Chasing Waterfalls in Iceland: The Top 10 You Can't Miss

Kvernufoss waterfall- chasing Iceland's top 10 waterfalls

Iceland is a breathtaking destination filled with natural geological wonders. Among those wonders are Iceland's endless number of waterfalls. These falls range in size and power but are all equally stunning. With thousands of waterfalls to see in one country, Iceland is an ideal place for waterfall lovers. 

As a self-proclaimed waterfall chaser, one of my lifelong dreams was to visit as many of Iceland's waterfalls as possible. This summer I made that dream a reality, albeit partially, when I went on a road trip across Iceland. I saw countless waterfalls I longed to see for over a decade, and every last one exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, I couldn’t visit all of the accessible waterfalls in Iceland on one trip, but it was a start until I returned. From my adventure, I’ve listed Iceland’s top 10 waterfalls you can’t miss.

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Skógafoss waterfall, mostly empty on a first time trip to Iceland.

FAQs: 

How Many Waterfalls Does Iceland Have? 

Iceland is home to over 10,000 waterfalls! For a country that's approximately the size of the state of Kentucky in America, it makes that number even more impressive. The abundance of waterfalls is due to Iceland's unique geology, including its glaciers and volcanoes. Not all of these waterfalls are accessible, but enough are that it would be impossible to visit them all in one trip. However, you can still see plenty. I lost count of the waterfalls I saw on my Iceland road trip because there were just too many to keep count. 

When Is the Best Time to Visit Iceland Waterfalls?

Many of the waterfalls in Iceland are accessible year-round, however, the best time to visit them is from June through August. These are the warmest months in Iceland and have less rain compared to the rest of the year. This is also when there is the most daylight, up to even 24 hours during the midnight sun starting in June. Giving travelers ample opportunity to visit the falls at any time of day. Of course, Iceland's waterfalls are stunning in the fall and winter too. However, visitors should take caution when traveling during inclement weather. 

Are Iceland's Waterfalls Free to Visit?

One of the best things about traveling to Iceland is all the free outdoor natural wonders to visit. Iceland is known as one of the most expensive countries to travel to, but that doesn't include the incredible landscapes, notably its endless supply of waterfalls. While Icelands waterfalls are free to visit, if you're driving you will have to pay a parking fee at several of the more popular falls. It's not all the waterfalls, but enough. Be aware of potential parking fees to avoid getting a ticket. 

Woman staring out at Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland.

Chasing Waterfalls in Iceland: The Top 10 You Can't Miss

1. Skógafoss 

There’s some debate as to which falls claim the title of the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland, but Skógafoss always lands at the top of the list. Skógafoss isn't the largest waterfall in Iceland, but it's one of the most popular. At 197 feet tall, Skogafoss is a towering masterpiece of nature with a powerful cascade of water that creates a beautiful mist at its base. On sunny days, a rainbow forms in the mist, creating a true wonder. It is an unmissable attraction on Iceland's south coast. 

The parking lot is right off the Ring Road, and Skógafoss is so tall that drivers can see it from the road. It’s about a 2-hour drive from Reykjavík, and a short walk from the parking lot, making it both accessible and an easy day trip stop. Visitors can walk close to the base of the falls, and the closer you get to Skógafoss, the more beautiful it becomes. You will also get wet so wear waterproof attire. There is also a long staircase next to the waterfall where you can climb to the top and continue on a hike. 

Skógafoss is, in my opinion, the best waterfall in Iceland. Despite the crowds and popularity, it is a magnificent place that took my breath away. I suggest arriving as early as possible to avoid the worst of the crowds. At 8 in the morning, I had Skógafoss to myself apart from a few other visitors.

Fun Fact: In recent years, Skógafoss has been featured throughout pop culture. Notably, in the final season of Game of Thrones, in the scene where Jon Snow and Daenerys kiss among flying dragons. Skógafoss waterfall was also a filming location for Thor: The Dark World, on the series Vikings, and in a Justin Bieber music video. 

