There is definitely not a shortage of waterfalls in the “land of fire and ice”. After my recent visit to Iceland, I experienced this first hand. I went to Iceland with 3 or 4 waterfalls on my “must see” list, but ended up seeing many many more than that. As you drive around the country (get a rental car.. but that’s an entirely different blog post I will write), you will pass a myriad of waterfalls (I lost count!)… So here are my top 6 waterfalls that are totally worth the trip to see (oh, and they’re all FREE)!
Gulfoss is one the most popular waterfalls in Iceland.. and for good reason. It is massive. The powerful force of the water here is impressive and beautiful. It is easily accessible as it is located right on the golden circle, about a 1.5 hour drive from downtown Reykjavik. Although naturally beautiful, tour buses are here throughout the day so it is pretty consistently packed with tourists. It is located next to parking lot, so no hike/walk necessary.
watching the sun set over Gulfoss
Bruarfoss is also located on the golden circle, but is less known by tourists. It is a mere 10 minutes from Gulfoss, yet barely anybody goes to it (in fact I was the ONLY person there when I was there). It has a naturally bright blue/teal stream of water running off of it. This is what makes this waterfall so different from the rest! It is a bit difficult to find (located next to private property..perhaps why less people go there). Depending on the trail you take, you have to hike anywhere from 5-30 minutes to get to it. The trail isn’t as clear as others to follow, but it is SO WORTH IT.
Oxararfoss is a smaller waterfall, but no less beautiful than the other ones! It is also located off the golden circle, in the heart of Thingvellir National Park. We started the hike to it from the Silfra diving fissure. From this parking lot, it took about 25 minutes one way to reach Oxararfoss. There was a few other people walking this trail, but there was only 3 other people at the waterfall when we got there. The trail is very clear, and it is a very peaceful and beautiful walk.
Seljalandsfoss is located off of Route 1 on the main road of south Iceland. The drive is about 1 hour and 35 minutes from downtown Reykjavik. I actually went to this waterfall twice because it was pouring rain the first time I stopped (picture above), and wanted to see it when the weather was better (picture below). What makes Seljalandsfoss so unique is you can actually walk behind it! The waterfall itself is right off the main road so no hike necessary. However, the trail to get behind the waterfall is short, steep, and slippery. You may get a bit wet from the mist of the waterfall, but you HAVE to get behind it as that’s what Seljalandsfoss is known for. This waterfall is another tour bus stop, so expect to have a lot of people at it (I’m just good at not getting other people in my pictures ;)).
If you continue driving on Route 1 past Seljalandsfoss, you will reach Skogafoss about 30 minutes later (so about 2 hours from Reykjavik). This is the 3rd and final waterfall on my list that is a tour bus stop, so again, expect a ton of people (my pictures may be misleading.. i just refuse to have other people in them haha). However, if you go first thing in the morning or after sunset, the tour buses will be gone and it will be much quieter. Skogafoss is enormous and what makes it different is the trail next to it. You can hike up a couple hundreds steps to see it from ABOVE. There is a short trail for the adventurous people (like me) to see it above the birds from a high ledge (picture below). Super green and very pretty.
The last waterfall on my list is one of my favorites, Svartifoss. This one is located 4 hours from Reykjavik near a town called Skaftafell. It is quiet. I was genuinely the only person here when I hiked to this one. What makes this waterfall unique is that it is surrounded by black basalt columns that are formed by the lava rapidly cooling. They are typically naturally formed with perfect 90 degree angles (closer up picture below). In the picture above I look small, and that is exactly why I loved it there. The hike was about 35 minutes one direction (give yourself 1 hour 30 mins to complete this hike there and back). The way there is entirely uphill, so it is not for those in poor physical condition. I did this hike at sunset and I recommend doing so because as a bonus you will get to see the sunset literally IN the clouds.
I saw all of these waterfalls in the peak of winter (end of January). The water flow is so powerful in all of them that they do not freeze year round. Nature is truly an incredible and beautiful thing. Now get your butts out to those waterfalls! Happy travels 🙂