In South-Iceland on the edge of the highlands one can find the second highest waterfall in Iceland, not counting the waterfalls found in Mosárjökull glacier recently. This waterfall is called Háifoss waterfall or the Tall Falls.
Háifoss is 122 meters high and is situated in Fossá river, which is a spring water tributary of the glacial river Þjórsá, Iceland's longest river.
There is another waterfall, Granni (Neighbour), next to Háifoss and this pair of waterfalls make for one of the most beautiful sights I have seen in Iceland. Standing above these two waterfalls is like looking at a panoramic photo. It is absolutely breathtaking.
The glacial river Þjórsá runs through Þjórsárdalur valley and its tributary, Fossá, has created a deep gorge where these two waterfalls cascade down making this part totally different to the flat planes where Þjórsá river runs south of Fossá river.
I suffer from vertigo and had to sit down while enjoying this beautiful sight. As you can see on my photo then I am holding on to the ground for dear life - I must do something to combat this vertigo! But be careful here as the fall down is high.
There is a legend related to Háifoss waterfall. It goes like this:
"An ogress lived in Háifoss (which used to be called Fossárfoss before it got its name in 1912). She lived on trout, which she caught in the waterfall. Once a teenage boy travelling with other travellers threw a rock into the river.
That night the ogress went to the tent, where the travellers were sleeping, and tried to pull the teenage boy by his legs out of the tent. But his mates pulled him in the other direction by the upper part of his body. After a lot of tussle the ogress let the boy go and went away, but the boy was bedridden for a whole month from this maltreatment".
(Translated from the Folklore of Jón Árnason).
Fossárdalur valley, where the waterfalls are located, is the innermost valley of Þjórsárdalur valley. The landscape in Iceland can be so varied and that is why it is such a great experience travelling in this country, something I never tire of doing.
It is possible to hike down to the falls and when we visited there was a group of people hiking in the valley. And a group of people on horses was visiting the falls.
In the vicinity the notorious volcano Hekla is situated, which is long "due" to erupt. That volcano caused havoc to the Viking settlement in Þjórsárdalur valley, which I have written about in my blog on the real Viking Manor Stöng.
To get to Háifoss waterfall from Reykjavík in summer time you can rent a car and drive east on ring-road 1, pass Selfoss town and take a left turn on road 30 until you reach Árnes, where you make a right turn on road 32. Just before you reach the power plant Sultartangi turn left on a gravel road, which leads to Háifoss waterfall.
There is a parking lot on the south-side above the waterfalls. The road to the falls is a bumpy one and I would recommend not going there unless you have a 4x4. Also driving down to Þjórsárdalur valley and the next waterfall, Gjáin and the beautiful oasis there, should not be done without a 4x4, in my opinion. Háifoss waterfall is located ca 134 km away from Reykjavík and you can see the exact location of Háifoss here on Google Maps. You can also join this guided tour which takes you to both Landmannalaugar and Háifoss waterfall.
Hjálparfoss - (Help's Falls) is another beautiful waterfall in the river Fossá in Þjórsárdalur valley. The waterfall is split in two with a beautiful pond in front and surrounded by extraordinary basalt rock formations, making this spot a beautiful haven.
One can see the form of a bear's head in the lava rock right next to the left waterfall, which I find makes this beautiful waterfall very distinct. I loved visiting this waterfall with my parents when I was little.
This is an ideal picnic area in beautiful surroundings. Hjálp - "help" is the name given to this area as travellers crossing the barren Sprengisandur high-lands could graze their horses here after a long journey.
Hjálparfoss runs in the river Fossá right before it merges with the glacial river Þjórsá. The difference between a fresh-water river like Fossá, and a glacial river, like Þjórsá, is vast. The glacial rivers are grayish white and forceful and I must say that they always scare me a bit.
On a sunny day you can see Icelanders swim by the waterfall :)
It is easy accessing this waterfall and the road is paved all the way apart from a short dirt road leading to the waterfall.
Just in this valley one can find these beautiful waterfalls, the fairy-tale oasis Gjáin, the longest river in Iceland, the Viking settlement manor Stöng and Þjóðveldisbærinn (the Common Wealth Farm) to name a few. It is not that far away from Reykjavík, ca 120 km, so it makes for a good day-trip away from the city in summer time.
To visit these areas you can either rent a car in Reykjavík or join this guided tour of Landmannalaugar, Háifoss and Hjálparfoss.