Top 5 Waterfalls in Iceland
These five waterfalls are must-sees while visiting Iceland.
It's no secret that Iceland is home to breathtaking scenery and some of the world's most impressive waterfalls. In fact, we visit a handful of these waterfalls on our Iceland trip!
Here are our top five waterfalls, handpicked by our staff:
One of our favorite waterfalls in Iceland! Skogafoss is a popular place to go when visiting the South Coast of Iceland. Skogafoss is 25 meters (82 feet) wide and 60 meters (197 feet) high and is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. A waterfall towering at this height on a sunny day generates a lot of spray which can mean one or two things, a single rainbow or a double rainbow!
Also, don’t forget to climb over 370 steps (depends where you start), to get to the top of the waterfall where the view is breathtaking. Once you get to the top of Skogafoss, you can hike around the area. There’s a small trail that follows the river behind the waterfall.
Skogafoss is only one of many waterfalls on the Skoga river which holds a hefty amount of char and salmon population making it a popular spot for fishermen in the warmer months. If you have time, you should go out and explore some more.
Gullfoss or ‘The Golden Waterfall’ is part of the Golden Circle, a popular and touristic route in Iceland. There’s a path that can take you closer to the waterfall so don’t forget your rain jacket.
Gullfoss is on a canyon on the Hvita river. It towers 32 meters (105 feet) in height into a narrow river gorge that is comprised of two levels, leaving visitors in awe of nature’s raw power. A few actually say that Gullfoss could be two separate waterfalls because of its two features. The first drop is 11 meters (36 feet) while the second drop is 21 meters (69 feet).
In the 1920s, foreign investors wanted to use the waterfalls energy to support a hydroelectric plant that they had ambitions of building. A woman by the name of Sigríður Tómasdóttir tried to get the contract void by hiring a lawyer for this battle. The legal battle was a struggle and lasted for years, forcing her to walk all the way to and from Reykjavik (100 km/ 62 miles). Her circumstances became so dire that she threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction started. Her passion, resulted in her success. Today, Sigríður is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist, and her lawyer Sveinn Björnsson, went on to become Iceland’s first president in 1944.
Seljalandfoss is a beautiful waterfall on the South Coast. It is narrower and taller than the previous falls we’ve mentioned. Cascading over a height of 60 meters (200 feet), it’s no wonder, its popularity remains unmatched. One of its special features is a pathway that encircles the waterfall. You may walk behind the waterfall, but don’t forget your rain jacket as getting wet is a likely scenario.
If you’re not yet tired of waterfalls, walk for about 5 minutes and you’ll find another hidden waterfall. Yep, Iceland is all about waterfalls! A lot of visitors like to visit Gljúfrabúi, which is considered to be the hidden gem of the area. The name means “dweller of the gorge” probably because it sits behind a big rock which almost covers it completely.
Fun fact, Seljalandsfoss can be seen in Justin Bieber’s music video for his song ‘I’ll Show You’.
Oxararfoss is a small waterfall located in Thingvellir National Park. It cascades only 13 meters (44 feet) and has a width of six meters (20 feet). The pool of water is engulfed with large and smooth rocks which get rather icy during the winter. It is not entirely the work of Mother Nature as it was built by men ages ago to provide water to members and visitors coming to visit.
The waterfall is also said to be where tectonic plates meet and is located in the original site of the parliament founded in 930 AD. Icelanders would meet here to pass laws, settle disputes and share news. It was a very progressive parliament, giving voice to all people. It actually granted women divorces long before other nations considered it. This location is also a place where some barbaric acts took place, such as battles and prosecutions. Historically, Öxarárfoss is a witness to this history.
Legend says that on New Year’s Eve at midnight, the waterfall would run red with either wine or blood, announcing prosperity ahead or the warning of a war…
Nope, we won’t give the full name of this waterfall, we’ll keep it a secret 😉 So if you ever come on our Iceland trip, your trip leader will definitely take you there! It is a lesser known waterfall which makes it all the more exciting to visit. It is 30 meters high (98 feet) and is half hidden so you’ll need to hike a little bit to get there. The power of the waterfall and the beauty of the surrounding area make it very worthwhile.
Fun fact: In case you didn’t notice, every waterfall’s name in Iceland ends by “foss”, which means “waterfall”. Easy, right?