Iceland has some pretty spectacular landscapes, with its high mountains rising out from the flat coastline and seemingly going on forever. These mountains, along with Iceland’s plethora of mountain streams and rivers, are the reason for the many beautiful waterfalls you’ll see all around you as you explore Iceland’s nature. Even though most of the waterfalls are pretty spectacular, there are always going to be some who are even better, taller, more powerful and more beautiful than others. Here are the five best waterfalls in Iceland in my opinion.
Most famous – Gullfoss!
No article about Icelandic waterfalls would be complete without mentioning Gullfoss, the golden waterfall. It’s the stop that gives its name to the Golden Circle, the most popular day tour in Iceland, which means that not a lot of people leave Iceland without seeing this magnificent two-tiered waterfall. The Golden Circle is also one of the oldest tourist routes in Iceland, making Gullfoss easily the most famous Icelandic waterfall.
Most Powerful – Dettifoss!
Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe by water volume. It’s also known for having been used in the opening scene in the movie Prometheus. This beautiful natural phenomenon is situated in northern Iceland, not far from lake Mývatn, another beautiful place to stop on your travels. “Dettifoss” actually means “falling falls,” although it sounds less redundant in Icelandic.
Tallest (Almost) – Glymur!
Glymur, at 198 metres (649 ft.), used to be considered the country’s tallest waterfall until we found out that it’s in fact only the second tallest. In 2011, we discovered another waterfall in East Iceland that’s more than 200 m tall. (That one isn’t really approachable, though, and doesn’t even have a name so far as we know, so we didn’t include it on the list.)
Seeing this impressive waterfall requires some effort as there’s no road that leads to it, only a fairly challenging hiking trail (although, if you’re feeling luxurious, there are helicopter tours available!). It’s well worth the trip, however, and if you’re in good shape, the trip should only take a few hours, there and back again!
Best Waterfall Off the Beaten Track – Dynjandi!
The West fjords are the most remote part of Iceland in many ways. Fewer people tend to travel there and the roads can be tricky, especially in the winter – winding over and around mountains and fjords. One of the most beautiful sights in the West Fjords area is Dynjandi, a magnificent cascade of 7 waterfalls falling a combined total of over 100 metres (328 ft.)
Dynjandi is actually only officially the name of the top tier, the ones below have their own names, each less easily pronounceable than the next. Good luck asking for directions to Hæstahjallafoss, for example, or Strompgljúfrafoss!
The name “Dynjandi” means “roaring” or “thundering” and refers to the noise of this powerful waterfall.
Most Beautiful – Svartifoss!
Svartifoss is one of the absolutely most beautiful waterfalls in the country in my opinion. “Svartifoss” means “black waterfall” because it falls over these black basalt columns in just the most beautiful valley you’ve ever seen. Basalt columns are hexagonal rock formations that are incredibly regular, and particularly common in Iceland. Svartifoss is a short hike inside Skaftafell national park, in east Iceland.