Iceland is a country full of beautiful waterfalls. It can be hard to narrow down which ones to see when you have limited time. Even just trying to narrow down the top five waterfalls in Iceland that we saw meant including a couple of bonus nearby waterfalls.
With only six days in Iceland in June to explore, we set out to see as much as we could, using the midnight sun to our advantags. After driving Ring Road and exploring the country, here are the five best waterfalls in Iceland that you won’t want to miss!
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Godafoss, “Waterfall of the Gods”, is located in the northern part of Iceland. It is about five hours away from Reykjavik and about 45 minutes from Akureyri. Many lists will rank it higher on the list of the best waterfalls in Iceland, but you will see why we ranked others higher.
What We Liked: Godafoss is the fourth largest waterfall in Iceland, and it is easy to access from the road. You can see it as you drive up, and there is not much walking needed. You can walk to both sides of the waterfall if you want to see different angles, and the walk from one side to the other only takes about 5 – 10 minutes. Godafoss consists of multiple waterfalls all next to each other which makes for an impressive sight.
Tips for Godafoss: If you visit in the summer, Godafoss is a popular waterfall for tours. Many people visit while staying in Akureyri since it is so close and easy to access. We went around 10 p.m., and we still had plenty of sunlight. All of the tours were already gone for the day, so it was only us and about 10 other people the entire time we were there. If you go in winter (we have not), I have seen amazing photos of the Northern Lights over Godafoss. If you decide to go, driving may not be the best idea if you are not comfortable with the winter road conditions.
#4: Glujfrabui (& Seljalandsfoss)
Glujfrabui is one of the best waterfalls in Iceland, but it comes with an extra bonus: the nearby Seljalandsfoss. Located only an hour and a half from Reykjavik, these waterfalls are easy to get to on a day trip or on your trip around the infamous Ring Road.
What We Liked: One waterfall is good, but two waterfalls makes this one just a little bit better. You can see Seljalandsfoss from Ring Road, and there is an easy walking path to it. Seljalandsfoss is popular because of the path that goes behind the waterfall (perfect for the sunset if you are willing to be up in the middle of the night and get a clear day). Because you can go behind it and access it easily, Seljalandsfoss is commonly listed as one of the best waterfalls in Iceland.
Less popular is Glujfrabui, which is only about a 15 minute walk (or 3 minute drive) down the road. There is a path you can walk between the two and a campground between them if you need somewhere to stay for the night. Glujfrabui is a waterfall set back in a canyon and is barely visible from outside the canyon. There was a path to the top, but it was closed when we were there. You can walk up to the entrance to the canyon to get a good view or even go into the canyon for a better view. This makes Glujfrabui unique and is why it made the list of our favorite waterfalls in Iceland.
Tips for Glujfrabui: You can easily find a tour that includes Seljalandsfoss, but very few people on a tour made their way down to Glujfrabui while we were there. We actually had Glujfrabui marked incorrectly on our map, so we had to make a return trip after going down the road to Skogafoss. Both times there were tour buses in the lot at Seljalandsfoss, and both times were in the evening. During the middle of the day, it can get quite crowded at Seljalandsfoss, so you are better off going in the early morning or late evening in the summer months.
Since there is no parking lot for Glujfrabui, you will either need to park in the space on the side of the road or park at Seljalandsfoss and walk down. I would highly recommend wearing waterproof clothes and shoes for both of these waterfalls. The mist soaks you as you walk behind Seljalandsfoss, but going inside of the canyon to get to Glujfrbui means you walk through the water and then stand in a closed in area with the waterfall and the mist. Everyone who went in came out soaking wet. We did not go all the way in because we were not fully waterproofed (and it was cold!).
#3: Dettifoss & Selfoss
This is the only other combination waterfall on the list. Both of these waterfalls are located in northeast Iceland, about seven hours from Reykjavik, two and a half hours from Akureyri, and less than two hours from Godafoss.
What We Liked: Once again, this is a two-for-one deal on the best waterfalls in Iceland. You will drive a long way on a dirt road to get here, but it is worth it. Plus, that long drive keeps this waterfall relatively empty even in the middle of the day. There is a path from the parking lot out to Dettifoss that takes about 10 minutes to walk. However, you will want to stop along the way and enjoy the different views of the waterfall and the canyon. Dettifoss makes it so high on our list because it is an extremely powerful waterfall. In fact, it is the most powerful waterfall in Europe according to many sources. You can walk up to the edge and feel the power of the water as it pours over the edge.
From Dettifoss, don’t turn back for your car – look for the sign pointing you to Selfoss. It is about a kilometer walk (less than 3/4 of a mile). There are some rocks to climb over, but it is overall a relatively easy hike. Selfoss is made up of what looks like hundreds of waterfalls. It is truly impressive because of how far the falls spread out. Not many others made the hike out to it. There was only one other person when we got there and another couple hiking out on our way back.
