Iceland is a country of many amazing waterfalls, but which are the best ones? Where do you need to travel to find the most spectacular waterfalls? Are there waterfalls all around the country? Can you still see the waterfalls during COVID-19? Continue reading to discover the ten most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland.
An exploration of Iceland isn’t complete without visiting one or several of our country’s incredible waterfalls. All have a distinct character, and each waterfall will leave you in wonder with its shape, size, sound, or the surrounding nature around them.
As with most of Iceland, you will find a new story at each waterfall, whether from history or folklore. These will include tales of historical significance, tragedy, and even love, helping bring to life the always moving and growing landscape of the land of fire and ice.
Due to the impact of Iceland’s numerous glaciers, our country hosts some of the most attractive and bizarre waterfalls on the planet. They are fed by the purest glacier waters that carve through rock and sometimes combine with the volcanism in the environment to create fascinating shapes, such as the hexagonal basalt columns that decorate many waterfalls.
Although COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on many travelers’ plans, Iceland is open to visitors from approved countries. You can find more information about how Iceland is handling COVID-19 and what it could mean for your trip on our comprehensive COVID-19 information page.
The great thing about waterfalls is that they are scattered all over the countryside, making them very safe to visit during COVID-19. Iceland is a country with very low population density, and 70% of Icelanders live in the capital area. What this means for you is that after your testing and quarantine period, you can quickly zip out of the populated area and head off to get up close and personal with these stunning waterfalls.
COVID-19 has impacted a lot around the world, but it hasn’t affected Iceland’s beauty. Nature is still wide open during these times. The limited number of visitors lately means many of these sites have been relatively empty. Although there are guidelines set by the Icelandic health authority regarding the number of people that can gather and social distancing limits, you should have no problem spending time around these natural wonders.
You may find the most impact COVID-19 has on your trip is the accommodations and restaurants along the way. Any indoor experience, such as hotels, restaurants, swimming pools, will be limiting the number of people gathering at one time. If you cannot maintain a distance of 2 meters from other people, you will need to wear a mask.
If you are looking to control your trip and how close you have to get to other groups, a self-drive tour is an excellent option for you. The rental cars are all thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between uses. This vehicle would give you a good home base from which to explore.
So, though there are many more waterfalls on the island, here’s a list of the top 10 waterfalls in Iceland. Check them out and let us know what you think.
This small and charming waterfall sits near the impressive Mount Kirkjufell at Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. It is particularly scenic for photographers when capturing the water's serenity against the dramatic mountain in the background. It is best experienced in the light of the midnight sun at midsummer, but also fascinating when blanketed in snow and ice come midwinter - this may even allow you to see it under the beautiful Northern Lights.
These stunningly beautiful falls, located in Borgarfjörður in West Iceland, are formed by rivulets flowing at the edge of the Hallmundarhraun lava field and pouring into the glacier river Hvíta (not to be confused with a different river of the same name that feeds Gullfoss waterfall, discussed below). The Hraunfossar falls, though peaceful and serene, are widely considered some of the most spectacular in Iceland.
Their location is also very convenient, as they sit right beside Barnafoss, another dramatic waterfall.
This splendid series of small waterfalls is in the Brúará river, in the Grímsnes area of Southwest Iceland. They are little-known and considered something of a hidden gem. Watching Brúarfoss falling in a rush of stark blue color into the deep gorge makes it a fascinating scene and ideal as a photography location.
This fascinating waterfall is located in the Skaftafell Nature Reserve in South East Iceland, part of Vatnajökull National Park. The name Svartifoss means 'Black Waterfall' due to the dramatic contrast between the white water and the surrounding dark hexagonal basalt columns. At the base of the fall are sharp rocks that have broken from these columns, making for a spectacular sight.
This picturesque feature inspired the columnar architecture of Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík, the ceiling of the National Theatre, and sculptor Richard Serra‘s work 'Milestones,' located on Viðey island.
Hrafnabjargafoss is a beautiful waterfall that is located in the mighty Skjálfandafljót glacier river in North Iceland. The water feature is the first of three successive falls along the same river that draw many guests, the other two being Aldeyjarfoss and Goðafoss.
Aldeyjarfoss is the second in the successive row of beautiful falls in Skjálfandafljót river, and the tallest, with a 20-meter cascade. As with Svartifoss, here you‘ll see a fascinating contrast between the white water of the fall and dark basalt columns, the perfect scenery for the avid photographer.
Goðafoss, at 12 meters high and 30 meters wide, is the most famous of the Skjálfandafljót waterfalls, and one of the most famous in the country. It is the only one specifically featured on the classic 'Diamond Circle' route.
According to the Sagas, chieftain Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði settled a religious crisis in Iceland by throwing the idols of the Old Norse Gods into the falls. This symbolized the nation's conversion to Christianity and gave the spot its name, 'The Waterfall of the Gods.' Indeed, those who witness the sheer beauty of the falls will agree that the name is fitting.
Widely considered the most famous of Icelandic waterfalls, the aptly named Gullfoss ('The Golden Waterfall') belongs to the famous Golden Circle, the most popular tourist trail in the country. This circle covers two other great attractions: the Geysir Geothermal Area and Þingvellir National Park.
Gullfoss is located in the mighty Hvíta glacier river in South Iceland, where it drops down 32 meters (105 ft) into a narrow river gorge via two tiers. In clear weather, you can even walk near enough to feel the water spray on your face. Stay within the fence, though, for if you fall through, you'll never emerge again.
Skógafoss is a popular destination when traveling along the South Coast of Iceland, located close to Skógar. At 25m (82 ft) wide and 60m (197 ft) high, it is one of the most beautiful and dramatic waterfalls in Iceland.
Photographers should particularly note that it may produce a single or even a double rainbow on sunny days due to the interplay between the spray and the sunlight.
Seljalandsfoss is another widely popular waterfall when traveling on the South Coast.
The waterfall is a narrow and tall specimen, with a drop the same as Skógafoss of 60m (197 ft), and it has the rare distinction of having space where you can walk behind it for a spectacular photographic angle.
Seljalandsfoss is considered one of Iceland‘s most picturesque waterfalls and is essential to visit when traveling in the country.
What did you think of this list of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland? Are there any waterfalls that you have visited and would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.