TheVibe’s Guide to Icelandic Waterfalls

Follow us into a fantasy world, where natural elements exist in harmonious co-existence. Dark icy winters wage a silent battle against the midnight summertime sun, as sparkling glaciers, and hot geysers live in a state of perpetual duality upon snowy mountains. A land of ice and fire, where adventure beckons from beyond the mountains, across gushing rivers and within darkened caves. Welcome to a land of breathtaking contrast, where the Gods walk amongst men, infused within the purity of nature. This is Iceland, the land of 10,000 waterfalls.

A paradise for lovers of nature and the outdoors, the rugged and beautiful Nordic nation of Iceland is home to about 800 hot springs, 10,000 waterfalls, 35 active volcanoes, breathtaking sightings of the Northern Lights, and Europe’s largest glacier. Known as the “Land of Ice and Fire,” the elements co-exist in almost equal measure in this fairy tale land. With 10% of the island covered in ice, the national population of the region stands at a mere 330,000 people, with most concentrated around the hinterland capital of Reykjavik.

A land of rich cultural and historical significance, Iceland was founded over 1,000 years ago, when Norwegian seafarers and adventurers encountered the area during the Viking age of exploration, in search of new land to inhabit. While the nation might be known for its rugged natural beauty, Iceland is also a land of creative fulfilment, where music, literature, art, and design are held in high regard. A young nation geologically, the landscape of Iceland remains fairly barren, with a number of active volcanoes, black sandy beaches, and roaring water to be found in abundance.

Popularly celebrated for its natural allure, the Land of Ice and Fire is known for having a climate and location perfectly suited to waterfalls- a combination of an abundance of glaciers which melt during the summer months, with frequent year-round rain and snow. Owing to these conditions, Iceland is home to over 10,000 waterfalls, as varied and inviting as there are many. Planning your next trip into the raw, unadulterated beauty of the Nordic Nation? Check out TheVibe’s picks for the must-see waterfalls of Iceland!

1. Háifoss

Háifoss, or, The High Waterfall, is one of the highest and most visually striking waterfalls in Iceland. Situated in a narrow gorge that feeds into the Icelandic Highland, this waterfall is one of Iceland’s most popular attractions. Standing at an impressive height of 122 meters, the cliff itself dates back to almost two million years.

2. Skógafoss

Situated on the Skóga River in the south of Iceland at the cliffs of the former coastline, The Skógafoss waterfall is one of the biggest Icelandic waterfalls and comes with its own Viking legend of hidden treasure. According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. The legend continues that locals discovered the chest years later, but were only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared under the weight of the water again. The sheer size of the waterfall consistently produces such a massive amount of spray that on sunny days, a single or double rainbow is a common sight.

3. Kvernufoss

Standing at a height of 30-meters, Kvernufoss waterfall is half away in a gorge in South Iceland, is located on the east side of the popular Skógafoss waterfall. Often overlooked by travelers to the area, one cannot see the Kvernufoss waterfall unless one is standing right by the river and looking into the gorge. Considered to be the lesser-known sister waterfall to the Skógafoss, this waterfall is one for those who enjoy the quieter side of adventure-tourism.

4. Seljalandsfoss

Located on the South Coast of Iceland, the Seljalandsfoss waterfall is a spectacular marvel of nature. This raging cascade of crystal-clear water drops around 60 meters in the otherwise serene pool below, complete with a hidden path that leads you behind the waterfall, affording you a view of the fall from a complete 360° angle.

5. Dettifoss

The Dettifoss waterfall has the greatest volume of any in Europe, with 500 cubic meters of water per second plunging over the edge. 45m high and 100m wide, Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Iceland. The stairs that lead up to the fall are known for being slippery, from the magnitude of the flow, with the resulting noise being likened to the roar of a hundred rivers.

What’s your pick for the best waterfalls in Iceland? Let us know!

All the images used in this article are courtesy of Stijn Dijkstra.

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