Iceland is home to hundreds, not to say thousands, waterfalls, many of which don’t even have formal names. Iceland falls into the subarctic climate category, characterized by abundant rainfalls and snow, and its near-Arctic location brings a high concentration of large glaciers, whose melts feed many rivers when Summer comes. Icelandic waterfalls range from powerful falls to tall narrow ones, and others that words cannot describe. Most of them are easily accessible while driving around the Ring Road, while others require a bit of hiking. The falls change faces as the seasons go, offering an everchanging show to their visitors, sometimes appearing at their full flow, sometimes frozen.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the picturesque waterfalls, that will give you the thrill, in no specific order.
Aldeyjarfoss lies a little off the beaten track, in the upper part of the Icelandic highlands, where it drops from an ancient lava field formed some 9.500 years ago. Aldeyjarfoss descends down a 20-meter drop into an icy cold basin, whose vivid blue is a stark contrast with the black basalt rocks and white foam. The basalt columns are someway reminiscent of Svartifoss Waterfall, despite different proportions. The falls are accessible from both sides, each bank providing a special angle and countless photo opportunities depending on light conditions.
Although not as big as its Icelandic counterparts, Brúarfoss has earned its place among Iceland’s top waterfalls and is a welcome break from the crowds on your Golden Circle trip. Whether amid snowy landscapes or vibrant green shrubs, Brúarfoss is a sight to behold. Glacial blue rapids fall in countless small runlets over black volcanic rocks, forming a living painting.
Dettifoss earns the title of the most powerful waterfall in Europe, in terms of volume discharge, with an average water flow close to 200 m3/s. Water plunges from a height of 44 meters into the gorge below, in a deafening noise you can hear long before reaching the waterfall. The most adventurous will want to follow the 34-kilometre long hiking trail, going along the canyon from Dettifoss to Ásbyrgi, offering priceless views.
The Westfjords are one of Iceland’s best-kept secrets, not made for fast travelling, and rich in natural wonders at every bend, such as the mighty Dynjandi. Dynjandi (thunderous) consists of seven waterfalls but the uppermost waterfall is the one that gets all the fame, often compared to a bridal veil, though a 100-meter high bridal veil. As the name suggests, the thunderous roar of the water can be heard as you hike your way up to the fall.
Goðafoss, the waterfall of the gods, is not only a place of sheer beauty but also the scene of the conversion to Christianity to the detriment of Norse Paganism, in year 1.000. Ice-blue glacial water tumbles down from a height of 12 meters into a 30-meter wide arena. The falls can be seen from both sides, with a short distance between each other that will allow you to try both viewpoints.
Háifoss (high falls), 122-meter high, lies on the edge of the highlands, in South Iceland. Together with Granni Waterfall, they offer a panoramic view over the narrow gorge that has nothing to envy to aerial photography. The mountain track leading to the waterfall is rather bumpy and therefore only accessible with a 4x4, but once there, an easy-to-follow trail takes you to the top for a surreal sight.
This one must be earned, with a 2.5-kilometer upwards hike along the gorge, but as a perk you get to see two splendid waterfalls in one. Halfway you can find Litlanesfoss Waterfall, commonly named Stuðlabergsfoss, the basalt column falls. Then you reach Hengifoss whose red clay layers testify of eruptions dating back to the Tertiary period. 128 meters high, Hengifoss claims to be the 2nd highest waterfall in Iceland after Glymur (198m) and hides in the East.
Did you notice how all names from this list end in -foss? Perhaps you already guessed that this is the Icelandic term for a waterfall, then you are right! Hraunfossar (lava falls) stream over 900 meters, out of a lava field from a past eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjökull. Its glacial water appear turquoise one day, and milky the day after, but what truly beautifies the waterfall is the seasonal cycle: the brilliant colors of autumn are a treat for the eye!
Kirkjufellsfoss has a short 5-meter drop but owes its success to its location at the feet of the Mount Kirkjufell mountain, the iconic landmark of Snæfellsnes peninsula that has become a must-visit destination for photographers, in all seasons. The combination of Kirkjufell and the falls make for perfect picture postcards, be it under the midnight sun or covered with snow, under northern lights.
Svartifoss (black falls), located in the Skaftafell Nature Reserve in South Iceland, takes his name from the tall black lava columns bordering it, resembling a church organ. With a drop of approximately 12 meters, some would consider Svartifoss as a small waterfall, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in beauty. In the wintertime, snow and icicles add to the dramatic settings!
We hope this article satisfied your thirst for waterfalls although you need to come see for yourself! Just to make sure, here are three more that don’t need any introduction anymore but surely deserve honourable mentions!