TLC may have said “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to”, but ignore that! Chasing waterfalls in Iceland is something that everyone should do when visiting the land of fire and ice! Finding the beautiful waterfalls and rainbows in Southern Iceland are some of the best things to see and do in Iceland. The waterfalls are all so unique, each with their own Icelandic folk tales, which only adds to their mystique.
In this post, I am sharing my own South Iceland Waterfalls Guide with 5 of the best waterfalls in Iceland ‘s South Coast (including a map of waterfalls in Iceland ‘s Golden Circle), featuring famous waterfalls in Iceland, as well as Iceland’s hidden waterfalls, which are full of intriguing tales.
Gullfoss Waterfall – Iceland’s Golden Falls
Forming part of Iceland’s famous Golden Circle (along with Þingvellir and the geysers of Haukadalur), Gullfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland.
Cascading down a three-step staircase before plunging into crevices of the Hvítá River, it is also one of the most dramatic waterfalls in Southern Iceland. The falls pay homage to Sigríður Tómasdóttir, an activist who helped preserve Gullfoss and helped prevent the industrialisation of the falls. It could be said that it may not be possible to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls in Iceland today if it was not for Sigríður and her sisters.
The family used to guide tourists around Gullfoss and even built the trail that led down to the waterfall.
The name Gullfoss is believed to have come from various theories. The first, that is is named after the golden evening hue which often colours the glacial water. The second theory is that the name was inspired by the rainbow, which can appear when the sunshine hits the water spray of the waterfall. The third theory derives from Icelandic naturalist Sveinn Pálsson’s travel journal, which depicts a farmer who could not bear the thought of someone possessing all his gold after his passing and threw the gold into the waterfall, which has since been named Gullfoss.
Urriðafoss Falls – Southern Iceland’s Lesser-Known Waterfalls
Urriðafoss falls are waterfalls near Reykjavík, which are often sadly overlooked on the main tourist route. The most voluminous waterfalls in Iceland, but a lot lesser known too. Adam and I could have spent all afternoon at Urriðafoss falls. With the sun on our backs and only the sound of the water falling off the rocks, nature’s peace washed over us and consumed us in this moment.
It really is a remarkable and peaceful waterfall, despite the fact that more water flows over Urriðafoss falls in the Þjórsá River than any other Icelandic waterfall. The Þjórsá, Iceland’s longest river, flows along the eastern edge of a lava field with the biggest flow on earth from a single eruption since the Ice Age.
The Urriðafoss falls has the wildest salmon in all of Iceland was one of my favourite waterfalls during our trip. Perhaps, because it’s a little lesser-known Icelandic waterfall, you can really soak up the natural beauty of the falls and the surroundings. A glorious rainbow shined over the falls and left us awestruck. If only we had brought a little picnic along with us!
Skógafoss Falls – Famous Waterfalls in Iceland
Legend has it that behind the dramatic falls of Skógafoss a hidden treasure chest can be seen protruding through the water spray filled with gold and treasures. It is said that locals discovered the chest left by a Viking settler many years later, but were only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared. The ring was gifted to the local church and can now be seen in Iceland’s Skógar Museum.
Perhaps one of many folklore stories surrounding the waterfalls, though Skógafoss is one of the most magical of Iceland’s waterfalls. Skógafoss is a waterfall you can walk right up to (you may want to bring a quick-dry towel as you will get drenched!) Skógafoss is known as a place to experience the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland; it is not unusual to see a single and sometimes double rainbow produced by the falls on sunnier days.
If only we had visited this waterfall earlier in the day!
Seljalandsfoss Falls – Iceland Waterfall Walk-Behind View
Another popular and famous waterfall in Iceland (as well as a favourite of mine) is Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall you can walk behind in Iceland (entry into the little cavern is weather permitting.) This majestic Icelandic waterfall carries much misty spray, so expect to get wet!
Luckily, visiting Iceland in September meant that we got to walk behind this waterfall in Iceland to see the beautiful autumnal colours inside the cave. It really is breathtaking!
If you walk on a little further you’re in for a surprise…
Gljúfrafoss Falls – Hidden Waterfall Iceland
“Grace is finding a waterfall when you were only looking for a stream”
Gljúfrafoss or Gljúfrabúi is a small waterfall located north and within walking distance of Seljalandsfoss. Peaking through the chasm of Gljúfrabúi, I uncovered one of Iceland’s hidden gems. I wish I’d brought some wet shoes to climb through and see the whole waterfall with my own eyes.
Gljúfrabúi waterfall has a certain mystique about it. Hidden in a little chasm and surrounded by palagonite rock, the area is believed to have been inhabited by huldufólk (hidden people.) At the inner end of the basin, there is a cave called Ompuhellir, named after a hermit woman who lived here. A worthy look to unlock the secrets of Gljúfrabúi if you’re visiting the more famous waterfall Seljalandsfoss.
Southern Iceland Waterfalls Worth Chasing
There you have it my favourite Southern Iceland waterfalls worth chasing, from hidden waterfalls in Iceland, waterfalls near Reykjavík to famous waterfalls in Iceland.
Chasing waterfalls Iceland (and rainbows too) can take a number of days and, there are certainly more to be seen
To best plan your trip to include your full South Iceland Itinerary, read my Sightseeing the Golden Circle – Best Travel Itinerary for a 4 day Trip to Iceland post (maps included.)
Adam and I hired a rental car and drove to all the waterfalls, without the need of a tour company (you can read about driving in Iceland by clicking here.)
As I mentioned in my 11 Things To Know Before Visiting Iceland for the First Time post, the weather is unpredictable in Iceland to say the least! One minute you can be enjoying glorious sunshine and the next caught in a downpour! But, whatever the weather you are in for a treat in Iceland so certainly don’t let it put you off chasing waterfalls in Iceland. This post isn’t simply about chasing waterfalls, there are plenty of rainbows to be seen too! We don’t get rainbows without a little rain! 🙂
When it comes to waterfalls in Iceland, you ou never know, you may even find some gold behind one!
I hope you enjoyed reading my South Iceland Waterfalls Guide giving you all the inspiration you need to chase waterfalls in Iceland! If you did, please share this post (using the share buttons on the left or underneath this post.) Let’s spread some Icelandic magic to others and inspire them to get chasing waterfalls in Iceland too!
Looking for somewhere to stay in Reykjavík? Check out my Review of The Swan House Apartments: