In late June, Mary and I will board Iceland Air for the second time in six months. Toronto to Reykjavik is an easy six-hour flight and in less than an hour of landing we’ll board our second mode of transit, our rented Toyota Yaris.
With a little help from WAZE, we’ll navigate our way to Reykjavik where Hotel Fron will be our home base for the next five days. While February was quite breathtaking, summer in Iceland will offer us a new perspective (and another thousand or so images). It’s not quite beach weather but with a mid-summer average of 68 degrees, it trumps February any day.
But, it’s not the weather or the summer solstice that’s lured us back. If you’re a landscape photographer, I warn you, this island will have you hooked, as it did for me. It’s volcanic landscape, almost prehistoric, seems to be in a place that is cut off from the rest of the world. Gushing geysers, snow-capped mountains, sky’s painted with the Northern Lights, geothermal pools, and waterfalls as prevalent as their hotdogs.
It’s within these surroundings that fuel a photographers creative eye. If you haven’t been to Iceland (yet), I encourage you to move it up your “wanderlust” list and go. We’ll meet you there.
Here’s a guide to 10 of Iceland’s most stunning waterfalls. In June we’re going to try to get to as many of these as we can. Stay tuned to CiaoMary as I’ll be posting photos and story or two of our trip.
Seljalandsfoss is probably one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland and perhaps the world. It offers photographers an almost perfect ‘postcard shot’. This rugged location will definitely be on our agenda for more than one reason. We photographers love to wiggle our way into to the most awkward (and at times dangerous) locations to get the most perfect shot. Seljalandsfoss offers just that. There is a slippery path that runs around behind the waterfall that will provide us with a pretty unique vantage point, so snap away.
How to get there: Seljalandsfoss is situated between Selfoss and Skógafoss, where Ring Road meets the road going to Þórsmörk. The drive from Reykjavik to the falls is about 80 miles, plan about 2 hours.
Image: Mike Lemmon
Aldeyjarfoss is located in the northern part of the island known as the Highlands of Iceland. Admittedly a little out-of-the-way, but the scenery here offers photographers a spectacular location. Gushing water carves a path through ancient lava fields, sandwiched between dark basalt columns, before dropping 60 feet into the icy pool below. What’s interesting with this shot is that the almost black basalt walls contrast beautifully against the icy white turbulent water.
How to get there: Aldeyjarfoss is situated in the northern part of the Sprengisandur Highland Road. It’s a good 6.5 hour drive from Reykjavik so you’ll need to plan your time accordingly.
Image: Jaisri Lingappa
You must admit, you’re salivating right now, aren’t you? It will take you about 60 minutes just to walk from the parking lot to the falls, but if you want the opportunity to shoot long exposure scenes like the one above, Hengifoss is the place. Hengifoss is the third highest waterfall in Iceland, with an impressive 420 foot drop into a magnificent gorge below. It is crowned by exceptional high basalt columns making it totally unique and photogenic.
How to get there: Hengifoss is located in east Iceland. It’s a healthy day’s drive, 10.5 hours from Reykjavik, so you’ll need to plan you time accordingly, especially if you’re after the ‘golden hour‘. Route 931 delivers you to Vatnajökull National Park at Skriðuklaustur where you’ll find the falls.
Image: Tomasz Huczek
Keep your eyes peeled, because Kirkjufellfoss is the opposite to their grandiose brethren. This location offers you a little break from big, but the surrounding landscape is what makes this setting worthwhile. Located near the town of Grundarfjörður, Kirkjufellfoss is a waterfall that channels the glacier melt water of the Snæfellsjökull. Only 16 feet high, but it has a couple of levels and water is channeled into three separate spouts which offer plenty of challenges and opportunities for photographers.
How to get there: Kirkjufellfoss is about 120 miles from Reykjavik or about an 1.5 hours driving time. Located on the outskirts of the small fishing village of Grundarfjörður on the west side of the island. Highway 1 from Reykjavik merges to highway 54 that finds its way to Grundarfjörðu.
Image: Steve Begin
Although a little remote, the hike to Bruarfoss will be worth it. There is a wooden bridge perched above the river providing an ideal spot to capture the falls. The entire river turns into a waterfall with thousands of small rivulets running down a step of about 8 feet into pool of turquoise water.
Litlanesfoss is the second waterfall that you’ll encounter along the trail to Hengifoss as you proceed upstream. While the first waterfall, Jónsfoss, that you’ll pass along this trail is not that noteworthy, Litlanesfoss is much more significant. The falls are made up of two distinct steps: the upper tier falling 21 feet into a small pool, and then the lower tier cascades down 125 feet in a nearly vertical horsetail formation to a small blue pool below.
How to get there: From Reykjavik, Litlanesfoss is on the opposite, east side, of the island. Approximately 360 miles which is likely going to take you about 10 hours driving. No 1 takes you to Fellabær, then follow 931 into Litlanesfoss.
Gullfoss is notably one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls, found along the Golden Circle. The Hvítá, a glacier river, forms the falls as it pours into a narrow canyon carved into the otherwise flat landscape. It drops 105 feet, kicking up tiered walls of spray before thundering away down a narrow ravine. On grey, drizzly days, mist can envelop the second drop, making Gullfoss slightly underwhelming. Just a heads up: Gullfoss is a huge tourist attraction, as it’s a highlight on all tour packages, that may be a turn-off to some.
Dettifoss is reportedly one of Iceland’s largest in terms of scale. The river rumbles across a broad exposure of columnar basalt, stretching to a width of about 500 feet, and then hurdles 167 feet in a massive, immensely powerful curtain of water into the canyon below. The water may not be the colour you’re looking for, as there is almost always a high volume of silt in the water. It’s either a grey or a chocolate milk colour during the summer months.
How to get there: Dettifoss from Reykjavik is on the east side of the island between Myvatn and Egilsstaðir, north of Highway 1. Dettifoss is about 353 miles from Reykjavik, that’s about an 8-9 hour drive.
Image: DELION David
Godafoss falls are formed where the Skjálfandafljót river intersects a very symmetrical horseshoe-shaped cliff and plunges 37 feet in four distinct segments across the 370 foot wide semi-horseshoe shaped opening. You can get the full experience of this waterfall from both sides, the east bank or the west. But, it was reported that the west seemed to yield fewer tourists, so maybe that will be our best bet.
How to get there: Godafoss is located along Ring Road in the northeast region of Iceland. Driving distance from Reykjavik is about 273 miles, a solid 6 hour trek. Heading northeast on Highway 1 toward Akureyri Ring Road (no.1) will take you right to Godafoss.
Maybe a little out-of-the-way in remote Westfjords, but it’s going to be worth the trip. I love multi-tiered cascading waterfalls and that’s what Dynjandi delivers. This location offers a series of waterfalls (7 in all) with a cumulative height of about 330 feet. While Dynjandi presents and ideal shooting location, they don’t make it easy to get there, the walk up to the falls is a series of (uphill) slopes and stairs.
Featured Image: CiaoMary at Skógafoss