As many European countries open up to vaccinated travelers, I figured it would be worth it to showcase the beauty of the country. Iceland is a stunningly beautiful country, and before Covid-19 appeared, I would hazard to say its beauty was overwhelming the country. For a country of 300,000 people, there were an insane number of visitors. And it’s understandable…in addition to the beauty, it’s easy to get around and communicate in Iceland. Now that travel is popping back up, it could become that way, but I’m hoping Iceland keeps some of its isolated charm.
There is what is referred to as the Golden Triangle in Iceland, which is where most tourists visit. If you can get outside of the Golden Triangle to the north or east of Iceland, you can find some of that isolated charm. Skógafoss is still close enough to Reykjavík that it isn’t wildly isolated, but it is honestly quieter than some of the waterfalls in the Golden Triangle. Skógafoss is a really beautiful waterfall that can be seen from the Ring Road, and the village/town around it is definitely interesting.
When I first visited Iceland in 2012, I didn’t know that there were other waterfalls above Skógafoss. There is a trail (Fimmvorduhals) that continues along the Skóga River for about 25 kilometers or so, and there are many drops along the River. I didn’t go the whole way, but if you hike up the 500 steps to the right of Skógafoss, you’ll get a great view of the Atlantic, but if you continue for just a short distance you’ll stumble upon Hestavaðsfoss.
At 30′ tall or so, Hestavaðsfoss isn’t as mesmerizing as Skógafoss, but it has a completely different “look”, and so is worth the hike, I believe. The climb up the stairs isn’t too bad, honestly, and I’m someone that doesn’t care for heights.
Just over 150 kilometers east outside of Reykjavik along the Ring Road (Iceland Road 1), you’ll come to the village of Skogar. If coming from Reykjavik, it will be on the left/north.
There will be a sign indicating the turn to Skogafoss. Turn left onto that road. Head to approved parking areas for Skogafoss.
Once you’ve visited Skogafoss, look for the trail/steps on the right of Skogafoss that lead uphill. Follow that path and then go a bit further from the viewpoint to see Hestavaðsfoss.
I’m surprised sometimes at the waterfalls I haven’t written about. I don’t necessarily follow any order or write about the flashiest, biggest waterfalls first. That means that I sometimes am recording big, flashy waterfalls years after I visit them. When I visited the falls in 2012, I was a bit concerned because I read that both roads leading to the falls were unpaved gravel roads, which in Iceland can make accessing attractions somewhat difficult. Luckily, they had recently paved the road that tracks up the west side of the river, at least until you reach Dettifoss.
Dettifoss is widely known as being one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe (when considering water flow per second). It isn’t the tallest waterfall in Europe (not even the tallest waterfall in Iceland), but it is still impressive for sure! It’s definitely worth a visit, but it is somewhat isolated in the scheme of things. Some of the waterfalls in southern Iceland near Reykjavík and along the southern portion of the Ring Road are very easily accessed, sometimes literally by pulling off the road. From Reykjavík, it’s at least a 7 hour drive to Dettifoss, and is approximately 20 miles from the Ring Road. Luckily, you will get a view of Selfoss also.
You want to follow the Ring Road (Road 1) to get to Dettifoss, and the closest “large” city is probably Akureyri. Even then, it’s still a bit of a drive.
About 75 miles from Akureyri, you’ll reach a few different roads. If you turn left on road 862, that road is paved and will lead you to Dettifoss. You can also turn left on road 864, which is unpaved, and four wheel drive is recommended.
After about 20 miles on road 862 or 864, you’ll reach parking areas for Dettifoss, which will then require a short hike to view the falls.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 1.1 miles round-trip
If you visit Iceland, and you explore outside of Reykjavík, you’ll likely end up on the Ring Road. If you take one of the tour buses to visit major attractions, many of them will head toward Skógafoss, which is one of the many stunning waterfalls in Iceland, and is extremely easy to visit. What I didn’t know the first time I visited Iceland in 2012 was that there was another waterfall about 1 mile away.
