Dettifoss Waterfall – North Iceland

Dettifoss waterfall Iceland photo location
Dettifoss waterfall Iceland photo location

Dettifoss waterfall

In the wilderness of North Iceland, Dettifoss waterfall pounds into a deep canyon with an deep rumble. The waterfall is famous as the most powerful waterfall in Europe and just to stand close enough to feel the surrounding rocks in a constant state of vibration confirms this fact. As a photo location Dettifoss waterfall works so much better from the East side. But getting over to the East side is a very uncomfortable journey in a regular car. There is an easier road leading to the West side.

Icelandic waterfalls

Dettifoss Waterfall Facts

  • Dettifoss is the second largest waterfall in Iceland (and Europe).
  • Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Iceland (and Europe).
  • The waterfall is 100 meters wide and nearly 50 meters high.
  • It is possible to visit Dettifoss in Winter via route 862 or SuperJeep.
  • The East side is better with more complete views of the falls.
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Surrounding Area

The mighty Dettifoss waterfall Iceland is accompanied by two other substantial waterfalls. Selfoss is a few kilometres south and Hafragilsfoss is a few kilometres north. Dettifoss and Selfoss and accessible providing that care is taken to traverse the rugged terrain. Marked trails can be found to assist you. The waterfalls can be access from both sides of the river, although the road on the west side is a track requiring a mountain vehicle. Smaller cars are often seen stranded on these tough roads.

Because it is north facing and in a northern location, the midnight sun can be your best friend. Be sure to spend a night there midsummer for the best light.

Dettifoss My Enricher

Dettifoss waterfall so thunderous to my ears and feet
Before the edge the calmness of river
Before the icy waters face their plummeting doom
The plundered gallons shake the ground with a tribal beat
And like the word ‘Pounding’, there is
No point pretending Dettifoss is a gentle giant
By A.C.Brackley

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Prometheus Film-Set

Dettifoss waterfall is part of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river.  This water is glacier meltwater from the Vatnjokull Glacier some 120 km south of the falls.   The Eastern side is accessible by rough track which connects to the ring road and also from Asbyrgi further north. The West side of Dettifoss is also accessible from the north near Asbyrgi, but this is a very difficult track.  There is a paved road to the west side from the ring road.  This is the easiest way to access the waterfall, although it does involve a 2 km hike.  The waterfall is 44m high. Helicopter footage from the canyon featured in the opening scene of Prometheus. 

Dettifoss waterfall west
The west side of Dettifoss waterfall.

Dettifoss Tours

Group Tours

These group tours include Godafoss waterfall, Lake Myvatn and Dettifoss waterfall. There are likely to visit the west side of Dettifoss waterfall because of the easier access. These north Iceland tours depart from Akureyri. 

Private Tours

If you want to spend quality time at the waterfall, these private tours could be the answer. A superjeep might be able to access the east side of Dettifoss in the Winter. 

Dettifoss waterfall

Dettifoss waterfall on a gloomy day above. Below is a vertical HDR photo of Dettifoss with a faster shutter to capture some details in the waterfall.

Vertical photo of Dettifoss waterfall
Vertical photo of Dettifoss waterfall

Selfoss Waterfall

About 2km south of Dettifoss (accessible from either side of Dettifoss) there is a beautiful waterfall called Selfoss.   The path on the East side of the river is very rough and sometimes not clear. There are coloured sticks to help you navigate the rocky areas. The path on the West side is fairly easy going. This photo was taken from the West side of the river. I always seem to render my Selfoss waterfall photographs into black and white.

Selfoss waterfall North Iceland
Selfoss waterfall near Dettifoss North Iceland

Dettifoss Canyon

After Dettifoss waterfall and facing North there is quite an impressive river canyon. This impressive canyon is called Jökulsárgljúfur (Glacier River Gorge)

Dettifoss canyon Jökulsárgljúfur
Looking North with Dettifoss waterfall behind me.

Hafragilsfoss waterfall

About 2km north of Dettifoss there is another waterfall called Hafragilsfoss.  This photo was taken from the east side road. I couldn’t see a way to get close without rock climbing skills or a helicopter. If drones were permitted in the Vatnjokull National Park, then that could be the key to getting close up photos.

Hafragilsfoss waterfall North Iceland
Hafragilsfoss waterfall
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By Tony Prower

Tony Prower spent over 15 years photographing the landscapes of Iceland. Tony Prower is a pioneer of the Magic Cloth Technique and ran thousands of photo tours in Iceland over 10 years.