There is something quite magical about the sight and sound of a gorgeous waterfall flowing over the edge of a cliff. Whether you have a fond appreciation of the natural beauty found in waterfalls or simply enjoy the relaxing experience of watching the constant flow of water, we think that we have found the perfect place to quickly become addicted to these attractions – Iceland! When you think about the best waterfalls in Iceland, well it’s almost impossible to come up with a short list given the myriad of amazing falls to be found throughout the country.
Iceland may be renowned as having the nickname, the “Land of Fire and Ice” but I would argue that Iceland should be renamed, the “Land of Waterfalls!” For those of you visiting Iceland for the first time, you are in for a real treat. If you choose to stay in one region in Iceland or opt to drive the ring road as we did on our recent trip, you can be sure that an amazing waterfall isn’t too far away.
From Seljalandsfoss to Gullfoss and from Gufufoss to Dettifoss, the names of Icelandic waterfalls may not be the easiest to pronounce or spell. However, don’t worry, because we hope that our guide to 10 of the best waterfalls in Iceland will be the perfect inspiration to help you on your way to discovering these spectacular natural landmarks.
Best Waterfalls in Iceland
Our Icelandic adventure started in Reykjavik and saw us venture north before continuing around the ring road to explore all of this gorgeous country in just one week. It was certainly an ambitious road trip but after arriving back in Reykjavik following 1,700 miles of driving, we can well and truly attest that this was a trip of a lifetime!
But this post is all about the waterfalls we experienced throughout the 1,700 miles. Iconic waterfalls that are recognized by everyone along with others that are less well-known, including some that we don’t even know the names of, are all experiences that we enjoyed throughout the road trip.
Although it’s almost impossible to put together a list of the 10 best waterfalls in Iceland, we wanted to feature our favorites that we visited. We also encourage you to share your favorites by commenting below. Let’s take a look at which Icelandic falls made our list.
Where to Stay?
Looking for the ideal place to stay near these gorgeous waterfalls? If you love camping, there are plenty of camping options available.
However, if you prefer the more ‘luxury’ experience of a hotel, here are a couple of our recommendations in different regions of Iceland.
- Hótel Fljótshlíd – Located less than 8 miles from Seljalandsfoss in the town of Hlíðarendi, this quirky yet comfortable accommodation option is a great choice for anyone planning to stay in this part of Iceland for a few days. Check out the latest prices and availability here.
- Icelandair Hotel Vik – Vik is frequently seen as the popular spot for visitors to stay along the south coast of Iceland. In addition to Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss is even closer, along with the iconic black sand beaches and basalt columns along the world-famous Reynisfjara shore. Check out the latest prices and availability here.
- Hotel Hallormsstadur – Located 15 minutes outside of Egilsstaðir, this hotel is perfectly situated on Lake Lagarfljot and offers stunning scenery with a variety of accommodation options. We opted for the cottage which is a unique wood cabin with gorgeous views of the lake. Check out the latest prices and availability here.
- Icelandair Hotel Akureyri – We had a great experience staying at this hotel in the gorgeous town of Akureyri. Perfectly situated within walking distance of the historic old town of Akureyri, this is an ideal accommodation option for those wanting to spend a couple of days exploring the northern region of Iceland. Check out the latest prices and availability here.
- Caze Reykjavik Central Luxury Apartments – If you are staying in the city of Reykjavik, you have plenty of options! However, we recommend staying at the Caze Reykjavik Apartments along Laugavegur. Cool, trendy, modern, spacious and affordable are all reasons why this should be on your radar. Check out the latest prices and availability here.
One of the most iconic waterfalls in Iceland is the wonderfully named Seljalandsfoss, located just off Route 1 (the Iceland ring road) along the south coast. A little over two hours from Keflavik International Airport, this waterfall is a must see for anyone visiting Iceland.
Take a short hike around the back of the Seljalandsfoss waterfall but be prepared to get a little wet and endure a couple of challenging spots as you clamber up the rocks on the final part of the hike. The trail is pretty slick in parts because of the spray that soaks the area but it’s definitely an experience all the family will enjoy!