Kvernufoss isn’t as large or as exciting, but if you’re looking to get away from the crowds, and you can, Kvernufoss is the waterfall for you. Reaching the falls is a bit more adventurous, in that there are some unique steps. The start of the hike is near the Skógar Museum, but instead of stopping there, you pass the museum and some other buildings, and park at the end of that road near some abandoned farm equipment. Head east from that parking lot along the paths that have shown up. At some point, you’ll reach a wire fence that has been set to keep the sheep in/out. At the right spot, there should be a stepladder that you can use to safely cross over the fence. My sister was rather pregnant at this time, so it was interesting! After crossing that fence, it is pretty smooth sailing in terms of finding the falls. Follow the path toward the river/creek, and then once you reach the creek, turn north and follow the river upstream. That’s where Kvernufoss is!
The hike isn’t bad, but for the second half of the hike, it does climb uphill, and it can be a bit slippery, so wear appropriate shoes. You’ll likely have the trail to yourself. We ran into just a few other people. It’s a much quieter waterfall than Skógafoss, but it is also beautiful!
From the Ring Road, head toward Skógar, which is hard to miss because of the waterfall. If heading east, you’ll turn left toward the village.
Instead of heading toward Skógafoss, follow signs for the Skógar Museum. You’ll turn right at some point to arrive at the museum. Then follow the directions above.
Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate)
Length of Hike: 0.75 miles round-trip
Iceland has so many beautiful waterfalls. I’ve been there twice and I still haven’t scratched the surface. Luckily, there are so many that are pretty easy to visit! (There are others that definitely require a bit more effort!)
Vatnajökull National Park has at least three easy-to-visit waterfalls (possibly a fourth, if I remember correctly). Magnúsarfoss and Hundafoss are the first two that you will encounter along the trail. The trail is moderately uphill with some rocky portions. Svartifoss is the most interesting of the three, and it has to do with the geology around the falls. Iceland is a product of volcanic activity, and as the lava cooled during its formation, unique structures were created. At Svartifoss, you’ll find these hexagonal columns on both sides of the waterfall. You can find similar hexagonal structures on Iceland, along with the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming (both of which I’ve had the chance to visit). Its these hexagonal columns that really make Svartifoss a worthwhile stop, even if it does require more hiking to visit than some of the other waterfalls.
The entrance to the park is at Skaftafell, which is found directly off of the ring road. It is found east of Vík and west of Höfn. There are scheduled buses that will take you to the park directly from Reykjavík.
If you’re heading east along the Ring Road, the entrance will be found on your left. Turn into road leading to the visitor’s center.
Head to the visitor’s center, park, and get your bearings for a bit. To your right is the glacier. To your left is a path that leads to the set of falls.
Head left on the trail. Signs will indicate the trail to Svartifoss, which is the most popular of the three falls.
Head uphill for a bit, and after passing Hundafoss (which isn’t as obvious), you’ll arrive at Magnúsarfoss.
Continue along the trail to Svartifoss.
Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate, There are some uphill, rocky portions)
Length of Hike: 1.9-2.4 miles round-trip
I first visited Iceland five years ago, and decided I liked it so much I had to take my family. So we packed up and headed to Iceland about three weeks ago. I’m just now getting to write about one of the first waterfalls I saw on this second trip.
Urriðafoss has the distinction of being the waterfall with the highest volume in Iceland. I can tell it’s a busy waterfall, but Gullfoss, Dettifoss, and Selfoss seem pretty voluminous too! Gullfoss, Dettifoss, and Selfoss are much much taller, though, so you’ll be fighting crowds at these others, especially Gulffoss.
