The waterfalls in Iceland have been featured in films such as Thor: The Dark World and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and the TV shows Vikings and Game of Thrones. These natural formations in a seemingly ancient landscape feel larger than life. The roar of the waterfall is not just audible, but palpable as you approach them. When you visit Iceland, pack your raincoats and galoshes and check out these top four waterfalls! (And don’t forget to stop at the Blue Lagoon!)
Named after the river that feeds it, Skógafoss reaches 60 meters high (196 feet) and stretches 25 meters across (82 feet). Because of its consistent mist, there is almost always a rainbow in front of the waterfall. Though no matter what time of year you visit, the waterfall and the landscape around it is truly breathtaking. You can walk up to the waterfall, hike up to the top of it, and go behind the water.
If you do, keep an eye out for a treasure chest! According to legend, the first Viking settler buried a treasure chest behind the waterfall around 900 A.D. Years later, a few locals found it, but were only able to retrieve a ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared. That ring hung on a local church door until the late 1800s, and you can now see it in the Skógar Museum.
Gullfoss translates to “Golden Falls” and is a top attraction as part of the Golden Circle tours. The two cascades that make up the Gullfoss total a height of 32 meters (105 feet), with a width of 229 meters (750 feet).
It is also home to one of the first Icelandic environmental activists, Sigríður Tómasdóttir. At the beginning of the 20th century, foreign investors wanted to use Gullfoss for a hydroelectric plant. Sigríður’s father Tómas, the owner of the waterfall (yes, someone owned the waterfall), leased it to the investors without knowing about the plans for the construction.
Sigríður fought to protect the waterfall from foreign exploitation, and after years of legal battles, the foreign investors withdrew from the contract. Today, the waterfall is owned and protected by the state of Iceland, and you can read more about Sigríður at the top of the Gullfoss by her plaque.
Seljalandsfoss reaches 60 meters high (196 feet) by 15 meters wide (50 feet), and is just as photogenic from behind as it is from the front. In fact, visitors can walk all the way around the waterfall! But keep in mind: visitors can only walk through the cave during the spring and summer.
Seljalandsfoss originates under the glacier Eyjafjallajökull, where the volcano erupted in 2010. But don’t let that deter you from visiting! Since then, Eyjafjallajökull has been declared dormant, and sensors have been installed around it to monitor any possible eruptions.
Just down the road from Seljalandsfoss is Gljúfrabúi (“Dweller of the Gorge” or “Canyon Dweller”), a waterfall just 40 meters high (131 feet) and 10 meters wide (32 feet). Walking into the canyon is certainly the most intimate way to experience Gljúfrabúi, but you can also climb to the top of it and stare down into the gorge.
If you visit during the spring and summer, you can wade through the waters and walk right up to the waterfall. It’s truly a phenomenon to experience.