Location Coordinates: 63.532145, -19.511235 
Parking Fee: Free parking 

skógafoss waterfall- top 10 waterfalls you can't miss

2. Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is a beautiful waterfall on Iceland's south coast and is regarded as the famous Iceland waterfall you can walk behind. It’s one of Iceland's most popular attractions because of this experience and natural beauty, but also due to its accessibility. This waterfall is right off the Ring Road, less than 2 hours from Reykjavik, with a short paved path leading directly to the falls.  

Walking the path around Seljalandsfoss is an unbelievable experience. Every angle of this Icelandic waterfall will take your breath away. At 200 feet tall, there is a wow factor from its sheer size from the front of the waterfall. On each side of Seljalandsfoss, feel the powerful spray up close while encountering the majestic view of the falls surrounded by lush greenery with a cave behind them.

Couple looking out at Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

However, it’s the ability to walk behind the falls that makes Seljalandsfoss so remarkable. Experiencing a curtain of water before you from a shadowed cave is pure magic. This perspective wows visitors from all over the world. Seljalandsfoss waterfall is particularly spectacular to visit during sunrise or sunset when the sun illuminates the landscape in a golden glow. No matter when you see Seljalandsfoss, you’ll quickly discover why this is one of the best waterfalls in Iceland. 

Bonus Waterfall: Gljúfrabúi

An easy 1.2-mile out-and-back trail connects Seljalandsfoss to Gljúfrabúi waterfall, concealed within a cave. Once considered one of Iceland's hidden gems, it is now as popular as Seljalandsfoss. The trail leads into a small cavern where this gorgeous waterfall awaits. Note of warning, you will get wet here from the incredible spray of the plummeting falls. Gljúfrabúi is a waterfall you don’t want to miss when visiting Seljalandsfoss. 

Location Coordinates: 63.615610, -19.988154
Parking Fee: 800 ISK ($6) 

Couple in cave behind Seljalandsfoss.

3. Dettifoss

Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Iceland due to its impressive water volume and width. It's also one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe, along with Rhine Falls in Switzerland. This massive waterfall is 330 feet wide and has a drop of 150 feet. Dettifoss is one of the main sites of north Icelands Diamond Circle and is part of Vatnajökull National Park. The sediment-heavy runoff from Vatnajökull glacier forms the falls and gives it a unique white-grey color. What makes Dettifoss stand out on this list is the volume of water it produces, with an average of over 3 million gallons per minute!

There are two sides to visit at Dettifoss, the east and the west. They're located on a short 20-minute detour from Icelands Ring Road. Each side is incredible and if time allows a visitor should experience both. Unfortunately, I could only visit the west side on my trip. If you plan to go east, make sure to rent a 4WD for the gravel unpaved road. Both sides require a short moderate to easy out-and-back hike to reach Dettifoss. On the east side, you can go to the edge of the falls for an up-close perspective, but be careful of the intense spray. From the west side, there are multiple viewing platforms to view Dettifoss straight on with no spray. No matter which side you visit, experiencing the power of Dettifoss is remarkable.

If you’re up for more walking, visit the stunning horseshoe-shaped Selfoss waterfall here. The hike takes a little over 2 miles on either side, but if time allows, it’s worth visiting both Dettifoss and Selfoss. These are two waterfalls you don’t want to miss in north Iceland. 

selfoss waterfall- chasing waterfalls in Iceland.

Fun Fact: For my fellow science fiction fans, Dettifoss was the featured site for the opening scene in the 2012 movie Prometheus. 

Location Coordinates: 65.814357, -16.384803
Parking Fee: Free Parking 

Dettifoss Iceland - top 10 waterfall you can't miss

4. Goðafoss

Goðafoss is a magnificent waterfall in northern Iceland and easily accessible from the Ring Road. The name translates to “Waterfall of the Gods,” which represents a pivotal time in Icelandic history when there was a shift from pagan ideology to Christianity in 1000 AD. Icelandic legends are associated with how the name came to be, some believing that the statues of Norse Gods were thrown into the waterfall. While no one knows for sure what occurred, the legends only add to the mystical presence of Goðafoss’s natural beauty.