To get to Urriðafoss, you have to drive down a gravel road for a short distance, and you can do that in any vehicle. There were a few other cars when we arrived, and a number of people were fishing near the falls. It was a beautiful view to start out the day of travels. I had low expectations because it isn’t particularly tall, but I still found it to be beautiful. And you won’t be surrounded by hundreds of other people.
From the city of Sellfoss, drive about 10 miles to Urriðafossvegur, which will be on your right. There will be a sign for the falls.
Turn right onto Urriðafossvegur, and drive about 1 mile along the gravel road. There will be a sharp left turn toward the parking are for the falls.
The hike to the falls is very short, and you can see the falls from the parking area.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: Roadside (or 0.2 miles round-trip)
I was about to post this waterfall as the waterfall Krossarfoss, and then started to do a bit of research. I’m not sure where I got the name Krossarfoss, as I usually get names from another source or Google (especially when there isn’t some kind of sign near the falls). My main source and Google both call this Foss á Siðu, so that’s what I’m going to call it also! (And as I searched, it seems there is another falls known as Krossarfoss, but it must not be very well known.)
If you’re driving along the southern portion of the Ring Road, it’s almost impossible to miss Foss á Siðu (unless you’re just not paying attention to anything around you). I don’t exactly remember what I did to get a picture of the falls, but there must be some way to pull off of the Ring Road and take pictures. (And honestly, there were times where the roads were so quiet that I just stopped on the road since I could see pretty far ahead and behind me.)
The day I saw the falls, it was pretty windy, at least near the falls. As you can tell, the water was being blown a good 10-15′ off of its “normal” path. Looking at all of the shots I took, I can see the waterfall swaying back and forth. It’s a pretty awesome waterfall and it’s easy to visit. That makes it worthwhile in my book!
Drive along the Ring Road. If you’re heading east, you will pass Roads 203 and 202 (in that order). After passing road 202, drive a few more kilometers and then you’ll see the falls to your left. Google has a “location” for this on Google Maps, so you could search for that.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Hike: not applicable
One of the struggles with waterfalls isn’t necessarily finding the waterfall…It’s that you’ve found a waterfall, and yet there might not be an appropriate place to stop and capture the waterfall with your camera. There have been many times I have passed smaller waterfalls (and a few taller waterfalls) because there was absolutely no way to stop.
Iceland has so many waterfalls that you might become numb to them (though I didn’t after a week). And as you’re driving along a gravel road in what is honestly the middle of nowhere, you are likely to come upon a waterfall. On of the most unique roads I was on was Road 939. It’s by no means the worst road I’ve been on, but it also made my stress levels go up just a bit. And yet…the waterfalls help those levels go down. I’ve already recorded one unnamed waterfall (which I later found out had a name): Hænubrekkufoss, and the clearly named waterfall: Folaldafoss. Both waterfalls are stunningly beautiful, surrounding by an almost bleak landscape. As I look at this waterfall I’m describing now, I realize that in many other places, this would be a noted destination…and yet in Iceland, it’s just another waterfall in a remote location. There’s something honestly fascinating to me about that!
This is much easier to find that one might expect. If you’re headed along the Ring Road, you may end up deciding to take Route 939 anyway, as you have two unpaved options ahead. It is north of Höfn, but south of Egilsstaðir.
The junction of the Ring Road and Route 939 shouldn’t be that difficult to find. If you are headed from Höfn, it would be a left turn onto 939 heading generally north. This waterfall is found along the left side if headed north, though I really can’t give any more specifics since I don’t know the specifics!
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, the falls can be seen from the road)
One of the waterfalls found on Road 939 in Iceland (June 2012)
If you’re visiting Iceland looking for waterfalls, then you have to visit Seljalandsfoss (and a bunch of other waterfalls too!). Seljalandsfoss is one of my favorites in Iceland, but it ends up that there are three other waterfalls right next door to Seljalandsfoss. (Actually, there’s a fourth just around the corner!)
