The Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Iceland to Visit


5 min read
A gem of a waterfall, Godafoss can be found in the north of Iceland by Chris Kane

Iceland first gained its sovereignty over Denmark after the First World War. A small island nation of just 350,000 inhabitants, its remote location has made it impervious to many European conflicts and tragedies.

However, it has not been spared from a great deal of natural disasters, usually in the form of glacial floods and erupting volcanoes. These calamities have shaped Iceland, quite literally, into one of the most visually appealing countries in the world.

Today, Iceland remains a popular venue for holidaymakers due to its abundant nature, ease of accessibility, and organized tourism industry. This island is roughly 2.4x smaller than the United Kingdom; however, its population is 183x less, which works out to approximately three inhabitants for every square kilometer.

Therefore, it is not uncommon to find oneself alone with nothing but the elements when traveling through the country, which for many is an attractive draw when booking a holiday.

Approximately 11% of Iceland’s landmass is covered by glaciers that feed meltwater to its rivers and waterfalls. And with over 10,000 beautiful waterfalls in Iceland to explore, you will never be too far away from one.

Should you be at a loss for which are worth seeing, here are a few Iceland waterfalls that should not be missed. A map of waterfalls in Iceland is also included below for your reference.

  • 9 waterfalls

Disclosure: Destguides may receive commission for purchases made through links in this article at no cost to you.

Iceland Waterfalls Map

Using the map of Iceland, you can explore all the waterfalls.

This beautiful waterfall in Iceland is a common stop on the Iceland ring road by Chris Kane

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss (‘Sellers Falls’) stands 60 meters tall and is situated in Þórsmerkurvegur, Iceland. The falls are fed by the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano, which in itself seems to be a bit of an oxymoron.

It is a popular stop on South Coast tours, mainly due to its convenient location and the unique ability to encircle the entire falls. The pathway leading to the back of the falls is closed in wintertime; however, for those willing to brave the cold spray of the glacial water, summertime around sunset will yield phenomenal photographic results.

Back to top

Öxarárfoss lies within the confines of the Þingvellir National Park by Chris Kane

Öxarárfoss

Öxarárfoss (‘Axe Falls’) is a 13-meter-high human-made Iceland waterfall, situated in Þingvellir National Park, and is supplied by the river Öxará. The water was channeled to this location to provide drinking water for the first Icelandic Parliament for their meetings/assemblies, otherwise known as ‘Þing‘.

This origin dates back to the 9th century. As far as the name itself, legend has it that there used to be a troll that terrorized visitors to the area. A hero had defeated the troll with an axe, lodged in the troll’s back, which floated down the river and was found in its current location today.

Back to top

Hraunfossar translates to 'Lava Falls' in Icelandic by Chris Kane

Hraunfossar

Hraunfossar (‘Lava Falls’) is a set of Iceland waterfalls 900 meters wide that originate from the nearby lava field of Hallmundarhraun. Due to a large amount of volcanic activity in this area, numerous hidden caves near the falls are up to over a kilometer long and 16 meters high.

The water source at Hraunfossar originates from the Langjökull glacier, the 2nd largest in Iceland, and deposits through the porous rock cracks into the Hvitá river below. This translates to the ‘white river’ since the falls transport sediment that turns the river into a milky shade of blue. There is a viewing platform here, situated opposite Hraunfossar that runs the length of the falls.

Back to top

Bruarfoss is the third waterfall you will encounter on a hike from the car park by Chris Kane

Bruarfoss

Brúarfoss (‘Bridge Falls’) is considered one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, situated a little over an hour from Reykjavik. There used to be a stone archway that spanned the falls, which was razed by time centuries ago.

What makes this particular Icelandic waterfall striking is its pure blue color and unconventional shape. The falls traverse down a small crevice in the rock before opening up into larger pools of blue. The hike to Bruarfoss starts in a well-marked car park and requires navigating through brush and shrubbery for 3.5 km (one way).

