If hot springs aren't the first thing that pops to mind when you think about Iceland, there's a good chance it's waterfalls. The country has more than 10,000 waterfalls and you would have to try pretty hard to avoid them no matter where you're traveling.
There are so many different types of waterfalls. Plunge, multi-step, punchbowl, frozen, chute, cataract, fan, cascade, block; Iceland has them all. You can spot four of the waterfalls on this list in one day, if you put your mind to it: Start in Thingvellir National Park with Gullfoss and Oxararfoss and embark on the four-hour drive to Vík with stops at Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss along the way. The other waterfalls on this list span from Vatnajökull National Park to the northernmost parts of the country.
While a good majority of them only require a quick pull-off the road, some call for a little more effort. To help you narrow down which ones to prioritize, we pulled together a list of our top 10 waterfalls around Iceland.
You will constantly find a crowd around the viewing point of this waterfall, and for good reason. Surprisingly, it doesn't detract from the majesty of the view, either. This panoramic waterfall is located within the Golden Circle on the Hvítá river, quite near to the popular attractions Geysir and Silfra Fissure.
The second-largest glacier in Iceland, Langjökull, feeds the water into these falls. There are two stages to this waterfall, amounting to 32 meters in total, sending the water deep into the canyon. Try and visit on a sunny day — it's not rare to see shimmering rainbows bouncing off of the falls when the clouds part.
Clocking in at 65 meters tall, you can spot Seljalandsfoss from the road. You can walk right up to the falls, which hit the ground and form a calm pool of shallow water (well, as calm as any waterfall could be). You follow a path that will lead you behind the waterfall, but bring a raincoat. You are certainly going to get a little wet.
The pathway can be slippery, so lace up your hiking boots. If you're facing the waterfall and follow the gravel walkway to the left walking away from Seljalandsfoss, you'll come across a series of smaller waterfalls, as well.
Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and well-worth a trip to north to see it. Located near Akureyi — otherwise known as Iceland's capital of the north — you won't be able to spot this waterfall from the road. Its located inside a canyon makes it a bit more elusive than Seljalandsfoss or Gullfoss. If you're in the area, don't miss the neighboring falls, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss.
Glymur is perfect for waterfall enthusiasts also looking for a bit of a hike. You'll want to set aside half a day to truly take in everything this area has to offer. Located a quick 40-minute drive from Reykjavik, you'll see caves, rivers, canyons, mountains, and valleys on your hike to the waterfall. Pack a lunch and find a secluded spot with a good view for a quick break.
The 198-meter drop makes it Iceland's second-tallest waterfall, below Morsárfoss which has a drop of 228 meters. You can hike up either the north or south side of the waterfall, and many hikers have shared that the southern approach has better views of the falls.
Right off of Route 1 on the southern end of Vatnajökull National Park you'll find Svartifoss, which means "Black Falls." The waterfall gets its name from the black, basalt columns lining the waterfall walls. To get there, start at the Skaftafell Visitor Center, where the trail starts. From there, it's a 45-minute hike (be warned: it's slightly uphill the entire way there) to the waterfall. On your hike, you'll spot three waterfalls along the way: Þjofafoss, Hundafoss, and Magnusarfoss.
You'll find this waterfall just inside Thingvellir National Park, but you won't see it on the drive up, despite being mere feet from the road. To get there, you'll take a quick walk down into a cliff-lined ravine and along the cliffs (it's less than ten minutes from the parking lot). This is the perfect place to not only see a stunning waterfall, but also get a close look at the massive rocks jutting up from the tension between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. This waterfall was also manmade, in way, considering the Oxarar River was physically moved in the 9th century to better provide water to the members of the parliament.
Conveniently located on the drive to Vík, Skogafoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. Local folklore shares that a treasure chest of gold is situated behind the falls. You can hike up the right side of the falls for a stunning view of the river before it tumbles down to the ground. The pool at the bottom of the waterfall is shallow and you can walk quite close, but prepare to be covered in mist.
Barnafoss, or Children's Falls, has a morbid history. According to the Icelandic Sagas, the two Hraunsás children were left home alone while their parents visited the church for Christmas Mass. They came home and the kids were gone. They followed their footsteps to the nearby waterfall, where the steps stopped. Fearing that they drowned, the mother demolished the arch leading to the waterfall and cursed the falls so no one else would be able to survive crossing the waterfall.
This waterfall appears more like rapids than a straight shot to the ground. You'll also find a series of falls called Hraunfossar nearby, which originate in a lava field.
Snaefellsnes Peninsula is home to one of the most photographed mountains and waterfalls in the country: Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss. Three separate falls, all of the same name, makes up Kirkjufellsfoss and you can even hike down in between them (the falls themselves are really quiet short).
Bring your camera: If you angle it right, you can get both the falls and the mountain in one frame.
Godafoss, or "Waterfall of the Gods," got its name after Christianity was named the official language of Iceland in the year 1,000. Upon learning this, Lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði — the person in charge of choosing the official religion — threw all of his Norse God statues into the waterfall after making his decision. Located on the Ring Road, Godafoss is a 45-minute drive from Akureyi. Like Gullfoss, this waterfall offers a panoramic view of the surroundings.