Iceland: Land of Ice, Land of Waterfalls

In Iceland, waterfalls are as ubiquitous as the fish. Known as foss in Icelandic, these gliding cascades can be found all over the island’s dramatic landscapes. Be sure to check out these top 10 beauties on your next trip!

Did you know? Over 80% of electricity in Iceland is generated in hydroelectric power stations.

Gullfoss (c) Andrea Schaffer, Creative Commons

Gullfoss. Haukadalur, South. Iceland’s most famous waterfall, its powerful waters sweep down over two levels, before plunging quite dramatically below into an abyss. Just one hour and thirty minutes from Reykjavik, it remains one of the more popular destinations on the Golden Road.

Skogafoss. Skogar, South. One of the most accessible waterfalls, visitors stopping on the Ring Road can experience the majesty of Skogafoss from the misted base as well as from the top. It’s “classic” rectangular shape has caught the eye of photographers for years. You can usually count on a single or double rainbow on sunny days. Legend has it that the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a treasure chest filled with gold coins in a cave behind the falls. They say that a local boy one retrieve a ring from the water—the ring was later used for the church door at Skogar. Perhaps on one sunny day you yourself will spot gold glittering through the water!

Svartifoss. Skaftafell National Park, East. This waterfall descends from striking basalt cliffs. These blackened cliffs and their hexagonal corbels have been carved out over centuries that have inspired Icelandic architecture like the Halgrimskirkja in Reykjavik. It recalls to mind Muqarnas, the traditional Islamic stalactite corbel found in madrasas and mosques.

Svartifoss, (c) MindsEye_PJ, Creative Commons

Dettifoss. Vatnajökull, Northeast. Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. The wild glacial-melt waters of Jökulsá á Fjöllum have carved the massive canyon Jökulsárgljúfur where you can find the 44m waterfall as well as 3 other large ones.

Goðafoss. Mývatn, Northeast.  The legend goes that when Iceland voted to become Christian, an Icelandic Goði, or chieftain, Þorgeir, threw his Norse deity idols into the massive Goðafoss waterfall.

Goðafoss (c) MindsEye_PJ, Creative Commons

Haifoss. Þjórsárdalur, South. At 122m, Haifoss is the island’s second tallest. The falls drop into the Þjórsá River and the wide and stunning Þjórsadalur Valley.  Set against the beautiful and haunting landscape off the Icelandic Highlands, it remains off the radar for most travelers. Be prepared for some rough driving!

When to Go? The best time to see Icelandic waterfalls in all their glory are the warmer months, June to August.

Planning a trip to Beautiful Iceland for Summer 2014? Call 503-224-0180 or email Next month, you can ask Wailana when she gets back for some firsthand tips!

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