No matter where you go in Iceland, you’re guaranteed to be rewarded with a gorgeous view. Whether you’re enjoying Reykjavík’s mountain-backed cityscape, weaving in and out of the East Fjords, or traversing The Highlands, the picturesque scenery is endless.
Of course, one of the features Iceland is best known for is its countless waterfalls.
As tourism in Iceland has grown over the past few years, you’ve most likely seen photo after photo of iconic Icelandic waterfalls like Skógafoss and Godafoss throughout the explore page on your Instagram feed. And for good reason — they’re pretty unreal.
It might be easy to write off the now tourist-ridden waterfalls as overrated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter how many photos you’ve seen, in person, each waterfall is still absolutely stunning.
On my trip to Iceland in May 2018 with my boyfriend, JP, we made it a point to visit as many waterfalls as we could, and even found a couple secret spots along our trip around the ring road.
Whether you’re in Iceland on a short stopover or you have lots of vacation time to fill, here are the best waterfalls in Iceland to add to your itinerary.
The base of the hike to Glymur waterfall is tucked away in a canyon about an hour’s drive North of Reykjavík. Now, I have to be honest with you. We didn’t actually make it all the way to Glymur, per se. It was a long hike, the end of which got pretty steep (Glymur is the second-highest waterfall in Iceland) and sketchy with lots of mud and loose rocks.
However, even if you don’t technically make it all the way (I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me), the hike itself is worth it. If you go in the warmer months, you can cross the river and see Glymur from a few separate points of view.
Apparently, at one time these falls were considered “hidden” as there was no marked road to get there and only locals really knew about it — or so I read when looking up the “bluest waterfall in Iceland.” JP and I took this information to heart and made our journey to Bruarfoss a lot more difficult than it needed to be, only to end up on private property and nowhere near where we needed to be.
Don’t do what we did.
There’s now a parking lot at the base of the trail right off the main road that leads you in the right direction. That’s not to say the hike is easy. Though it’s mostly flat, it’s also muddy, the footpath is narrow and winds through bushes and trees, and you might make an Icelandic horse angry enough to stalk you (yes, that happened). But it’s worth it, I promise! Bruarfoss waterfall is an otherworldly blue and probably one of the least touristy waterfalls you’ll see.
Just the tiniest bit North of Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi is tucked away in a canyon. It’s super cool-looking from the outside, but the real show is within the canyon.
Entering the canyon might seem a little intimidating, especially with tourists shuffling in and out in a steady stream along slippery rocks, but it’s worth getting soaked for!
One of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland, you’ve almost certainly seen at least one (but probably more like 100) photos of Seljalandsfoss on your Instagram feed. Don’t let the tour buses in the parking lot turn you off — it’s worth a look, even if you don’t stay long because it's pouring rain.
This is one of the only waterfalls we saw that you can walk completely behind and get a look at every angle.
If you haven’t seen Seljalandsfoss anywhere in your Instagram timeline, you’ve most certainly seen Skógafoss. It’s probably the most photogenic waterfall I’ve ever seen in my entire life and absolutely enormous.
Despite the many, many tourists you’ll probably have to crop out of your photos (unless you get lucky like us and manage to get there as the tour buses are leaving), if you only see one waterfall in Iceland, it should probably be this one.
While the real attraction here is technically the hidden pool nestled among the mountains, when we arrived, JP and I agreed it was the most beautiful scenery we had seen yet (at that point it was only day four of nine, but I’m pretty sure I still feel that way).
Here, it may not be the waterfalls themselves that leave you in awe, but rather the serene feeling of being surrounded by the looming mountains and cold air while floating around in a warm, quiet pool.
What makes Svartifoss stand out are the black basalt columns that surround it. Situated in Vatnajökull National Park, the hike to Svartifoss was pretty steep — it was the first hike where my little legs felt the burn — but worth the climb.
Once you get your fill of the waterfall (maybe even literally, if you drink the glacier water like we did), you can continue the hike to get an overhead look at the Svínafellsjökull glacier which is, at the risk of sounding clickbaity, mindblowing.
Godafoss may not be the tallest waterfall in Iceland, but you can’t not see the “Waterfall of the Gods.” It also holds an important place in Icelandic history. According to Iceland Travel, when Northern Iceland converted to Christianity in the year 1000, their then-leader “ceremoniously disposed of Norse pagan idols into the falls.” Gotta go pay your respects, yanno?
Kirkjufell is a mountain located on the Snæfellsness peninsula of Western Iceland, and it’s apparently known as both the “most beautiful mountain” in Iceland and is also reportedly the “most photographed.” Across the road from the mountain is the waterfall of the same name, and together they’re truly a sight to see (especially if you’re there around sunset!).
10. Kolugljúfur Canyon
JP and I didn’t really have anything planned for the 5-hour drive from Akureyri to the Grundarfjördur, but like I said, it’s hard not to find something worth stopping for wherever you are in the country. We managed to find this little canyon along the way.
11. "Secret" Waterfall
I promised you a secret spot, didn’t I? Truth is, I’d put a name to this one if I had one, but it’s not on any map — yet. Which means, yes: it’s tourist-free… for now. JP and I had the spot all to ourselves, aside from a few birds who didn’t seem all that thrilled with our presence.
So… how do you find it? Here’s a hint: as you drive from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon towards Hofn, keep your eye out for a Fosshotel with architecture to die for (seriously, every time we passed it — which was a lot — we commented on how much we liked it). The waterfall is hidden in a little canyon to the left of the hotel. Get as close to it as you want (but don’t tell anyone who sent you).