Visit Iceland's Best Waterfalls: Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss & Svartifoss
Iceland is full of amazing waterfalls making it hard to nail down which ones are truly the best waterfalls in Iceland.. No matter the time of year you visit the island, you're guaranteed to see tall, thundering waterfalls cascading down mountains around every turn. Okay, maybe not every turn, but it sure feels like it.
All three of these waterfalls (Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss & Svartifoss) are located on the southern coast of Iceland and are popular stops for those driving Iceland's famous Ring Road. Which, if you have the time to drive the Ring Road while in Iceland, we'd recommend it.
While we witnessed dozens (maybe hundreds?) of waterfalls in Iceland from massive and powerful to small and delicate, these are the three that were our absolute favorite. Keep in mind that they are very popular spots for tourists in Iceland and you should expect moderate crowds. People in Iceland will tell you the waterfalls get really busy, but never did we see a waterfall nearly as crowded as Glacier National Park in the summer or Cades Cove in the fall. I'm guessing "busy" is relative, but that doesn't mean you'll have these falls to yourself. You will definitely see other people and should expect to work your way around other tourists to get your photos.
If you're looking for something quintessentially Icelandic, it doesn't get more Icelandic than waterfalls, so brave the crowds, and visit these three best waterfalls in Iceland.
What to pack for visiting waterfalls in Iceland
You probably already know that it rains a lot in Iceland, but on top of the usual rain you should expect a lot of spray off the falls. When those crazy Icelandic winds kick up around the falls you'll get drenched. Even if it's a sunny day in Iceland, go prepared for rain like conditions and slippery rocks on the pathways.
Rain jacket - A good rain jacket is a must in Iceland. I opted to take my longer, yellow rain jacket for the way it covers more of my legs than my regular Patagonia rain jacket. The yellow rain jacket I purchased was from Eddie Bauer about 4 years ago, but this yellow rain jacket is similar. I know a girl in a yellow jacket in Iceland is a cliché, but I couldn't help myself. I love a good yellow rain jacket and it does look really good in photos against Iceland's rugged, moody climate.
Good shoes for walk/hiking - Even if you aren't planning on doing a lot of hiking while in Iceland, you'll still want shoes with good traction for many of the attractions. Given Iceland's rocky and rainy nature, you'll often find yourself walking through wet grass, gritty sand, and slippery rocks. If you're more of a hiking boots person, you can go wrong with these classic looking hiking boots Danner. I opted to take my trail running shoes by Altra which also offered great grip and take up less space in your suitcase.
Rain pants - I didn't pack rain pants but I wish I had. The days we visited the first two waterfalls on this list also happened to be our rainy days. Go ahead and do yourself a favor and pack the rain pants. Keep them in your backpack easy to reach in case you decide to throw them on over your other pants. Worst case scenario you don't use them and return them when you get home.
Skógafoss waterfall is 60 meters tall and the most accessible waterfall on this list. You don't have to hike in to see it, the parking lot is at the same elevation as the waterfall itself. While you can see the waterfall in the distance from the parking lot, you should walk up (about 1/2 mile) to the base of the falls. Up close and personal you'll get to feel the strength of the waterfall in the mist and hear it in the thunder as it cascades below.
Pro tip: The view is better from the bottom of the falls vs. the top. There is a viewing platform up 60 meters worth of steps, but if you're in a hurry and/or don't feel like climbing steps, just look at it from the bottom.
Where is Skógafoss?
Reykjavík to Skógafoss = 156 km / ~2hr 6 min | Google Maps
Akureyri to Skógafoss = 526 km / ~6hr 34 min | Google Maps
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon to Skógafoss = 11.6 km / ~ 13 min | Google Maps
How long is the hike to Skógafoss waterfall?
Skógafoss is accessible by a short 10-minute walk from the parking lot. There is no need to hike up to Skógafoss as it is visible from down below. There is a viewing platform where you can hike up 527 steps to view it from above, but the view is actually better from below. The only thing to note about viewing from down below is that the pathway heading up to the falls is rocky and slippery so be careful.
Is Skógafoss worth visiting?
Absolutely! It's incredible and well worth the stop. You can expect to spend about 30 minute to 1 hour at the waterfall.
What else is there to do near Skógafoss?
I almost made this article "4 Best Waterfalls in Iceland" because of this waterfall. It's almost right next to Skógafoss, but hardly anyone visits! The walk back is just under a mile and does involve having good balance since the terrain is hilly and rough.
This is one of the most iconic Iceland sites for tourists made very popular after Justin Bieber's music video for was shot here. We did not visit the plane wreck due to time, but if you'd really like to see it, it's just down the street (about 10 minutes) from Skógafoss. I found this guide to Iceland's plane wreck very helpful and it's worth the read if you want to visit it for yourself.
While there are lots of black sand beaches in Iceland, this is by far the most popular. People visit this one partially due to its close proximity to other popular attractions and also because of the beautiful rock formations and hexagonal basalt columns right on the beach.