Considered one of northern Iceland's gems, Goðafoss waterfall is unique for its horseshoe shape and cascading falls divided into smaller sets in the center. Visitors have dubbed it the mini Niagara due to its shape, however, Goðafoss is only 39 feet tall and almost 100 feet wide. Similar to Dettifoss, visitors can see Goðafoss from both the east and west sides. There are parking lots with short walks to the falls on each side and a paved path over a bridge connecting them. 

Goðafoss is a visually striking waterfall with stunning bright blue falls that create a turquoise pool at the bottom. On the east side of the falls, there is a path down to the water's edge. Each side of this Icelandic waterfall will capture you with its magic. 

Location Coordinates: 65.682970, -17.550076
Parking Fee: Free Parking

goðafoss in Iceland - top 10 waterfalls

5. Kvernufoss

Kvernufoss is more than just another breathtaking Iceland waterfall on this list, it's a scene out of an enchanting fairytale. Less known than the more famous Iceland south coast waterfalls, Kvernufoss has gained popularity over the last few years. This 98 feet tall waterfall isn’t as high as its neighbor Skógafoss, but it is more secluded and just as beautiful. The picturesque sights include a flowing river, a rocky gorge, and a mythical cave behind a plummeting waterfall. 

An easy 1-mile out and back trail starting from the Skógar Museum leads to this magical waterfall. The parking lot is located along the Ring Road. It's a 5-minute drive from Skógafoss next door and 2 hours from Reykjavik. This is more of a stroll than a hike, surrounded by a beautiful landscape. In the summertime the gorge and area are carpeted in bright emerald vegetation, creating a wondrous backdrop for the waterfall. During this time, visitors can walk into the cave behind the falls. That’s right, there’s more than one waterfall you can walk behind, and the views here are incredible. 

Woman in the cave behind Kvernufoss.

While Kvernufoss is no longer a hidden gem, it still offers serenity compared to other nearby attractions. Especially earlier or later in the day. Kvernufoss is a must-see waterfall in Iceland and one you can’t miss when visiting the south coast. 

Location Coordinates: 63.528460, -19.480632
Parking fee: 500 ISK ($3.50) 

Up close at Kvernufoss waterfall in Iceland.

6. Kirkjufellsfoss

In the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is Kirkjufell, Iceland’s most famous mountain, and directly south of it are the three stunning waterfalls that form Kirkjufellsfoss. It is one of the top attractions in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and a must-see for anyone visiting the region.

The three falls of Kirkjufellsfoss each only have a drop of 54 feet. While they might be the smallest waterfalls on this list, Kirkjufellsfoss is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland. The iconic image of the mountain with its uniquely shaped peak next to a series of three small waterfalls is a breathtaking sight. There is a parking lot with a short paved trail next to the waterfalls leading to the classic viewpoint of Kirkjufellsfoss with the mountain. It’s an accessible area for anyone to enjoy. 

Depending on the season, the appearance of Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss changes. Whether it’s covered in a blanket of snow in winter, emerald green in the summer, or golden brown in the fall, the scenery is striking. It’s particularly enchanting in the colder months when the Northern Lights are present. I was lucky to see them above Kirkjufell from a distance during my Iceland trip. 

Fun Fact: Kirkjufell is sometimes referred to as the Game of Thrones mountain as it was featured in seasons 6 and 7 in the series as Arrowhead Mountain. Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall is also shown in the season 6 scene with the children of the forest when the first White Walker was created. 

Location Coordinates: 64.92624970481161, -23.311407817620307
Parking Fee: 700 ISK ($5)

Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall with woman in red coat standing before it.

