Updated: Feb 26
Iceland is famous for many things: Geothermal energy, glaciers, volcanoes, ponies, large men with beards, being greener than Greenland, and of course WATERFALLS. These waterfalls or foss in Icelandic are some of the most stunning I've ever seen. Within the 40,000 square miles of Iceland there are over 10,000 waterfalls--that's one every 4 miles! And these aren't the pipsqueak waterfalls you occasionally pass while driving (aka rain run-off or snow melt), these babies are big, powerful and beautiful.
The best way to view a large number of waterfalls if you are staying in Iceland is to use the Ring Road, as most of the big ones fall in its path.
Öxarárfoss - Öxará River
Starting out small. This waterfall is part of the Þingvellir National Park which sits directly on the fault line between Eurasia and North American tectonic plates.
Gullfoss - Hvítá River
One of the most powerful waterfalls in Iceland, this one was particularly impressive to me. You can walk down a steep path and onto a rock that juts out in the middle of the falls, with extremely fast moving water on three sides. The lack of “red tape” in places outside the United States never fails to amaze me. In the US getting close to a waterfall of that magnitude would NEVER happen.
Iceland is also famous for its mythology and legends, and legend of Gullfoss doesn’t disappoint. This river supposedly separated two families. It is said that a man and woman lived on either side, and throughout the course of their youth they fell in love from a distance. They were desperate to be united and marry. However, because of the strong current of the Hvítá River and Gullfoss looming in the distance the lovers were prevented from reaching each other. One day the man had had enough, he braved the freezing rushing currents and swam desperately across the river to be united with his love. He made it and they lived happily together from then on, on her side of the river.
Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfrafoss -
These two falls were by far my favorite in Iceland! Heads up, for both of these waterfalls you WILL get wet. Both get their water from the massive volcanic glacier that rises above them called Eyjafjallajökull.
Seljalandsfoss is the better known waterfall and allows visitors to opportunity to walk behind the veil of water.
Gljúfrafoss was quite an adventure to get to! Hidden very close to the better known Seljalandsfoss. If you want to experience this waterfall you’ll need to get very close, and I mean VERY close. It’s hidden behind protective outer rock, and you’ll only get glimpses from outside the cave. In order to experience this waterfall in its entirety you’ll need to wade through a small yet very chilly stream and through the opening of the open-roofed cave. Once in the cave you’ll be able to look at the entire waterfall and watch water seemingly appearing from nowhere over head.
Skógafoss - Skógá River
Skógafoss is one of the most powerful and beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. There are quite a few legends surrounding the giant falls!
Legend 1: The most common is that one of the first vikings in the area hid a treasure chest of gold behind the falls. It was rumored that a young boy found the chest but that it was too heavy for him to bring back so we removed one of the rings from the side. He reportedly gave the ring to a local church for safe keeping.
Legend 2: Iceland is famous for its mythological legends alongside it’s tales of vikings and treasure. This particular legend states that there were two trolls wandering through the countryside. The larger of the two was holding the smaller troll on his shoulders. Once they happened upon Skógafoss they were stunned by the waterfalls beauty. They remained frozen there watching the waterfall for so long that they turned to stone. They can be seen on the east side of the waterfall, as stone, watching the waterfall for ever more.
Folaldafoss - Oxi Pass
While traveling from Berufjörður to the East Fjords we took the Oxi Pass. While driving this narrow road that’s only open in summer we stopped briefly at Folaldafoss. While the surrounding landscape is quite impressive this waterfall is dwarfed by the massive mountains and beautiful fjord in the distance.
Litlanesfoss & Hengifoss - Hengifossá River
These waterfalls are just a short hike off the Ring Road in Eastern Iceland. While quite steep the views are definitely worth it. You’ll first stumble upon Litlanesfoss and she doesn’t disappoint. Flanked on either side by hexagonal basalt columns this waterfall is incredibly striking!
At the top of the hike you encounter Hengifoss. As famous for its rock formations as the waterfall itself, you’ll noticed bright red lines running perpendicular to the falls. Due to the high amounts of oxidized iron in the soil, these red highlights make Hengifoss quite a beautiful and highly unusual waterfall.
Dettifoss - Vatnajökull glacier
The most voluminous waterfall in Iceland, this powerhouse kicks up quite some spray. We went when the weather was subzero and with extreme windchill it made for quite a chilly experience.
Goðafoss - Skjálfandafljót River
Nicknamed “Waterfall of the Gods” Goðafoss is a must see on your trip to Iceland. Legend has it that when Icelanders decided to join Christianity they would throw their pagan idols into the massive waterfall.
Borgarfjörður & Hraunfossar - Hvítá River
My second favorite waterfall in Iceland, Hraunfossar is unique as the water flows directly out of the porous lava, creating quite an ethereal look.
While the falls are beautiful my absolute favorite part of this area was Borgarfjörður. This mighty river was incredibly blue, extremely fast moving and something you’ll need to see with your own eyes to experience. There is a small bridge that extends over some of the most dramatic parts of the river and is an experience you won’t want to miss!
I hope you enjoyed my list of the best waterfalls in Iceland.
I’ll leave you with this: While TLC tells you to “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls,” I would amend that by saying “Unless You’re in Iceland.”