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Exploring Iceland’s Waterfalls by Car

Home Destinations Nordic Europe Iceland Exploring Iceland’s Waterfalls by Car

One of nature’s most powerful and beautiful features, waterfalls have long been popular attractions for tourists and travellers, especially in Iceland. With so many waterfalls to explore, hopping into a hire car and adventuring at your own pace can be a wonderful way to see them. In this guide, we will look at some of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls and how you can make the most of your trip.

How many waterfalls are in Iceland?

Iceland is home to around 10,000 waterfalls, though there is no exact number. They are often formed when strong rivers flow from soft rock to hard rock and the sediment in the water begins to erode everything around it.

Waterfalls in Iceland are fed by meltwater from the icecaps and come in all shapes and sizes. When these glaciers melt in the summer, they feed into existing rivers, increasing flow and speeding up erosion. This makes for some breathtaking and immensely powerful waterfalls.

Does Iceland have the most waterfalls?

Although Iceland has an abundance of waterfalls, there is not a comprehensive list that tells us Iceland has the most. India, Norway, Canada, and even the UK also have a number of waterfalls, but few can promise the same unique surroundings as Iceland’s.

Iceland is also lucky in that its uniquely suited to waterfalls in general. Due to the north Atlantic climate, frequent rain and snow mix with its proximity to the Arctic, creating large glaciers.

Can you swim in Iceland’s waterfalls?

Iceland’s lakes and rivers are often too cold for swimming, even in the milder summer months. However, this shouldn’t stop from taking in the view from a safe (and warm) spot.

One of the many lovely things about Iceland is that even though you can’t swim in lakes and rivers, there are numerous hot springs where you can enjoy a toasty dip in natural geothermal water.

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Which waterfall can you walk behind in Iceland?

The most well-known waterfall you can walk behind is Seljalandsfoss just off Route 1 in south Iceland. This striking 60m high cascade is a strong contender for one of the country’s most beautiful sitting at the gateway to Thorsmork valley. Nearby but out of sight, Gljúfrabúi waterfall is a hidden gem far less visited than it’s well-known neighbour. Nestled behind a cliff it requires a bit of wading through a river, but the payoff is spectacular!

Other waterfalls that offer delightful hidden walkways behind the cascade include Kvernufoss, which is not as well known as some other waterfalls in Iceland. Deep in the remote Westfjords is Dynjandi, which is actually a collection of six waterfalls. One of the six is called Göngumannafoss, which has a small space behind it that you can walk into, but can be relatively challenging.

Where is the waterfall in Prometheus?

Iceland’s landscape is highly sought as a film location. Ridley Scott chose to use Dettifoss waterfall as the backdrop to the opening scene of his sci-fi prequel Prometheus. In the film, the waterfall and its surrounding land act as an earth-like, yet alien planet, something visitors will find easy to visualise. Stark, yet stunning, Dettifoss has become a popular location for lovers of nature as well as sci-fi film buffs and is one of the highlights on the Diamond Circle in North Iceland.

What is the largest waterfall in Iceland?

Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. With falls of 100m wide and 44m down, it is the largest waterfall in Iceland in terms of how much and how fast water cascades down it. The average water flow is an incredible 193 m³/s. Glymur was regarded as the tallest waterfall in Iceland, but has been surpassed by Morsárjökull (over 220m).

iceland dettifoss waterfall by ruedi haberli unsplash

Which is the most famous waterfall in Iceland?

As one of the three key highlights of the incredibly popular Golden Circle day trip, Gullfoss is likely Iceland’s most famous waterfall. However, another contender might be Seljalandsfoss in the south of Iceland, especially with the growth of the selfie. Although it’s proximity to the Ring Road make it an easy spot to reach, it is not just simplicity that brings in thousands of visitors a year. It is majestic and awe-inspiring and, due to the pathway that snakes its way around the waterfall itself, you can explore right the way around it.

If you are going to walk all the way around it, make sure you take your hiking boots as the terrain can be uneven. Also, be prepared to get wet as there is a constant mist that emanates from the water – although it serves to make the waterfall even more magical.

How far is Seljalandsfoss waterfall from Reykjavik?

About 1 hour 45 minutes from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, is one of the country’s most photographed features – Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Close to the Ring Road, it is an ideal choice for people on a self-drive holiday.

From Seljalandsfoss, head north to Gljufrabui waterfall, which is located at Hamragarðar (about 1km away) and is considered one of the hidden gems of the South Coast. Quieter than Seljalandsfoss but just as picturesque, it is surrounded by moss-covered walls, giving it a thoroughly fairytale feel. With locations like this on their doorstep, it’s not hard to see why belief in the folklore of elves and trolls endures to this day.

Iceland holidays - visit Seljalandsfoss in the south west

How old is Gullfoss waterfall?

Gullfoss waterfall is a truly iconic feature of Iceland’s landscape. It has been a popular tourist destination since 1875, but the waterfall and its surrounding area was designated as a nature reserve in 1979.  Its name literally translates to ‘The Golden Falls’ and it makes up one third of the Golden Circle – alongside Geysir geothermal area and Þingvellir National Park.

Is Gullfoss waterfall free?

Yes, it’s free all year round for you to enjoy, as are all of Iceland’s waterfalls.

With two cascades adding to the dramatic view, Gullfoss flows with the power of 140 cubic metres of water per second during the summer months. It has also been the location for a number of music videos and photo shoots because of its striking beauty.

Are you looking for a self-drive holiday with a difference? Feast on Iceland’s waterfalls and let yourself be inspired by the beauty and drama of the unique scenery. Discover more about our Iceland holidays or call 01737 214 250 and speak to our Travel Specialists.