7. Gullfoss

Iceland's Golden Circle is one of the country's most popular attractions. The three main highlights of the Golden Circle are Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and the impressive Gullfoss waterfall. This makes Gullfoss one of the most visited waterfalls on this list and is deemed the most famous waterfall in Iceland. Gullfoss translates to "Golden Falls" due to a stunning golden hue seen on sunny days. The combination of natural beauty and sheer power is part of what makes Gullfoss so unique. It has an incredible height of 104 feet and is 575 feet wide with two large drops. Water plunges from this two-tiered cascade into an equally magnificent canyon. 

Gullfoss is less than two hours from Reykjavík, making it a perfect day trip for travelers staying in the capital city. It’s often combined in a Golden Circle tour, visiting all three attractions. The trail around the falls is paved and accessible from most viewpoints. There are several platforms to see the falls giving visitors different perspectives, including some from above and up close to Gullfoss. I loved seeing this waterfall from further back as the water's reflection created a beautiful rainbow. 

Expect plenty of crowds at Gullfoss no matter when you visit. This waterfall is open year-round and attracts visitors from all over the world. If an area seems to have too many people, try a different viewpoint. There’s also a gift shop and restaurant on-site to warm up after visiting the falls. 

Location Coordinates: 64.326927, -20.120711
Parking Fee: Free Parking

gullfoss waterfall in Iceland with rainbow.

8. Öxarárfoss

Öxarárfoss is located in Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site along Iceland's Golden Circle. At only 44 feet tall, it's one of the smaller waterfalls on this list, but it's one of the park's must-see attractions. Öxarárfoss is an enchanting waterfall with a cascade over rocky cliffs into a river that flows into the valley. Despite being human-made, Öxarárfoss is unique due to its geological characteristics and historical significance. This Icelandic waterfall is in a rift valley where the Eurasian and North American Tectonic plates slowly pull apart each year.  

Apart from the fascinating geology of Þingvellir, where one can stand between two continents, the national park is also the site of Iceland's first parliamentary assembly. There are five parking lots in Þingvellir National Park, but the closest one to Öxarárfoss is the second lot. From here, it's a five-minute walk to the waterfall on an easy path. When visiting Öxarárfoss, check out the national park's other notable sights, including Almannagja to walk between the tectonic plates and the Silfra Fissure where you can snorkel or scuba dive. 

Fun Fact: Öxarárfoss and parts of Þingvellir National Park were famously featured in several scenes of Game of Thrones. Notably, the Öxarárfoss Trail was used for the Bloody Gate scene en route to the Vale. Less widely known, the top of Öxarárfoss is on the cover of the Nine Inch Nails album The Fragile. As a diehard NIN and GOT fan, I couldn't miss this Iceland waterfall. 

Location Coordinates: 64.265786, -21.117796
Parking Fee: 750 ISK (approximately $6) 

Oxararfoss waterfall in Iceland.

9. Glymur 

Standing at 650 feet, Glymur is Iceland's second tallest waterfall. It also has the longest and most challenging hike on this list to reach the falls. You must cross two rivers on a 4.1-mile loop trail to see Glymur. The payoff is worth the effort once this spectacular waterfall comes into view. Even though the trail is difficult, it’s still a popular hike. The reason for that is that Glymur and the surrounding landscape are simply breathtaking. Glymur waterfall is contained within a canyon that has numerous cascades. The surroundings are covered in lush greenery and rugged cliffs. Glymur is approximately an hour from Reykjavik, which makes it a great day trip from the city. 

The challenge of the Glymur waterfall hike is the two river crossings. For the first crossing, there is a log and rope for hikers to use to assist them across the river. An important note is that the log is only there from spring through fall. Don't attempt this hike in the winter without the log. The second river is shallow, but you need to wade through the water. Water shoes are recommended for this leg of the hike. Apart from the river crossings, there are also several steep sections and scrambling necessary to complete the loop. 

