Iceland’s most recognizable series of attractions are its numerous waterfalls – some plummeting from huge heights while others almost dribbling across the lava rocks. We saw a few waterfalls nearly every day during our drive across the ring road in Iceland. Some of the best waterfalls for us were not the most famous of Iceland’s waterfalls (stunning though they were, albeit a bit crowded), but the slightly lesser-known ones.
A question that anyone (us included) travelling across Iceland will invariably ask is why are there so many waterfalls in Iceland? There seems to be a beautiful waterfall at every turn, some not even marked. We came across a few of such unmarked waterfalls on the road and were so compelled by them that we made u-turns to come back and have a closer look! For us, these were among the best waterfalls in Iceland!
So, coming back to the question of abundance of waterfalls in Iceland – it is primarily because of the North Atlantic climate (frequent rain & snow) coupled with Iceland’s Arctic location (large glaciers melting into rivers) and its topography (tall mountains & volcanoes). Interesting right?!
We’ve seen several waterfalls across the world – from the powerful Niagara Falls (which we found a bit too commercialized) in the US to the stunning Iguazú Falls in Brazil (which were as close to nature as can be!) to the beautiful waterfalls in our own backyard of Switzerland (the powerful Trummelbach Falls, the infamous Reichenbach Falls and the beautiful Rhine Falls) – and have been wowed by them all. Iceland, though, is a truly special case.
Best waterfalls in Iceland
The waterfalls in Iceland are among the best in the world – very close to nature (most do not even have ropes alongside the falls!) and with beautiful landscapes (from looming glaciers to lava fields!). While some of Iceland’s waterfalls require a bit of a hike or hopping over a few rocks, most of them are easily accessible from the ring road – sometimes even visible from the road!
Waterfalls are going to be one of the major highlights of your trip to Iceland so make sure you visit the top 10 best Iceland waterfalls! Here’s the list arranged in the order of our favourites, complete with details on the location of the waterfall, how to get to it and the GPS location for each for your Iceland waterfalls map.
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Aldeyjarfoss – the most spectacular waterfall in Iceland!
Location of Aldeyjarfoss: Northern Iceland
Unique features about Aldeyjarfoss: Remote location (so absolutely no people!), Stunning scenery (this narrow waterfall is situated in a completely bare landscape making it seem out of place!)
Set in an amphitheatre of basalt columns, Aldeyjarfoss is the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen and it is for me the best waterfall in Iceland. It reminded me of a bridal gown, complete with a long train!
Aldeyjarfoss drops 20 meters from the ancient Báðardalshraun lava field along the Skjálfandafljót river in North-Iceland. The basalt columns surrounding are it are perfectly smooth & symmetrical and look almost hand-carved! Aldeyjarfoss is one of the most photogenic spots in Iceland.
When we visited, there were just 4-5 people other than us, compared to the tens (and even hundreds!) of people at several other waterfalls.
How to get to Aldeyjarfoss
GPS coordinates of Aldeyjarfoss on Iceland waterfalls map: 65°21’52.0″N 17°20’28.9″W
Aldeyjarfoss is located slightly off the beaten path between Akureyri and Mývatn. It needs a 45-50 minute detour from the ring road. But if you are planning to visit Goðafoss, a visit to Aldeyjarfoss is an absolute must.
To reach this waterfall, you need to take road 842 to the south from another famous Iceland waterfall, Goðafoss and drive for ~40 kilometres, most of it on a gravel road. The last section (~3 km) is on Road F26, Sprengisandsleið which is a mountain road accessible only with a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
In case you are driving a 2WD vehicle, you can park it along the road before the F26 starts – there is a wooden gate marking the starting point – and hike the ~3 kilometres to the falls. You could also hitchhike the last part – we gave a lift to a lovely German couple and ended up finding out about some more amazing places to visit!
From the car park (free parking), there is a short walk down to the falls, about 10 minutes downhill.
