Dettifoss, Iceland

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.

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
Height: 144′
Length of Hike: 1.1 miles round-trip

Dettifoss (2)

Dettifoss in June 2012

Where in the World is Dettifoss?

Svartifoss, Iceland

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.

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Head left on the trail.  Signs will indicate the trail to Svartifoss, which is the most popular of the three falls.
  5. Head uphill for a bit, and after passing Hundafoss (which isn’t as obvious), you’ll arrive at Magnúsarfoss.
  6. Continue along the trail to Svartifoss.

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate, There are some uphill, rocky portions)
Height: 66′
Length of Hike: 1.9-2.4 miles round-trip

Svartifoss (25)

Svartifoss in June 2012

Where in the World is Svartifoss?

Magnúsarfoss, Iceland

Magnúsarfoss in June 2012

Vatnajökull National Park contains a number of beautiful waterfalls and glaciers.  Three waterfalls are found along the same river.  Hundafoss is the furthest downstream, and Svartifoss is the furthest upstream.  Magnúsarfoss is found in between (nearer Hundafoss).  (I believe there is another smaller waterfall even further downstream, but I didn’t see any clear signage.)

Magnúsarfoss isn’t anything wildly spectacular.  You aren’t extremely close to the falls, and during the summer the flies might drive you a little bit nuts.  But if you’re in the area to view the glacier and the other falls, stop by Magnúsarfoss.  It’s really a relatively easy hike, and the whole detour is definitely worth it.

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Head left on the trail.  Signs will indicate the trail to Svartifoss, which is the most popular of the three falls.
  5. Head uphill for a bit, and after passing Hundafoss (which isn’t as obvious), you’ll arrive at Magnúsarfoss.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate, There are some uphill, rocky portions)
Height: 32′
Length of Hike: 1.2 miles round-trip (though further to get to Svartifoss)

Where in the World is Magnúsarfoss?

Hundafoss, Iceland

Hundafoss in June 2012

If you’re looking for waterfalls in Iceland, the Ring Road is the best place to start.  The Ring Road encircles the island, and many waterfalls are located only a short distance from the road.  A significant number of these falls require little effort to visit.

Hundafoss does require a little more effort to visit, but not that much.  It is found in Vatnajökull National Park, which is an expansive national park covering a significant portion of Eastern Iceland. In the southern portion of the park, you will come across Skaftafell, which is right off of the Ring Road. From the visitor’s center at Skaftafell, you can take the right path to Skaftafelljökull, an impressive glacier.  If you take the left path (which is not very obvious), you’ll be heading toward a set of waterfalls.

There are at least three easily visible waterfalls along this trail, though I believe I’ve seen a fourth falls on other sites.  I’m just not sure where exactly it was, and I really didn’t spend any time searching.  The first falls you come across along the trail is Hundafoss.  It’s more impressive than one might imagine.  There is an “official” viewpoint for the falls near the crest, and that view is not particularly impressive.  But if you pay attention as you’re hiking uphill, you’ll suddenly hear water flowing, and if you look to your left, you might notice a rather well-worn detour trail that very quickly leads to a pretty impressive view of the falls.  You do have to duck down under a few trees, but it’s well worth it.  Two other falls are upstream Magnúsarfoss and Svartifoss.

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Head left on the trail.  Signs will indicate the trail to Svartifoss, which is the most popular of the three falls.
  5. Head uphill for a bit, and you may begin to hear water flowing.  Look for the unofficial trail to your left, and try and find the falls.  (If you head a little further up the trail, and you see the sign indicating Hundafoss near its crest, you can backtrack a short distance to find this other short trail.)

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate, There are some uphill, rocky portions)
Height: 82′
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip (though it’s more to Svartifoss)

Where in the World is Hundafoss?