We had an awesome time experiencing this though we probably should have come a little better prepared in terms of our chosen attire. It’s one of those experiences though that it’s worth getting wet for! If you read our recent post on the best things to do in South Iceland, you will know that this experience is one you cannot afford to miss!
Height – 60 meters (200 feet)
Accessibility – EASY
Distance from Keflavik International Airport – 167km
Directions – Click Here to open Google Maps for Directions to Seljalandsfoss from Keflavik International Airport
Just a short drive along the Ring Road heading southeast is yet another spectacular waterfall – Skogafoss! Located on the Skoga River, this waterfall flows over the edge of cliffs that were formerly the Icelandic coastline. As the coast receded towards the present day ocean, the former sea cliffs remained and we are now treated to the breathtaking sight of the Skogafoss waterfall falling 60 meters before flowing out towards the ocean.
So what makes Skogafoss such a spectacular sight? Along with the perfect backdrop of the mountains surrounding this waterfall, there are two unique aspects that make this a popular landmark.
As you approach the waterfall, you can frequently see a rainbow illuminating through the spray that is emitted from Skogafoss.
If the sight of a rainbow in conjunction with this gorgeous waterfall isn’t enough from the base of the falls, why not climb to the summit for a birds-eye view? A challenging yet rewarding staircase of 475+ steps offers the opportunity for those adventurous enough to enjoy the spectacular sight of Skogafoss along with breathtaking panoramic scenes. Hiking trails along the Skoga river are also available for those heading to the summit.
Height – 60 meters (200 feet)
Accessibility – EASY (Hike to the summit is moderately challenging with 475 steps to climb)
Distance from Keflavik International Airport – 195km
Directions – Click Here to open Google Maps for Directions to Skogafoss from Keflavik International Airport
Gullfoss is perhaps the infamous waterfall in Iceland that most visitors are eager to experience. Located in the heart of the iconic Golden Circle route in addition to Geysir and Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, Gullfoss certainly doesn’t disappoint and offers breathtaking scenes from a number of viewpoints.
During the summer months, visitors can hike close to the powerful set of falls that are located on the Hvítá (White) river, fed by Iceland’s second largest glacier, the Langjökull.
We have been fortunate to visit in both summer and winter and each experience offers a unique perspective on the beauty of Icelandic landscapes. Gullfoss is very different in July than December but both offer equally beautiful attractions.
For those of you that are not really enamored by the sight of waterfalls, we challenge you to visit Gullfoss and not be impressed! This is an incredible scene and when you hear that “Gullfoss” is translated as “Golden Falls,” you can certainly see why.
Height – 32 meters (105 feet)
Accessibility – EASY
Distance from Keflavik International Airport – 158km
Directions – Click Here to open Google Maps for Directions to Gullfoss from Keflavik International Airport
Frequently in the shadow of Gullfoss because of its location on the Golden Circle, I prefer to see the Faxi waterfall as a great attraction worth experiencing before you head to the main attraction.
Faxi is a gorgeous waterfall in its own right and although it may be relatively small in comparison to other Icelandic waterfalls in terms of height, at 80 meters in width, it’s a spectacular sight that everyone driving the Golden Circle should add to their itinerary.
When you leave the main road along the Golden Circle, you will be pleasantly surprised at the sight of the Faxi waterfall. It’s actually located in a relatively surprising spot with farmland surrounding the river and this landmark undoubtedly the focal point here.
This waterfall is marked on many maps as “Vatnsleysufoss” but we recommend following our link below to find the exact location!
If you are looking for the ideal landscape to capture a perfect photograph, unfortunately, the location of Faxi isn’t particularly suited for the “Wow” shot that many of us are always looking for. However, your focus should be on the falls rather than the surrounding landscape and I’m sure you will agree that this is a pretty awesome sight despite the lack of complimentary scenery.
Height – 7 meters (22 feet)
Accessibility – EASY (From a distance) – challenging to get closer to the falls.