Where should I stay to visit Aldeyjarfoss
The town of Mývatn is ~85 kilometres away (1.5 hours’ drive) while the larger city of Akureyri is 75 kilometres away (~1 hours’ drive).
Facilities available at Aldeyjarfoss: None (told you it was remote!)
Dettifoss – among the most powerful waterfalls in Europe!
Location of Dettifoss: Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland
Unique features about Dettifoss: Supremely powerful and majestic, Added bonus – another beautiful waterfall Selfoss is located a short walk away, Part of the Diamond Circle
The mighty glacier river Jökulsá á Fjöllum flowing from Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe feeds this gigantic waterfall. It is 100 meters wide and falls 45 meters into the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.
The sheer power of this waterfall makes it one of the best waterfalls in Iceland.
Dettifoss has also been featured in a few Hollywood movies – Prometheus’ opening scene is a shot of this waterfall!
How to get to Dettifoss
GPS coordinates of Dettifoss on Iceland waterfalls map: West side: 65°48’43.9″N 16°24’03.0″W; East side: 65°49’09.3″N 16°22’45.8″W
This gigantic waterfall has two entrances – the Eastside accessible through route 864 which is a gravel road and the Westside accessible through route 862. The two entrances are about an hour’s drive apart. We visited both sides and loved them! But if you had to choose, pick the east side – it brings you right next to the waterfall, close enough to touch the water flowing down! Both sides have ample free parking.
The drive towards the Eastside of the waterfall is quite stunning – barren and desert-like for long stretches with a large no. of interesting crater formations. It’s hard to imagine a large waterfall to be anywhere close by! Since it’s in a canyon you don’t see it till you are right there. Even from the parking lot (free parking), it’s hardly visible. You need to walk downhill for about 10-15 minutes to bring you close to the river and the waterfall. It’s a completely open area with not even any rope fencing so be careful!
The road leading to the Eastside may be closed in the winter due to snow/ muddy conditions so do check before visiting.
The Westside of the waterfall is more organized with multiple viewing platforms than the east side though the falls are much further away. You do need to walk about 15 minutes from the parking lot (free parking) to get to the viewing platforms. This side also sees a lot of mist from the waterfall to be prepared to get wet!
Also, take the 15-minute walk to Selfoss from either side. Framed by basalt columns, this waterfall makes for a stunning picture.
Where should I stay to visit Dettifoss
The town of Mývatn is 60 kilometres away (1-hour drive) from the west side and 78 kilometres away (1.5 hours’ drive) from the east side while the town of Húsavík is 90 kilometres away (1.5 hours’ drive) from either side.
Facilities available at Dettifoss: Toilets
Have 5 days in Iceland? Check out this Iceland itinerary.
Goðafoss – the waterfall of the gods!
Location of Goðafoss: Northern Iceland
Unique features about Goðafoss: Beautifully turquoise waters
Fed by the river Skjálfandafljót (the same river on which Aldeyjarfoss is located), Goðafoss has a fall of 12 metres over a width of 30 metres. This horseshoe-shaped gigantic waterfall with its clear bluish white water makes for a stunning sight and a deserving spot on Iceland’s best waterfalls’ list.
Goðafoss derives its name from an old Icelandic saga from 1000 AD about chieftain Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði who threw pagan statues into the waterfall to symbolize the adoption of Christianity as the official religion.
How to get to Goðafoss
GPS coordinates of Goðafoss on Iceland waterfalls map: 65°41’02.5″N 17°32’25.1″W
Located right on the ring road, Goðafoss is easy to visit. There are two parking lots (free parking) to visit both sides of the waterfall and you can easily walk from one to the other.
Where should I stay to visit Goðafoss
The town of Mývatn is 45 kilometres away (45 minutes’ drive) while the larger city of Akureyri is 35 kilometres away (~30 minutes’ drive). There is a guest house right at the waterfall as well.
Facilities available at Goðafoss: Toilets, Cafe, Souvenir shop, Gas station, Guesthouse
Gullfoss – the most popular waterfall in Iceland!
