Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Ever since I saw an Instagram post about the iconic Skogafoss back in high school, I dreamed of the day I'd get to see Icelandic waterfalls in person. This spring, I was able to make that dream come true.
Yes, I know the saying, “don’t go chasing waterfalls,” but quite honestly, every time I’ve chased a waterfall, nothing but good has come from it. There’s something so mesmerizing about standing next to something with so much force behind it. I often find myself realizing just how small I am in comparison to the world that surrounds us and can never seem to get enough of the overwhelming sense of calm that standing next to a waterfall brings me. I get caught up in simply listening to the roar of the water pounding down, feeling the cool mist on my skin, and breathing the clean, crisp air that always goes hand in hand with waterfalls.
During my 10-day road trip around the southern half of Iceland, I visited three of the most jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, and Instagram-worthy waterfalls I’ve ever seen: Gulfoss, Seljelandsfoss, and Skogafoss.
The mighty Gulfoss! This was the first waterfall we visited in Iceland and definitely one of the most impressive in terms of scale. Pictures never do waterfalls justice, but this is especially true for Gulfoss. It might not look like it, but Gulfoss is the largest waterfall (by volume) in all of Europe and is well worth stopping to see. It's part of Iceland's Golden Circle and takes about 2 hours to get to from Reykjavik by car - given that the road conditions and weather are permitting (which was definitely not the case for the entirety of our trip!)
A few tips for visiting Gulfoss:
Don't plan on spending too much time here, especially if you're visiting in snowy seasons.
The trails to go closer to the waterfall were too icy and snowy to access, and it was too risky to try and go any closer. We spent about 15 to 30 minutes here just enjoying the scenery and taking photos, but I wouldn't plan on spending much longer than that here.
Be sure not to miss the Icelandic horses located near Gulfoss!
Honestly, I probably enjoyed seeing and interacting with super cute, miniature horses more than I enjoyed seeing this waterfall. These horses were just off to the side of the road on our drive from Gulfoss to Seljelandsfoss. We found a safe spot to pull over and met these super friendly lil horsies along with their owners who let us feed them some treats! Definitely a nice little surprise.
People often describe Iceland as "out of this world" or "like you're in Outer Space," and that is exactly how I felt as we drove up to Seljalandsfoss.
First of all, it's an experience in and of itself being able to go from Gulfoss, covered in snow and ice, and the drive a short 1.5 hours and be in a place with a completely different climate; with no snow and not a cloud in the sky. I had always heard that Iceland was known for its micro climates and sudden changes in weather, but it was just wild to experience this firsthand.
Another pleasant surprise was how easy it was to get to the popular Icelandic waterfalls. We literally drove right up to most of the waterfalls we visited - no long hikes required. There are plenty of waterfalls to hike to, but if you don't have unlimited time to spare like us, it was awesome to be able to see several waterfalls within walking distance from your car.
Seljalandsfoss is primarily known by tourists for two reasons:
When the light is right, visitors can see a rainbow, or sometimes even a double rainbow, going through the waterfall.
You can walk behind the waterfall!
Warning: prepare to get absolutely SOAKED if you decide to go close to the waterfall or walk behind it. Although they aren't the most flattering, I'd recommend bringing a rain poncho. You'll totally look like a tacky tourist, but we decided it would be better to embrace that than to spend the whole rest of the day in wet clothes. The walk up to and behind the waterfall will take your breath away and should not be missed!
Skogafoss not only lived up to, but surpassed with flying colors, any expectations I had. Skogafoss was by far the best waterfall I saw in Iceland, and probably the best waterfall I've ever seen - and I've seen a lot of waterfalls! I'll let the pictures do most of the talking for this one, but here are a couple of tips on visiting Skogafoss:
Visit early in the morning.
Due to its popularity, Skogafoss is rarely as empty as it was when I visited. I went right after sunrise in late March, around 7am, and got to experience the waterfall virtually all by myself. If you want to see these falls without the crowds, I'd recommend getting there before 8am - it's worth it without a doubt.
If it's a windy day, skip the trail that takes you to the top of the waterfall.
To the right of the waterfall, there's a short hiking trail with stairs that you can take to the top of the waterfall. It was a bit windy out, but we thought seeing the view of Skogafoss from above would be worth it. Long story short - it was not worth it! It was so windy that I literally felt like if I let go of the hand rail, I could blow away. We also couldn't really even see the waterfall once we got to the top because it was too windy to face the direction of the waterfall. Skogafoss is stunning from the ground, so don't feel like you're missing out on anything by skipping the stairs to the top.
Yes, I'd say all three waterfalls were definitely worth the hype, but if I had to choose only one to visit, I’d choose Skogafoss. Let me know in the comments what your favorite Icelandic waterfall is!