There are two smaller waterfalls in Iceland called Midfoss and Hlauptungufoss that you encounter en route as well, though neither is as impressive as Bruarfoss.

Back to top

Dettifoss is the 2nd most powerful waterfall in all of Europe by Chris Kane

Dettifoss

Dettifoss (‘The Collapsing Waterfall’) is located in Vatnajökull National Park and is Europe’s 2nd most powerful waterfall (calculated as water flow multiplied by fall distance). The water is supplied from the Vatnajökull glacier and drops 45 meters into the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon below.

On the west side of Dettifoss is a massive rocky outcrop that allows one to walk right up to the flowing water. This waterfall in Iceland encompasses the primordial, raw earth feel of what one would expect from Iceland. Indeed, this waterfall can be seen in the opening sequence for the movie Prometheus, representing an uninhabited, earthlike planet.

Pro Tip: Take the road that lies to the east of the falls. The spray from Dettifoss always lingers towards the west side).

Back to top

Goðafoss is nestled in the north of Iceland, just a short drive from Akureyri by Chris Kane

Goðafoss

Goðafoss (‘Waterfall of the Gods’) is nestled in the north of Iceland and is known for its turquoise blue water and its 30-meter-wide semicircular arc. Its name is derived from a story said to have taken place one millennium ago.

Invasion by the Norwegians looked likely at the time in an effort to dispel paganism from Iceland. A parliamentary discussion ensued, and the lawmaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði was tasked with finding the best decision for his people.

After a night of prayer to the Old Norse Gods, he deemed that Christianity would be Iceland's official religion, while pagans were allowed to worship in private. It was then that Þorgeir threw Old Norse idols into what came to be known as Goðafoss.

Back to top

Kirkjufellsfoss is one of the most photographed waterfalls in all of Iceland by Chris Kane

Kirkjufellsfoss

Kirkjufellsfoss (‘Church Mountain Falls’), along with Kirkjufell, is one of the most photographed places in Iceland. This famous waterfall in Iceland is located near the town of Grundarfjörður in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, with a population of roughly 900.

The falls themselves are only a mere 5 meters high, however, taken together with the mountain in the background and aurora borealis in the wintertime, it just may be the most beautiful location in the world at that moment.

Back to top

Svartifoss is found in Skaftafell National Park by Chris Kane

Svartifoss

Svartifoss (‘Black Falls’) is located in Skaftafell and part of the Vatnajökull National Park. A 1.5-hour uphill hike takes you to the 20-meter-high waterfall. Svartifoss is fed by the nearby Svínafellsjökull Glacier and named after the dark basalt columns that frame the Iceland falls.

These columns are formed in the same way as those found at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. When flowing lava eventually begins to cool, the entire solid mass starts to contract, generating stress in the structure, leading to cracking. These cracks develop into energetically and geometrically optimal shapes, such as hexagons.

Back to top

Klifbrekkufossar is a series of cascading waterfalls in the east of Iceland by Chris Kane

Klifbrekkufossar

Klifbrekkufossar (‘Climbing Slope Falls’) consists of a set of cascading waterfalls found in Eastern Iceland in Mjóifjörður. Although not as well-known as the others in this list, it is arguably the most visually appealing. Klifbrekkufossar is only accessible in the summer and reached by driving 17 kilometers down road 953.

The collection of falls spans 90 meters in elevation over eight different steps, twisting their way down to the level ground. Walking trails up to Klifbrekkufossar take you just meters away within the water, close enough to feel the consistently cold spray on your face.

Back to top

Conclusion

Who knew that such a small country could give you endless amounts of natural beauty. These beautiful falls in Iceland exemplify the raw power and visual appeal of this stunning country.


Written by Chris Kane

eCKsplorer BLOGGER I'm a chemist by trade, photographer/adventurer by passion. I love swapping out fluorescent laboratory lights for golden hours in any country that will have me.


Stay informed

Get excited about travel by subscribing for the latest articles and announcements.


Stay informed

Get excited about travel by subscribing for the latest articles and announcements.