Location of Gullfoss: South-west Iceland
Unique features about Gullfoss: Part of the Golden Circle (Gullfoss translates to ‘Golden Falls’, a name it lends to the Golden Circle)
The mighty glacier river Hvítá flowing from Langjökull, the second-largest glacier in Iceland, feeds this powerful waterfall. Gullfoss plummets in two dramatic stages – the first one is relatively short 11 metres drop followed by a giant 21 metres drop sending up so much mist that you can’t even see the full drop!
Since it’s part of the popular Golden Circle in Iceland, it tends to be quite crowded. It might be difficult to find a spot for yourself to take in the falls in peace! Nonetheless, it’s a stunning sight and a must-see.
How to get to Gullfoss
GPS coordinates of Gullfoss on Iceland waterfalls map: 64°19’31.2″N 20°07’47.5″W
Located at the heart of the Golden Circle and just 10 minutes away from Geysir, Gullfoss is easy to reach. It can be done as a day trip from Reykjavik or as part of a Golden Circle tour.
There’s ample parking on-site (free parking) and from the car park, you can walk down towards the multiple viewing platforms and can get so close to the waterfall that you can actually touch the water!
The barely-there rope boundaries did make me a bit nervous though, but that was early days in Iceland and I had much to learn for the waterfalls to come had no ropes to hold on to whatsoever. I could stand as close to the edge of some waterfalls (Dettifoss, Aldeyjarfoss and more!) as I dared – which wasn’t much though since I’m a bit of a chicken! There were people literally hanging off the cliffs and taking pictures giving me second-hand nervousness!
Where should I stay to visit Gullfoss
The town of Geysir is just 10 kilometres away (10 minutes’ drive), the town of Flúðir is 30 kilometres away (30 minutes’ drive), the city of Reykjavik is 120 kilometres away (~2 hours’ drive).
Facilities available at Gullfoss: Toilets, Restaurant, Souvenir shop
Kirkjufellsfoss – the most iconic location in Iceland!
Location of Kirkjufellsfoss: Western Iceland
Unique features about Kirkjufellsfoss: The most photographed spot in Iceland (and deservedly so!) due to the dramatic shape of Mt. Kirkjufell and the beautiful coastal location.
This waterfall is more about the mountain framing it than the falls itself. Located on the Snæfellsnesnes peninsula, Mt. Kirkjufell is a ~465-metre high mountain standing above the tiny fishing village of Grundarfjörður. It’s uniquely conical shape makes it one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. This iconic mountain lends its name to both the river (Kirkjufellsá) and the waterfalls (Kirkjufellsfoss) situated on the river.
The name Kirkjufell translates to ‘Church Mountain’ due to the resemblance to a church steeple.
How to get to Kirkjufellsfoss
GPS coordinates of Kirkjufellsfoss on Iceland waterfalls map: 64°55’38.6″N 23°18’26.1″W
Located just a few minutes’ drive west of Grundarfjörður, Kirkjufellsfoss is easy to reach. There is a car park on-site (free parking) however it is not large enough to accommodate the crowds. A lot of folks had parked right on the road due to lack of space.
From the car park, you can walk up to and across the waterfalls to get the perfect shot of the falls and the mountain.
Where should I stay to visit Kirkjufellsfoss
The village of Grundarfjörður is just 3 kilometres away (5 minutes’ drive), the town of Borgarnes on the Ring Road is ~105 kilometres away (1.5 hours’ drive), the city of Reykjavik is ~185 kilometres away (2.5 hours’ drive),
Facilities available at Kirkjufellsfoss: None
Skógafoss – the waterfall with the best rainbows!
Location of Skógafoss: Southern Iceland
Unique features about Skógafoss: Rainbows!
One of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland, Skógafoss is located on the Skógá river at the cliffs of the former coastline. It has a width of 25 metres and a drop of 60 metres. Due to this large fall, there’s always a lot of spray resulting in multiple rainbows!