The one that has a name is Gljúfurárfoss. I won’t even take a stab at how that’s said, but it apparently means “Canyon River Waterfall”, which makes sense when you realize that part of the waterfall is blocked off by some time of slot canyon. I have read about others who have tried to walk through the slot canyon to get a better view, but I didn’t even remotely think about trying. I was already somewhat wet from Seljalandsfoss, and didn’t really want to get any wetter.
Because it’s not as scenic as Seljalandsfoss, you will actually have a better chance of getting the falls without people in the view. You may notice there was a car parked right near the opening of the canyon. While it’s not one of my favorites, it’s still worth stopping to take a few shots because it’s so close to these other falls.
Gljúfurárfoss is found off of the southern portion Ring Road, right next to Seljalandsfoss. It is found east of Arborg.
If you are heading east, you will turn left onto Road 249 (Þórsmerkurvegur), and head just a short distance to the parking area for the falls. It’s pretty hard to miss, as there are signs indicating the road to Seljalandsfoss, and then drive just a bit further down the road.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: roadside, can try to walk to the falls
Height: ~ 200′
In eastern Iceland, there are two very impressive waterfalls: Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss. Both are along found along the same river along the same hike. Hengifoss is further upstream, while Litlanesfoss is downstream, and you’ll encounter Litlanesfoss first.
There are a number of other waterfalls right nearby that would be main attractions in some waterfall-desolate place, but here in Iceland, they’re easy to forget. Right near Litlanesfoss is a smaller waterfall. I’m a bad judge of height, but the drop is probably in the 50-75′ range. This one’s a bit surprising because, looking above, it doesn’t really seem like so much water would come from the stream there. The erosion must be slightly deeper than expected.
Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss as a pair are probably some of my Iceland favorites. All of the other extras are great bonuses! (Random side note: look for the Bónus supermarkets in Iceland…they’re hard to miss because of the pink pig.) One note of caution, though. The area around the falls is surprisingly steep. Be extra safe as you’re hiking here. I can imagine one wrong step could be dangerous.
I started out at Egilsstaðir. Head south along Ring Road 1 for a few kilometers.
Veer right onto Road 931, and drive for something like 17 km.
At this point, I got slightly confused. You will reach a junction. Keep going on Road 931 across the bridge spanning the very wide river.
A short distance after crossing the river, veer left onto Road 933. (It gets confusing, as Road 933 is also on the other side of the river, and they are connected, though it’s a rough, rough road.)
Go just a kilometer or so to the parking area for Hengifoss. It’s pretty hard to miss, and will be on your right.
From the parking area, follow the Hengifoss Track.
Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Length of Hike: 2.1 miles round-trip
Where in the World is the Unnamed Waterfall near Litlanesfoss?
Ægissufoss (or Ægissíðufoss) is one of the tamer waterfalls in Iceland. Anywhere else, this waterfall might turn in to the main attraction, but here in Iceland, there are a number of taller, more vociferous waterfalls.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t visit it, but I don’t know if it would be the highest on the list. Luckily for me (and you), it isn’t that far off of the Ring Road. I was already driving circling the island around the Ring Road, and stopping to view the falls took at most 20 minutes of extra time, and that’s if you decide to rush. You could stay and enjoy the peaceful setting, realizing that you may be the only person there! (There was a family on the other side of the river, and I’m not really sure how they arrived at the falls.)
This waterfall is in the southern portion of the island, east of Reykjavík and west of other waterfalls, including the amazing Seljalandsfoss. As you’re driving along the Ring Road, turn onto Route 25 heading south.
Drive for about 2 miles along Route 25. You’ll see a sign on your left for the “road” to the falls.
Turn left onto this unpaved road, drive the few hundred feet to the end, where there’s a parking area.
From the parking area, follow the sounds to the river. You’re only a few hundred feet from the falls, and there are a few different easy-to-identify trails leading down to the shore of the river.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy, you can see it without following any trail down to the river)
Length of Hike: negligible