting last minute additions and we didn’t end up having enough time to drive out there with our already packed itinerary. 

This waterfall looked really cool since the water flows out of the tall cliffs. Unfortunately we did not have time for this since it was about 2hrs out of the way off of the Golden Circle route.  

We may try to do that in the future when we go to the highlands, there are tours where Haifoss is a stop on the way to Landmannalaugar.   

Check the map below to see a photo of the waterfall.

Getting There:
Depending upon road conditions, this waterfall is accessible in 2 ways: via a detour from the Golden Circle route or on the way to the Highlands.

GPS Coordinates:
64.207973° N, 19.688050° W (waterfall)
64.206820° N, 19.678684° W (parking lot)

Dynjandi

We were on a time crunch and didn’t have enough time to drive up to the northwestern part of Iceland.

This waterfall is very similar to Alamere Falls in California, but larger so we’re going to make it a point to see it in the future.

Check the map below to see a photo of the waterfall.

GPS Coordinates:
65.732690° N, -23.200314° W (waterfall)
65.736420° N, -23.209122° W (parking lot)

Map of the Waterfalls

Click on the location pins to see where they’re all located!

Loading map ...

 

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10 COMMENTS

  1. This was a great article! I haven’t been to Iceland but your article inspired me to head over there!

    I really like that you included GPS locations into your post to help your readers find the waterfalls. Also the “learn the language” tip – cute and helpful!

    Great job!

    • Thank you for the comment and support, I really appreciate it! I’m glad I have inspired you to visit Iceland, it is genuinely one of the most naturally beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. I’m excited for you to go someday!I’ll also be adding more posts about Iceland in the future, so stay tuned! 🙂

  2. Omg I’m so happy you wrote this post! I have recently developed a slight obsession with waterfalls so I love it! lol. Iceland looks gorgeous!! Sooo many waterfalls. I especially like that photo of the waterfall with the beautiful rainbow! Thanks for sharing all these details!! Will save this for when we finally make it to Iceland.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! It is definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to! And even though I already wrote about a ton of waterfalls, there are literally A TON MORE that I didn’t get to go to and many that are nameless (to visitors, anyways) because they’re just every where.

      I’ll be adding more posts on Iceland in the future so you’ll have all the info you need when you make it there! 🙂

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