Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice, and for good reason. Her abundance of hot springs, geysers, volcanos, glaciers, glacial lagoons and ice caves all give credit to this worthy trademark. However, there’s much more to this other-worldly land than just her fire and ice; her multitude of awe-inducing waterfalls are downright mind-blowing. Listed below are a few falls, in particular, I believe are not to be missed amid your visit to this wild country.
(Listed in order of which they’ll be encountered along your drive – beginning in the Golden Circle and, driving east around the island, ending in Snaefellsnes Peninsula).
→ Most Photos in this post were taken with our GoPro.
→ Fun Fact: “Foss” means “Waterfall” in Icelandic.
Gullfoss is a spectacular, two-tiered waterfall situated along Iceland’s Golden Circle (past Silfra Fissure + Thingvellir National Park and continuing onward past Geysir Hot Spring Area – but BEFORE reaching Kerid Crater).
Gullfoss is a widely popular tourist destination (due to her proximity to Reykjavik) and, thus, she tends to be a bit crowded in comparison to Iceland’s other falls. Which, if you are like me, is not necessarily a good thing – I enjoy quality + peaceful time with nature without being shoulder-to-shoulder with others. However, even with that being said, Gullfoss is a force to be reckoned with and deserves to be seen. Her layers of forceful water cutting down into steep, rugged canyon walls are incredibly impressive – an iconic Icelandic scene to take in.
Furthermore, since the entire Golden Circle is a wonderment – you will be delighted to see this beauty among all the other treasures to be discovered on this drive. AND the drive can be easily completed within a day’s time with ample time to visit and enjoy each locale!
Seljalandsfoss was actually a stop recommended by our sweet Air BnB hosts. Prior to our stay, Seljalandsfoss was not on our list and we’re still baffled by how we missed this? We’re VERY thankful for our kind hosts because, not only was this amazing waterfall already along our route to Skogafoss, it is unlike any other in Iceland: You can WALK BEHIND this roaring beast that drops 60m (197ft) from the towering green cliffs above.
Soaking in this crazy cool land from the backstage provides a whole new perspective on the beauty that encompasses. She’s a white veil separating you from endless green and sky. Standing there, I felt connected – I was a part of her, in her. She was a shelter from and a doorway to the lands beyond. Seljalandsfoss is a MUST-SEE, without question.
Skogafoss is a waterfall that I had been DYING to see even before the planning phases of this trip commenced. She did NOT disappoint. The word “fairytale” comes to mind when describing this magical waterfall. All around her is the GREENEST of greens and, if you climb to the top, the views are utterly jaw-dropping – you can see miles and miles of gorgeous Icelandic landscape …you can even see the ocean! I remember sitting on the ledge, over halfway up the waterfall, and just looking out into the green yonder thinking: “How is this my life!?” Definitely a moment of deep appreciation. An actualized dream.
Not only can you climb beside her majesty, you can walk RIGHT UP TO HER as well (but of course, you will get drenched). It was loco to me just how close you can walk in front of her – a sheer mass of water so near to your touch. Skogafoss sure humbles a human; enables you to realize your tiny place in this immense world of grandeur (to think, there are another 20+ smaller waterfalls in the Skoga River above Skogafoss)!
To read more about the legend surrounding this legendary scene, check out Sarah Lambert Cook’s artwork and post →The Legend of Skogafoss: an Icelandic Waterfall
Another one of our wonderful Air BnB hosts, Salborg, was delighted to hear about our plans to explore Dettifoss. Her eyes lit up as she explained how much we would ADORE this place – which, in turn, made me even more anxious to uncover this beauty with my own eyes.
We arrived at Dettifoss (still morning) and to our surprise, we were the only two people there! We literally had the entire waterfall to ourselves! It was a dream come true. Not only is Dettifoss 144 feet tall, it is reputed as the most powerful waterfall in Europe (and I wouldn’t doubt it). As we walked along the canyon, taking photos and relaxing next to the falls – we enjoyed the sounds of nature and nature alone. It seemed as if nature was enjoying herself as well for a double rainbow soon appeared across the canyon! Ethereal.
Not only is this waterfall a MUST-SEE because of her monstrous power, but her seclusion provides the perfect nature-scape that many of us travelers wander north to find. AND… her vast, rocky canyon provides miles of climbing + hiking territory – a true joy if you’re a kid at heart like myself.
Skipping among boulders along the edge of a monumental waterfall with a double rainbow showing off in the background… how can one NOT feel they’re in a surreal realm? A dream land where anything is possible (I even began to believe in the local lore of elves and trolls with such sights).
(See a theme here, yet? Iceland = fairytale land).
Upon our arrival to Godafoss, I instantly understood why her name means “waterfall of the gods”. She is truly divine. Dare I say, Godafoss may have been my favorite waterfall in all of Iceland? A sensation (one I’ve only received at places such as Yosemite National Park) washed over my soul and made me FEEL such intense emotion; I felt connectedness and true peace. I felt as if all was right in the world and as if the universe had conspired to get me to this place in this exact moment in time.
Godafoss is almost inexplicable, but I can say: she is a magical waterfall that makes you feel her MAGIC down to your core. Very spiritual. Her mystic will engulf you as you’re swallowed by her 30m (98ft) width of falling waters – entranced in a semi-circle of alluring power.
If I haven’t given you reason enough, GODAFOSS is why you should travel to Northern Iceland! Too many people stick to the southern region, closer to Reykjavik, and are truly missing out on Iceland’s marvels.
To discover how Godafoss is closely connected with one of the most important events in Icelandic history, check out this short + informative piece → History of Godafoss.
Kirkjufell is a stunning landmark accompanied by the added beauty of Kirkjufellsfoss. Kirkjufell is the church-shaped mountain (hence its name) found on the north shore of Iceland’s Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This unique mountain + unique waterfall, combined with the proximity to the coast, equals a dramatically winsome scene you MUST-SEE for yourself.
My favorite photo I took during my time in Iceland is of this place (see above). It’s one of the most photographed scenes in the country – thanks to the added beauty of the falls in the foreground.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Kirkjufellsfoss as I roamed down beneath the 3-spouted waterfall and played among the crowds – crowds in which seemed to be made up of mostly local folk, their children swimming in the creek and enjoying the nice weather (I guess 60 degrees F is warm to them?).
Furthermore, you can see Kirkjufell starring in the latest season of Game of Thrones (Season 7, Episode 6) when Jon Snow and his team go beyond the wall to capture a wight. Only difference is that this episode was clearly filmed during Iceland’s winter..I was here in her glorious summer and saw the glowing greenery. Both seasons have their charm.
Iconic spot, to say the very least.
There you have it: my compact list of MUST-SEE waterfalls in Iceland. Now, I KNOW there are many (and I mean MANY) more waterfalls that are hands-down phenomenal in their own, individual way – however, it would take eons to list each waterfall in this dream-like land. If you feel your favorite falls in Iceland has been slighted and wish to add to my list, drop its name and tell me why in the comments below! <3
Much love and happy travels!