Distance from Keflavik International Airport – 143km
Directions – Click Here to open Google Maps for Directions to Faxi from Keflavik International Airport
For many visitors to the Golden Circle, the final stop will be Þingvellir National Park and after experiencing Gullfoss and Faxi, you could be forgiven for thinking your waterfall experience along this loop couldn’t get any better. However, in the heart of Þingvellir National Park is yet another gorgeous attraction, which is arguably as stunning as the others in this part of Iceland – Öxarárfoss.
Öxarárfoss plunges 37 feet over the edge of a cliff along the river Öxará and is one of the iconic waterfalls in Iceland because of its location along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and Eurasian plates meet. A short walk from the car park gives visitors the opportunity to explore the Mid-Atlantic Ridge along a boardwalk before arriving at the base of Öxarárfoss.
This waterfall may not be in the same class as some of the very best waterfalls in Iceland but if you are visiting Þingvellir, this is definitely a must-see attraction. We camped by Lake Thingvellir and took the short drive to Öxarárfoss to enjoy a late night visit.
Obviously, the beauty of visiting Iceland during the summer months is the unlimited amount of daylight but there was something quite magical about this waterfall during the dusk hours.
Height – 13 meters (44 feet)
Accessibility – EASY
Distance from Keflavik International Airport – 90km
Directions – Click Here to open Google Maps for Directions to Oxarafoss from Keflavik International Airport
If you choose to venture to the east coast of Iceland (we strongly recommend that you do), you will be rewarded with the sight of Gufufoss along the mountain road between Egilsstaðir and Seyðisfjörður. Plunging 19 meters over the edge, this picturesque waterfall is easily accessible from the road and is one that you can get pretty close to the base.
The scenery in the East Fjords area of Iceland is some of the best that the country has to offer.
Gufufoss is located in close proximity to a series of other waterfalls, including Fardagafoss, so you won’t be short of natural attractions to see along this scenic drive. As you start the drive into the coastal town of Seyðisfjörður, the scenery is beyond spectacular and visiting Gufufoss is just another gem worth adding to your road trip around Iceland.
Height – 19 meters (63 feet)
Accessibility – EASY
Distance from Keflavik International Airport – 696km
Directions – Click Here to open Google Maps for Directions to Gufufoss from Keflavik International Airport
Are you ready to visit an attraction that is reputed as being the most powerful waterfall in Europe? The amazing sight of Dettifoss is incredible and although the location in the heart of Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland is a little “off the beaten path” in relation to other attractions, it’s well worth the effort to visit.
It’s actually very easily accessible but just takes a while to reach and we recommend staying in Akureyri as this is only a couple of hours from Dettifoss.
A drop of 44 meters is impressive but it’s the power of Dettifoss that has every visitors marveling over the beauty of this waterfall. A number of accessible viewpoints make this one of the most frequently visited falls in Iceland.
A short hiking trail from the car park leads visitors to a choice of visiting either Dettifoss or Selfoss, both of which are gorgeous waterfalls along the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river (the source is the Vatnajökull glacier).
We recommend visiting both but ultimately it’s Dettifoss that will always steal the limelight because of the amazing power. Overlooks at the edge of the cliff and also from a higher viewpoint offer different angles and regardless of the weather, it’s one of those bucket list experiences that you won’t ever forget.
Height – 44 meters (144 feet)
Accessibility – EASY/MODERATE (short hike to the falls and several overlooks)
Distance from Keflavik International Airport – 578km
Directions – Click Here to open Google Maps for Directions to Dettifoss from Keflavik International Airport
A visit to Dettifoss will inevitably open the door to visit another of Iceland’s powerful, iconic waterfalls. Godafoss is located along the Skjálfandafljót river which is yet another that originates from the Vatnajökull glacier. Translated as “Waterfall of the Gods,” Godafoss is less than 45 minutes east of Akureyri, so easily accessible for anyone staying in north Iceland.