If you’re up for the challenging hike, Glymur is one of Iceland's top waterfalls for its natural beauty. Before embarking on the trail, remember to check Iceland's weather and road conditions. There are also no restrooms at the trailhead, so be sure to use them before arriving. 

Location Coordinates: 64.391189, -21.251568 
Parking Fee: Free parking 

Glymur waterfall hike.

10. Hengifoss

In the eastern part of Iceland is Hengifoss, a jaw-dropping waterfall in a unique gorge. At 420 feet, it’s one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland and requires a moderate 3.1-mile loop hike to reach. However, it’s not Hengifoss’s impressive height that sets it apart as one of the top waterfalls in Iceland, but the distinct appearance of the gorge that houses it. The gorge has a pattern of layers of black basalt rock and thin red clay. Resulting in a striking contrast that frames the stunning waterfall. 

Along the trail to Henigfoss waterfall is Litlanesfoss, another towering waterfall surrounded by incredible basalt columns. These columns are a geological wonder and make Litlanesfoss impressive enough to see alone. This is a 2-for-1 waterfall hike which is another factor that sets Henigfoss apart. Although the Henigfoss waterfall hike isn’t as demanding as the one featured above for Glymur, it is still challenging with a steady incline. The trail up to Hengifoss has some steep sections, so take breaks as needed. Thankfully, looping back down is smooth and a descent the entire way. Both Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss are two of the most eye-catching waterfalls in east Iceland. 

Location Coordinates: 65.097900, -14.892593
Parking fee: Free parking 

Hengifoss in Iceland.

Tips for Visiting Iceland's Waterfalls

Get There Early or Late

The one tip I can’t stress enough is to get to the more popular waterfalls as early or as late as possible. For the morning, not only will the early morning light help with photographing Iceland's waterfalls, but the difference in crowds is immense. Plan to arrive before 10 a.m. or at sunset to avoid the worst crowds. 

Wear Waterproof Attire and Shoes

Given Iceland's extreme weather conditions, a waterproof jacket and shoes are essential. It's also necessary for visiting many of Iceland's waterfalls. Several falls on this list allow you to get close to them and even walk behind them. The last thing you want is to get soaked with no way to dry off. Wearing a waterproof jacket, pants, and shoes will help keep you dry. Plus, if a sudden rainstorm occurs, which it often does in Iceland, you're protected. 

Spend Time at Iceland's Waterfalls

Plenty of Iceland's waterfalls are easy to visit with their accessibility from the Ring Road. It can be tempting to make a quick stop, take a few photos, and then go on your way. However, I would recommend allocating enough time to spend at each waterfall. These waterfalls are often surrounded by stunning landscapes, hiking trails, and nearby hidden gems. I spent 30 minutes to over an hour at each waterfall in Iceland, whether I explored or simply soaked up the incredible beauty. 

Side view of Seljalandsfoss.

Map of Top 10 Iceland Waterfalls You Can't Miss

Save this Google map of Iceland's top 10 waterfalls you can’t miss for your next trip. 

 

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Which of these waterfalls would you want to visit first on a trip to Iceland? Let me know in the comments! 

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4 comments

  • Erica says:

    Thanks for such a thorough post about how to make the most of visiting these magnificent waterfalls in Iceland! I love all of the tips and the photos are beautiful!

    Reply
    • Jillian says:

      Thank you so much! I hope the tips are helpful if you decide to visit one day!

      Reply
  • Josy A says:

    This is SUCH a fabulous list! Woooow you found so many incredible waterfalls - we visited Iceland in the winter so saw some frozen, but we really need to go back in spring or summer to hear those waterfalls roar!

    p.s. if you are a waterfall fan, I have a feeling you would love it here in BC, Canada!

    Reply
    • Jillian says:

      Thank you! Seeing the waterfalls frozen must have been spectacular! I hope to also return but in the winter next time! I've only been to Victoria, BC so far, and from that alone I would love to come back and explore more!

      Reply