Some of the most awe-inspiring and eye catching features of Iceland are it’s waterfalls. They seem to be literally everything. Driving along Route 1, it’s a borage of waterfall after waterfall. And not only are these waterfalls mesmerizingly beautiful, but they’re big and crystal-clean as the majority of the water is coming off of the glaciers on the island.
Any of these waterfalls that you stop to look at are beautiful and sure to impress, but these are the ones that are the must-see, not to miss waterfalls that you’ll regret missing later.
“The one with the black rock pillars.”
Personally my favorite because of the incredible black basalt rock formations around the waterfall (Svartifoss translates to Black Falls). I’d never seen anything like it before anywhere on Earth. Also, since this one is a little further out of the way, it’s a little less crowded.
Walking up on Svartifoss, you literally feel like you’re walking through Middle Earth from The Lord of The Rings novels. The surrounding area is beautifully green with wildflowers and a view for miles and in the middle of it all, is this incredible black basalt gouge in the Earth with a magnificent 40-foot waterfall cascading down the middle.
“The one on two continents.”
Located in Þingvellir National Park, this waterfall makes the list due to the grandiose landscape and rocks surrounding the waterfall. It’s easy to image Vikings walking along these rocks and ridgelines and in fact, this area was used as a filming location for season 4 of Game Of Thrones. It’s 31 miles east of Reykjavik and is one of Iceland’s most historic sites as the National Park was home to the Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries. It can be a bit crowded, but overall not too bad.
The waterfall itself is 65 feet/ 20 meters tall and is right next to the mid-Atlantic ridgeline where the Atlantic and European tectonic plates meet. These plates have created a rift, which the waterfall flows through. After cascading over the waterfall, the stream then takes a 90 degree turn and continues to flow along the rift until it reaches the valley below. From the top of the waterfall, there’s a great view of the valley and the rest of the national park.
“The one you can walk behind.”
One of the best known waterfalls in Iceland and one of the only waterfalls you can walk behind! It’s so close to Route 1 and as such is very crowded and a popular tourist stop.
The waterfall is 20 0ft/ 60 meters tall and cascades over the side of the cliff into a pool directly behind. The footpath to the waterfall is short and often littered with puddles from the mist off the falls. Prepare to get wet! The path then loops behind the falls for a one of a kind mesmerizing view.
“The tall one you can walk to the top of.”
One of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland, at 196 feet/60 meters high and 82 feet/25 meters wide. It’s a popular stop for many tour buses and is often very crowded. This is one of the few waterfalls that has a very distinct trail to the top of the waterfall.
Skógafossis just off Route 1 and it can easily been seen from the road. Walk right up to the bottom of the waterfall following a foot path just past the parking lot. Prepare to get drenched with lots of mist! You can also climb to the top of the waterfall by ascending a 527 step staircase to a metal grated platform that overlooks the top of the falls.
“The most famous and the one with the most water.”
Even though this is the most famous of Iceland’s waterfalls and it’s impressive in the amount of water flowing through the canyon which contains the waterfall, I personally found it to be one of the least impressive waterfalls overall. For me, this was because it’s a rather shallow waterfall without much of a drop (100 feet/ 32 meters) – it’s more of a very vigorous series of cascading tiers than a typical waterfall.
It was also the most crowded of all the waterfalls we visited due to it’s cultural significance. Sigriður Tómasdóttir (a local farmer’s daughter) fought against industrialization and big businesses to save and protect this waterfall, which adds to the waterfall’s fame.
It’s absolutely worth seeing, as it’s one of the “must see” waterfalls that everyone visits, but if you can’t see all 5 on this list, Gullfoss is the one that I’d skip.
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Have you visited these waterfalls? Disagree with my list? Let me know in the comments!