Tips for Dettifoss & Selfoss: You can visit both sides of Dettifoss by car, but it will take you an hour and a half to drive between them. If you are only visiting one side, definitely visit the east side. The east side lets you get closer and see exactly what makes Dettifoss and Selfoss among the best waterfalls in Iceland. The west side has a large parking lot and paved roads, so all of the tour buses visit that side. The west side faces the waterfall, but the view is obstructed by the mist. On the west side, there is a viewing platform but no way to get up close to the waterfall. On the east side, there is parking for cars only, so there are less people. Plus, you can walk right up to the edge and feel the water as it goes over the edge.
From the west side, you can still access Selfoss, but you cannot get the full view of the falls. You do have the better view of the main waterfall at Selfoss though. The east side lets you see the entire spread of the falls. Most of the falls that make up Selfoss are on the west side, so the path ends early on that side. We only saw one person hiking out on the west side of Selfoss, so it is not a popular hike on that side either.
If I’m being honest, Haifoss ties for #1 on my list of the best waterfalls in Iceland. Haifoss is located in southwest Iceland. On the map, it may look close to Reykjavik and the Golden Circle, but it is not as close as it looks. It is a two hour drive from Reykjavik or a little over an hour and a half from Gullfoss if you come straight from the Golden Circle.
What We Liked: Haifoss is off of the beaten path. Because it is so far off of the beaten path, it is not a popular destination. There were three other vehicles parked when we arrived, and we only saw two other couples. From the parking lot, you hike down for about five to ten minutes to get to the view of the falls. There are actually two waterfalls together (Granni, “neighbor” is the other) here, and it is an amazing view. A rainbow in the mist welcomed us. The water falls 400 feet (122 meters) to the base of the gorge. You can hike right out to the edge of the cliff, but be careful along the edge as some parts are not stable.
Tips for Haifoss: A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended, but you can make it in a two-wheel drive. It is not an F-road (four-wheel drive required), so any vehicle can drive on the road. Keep in mind that the road is rocky and sometimes a little steep. With a small vehicle, you will want to drive slowly as ground clearance may be an issue at times. Your other option is to park at the bottom and hike up, but it is a long hike. Actually, if you are going all out for your trip, you can hire a private helicopter to take you here too. We only know that because one landed while we were there. You can also hike down to the base of the falls, but we did not due to time.
Our favorite waterfall in Iceland (tied for me, but the top for my husband) was Aldeyjarfoss. It is located in the northern part of the country. From Rekjavik, the drive takes about 6 hours. From Akureyri, the drive is only about an hour and half. If you are visiting Godafoss, it is only a 45 minute drive past Godafoss.
What We Liked: What makes Aldeyjarfoss top the list of the best waterfalls in Iceland? It is probably partially because Aldeyjarfoss is the hardest to access (see below). We were the only ones there when we arrived and still the only ones there an hour later. Two other couples arrived just before we left. We did visit later in the evening, but there was still plenty of light. Aldeyjarfoss is unique because of the basalt columns surrounding it and the way the water pools at the base. There is even a natural pool you can hike down to across from the base of the fall. It is only about a foot deep, and the water was relatively warm from sitting in the sunlight all day. It looked like there was another natural pool at the top, but there was no water in it while we were there.
Tips for Aldeyjarfoss: Aldeyjarfoss was the only waterfall we visited on an F-road. That means that only four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed. Some rental car companies do not allow their cars on these roads. Only the last part of the road was an F-road, and there is a sign when it starts. You can park on the side of the road and hike the last part. Honestly, the drive to Aldeyjarfoss in the summer would probably be okay in a two-wheel drive as long as the road is dry. The road gets worse and includes river crossings after Aldeyjarfoss.
Deciding which waterfalls should make our list of the best waterfalls in Iceland wasn’t easy. Which of these waterfalls is your favorite? Is there any we missed that should have made our list? Let me know in the comments below!
Looking for more Iceland tips and tricks? Find our full Iceland itinerary for a 6 day Ring Road adventure here, our hiking guide to the famous Iceland plane wreck here, and how to get into the Blue Lagoon in Iceland for free (and without the crowds) here.
Looking for hotels for while you are hunting down the best waterfalls in Iceland? We stayed at Hotel Lotus in Reykjavik and at Icelandair Hotel Akureyri in Akureyri.* (Looking for a hotel in a different destination? Use these links or the one on the right side of the page.) Considering a Groupon or Living Social trip to Iceland? Check out our blog post about them here.
All photos edited with Travel In Her Shoes Presets .*
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