In South-Iceland on the edge of the highlands, you will find the third highest waterfall in Iceland, not counting the waterfalls found in Mosárjökull glacier recently. This waterfall is called Háifoss waterfall or the Tall Falls.
Háifoss, which is 122 meters high is situated in Fossá river, which is a spring water tributary of the glacial river Þjórsá, Iceland's longest river.
Another beautiful waterfall, Granni (Neighbour), is almost 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 painting or 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 used to suffer from fear of heights, which is not the best phobia for a travel-blogger ;). So during my first visit to Háifoss, I had to sit down while enjoying this beautiful sight. As you can see in my photo below then I am holding on to the ground for dear life.
I went to see a hypnotist which fortunately cured this phobia. It took some 7 visits though, but was so worth it as now I can stand on the edge and look down :) It made all the difference and by now I have written 270 travel-blogs about Iceland.
Be careful here though as the fall down is high.
Holding on to a rock, scared stiff ;)
See the difference two years later! Wearing the same clothes ;)
This time I around I visited Háifoss waterfall and Þjórsárdalur valley with a friend of mine; the licensed guide Jórunn who runs her own company with her family My Iceland Guide. You might remember her from my travel-blog on Gjáin in the vicinity of Háifoss:
We love travelling together as we have the same passion for our country. You can see her photo in my travel-blog on Gjáin if you want a guided tour of this area, or of any area in Iceland for that matter.
Standing on the edge, not at all uneasy :)
Icelandic folklore is 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 - RHR). 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 tussles, the ogress let the boy go and went away, but the boy was bedridden for a whole month from this maltreatment".
(Translated into English from Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason - RHR).
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 Háifoss for the first time there was a group of people hiking in the valley. And a group of people on horses was visiting the falls. In the summer of 2019, I finally ventured into the gorge to see Háifoss from below, when I joined the excellent tour of the Hidden Circle by Glacial Experience.
I am not much of a hiker so I had decided on staying on top and taking photos of my fellow travellers on this tour from above. But Háifoss was so beautiful on this sunny day that I decided on following them and finally saw this beautiful waterfall from below.
Isn't it just breathtaking?
You can see how tiny my fellow traveller and Kjartan, our guide, are compared to Háifoss. They can be seen as tiny dots just above my name
The hike is 3.7 km and will take around an hour to complete. Good hiking shoes are necessary here as the path is rocky. And it is a good thing to hire a guide.
I took a short video by Háifoss:
To reach Háifoss waterfall from Reykjavík in the summertime 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.
The weathered road-signs leading to Háifoss and Stöng
You will find a parking lot on the south side above the waterfalls. The road to the falls is a rough and bumpy road, suitable only for 4x4 vehicles.
Also driving down to Þjórsárdalur valley and the next waterfall, Gjáin, and the beautiful oasis there, should not be driven without a 4x4 as the road is very rough.
You can also join guided tours to this area, which I highly recommend:
Háifoss, Hjálparfoss, Þjóðveldisbærinn, Gjáin and Hrunalaug with an overnight's stay at a farm.
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 travel-blog on the Viking Manor Stöng in the vicinity of Háifoss.
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.
Can you see the form of a bear's head in the lava rock right next to the left waterfall? I think it 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. The name Hjálp - means Help is the name given to this area as travellers crossing the barren Sprengisandur highlands could graze their horses here after a long journey.
But there is also a spot called Hjálp below Hjálparfoss waterfall beneath Mt. Skeljafell. There the people of this area used to rest their livestock.
On a sunny day, you might see Icelanders swimming by Hjálparfoss waterfall :)
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 greyish white and forceful and I must say that they always scare me a bit.
You can see the difference in my travel-blog about the massive Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river in North-Iceland:
By Hjálparfoss on a very windy day - photo taken by Kjartan, the guide of the Hidden Circle tour
It is easy accessing Hjálparfoss 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 many beautiful waterfalls, the fairytale oasis Gjáin, the longest river in Iceland Þjórsá, the Viking settlement manor Stöng and Þjóðveldisbærinn (the Commonwealth Farm) to name a few of the beautiful sights.
Hjálparfoss not that far away from Reykjavík, some 122 km, so it makes for a good day-trip away from the city in the summertime.
To visit these areas you can either rent a car in Reykjavík or join the guided tours I mentioned earlier my this travel-blog. These waterfalls might also be included in the Mystery Super Jeep Tour | South Coast or the Highlands - just saying ;)
Also, check out my other travel-blogs about interesting areas in this part of Iceland:
Have a lovely time at Háifoss, Granni and Hjálparfoss waterfalls :) These beautiful waterfalls were preserved in 2020.