Why You Should Experience North Iceland

Mývatn on a summer day
Jón Gauti Jónsson

Though only 100m wide, and just 45m high, Dettifoss currently reigns as the most powerful waterfall in Europe — 500 cubic meters (96,500 gallons) of water per second. The spray of the waterfall, visible a kilometer away in all directions, forms vibrant double rainbows across the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, which flows through a black gorge of jagged, columnar basalt.

Dettifoss means, literally, “Waterfall,” though over the years it has collected other names, such as “The Beast” and “The Raging Waterfall.” It provided the opening backdrop for Ridley Scott’s movie, Prometheus, and is the namesake of a musical piece, written by the Iceland composer, Jón Leifs.

Dettifoss big waterfall in Iceland
Björgvin Hilmarsson

Dettifoss cascades near the southern boundary of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, the most precious gem of Northeast Iceland. Getting to Dettifoss is not difficult, but neither is it a quick stroll in the park. To reach the eastern 2WD car park, you’ll putter along at 15 kph (10 mph). It is prudent to check road conditions to ensure the route is passable for the time of year when you visit.

West access to the falls requires 4WD, and roughly a twenty-minute walk. Once there, your heart rate increases as you stand on the rim of a canyon, with no walkways, viewing pads, or guardrails. Be prepared to get wet from the spray. Nothing stands between you and the thundering water.

Twenty minutes upstream (south) of Dettifoss you’ll find Selfoss, a little sister just as impressive in her own right. Downstream (north), just 2 km, you’ll come upon Hafragilsfoss, another waterfall which plunges into the deepest part of Jökulsá canyon, and which cuts through the Randarhólar crater row, ridges of lava that have collected from the spatter of the volcanic fissure in the east wall of the canyon.


man standing looking over orange sunrise
Arinbjörn Hauksson

Jökulsárgljúfur National Park will astound you with its surreal beauty. From the cliffs of Ásbyrgi — where Óðinn’s horse stamped a huge footprint in the earth — to the echoing rocks of Hljóðaklettar, you won’t find it hard to imagine that you’ve left the Solar System on an adventure to another world in a different galaxy.

You can read about spectacular places, or look at pictures, but Icelandic Mountain Guides offers several tours through some of the most stunning, surreal landscapes in Iceland, to give you first-hand experience to last a lifetime.

Check out our spectacular Coast to Coast backpacking adventure and ski tours in the north of the country. 

About the Author

IMG Staff Writer

IMG Staff Writer

An anonymous but well informed member of our team that enjoys sharing their knowledge of Iceland & Greenland’s stunning nature.

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