NOTE: The water at this beach is incredibly dangerous. Do not try to enter the water and if the tide is high, do not venture further down the beach and around the rocks because you will be swept away. Not even the strongest swimmers can battle the crazy riptides here and people die on this beach every year.
Vík is an adorable town along the southern portion of the Ring Road and only 25 frrom Skógafoss. This is a great place to grab lunch, walk around, and maybe even walk up to the the beautiful (and very photographed) church that overlooks the village.
Seljialandsfoss is a 200 ft waterfall that's unique to visit because visitors can walk behind the falls. It's a completely different experience to go behind a waterfall where you can see and hear its strength.
Where is Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Reykjavík to Seljalandsfoss = 128 km / ~1 hr 46 min | Google Maps
Akureyri to Seljalandsfoss = 498 km / ~6 hr 18 min | Google Maps
Vík to Seljalandsfoss = 61.6 km / ~48 min | Google Maps
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon to Seljalandsfoss = 254 km / ~3 hr 16 min | Google Maps
How long is the hike to Seljialandsfoss?
The hike to Seljialandsfoss is a 1.2 out and back trail that loops you behind the waterfall. Most people complete the trail in ~35 minutes, and it's generally considered easy. Visitors should note that the pathway is rocky and wet and a bit slippery at times, and the pathway has little hills and stairs. If you have mobility issues, please be careful.
Is Seljialandsfoss worth visiting?
Absolutely! If for no other reason just to walk behind the waterfall. It's a really cool experience but just don't forget your rain jacket!
What else is there to do near Seljalandsfoss?
Seljalandsfoss is a 27 minute drive east of Skógafoss. There's really not too much to do directly around the falls that would appeal to most tourists, but all of the items listed under the Skógafoss section can be applied here, just add 27 minutes onto the route.
Svartifoss waterfall is by far the smallest waterfall in height and volume, but the main attraction here is the hexagonal basalt columns that surround the falls. Standing at only 65 ft tall, its name means "black falls" which you'll understand when you see the water against the dark, black columns. Svartifoss is located inside Skaftafell National Park which offers glaciers, camping, and lots of trails to explore.
Where is Svartifoss Waterfall
Reykjavík to Svartifoss = 327 km / ~4 hr 23 min | Google Maps
Akureyri to Svartifoss = 626 km / ~7 hr 53 min | Google Maps
Vík to Svartifoss = 140 km / ~1 hr 44 min | Google Maps
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon to Svartifoss = 57.6 km / ~49 min | Google Maps
How long is the hike to Svartifoss Waterfall?
The hike to reach Svartifoss is about 1 mile each way. While the trail is paved, it is uphill so take your time and don't forget to bring water with you. It takes most people 30-45 minutes to reach the falls, so visitors should plan on spending 1 1/2 - 2 hours total at Svartifoss.
Is Svartifoss worth visiting?
Absolutely! Skaftafell National Park as a whole is worth visiting. Svartifoss just happens to be one of the biggest attractions at the park.
What else is there to do near Svartifoss?
Skaftafell National Park
I know I've already mentioned this above, but while you're in Skaftafell Park visiting Svartifoss, be sure to explore more of the trails. If you're camping in Iceland, this national park has a great campground. There are so many great spots in Skaftafell for nature enthusiasts, so take your time explore!
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Svartifoss waterfall is located about 45 minutes from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, which is a must see if you're already in the area. The lagoon is full of icebergs that have broken off from Breiðamerkurjökull, the largest glacier in Europe. The glacier is directly next to the lagoon and one of the best ways to see it is by visiting the lagoon and taking a boat tour. We have a whole travel guide all about visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, so be sure to check that out if you plan on visiting while in the area.
How to get from Svartifoss to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: 57.3 km / ~50 min |Google Maps
Located directly across the street from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is Iceland's famous Diamond Beach. This black sand beach is full of pieces of icebergs that have floated their way out of the lagoon and into the ocean, then washed back up on the shore as the tide moves in and out. The pieces of ice against the black sand gives off a diamond appearance and is absolutely beautiful. If you visit the lagoon, you can't miss this. The two attractions practically share a parking lot!
How to get from Svartifoss to Diamond Beach: 56.1 km / ~46 min | Google Maps
This travel guide puts a lot of emphasis on three specific waterfalls, but truthfully there are incredibly waterfalls all around Iceland. I you miss one waterfall, don't worry, there'll be another one around the corner.
Side note: The word "waterfall" after the name of the falls is redundant. "Foss" in Icelandic literally means "falls." Since those of you reading this post are (like myself) not Icelandic, the word "waterfall" is helpful. Just know in Iceland you don't need to use it after the name. :)
Happy traveling, y'all!
Checkout our other Iceland travel guides for planning your trip.
Throughout our website you’ll find affiliate links for various products and services. Affiliate links are a way for us to earn a small commission when you purchase through our links at no additional cost to you. For more information about what affiliate links are or want to know why we use affiliate links, you can read more over at our affiliate page HERE.
We're Chris and Sara
A creative husband and wife duo from a small-town in Tennessee with passion for all things travel. Checkout the links below to join us on our past, present, and future adventures!