As with several other locations in Iceland, Skógafoss also has a legend behind it – it’s said that the first Viking settler buried a treasure behind the waterfall. Many attempts were made to recover the treasure and years later the locals were able to find the treasure chest but were only able to grasp the ring before the chest disappeared. This ring is now on display at the Skógar museum near the waterfall.
This waterfall has been featured in several movies – Thor: The Dark World, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Dilwale etc.
How to get to Skógafoss
GPS coordinates of Skógafoss on Iceland waterfalls map: 63°31’46.6″N 19°30’45.8″W
Located right on the ring road, Skógafoss is easy to visit. As you drive towards this waterfall, not only will you be able to see the rushing 60-meter waterfall but also the icy glaciers around it.
There is a large car park on-site (free parking). A short walk from the car-park brings you to the base of the falls. You can either spend time close to the waterfall at the bottom or walk up (the many, many) steps to the top of the gorge for a different view of the waterfall.
Where should I stay to visit Skógafoss
Skógar is only 1.5 kilometres away, the town of Vik is 35 kilometres away (30 minutes’ drive), the city of Reykjavik is ~150 kilometres away (2 hours’ drive).
Facilities available at Skógafoss: Toilets, Restaurant, Hotel
Hraunfossar – the lava waterfalls!
Location of Hraunfossar: Western Iceland
Unique features about Hraunfossar: Waterfall appears to originate out of nowhere!
This is a unique waterfall originating out of the lava field Hallmundarhraun in the form of rivulets and flowing into the Hvítá River in Borgarfjörður. The falls run in a cascade along a 900-metre cliff with water originating from Langjökull, Iceland’s second-largest glacier.
The name Hraunfossar translates to lava waterfalls – again quite a clear description of what the waterfall is about!
How to get to Hraunfossar
GPS coordinates of Hraunfossar on Iceland waterfalls map: 64°42’07.4″N 20°58’42.3″W
Getting to Hraunfossar is easy – the route is well marked and paved. There is a large parking lot (free parking) and the falls are a 2-minute walk away.
Where should I stay to visit Hraunfossar
The town of Borgarnes on the Ring Road is ~60 kilometres away (45 minutes’ drive), the city of Reykjavik is ~120 kilometres away (2 hours’ drive).
Facilities available at Hraunfossar: Toilets, Restaurant
Seljalandsfoss – the 360-degree waterfall!
Location of Seljalandsfoss: Southern coast of Iceland
Unique features about Seljalandsfoss: Walk behind the waterfall! Bonus waterfall: Gljúfrabúi
Originating in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull, this waterfall is part of the Seljalands river. The powerful Seljalandsfoss drops 60 metres into a shallow pool in a pretty, lush green meadow.
The steep cliff over which the waterfall drops allows you to walk behind the waterfall for a truly unique view! Prepare to get wet though.
Since it’s one of the most popular sights in Iceland, it tends to be quite crowded. Nonetheless, the waterfall a spectacular sight and deserves a visit.
A 10-minute walk from Seljlandsfoss is the beautiful hidden waterfall Gljufrabui. Do note that you have to walk inside a canyon, up a river to get to this waterfall so it’s gonna be wet and slippery. I didn’t fancy getting all wet so it was only Milind who made his way in but he claimed it was worth it!
How to get to Seljalandsfoss
GPS coordinates of Seljalandsfoss on Iceland waterfalls map: 63°36’58.1″N 19°59’33.8″W
This waterfall is located right next to the ring road and is one of the most easily accessible waterfalls in Iceland. You’ll be able to see it in the distance long before as you drive towards it.
There is a large car park on-site. You do need to pay for parking here.
Where should I stay to visit Seljalandsfoss
The town of Hvolsvöllur is 20 kilometres away (20 minutes’ drive), the town of Hella is 35 kilometres away (30 minutes’ drive), the town of Vik is 60 kilometres away (50 minutes’ drive), the city of Reykjavik is ~130 kilometres away (1.75 hours’ drive).