Trails lead to views along the rim of the gorge on both sides and for those of you that are a little more adventurous, you can clamber across the rocks to get a closer view of the waterfall. Be careful because the spray can cause these rocks to be pretty slick and there is nothing in terms of protective barriers around this trail.
Another popular spot to capture the ‘perfect’ picture of Godafoss is from the rocky beach that runs parallel to the Skjálfandafljót river. A rocky staircase leads you to the beach and depending on how adventurous you want to be will determine how close to the base of Godafoss you can reach.
It’s an impressive waterfall and worth every effort you make to appreciate the finer details of this natural phenomenon.
Height – 12 meters (39 feet)
Accessibility – EASY/MODERATE (a few challenging rocks to cross to get close to the edge of the falls or to the base)
Distance from Keflavik International Airport – 480km
Directions – Click Here to open Google Maps for Directions to Godafoss from Keflavik International Airport
Many waterfalls have a very similar appearance in terms of their composition and overall structure. However, that certainly cannot be said about Hraunfossar which is undoubtedly one of Iceland’s most unique waterfalls.
The distinctive series of falls and cascades can be seen seeping out of the edge of the Hallmundar lava field and in certain parts, drops of up to 41 feet can be seen. It’s no surprise to hear that Hraunfossar can be translated as “lava falls.”
Hraunfossar stretches up to 1700 feet along the river with smaller falls continuing to flow into the Hvitá from numerous spots while visitors can enjoy views of this waterfall from a number of vistas along the trail. Take a stroll to the end of the Hraunfossar and look back down the Hvitá river to enjoy a gorgeous panoramic view of this waterfall.
The uniqueness associated with Hraunfossar makes this a worthwhile experience, particularly given its close proximity to Barnafoss (it’s literally within walking distance), another waterfall that has plenty of character and history surrounding it (more on that soon!)
Height – 12 meters (41 feet)
Accessibility – EASY
Distance from Keflavik International Airport – 168km
Directions – Click Here to open Google Maps for Directions to Hraunfossar from Keflavik International Airport
Barnafoss is located along the Hvitá river and next to the more impressive Hraunfossar waterfall. Although you would likely be visiting this area to experience Hraunfossar, the history behind Barnafoss is such that you would be well advised to check it out.
Barnafoss is translated as “Children’s Falls” and the story of this waterfall is related to two local boys that were told to stay at home while their parents went to church but instead, opted to follow their parents and take a short cut across the natural arch bridge above the waterfall. Unfortunately, they fell into the river and were never seen again. The mother was understandably distraught and asked for the bridge to be destroyed.
Today, the waterfall itself isn’t the most impressive and it can be difficult to get a perfect shot because of the narrow gorge. However, I think you will agree that in conjunction with Hraunfossar, the history behind Barnafoss will intrigue you to pay a visit.
Height – 9 meters (30 feet)
Accessibility – EASY
Distance from Keflavik International Airport – 168km
Directions – Click Here to open Google Maps for Directions to Barnafoss from Keflavik International Airport
I am sure you have probably established that we had an AMAZING time experiencing some of the best waterfalls in Iceland. It is incredibly difficult trying to limit this list to just ten but hopefully, we have included some of the best worth visiting on your next trip to Iceland.
The one common aspect of all these waterfalls is that they are all relatively easy to access. There are no long hikes required but for those interested in stumbling across waterfalls during lengthy hikes, don’t worry, Iceland has plenty waiting for you to discover.
Regardless of your taste in waterfalls, Iceland has a distinctive blend and I’m convinced that there will be at least one or two that will spark your interest. If you ask us which are our favorites? It’s a million dollar question and honestly, incredibly difficult to answer!
Having climbed the 475 steps to the summit of Skogafoss and rewarded with a gorgeous rainbow, I have to admit this is one of my favorites, though Dettifoss, Godafoss and of course, Gullfoss are all memorable landmarks we won’t forget!
Feel free to share your list of the best waterfalls in Iceland below and let us know which we cannot afford to miss on our next visit!