waterfalls you’ll see on an Iceland quilt tour
Iceland, also known as the ‘land of Fire and Ice’, is a top destination for many things. Not the least of which is their incredible waterfalls! And each one has a story, and history, that makes them all the more interesting.
On our 2023 Iceland in Summer quilt tour, we saw at least a dozen amazing waterfalls in those 10 days. Here are just the top 8!
In this article:
- Glanni Waterfall
Located in the famous Diamond Circle, Godafoss is also sometimes referred to as “mini Niagara”. I’m sure you can see why.
Godafoss literally means “Waterfall of the Gods” in Icelandic. As the story goes, when Iceland was in turmoil between the ‘old ways’ of Viking Pagan faiths and the ‘new’ Christianity spreading from Norway, a meeting was held at Alþingi, the oldest parliament, and a decision was made.
Iceland would become Christian.
With that decision, Thorgeir, a pagan priest, collected his religious statues of the Pagan Gods, headed out to Godafoss and threw them in the falls. Thus symbolizing the leaving behind of Pagan faiths and embracing Christianity.
Today, you will find people of many different faiths across Iceland, including a few Pagans. 🙂
Fed by the Skjálfandafljót River, Godafoss was by far my favorite waterfall on the Iceland journey. Not only is the waterfall itself an incredible force to stand near, but the hike out was just as beautiful. Look at those colors!!!
Also located in the famed Diamond Circle in the North, Dettifoss is one of the best known waterfalls in all of Iceland.
I’ll be honest, I did not take a lot of photos of Dettifoss because, as you can see in this photo, everyone that walked out to that massive drop got SOAKED!
Dettifoss may not be the biggest in terms of size (hard to believe, right?) But it is definitely the most powerful waterfall in all of Iceland and the 2nd most powerful in all of Europe. It’s so powerful, the falls cause the nearby ground to shake. Which is why Dettifoss is so aptly nicknamed, “the Beast.”
Now we head further South into the Golden Circle of Iceland to visit Gullfoss. This is probably Iceland’s most well know and iconic waterfalls.
Literally translated to “Golden Falls”, Gullfoss puts on quite the dramatic show! There are 2 drops, the main one seen behind me, and the second is about 36 feet down from there. The total drop between the two is about 105 feet.
Similar to Dettifoss, when you travel down the walkways along Gullfoss’ second tier, you can expect to get drenched from the sheer magnitude of spray! That’s definitely not fog!
Visiting Gullfoss is the perfect stop to plan around lunchtime. There’s a lovely cafe and AMAZING gift shop at the top of the falls!
At about 44 feet high, Oxararfoss is not one of the larger falls in Iceland, but it’s location is incredible! Located inside Thingvellir National Park in the Southwest of Iceland, Oxararfoss is literally inside a crack in the earth!
Thingvellir National Park is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates join. As these plates pull apart, they cause the earth to crack and ‘tear’ creating incredible ravines and lava fields.
But it’s geological phenomena is not the only thing that makes this place special. It was also the original location of Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament. First founded in 930 AD the leaders of the various Viking tribes gathered to settle disputes, pass laws and share news. The Alþingi parliament is still held today in the Iceland capital city of Reykjavik.
Located just east of the Golden Circle lies a set of twin waterfalls known as Haifoss (Tall Falls) and Granni (Neighbor), two of the tallest and most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland.
While not as deep as the Grand Canyon here in the United States, Haifoss was right up there in it’s majesty. As you walk up to the edge and look down into the 400 foot gorge below you can almost feel the electricity in the air.
On our visit during the Iceland Quilt tour, we were lucky enough to arrive when the sun was out and the views couldn’t have been better. The rainbow at the base of the falls never faded!
Iceland is known for it’s Ogre folklore. And Haifoss has one of those stories! It’s said that an Ogress once lived in Haifoss. One day a boy traveling through threw a rock into her river. That night, the Ogress found where the boy was sleeping and tried to pull him out of his tent. Alarmed, his friends pulled the boy in the opposite direction to save him from the Ogress. Eventually, the Ogress gave in and let go of the boy. However, the boy was bedridden from his injuries.
Located not far from Haifoss is a smaller and very unique double waterfall. Hjalparfoss, meaning ‘Helps Falls’ is surrounded by incredible formations of basalt rock!
Hjalparfoss got it’s name due to it’s location. As travelers crossed the surrounding barren Sprengisadur highland, they could rest here and allow their horses to graze. Uniquely, this area is also near where the fresh water Fossa river merges with the glacial river Pjorsa.
You can definitely tell when the two types of rivers meet as the glacial rivers (fed directly from the Iceland glaciers) are more grey in color and powerful due to their colder temperatures. When they merge with the warmer fresh water rivers, you can clearly see the swirl and distinct ‘lines’ in the water.
These basalt rock formations remind me so much of the Giant’s Causeway in northern Ireland. They almost look like stepping stones, don’t you think?
So far we’ve seen tall waterfalls, wide waterfalls, powerful waterfalls, but Hraunfossar is in a category all to itself. This waterfall is an underground lava falls.
Yes, you read that correctly. Hraunfossar, meaning ‘lava falls’ is where underground water flow emerges and falls over the side into the Hvita River. Originally formed from the creation of the nearby glacier, that ground is actually a half mile wide lave field!
As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, nearly every location in Iceland has a story. And Hraunfossar is no exception. A little ways up river is a smaller waterfall know as Barnafoss, meaning children’s falls).
Legend has it that a widow living near the falls had two children. After leaving the children to play, the widow came home to find them missing. The only thing found was footsteps leading to a stone arch over the river. Then, the widow had the bridge destroyed.
Another version of the story has the children running across the bridge to catch up to their parents when they felt dizzy by the height of the bridge, fell into the falls and drown. Then, the mother cursed the bridge using an Icelandic rune so that anyone crossing would meet the same fate. Eventually, the bridge was destroyed by an earthquake.
One of my favorite thigs about Hraunfossar has to be the river itself. All along the falls in this area there are viewpoints where you can experience all the unique perspectives of the river and it’s banks. Just look how turquoise the water is! I think I feel a quilt design coming on…
Finally we have the Glanni waterfall. This seemingly small and simple waterfall also, you guessed it, has a story.
Located near the Bifrost village, Glanni Waterfall is on the Nordura River which flows across the Grabrokarhraun Lava Field. And, most interestingly, is said to be the home of elves and trolls as this would be the perfect spot for them to catch a bite to eat during the Salmon runs!
Now that you’ve seen the waterfalls and read their stories… why not see them in person!? CLICK HERE to check out what else you can expect on a Quilt Tour from US Quilt Tours!
- What to Expect on an Iceland Quilt Tour
- What is a Quilt Tour?
- Hotel Safety Tips for the Traveling Quilter
- Check out my Travel Safety Tips When You Fly
- Complete Lists of Quilt Shops in the US
- More Travel Tips!
Do you know someone who would love to know about Iceland Waterfalls? Click the buttons below to share the list with your friends! Then be sure to join us in the Traveling Quilters group on Facebook for more travel adventures!
more on the blog
shop the e-store
Traveling Quilter Books$14.95 – $39.90
Quilter’s Travel Journal – Shows and Retreats$19.95
Traveling Quilter T-shirt – Unisex$25.00
Traveling Quilter 18 oz. Travel Mug$25.00
Quilter’s Travel Postcards$7.95
Product on saleTraveling Quilter Touchless Sanitizer Kit
North Carolina Quilt Retreat$200.00
Traveling Quilter Collector Pin$9.00 – $25.00