Iceland Roadtrip: Must See Waterfalls You Can't Miss
by Leah B
Friday, December 23, 2016
By now you’ve seen the pictures. You know that Iceland is beautiful. It offers a rugged, natural, and dangerous beauty that can’t be found anywhere else. Iceland is chalk-full of sweeping, icy landscapes, glaciers flowing through valleys, volcano and lava fields, coastlines featuring black sand beaches that stretch on for miles and miles, and of course waterfalls. There are hundreds and hundreds, maybe even thousands of waterfalls packed into this tiny island nation. There are so many waterfalls that a good portion of them go unnamed, they’ll be marked on your google map as a blue river, but nothing will indicate that you’re about to stumble upon yet another wonder as you drive the ring road around the island. Most have at least seen or heard the names of the most famous ones, but to see some of the biggest and best waterfalls that Iceland has to offer requires a bit of driving. My suggestion to anyone who wants to experience these glorious waterfalls is to rent a vehicle in Reykjavik, then spend a week on the Ring Road around the island. If road trips aren’t your thing, trust me it’s worth it, and you’ll get to see and do a lot more than you would on a bus trip around the Golden Circle.
Now for the waterfalls.
This is one of the most well know waterfalls in Iceland. It’s right on the Golden Circle and any bus tour out of Reykjavik will take you right to it. It’s also very easy to access. If you’re driving yourself, it’s right off the Ring Road and has plenty of signage telling you when to turn so you can’t miss it. There are plenty of parking spaces and walking to the waterfall from the car park takes maybe three minutes. The are a couple of walking trails around the waterfall so if you have a bit of time you can do a bit of exploring, too. The waterfall itself was absolutely stunning. It’s technically three waterfalls all spilling over a dramatic cliff side into the river below. It feels like it comes out of nowhere. If you’re driving from Reykjavik you can kind of see some hills and mountains coming into view, but it’s not until you’re right next to it that you realize how big it is. The roar of the water as it tumbles down is almost deafening, and you have to yell to be heard over the sound. You will also probably get wet or muddy from the mist coming off the downpour of water. We didn’t get to spend much time here due to packing our first day on the Ring Road way too full, but it was definitely worth the visit.
This is another one that’s pretty well known and is probably one of the first ones that pops up when you type in “Iceland Waterfalls” into a google search. There’s a reason for that though. Skogafoss is stunning. This waterfall is a little further off the Ring Road than the previous one, but still super easy to find and very well marked. We were there in the middle of the day and the place was packed visitors, but don’t let that take away from your trip. This waterfall is huge; it’s cliff side towers over the people below and the mist coming off the water can be felt many yards away. We saw this waterfall on our first day so, once again, didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to explore. There are stairs going up either side of the waterfall so you can get a view from the top, and I think you can even go behind it. I definitely recommend checking this waterfall out, but if you’re wanting to photograph it without all the people, or use a drone to capture, try going right at sunrise or sunset.
Dettifoss and Selfoss
Two giant waterfalls for the price of one. These two are little bit further off the Ring Road, with a trip down a gravel road to Dettifoss National Park. Both of these waterfalls are magnificent and bigger than probably any waterfall you’ve yet seen (excluding Niagara Falls). We saw these waterfalls on our third day and actually had a bit of time to explore before hitting the road again. The park offers many trails that are great for hiking, and will take you through the basalt fields before you hit the waterfalls. The waterfalls themselves are absolutely incredible. Dettifoss is almost impossible to photograph, at least on the side that we were on. There is so much mist coming off of it, that if you’re even kind of close to it, you and your camera will be drenched. Selfoss, on the other hand, we got to see from far away and it was gorgeous.
This waterfall took us completely by surprise. In all of our research we never came across it, or if we did it was buried in depths of some article and quickly brushed over. We saw this one from afar as we were crested the top of a hill. We could just barely see the mist of the water and for a while thought it was just another unnamed waterfall that was pretty close to where we were. We were very wrong. This one ended up being one of my favorite waterfalls. Once you get to the actual waterfall there aren’t many big trails, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go climbing over the rocks get good views. We stood on the very edge of one of the rocks to get a look and then walked and climbed to get a view of the river before it hits the waterfall.
We hit this waterfall the day before we headed back to Reykjavik. I’d been looking forward to this one for months and it did not disappoint. It’s quite a ways off the Ring Road, so you have to alter your route quite a bit to get to it. From the road this waterfall doesn’t look like much, but once you actually get out of the car park and start walking around it the beauty really starts to hit. Kirkjufellsfoss is situated right near Kirkjufell Mountain and is surrounded by beautiful hills, mountains and cliffs. There’s not much in the way of hiking right around the waterfall, but we ended up staying here for almost two hours just photographing it. I highly recommend Kirkjufellsfoss and it’s become one of my favorite waterfalls.
I know there are dozens of waterfalls that we missed on our Icelandic adventure due to time constraints and mediocre planning, but of the ones we did see these were our favorites and the ones I feel that you shouldn’t miss on your trip around Iceland. Be sure to also keep an eye out for the hundreds of unnamed waterfalls that pop up on the side of the road too. In some instances they are just as beautiful and stunning.