With the claim that there are over 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland and the numerous other attractions it offers, there would never be enough time to see it all. With this in mind, when we were planning our trip, we had two options; should we see more and have less time at each place or see less and spend more time at each location. With only a short 8 days there, we opted to see as much as possible. Our first post will be about the waterfalls that we were able to explore and next, attractions that are must sees that are not waterfalls!
Iceland word for Waterfall: Foss
So why does Iceland have 10,000 waterfalls? Iceland’s climate and location make for a perfect blend of creating powerful waterfalls. Frequent rain and snow and large glacier run off, you are bound to be a country of waterfalls. There is no other country like this. If you live in an area where there are no waterfalls, it seems like another world. Oddly enough, if you live in Oregon, you might just feel like it’s a home away from home. Lava rock, green and waterfalls.
In no particular order, here are the waterfalls in Iceland that we were able to see. Even though we saw the smallest percentage you could in 8 short days, it is still inspiring. Our love of nature, our desire to be outdoors and experience something new was satisfied.
Waterfalls in Iceland
Kirkjufell is located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, on the western coast of the island, it is one of the most popular mountains in Iceland. It is the most photographed mountain and with its appearance in GOT its popularity has grown even more. The waterfall, Kirjufellfoss, creates a beautiful foreground. Walk all the way around for every view. Small cruise ships stop at the small coastal town, but don’t worry, the town has stayed true to itself. No hotels, restaurants and touristy shops. You can’t even find a ride to the attraction, walking only.
Barna translates to “Children’s.” This came from the tale of two children who fell into the falls and were never seen again. Some say it’s cursed, to others it’s just a story. The spooky tales make this spot all that more interesting.
Barnafoss is on the same walking path as Hraunfossar. You get two very unique waterfalls on the same walking path. Being a short distance away from Reykjavik, these two waterfalls are very popular.
We first viewed Barnafoss. The powerful blue waters rushing through the lava rock was a sight to see. After a moment there and a couple pictures, you will walk just about a tenth of a mile to Hraunfossar. Unique in the fact that you are seeing subterranean water seeping through the lava, creating a blue pool against the moss and dark rock. The picture above, was only a small part of this. It continued down the river to your left.
While the majority of the popular waterfalls have easy access, this one did not. There were no tour buses in the parking lot and you could not drive up and walk in flip flops to see it. You had a steep climb ahead of you, but it was one of my favorite hikes and waterfalls of the trip. You can read more here: Glymur Waterfalls Hike
Some of the most beautiful pictures taken in Iceland, come from this waterfall. You might have to edit out the hoards of people, but if you get a beautiful day, you can walk right behind this waterfall. Located in the south, it’s right along Highway 1. While you are here, walk the quarter of a mile to Gljufrabui, a short slot canyon with waterfall (you will get wet!). There are very few parking spots at the location, so if you actually snag one at Seljalandsfoss, then walk.
Tip: You have to pay for parking at this waterfall. There are a couple vendors and restrooms as well. If you don’t want to pay, park in the parking lot right at the turn off. You cannot park along the road, as they will give you ticket and there is someone there making people move. It is pretty hectic.
This is probably the busiest waterfall of them all. One of the most well known and photographed, it was absolutely beautiful. It could have been my favorite waterfall that was easily accessible. It was worth fighting the tourists to get a glimpse. This is what it will look like on most days with the tourists and cloudy days. There is a restaurant, camping and tour bus parking, which makes it all that much more busy. I would recommend camping here and maybe getting it to yourself for a moment at night or first thing in the morning.
We parking here for lunch and had a great view of the falls and field with cows eating grass from the hands of giddy tourists.
This was my absolute FAVORITE of the trip. Not busy at all because of the 4×4 only road that gets you there. With only 6 cars in the lot and only room for about 6 cars, we had the views to ourselves.No tour buses or groups, just the slightly brave individuals that get there. Why is this place not as popular? How could that be? There is not much else in the area, out of the way and the road is 4×4 only. If you don’t have a 4×4 vehicle you can park at the bottom, right before the climb and walk the 3+ miles to the waterfall. We parked just up the road from what seemed like an abandoned hostel.
It was stunning, I can’t even start to tell you the feelings that came up. Wherever you stood, there was something for your eyes to gaze at. If you look the other way and have a wide angle lens, the canyon continues to go until the river outruns it and you have a view as far as the eye can see.
Haifoss is on the left and Granni is on the right and as it goes with a lot of attractions there is a tale that goes with Haifoss. An ogress lived in Haifoss, living on trout. One day teenage boys were camping there and one of them threw a rock into the river. The ogress attempted to take the boy, but was unsuccessful. So be careful if you decide to throw rocks off the cliff!
This was probably the most hectic waterfall to see. Located on the Gold Circle, it is easily accessible by all and by all I mean at least 20 tour buses at a time. The line of people walking as close to the waterfall as you could get, never ceased. Parking was a nightmare and it even has two parking lots.
Gullfoss is on the Hvita (White) river. This river is fed by Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull. We were a good distance away from the falls, but you could still feel the ground vibrate and the mist in your face. Definitely worth the chaos, I had never seen a waterfall like this.
Bruarfoss is located along the Golden Ring, but there is no direct access to it. You might find scattered parking areas along the road, but no places for buses. For being along the busiest road in Iceland there were only 8 people at the falls when we got there. It’s a 4 mile RT hike to get here. Gravel, single track and small country roads.
Oxararfoss is in Pingvellir National Park and across the road from a camping area. I wish we would have known because we could have walked there after the tour buses had left and had it to ourselves. There are two parking lots for this waterfall and just a short walk to it. There is a small platform for people to stand because they do not want people climbing around. This means that you will rarely have it to yourself and there were be at least 5 dozen people around snapping pictures for the 20 minutes they have at the falls.
I loved this one because it was nestled into the canyon and you could watch the water flow down the river. At dusk or first thing in the morning, I bet it’s spectacular.
Tip: Please respect the signs that are up stating NO ROCK CLIMBING or NO ACCESS to an area. We saw person after person ignoring these signs and going right up to the falls. I don’t want you in my picture, nor do I want you to ruin it for others because they close the area.
Waterfall we missed near Skaftafell
We stayed the night at Skaftafell National Park. Right at the campground was the trail to Svartifoss. Translated to Black falls, you will be able to tell how it got its name when you reach it. The dark lava columns that hug both sides are attention grabbing.
We had unlucky weather at that point and I was injured so we missed it. It is busy, but only with people dedicated to hiking to and from. I would suggest doing it if you are close and let us know how it was!
Waterfalls we missed in the north
With RV problems, we missed making it to the north/NE. Two of the waterfalls that were high on my list were:
If you have been, let me know how they are so I can start planning our next trip back to Iceland!
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6 thoughts on “Waterfalls in Iceland”
Looks like it has a fantastic time for you both. Very interesting info. I had no idea about the waterfalls in Iceland. Thanks for sharing. MA
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It was really incredible!
Beautiful falls, but the crowds are unappealing – early morning probably the best opportunity. Thanks for posting!
We definitely will know better for next time! It was pretty amazing how the crowds turned us off from some really beautiful places.
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It’s such a surreal landscape – so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
Love waterfalls. Nature’s art. 😀