Skip to content
Surprising Science

Natural Wonders: A Photo Tour of Iceland’s Breathtaking Waterfalls

Of the countless natural wonders dotting Iceland’s famous Ring Road, perhaps most notable are the country’s bountiful and majestic waterfalls. Iceland’s unique location and climate have made it home to some of the world’s largest and most powerful. They’ve been visited over the years by millions of tourists, used as set locations for multiple Hollywood blockbusters, and have inspired many an artist, poet, and composer by their sheer natural might. 

Here’s a brief introduction to some of the most famous of Iceland’s falls. High resolution images are available by clicking the links in the photo credits.

Gullfoss (Golden Falls)

Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. This iconic waterfall features a staircased canyon plunge with two separate drops of 11 and 21 meters. Its website features a live webcam, though it was experiencing errors at the time of this posting.

Fans of the British band Echo and the Bunnymen may recognize Gullfoss from the Porcupinealbum cover.

Above photo credit: Bryan Pocius / Flickr

Top photo credit: O Palsson / Flickr


From photographer Ashley Buttle:

“According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. A local boy found the chest years later, but was only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again.”

Skókafoss was used as a film set for both Thor: The Dark World and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Photo credit: Ashley Buttle / Flickr


This unique horseshoe-shaped waterfall is located right upon a northern stretch of the ring road. Its falls measure 12 meters in height, roughly thirty in width. A local legend tells that an Icelandic lawspeaker tossed his Norse idols from these falls upon naming Christianity the land’s official religion around the year 1000.

Photo credit: Marco Bellucci / Flickr

Svartifoss (Black Falls)

Located in the southern region of Vatnajökull National Park, Svartifoss gets its name from the dark and imposing lava columns that surround it. Here’s a glimpse of what the waterfall looks like in winter.

Photo credit: Andreas Tille / Wikicommons


Trails have been cut blazed behind the 60 meter drop so that visitors can take in a 360-degree view. Notice the person in red to the right of the photo. Seljalandsfoss was used as a location during filming of the Amazing Race 6.

Photo credit: Laszlo Ilyes / Flickr


The big daddy of them all, this is the largest and most powerful waterfall in Europe. The chute is 40 meters tall and 100 meters wide, leading to an average water flow of 193 m3/s. Note the single individual to the left of the photo… that’s how massive this thing is. The mighty drop creates a vapor cloud that can be seen for many kilometers, even in winter.

Dettifoss was used as a shooting location in the film Prometheus because of its alien appearance. That milky gray color is due to sentiment in the water.

Smarter faster: the Big Think newsletter
Subscribe for counterintuitive, surprising, and impactful stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday

Photo credit: Andrea de Poda / Flickr

It’d be near impossible to include all the major Icelandic waterfalls in a small post, so if you’re interested in viewing more photos and learning all about these natural goliaths, here are some resources for your use:

Iceland on World of Waterfalls

Wikipedia’s List of Waterfalls in Iceland

Flickr results for “Iceland Waterfalls”


Up Next