Before I’d even dreamt of planning a trip to Iceland, I’d came across a million photos of this alien land on Instagram with some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes I’d ever seen. One feature besides its landscapes stood out – the waterfalls.
When I found out that I was indeed going to visit Iceland, I looked up the places of these natural beauties. As expected, my version of the itinerary was mostly waterfalls. And even though I had pretty high expectations from all the photos I’d seen, experiencing them in person brought about another level of awe.
So I thought I’d compile a quick guide to visiting as many waterfalls as you can for a week’s trip to Iceland.
One quick tip before I start:
It sounds obvious, but many of us didn’t seem to realise that visiting a waterfall meant getting wet. That being said, it does depend on how close you want to get to the fall, but most of the time, to fully experience it (like the one with a cave that you could walk through behind it) meant going as close as you could.
So bring a good raincoat or wear a waterproof coat. Your shoes will most likely get wet too, so if you can, buy a good pair of waterproof/water resistant hiking boots. A change of clothes in the car would be good too. And if possible, try to schedule the waterfall visits towards the end of the day, so if you did get wet, you wouldn’t have to remain uncomfortable for the next few stops.
I visited Iceland in the height of summer and even then, it was around 10 degrees Celcius and being wet meant you felt a lot colder. Don’t let that spoil your trip.
Now let’s start with the fun stuff.
The map above provides a summary of the waterfalls I visited.
We scheduled our trip around two main cities – Reykjavik (Iceland’s capital) and Akureyri (the biggest town in North Iceland). These were the two places where we had booked our accommodation and made day trips out from.
We spent the first five nights in Reykjavik. On our first day out, we drove all the way to the black sand beach at Vik, making a few pit stops at scenic areas along the way. This included two waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.
A total mouthful, especially for those of us who don’t speak Icelandic, and also one of the most unique waterfalls in the world as it has a cave behind it that you can actually walk through. Which meant that you had the chance of seeing the back of the waterfall without being crushed to oblivion.
We made the mistake of visiting it first, because (1) it was honestly my most favourite waterfall of the trip and in the whole world and (2) walking through that cave was drenching business which left us all mostly damp throughout the rest of the day.
After Seljalandsfoss, we headed to arguably one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland:
Known for the ground of pitch black sand below it, it also meant that other tourists standing in their brightly coloured coats stood out like sore thumbs. Which probably explains why I hardly took any photos there. I’ve seen so many fantastic photos taken at Skogafoss by photographers I admire that it seemed weird that I felt oddly uninspired at this particular one.
Using the weather forecast as reference, we scheduled the Golden Circle for the second day. In short, the Golden Circle is the most popular sightseeing route in Iceland, especially for those with limited time. Having said that, it is also the most touristy part of Iceland.
Our waterfall of the day was Gullfoss. Apparently it’s well-known for the rainbows created from the spray, but our day was gloomy as evident in the photos below, so there were no rainbows for us.
Besides Gullfoss, we actually had another waterfall planned out for our Golden Circle route – Bruarfoss. We made our way there, driving through narrow, pothole-ridden dirt roads, parked our car and walked a little way to find nothing until we met a couple who informed us that the bridge to get to Bruarfoss had fallen. So it was back through the bumpy, dusty roads onto the next location for us.
We had split our Iceland trip into two parts; the second part being living in its largest town up north for a few (absolutely dreamiest) nights.
From Akureyri, we also had the pleasure of visiting three waterfalls.
According to modern myth, the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði decided to give up their pagan religion in favour of Christianity in the year 1000. Having done so, he returned and threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall, thus giving it the name “the waterfall of the gods”. This was one of my favourite back stories, more so because it was interesting rather than my agreement of his decision.
But look at those falls!
And then, there was
If you made it to here, I’m glad you enjoyed this post because it was impossible for me to get sick of seeing more waterfalls. Each waterfall, although they seemed to be more or less the same, held up their own strength and magnificence. But Dettifoss – Dettifoss is officially known as the most powerful waterfall in Europe. And the people who gave it that title weren’t kidding when they named it.
This short clip gives you a glimpse at the power of Dettifoss:
Selfoss was the baby we visited right after the giant of Dettifoss, mostly because it was within walking distance. We had to cross some rocky, moon-like terrain to get there, but there were proper trails so that was fine.
Not such a big deal after all the previous ones, isn’t it?
And that concludes my post on the waterfall hunt.
A quick note before I end. If you have been planning to visit Iceland, you may have read that despite its beauty, certain places as well as its weather can be pretty dangerous at times. That is, death has happened because of carelessness or unwillingness of tourists to obey safety precautions. I personally witness tourists walking out of designated trails to the edge of dangerous sites; one girl slipped under the string that acted as a border to sit on a slippery rock at the very edge of Dettifoss, causing me to panic internally on her behalf. She returned safely, but a slight slip of the foot could have sent her hundreds of feet down into that treacherous, pounding water – refer to the video clip I attached again!
I may sound longwinded now and you might say it’s just all for a good bit of fun, but please don’t be that idiot that falls and dies, which then causes local authorities to block future visitors from seeing an otherwise beautiful place. Be respectful and enjoy the view from a safe place.
That’s it. I hope you enjoyed the photos and the read!
For more photos, visit #miniversetravels on Instagram :)