Facilities available at Seljalandsfoss: Toilets, Cafe
Öxarárfoss – the historic waterfall!
Location of Öxarárfoss: Þingvellir National Park
Unique features about Öxarárfoss: Located in Þingvellir, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most important historical and cultural sites in Iceland.
While quite small (20 metres drop), this beautiful waterfall is one of the most popular attractions of the wonderous Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir is a UNESCO world heritage site and is one of the most important historical and cultural sites in Iceland. Iceland’s parliament met here from the 10th to the 18th century. Þingvellir is also unique for its geological feature of having the boundaries of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
Situated on the river Öxará, the Öxarárfoss was created when the river was diverted to channel water into the ravine Almannagjá in the 9th century to provide water for the Icelandic parliament.
How to get to Öxarárfoss
GPS coordinates of Öxarárfoss on Iceland waterfalls map: 64°15’53.6″N 21°06’53.5″W
Getting to Öxarárfoss is easy – the route is well marked and paved. There is a large parking lot (paid parking) and the falls are a short 10-minute walk, slightly uphill, away.
Where should I stay to visit Öxarárfoss
The town of Laugarvatn is 25 kilometres away (30 minutes’ drive), the city of Reykjavik is 50 kilometres away (1 hours’ drive).
Facilities available at Öxarárfoss: None
Folaldafoss – the hidden gem of Iceland!
Location of Folaldafoss: Eastern Iceland
Unique features about Folaldafoss: Unknown waterfall, so you have the place to yourself!
This 20 metres waterfall on the river Berufjarðará falls into a stunning turquoise pool, below which is another small cascading fall.
How to get to Folaldafoss
GPS coordinates of Folaldafoss on Iceland waterfalls map: 64°48’20.4″N 14°33’30.2″W
Take route 939 instead of the ring road as you drive north from Höfn towards Egilsstaðir. While heading from Höfn, from the junction of the ring road and road 939, the waterfall is only about 3 kilometres away.
There is a small car park (free parking) here.
You will need to walk about 10 minutes from the car park to reach close to the waterfall. Not the easiest walk since you’ll need to scramble over small cliffs and a lot of rocks & boulders.
Where should I stay to visit Folaldafoss
The town of Djúpivogur is 25 kilometres away (30 minutes’ drive), the village of Breiðdalsvík is 45 kilometres away (40 minutes’ drive), the town of Egilsstaðir is ~140 kilometres away (2 hours’ drive),
Facilities available at Folaldafoss: None
Map of the top 10 best Iceland waterfalls
Practical tips for visiting Iceland’s best waterfalls
- Weather – Iceland is cold throughout the year, even during summers! Make sure you are wearing layers and have a cap/ scarf. It can also be very windy – in fact, our rental car guy had told us to always check the wind direction before opening the door so that the door doesn’t get ripped away! Apparently that happens a fair bit and is not covered by insurance!
- Food – Iceland is expensive so it might be a better idea to cook yourself. Also, restaurants/ grocery stores are few and far between so carry packed lunches with you and stock up as often as you can. In a similar vein, toilet facilities are few and far between so make use of them when you can!
- Petrol/ Diesel – Same as food, stock up as often as you can. There are long stretches with no civilization whatsoever where you do not want to get stuck! We filled up our car’s tank nearly every day. You can get fuel discount cards from your rental company to save on the pricey fuel.
- The emergency number for Iceland is 112
Further reading for visiting Iceland
- Click here for a detailed guide to Iceland – including how many days to spend, the best time to visit, things to do in every season, detailed road trip itinerary and more!
- The weather is quite unpredictable – the best way to keep track of it is this website by the Icelandic Met Office
- While Iceland is a completely safe country, there could be natural phenomenon (strong winds, rockfalls, hazardous waves etc.) which could put you at risk. Stay safe and check the safetravel Iceland page regularly
Which waterfall do you think looks the most spectacular? Which one is your favourite?
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