Top 10 Icelandic Waterfalls – Photo Guide

Icelandic Waterfalls

My top ten

10 – Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall

Our Tenth Icelandic waterfall is Aldeyjarfoss which is upstream from Godafoss. This waterfall can be accessed with a 4×4 in Summer, but you may need a SuperJeep to visit Aldeyjarfoss in the Winter. The waterfall can be viewed from many levels as long as you have climbing skills.  Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall is loaded with basalt columns, so there are lots of foreground options with great textures.

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Aldeyarforss Warfall

Small Group Ice Caving

9 – Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Our Ninth Icelandic waterfall is Seljalandsfoss. This is the waterfall that you can walk behind. In the Summer it is possible to catch the late evening sunrise from behind the falls. The Waterfall can be seen from the main ring road. There is a charge for parking and last time I went there was a shop and cafe. The toilets are well maintained and are heated – which is a nice surprise in the Winter. At night there are two coloured spotlights that shine on the waterfall, this makes Seljalandsfoss waterfall a poor choice for Northern Lights.

Vertical photo of Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall on a Summer Night.

Photo Tips

The potential for getting all your camera gear soaking wet is quite high at Seljalandsfoss waterfall.  Going behind the waterfall is guaranteed to get you wet.  For this reason, I would recommend photographing as much of the waterfall from the dry zones (like the bridge) before going behind.  I would advise against taking a tripod behind the waterfall, unless you are a master of protecting your camera and lens from the spray.  A monopod can work to get slow shutter speeds.  For lesser mortals, I would suggest keeping your camera in the protection of your raincoat and bringing it out only for quick shots.  Have you camera set up in Shutter Priority with a slow hand-held shutter like 1/60 sec.

Seljalandfoss Waterfall

8 – Skógafoss Waterfall

Our Eighth Icelandic waterfall is Skógafoss. This huge curtain of water falls on the South Coast where the ocean used to pound the shore. Skógafoss is fed by 2 glaciers which makes it unique. Difficult to photograph because of the number of tourists, but if you climb to one of the viewpoints you will be out of our shots. The waterfall is best to visit in the Winter because the southern sun lights up the south facing waterfall and spray. The sun hits the full cascade after 1.p.m. There is a campsite in the Summer and basic facilities all year round. There are two museums nearby as well as hotels and guesthouses.

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Skogafoss Waterfall

7 – Öxarárfoss Waterfall

Number seven in our Icelandic waterfall collection is Öxarárfoss at þingvellir National Park. This is the only waterfall in the world that falls from one continent into another.  Öxarárfoss is not included on most of the Golden Circle bus tours!  Private tours do visit the waterfall.

Photo from the top of Öxarárfoss Waterfall
Vertical HDR photo from the top of Öxarárfoss Waterfall

6 – Svartifoss Waterfall

Number six in our list of Icelandic waterfalls is Svartifoss. This waterfall is high on Skaftafell. You need to be in fair fitness to hike up to the waterfall, but there are plenty of other waterfalls to stop at on the way up. At Svartifoss waterfall there is a viewing platform with a good view of the waterfall.

Photo Tips

You can get most of your photos from the steel viewing platform.  With a telephoto, you can zoom into the waterfall and get the intimate textures of the basalt rock.  24mm will capture the whole scene nicely and is also good to use down at the river.  Using a 50mm lens from the viewing platform will enable good panorama photos that can include the whole wall of basalt columns.  There is a bridge with some photo opportunities with a longer lens.

Svartifoss waterfall
Svartifoss Waterfall
Svartifoss River Rocks.

5 – Gullfoss Waterfall

Number five in this collection of Icelandic waterfalls is Gullfoss. It means “Golden Falls”, but you have to be there at sunrise or sunset to find the gold. Access can be difficult and people risk their lives to get photos.  Gullfoss waterfall is only a few hours from Reykjavik and just 10 minutes drive from Geysir.  The waterfall is the largest in Iceland and also the largest waterfall in Europe.  The waterfall can be seen on all Golden Circle tours.  The upper carpark has a cafe and gift store.  Is it possible to do a snowmobile tour from Gullfoss.

Photo Guide

The best Winter light is around 1PM from the lower plateau. This will give you rainbows from the easy viewpoints near the carpark.  The best time in mid-summer is 6AM from the part of the footpath that is closest to the waterfall. In clear weather a double rainbow can be captured from this point.  Experiment with slow shutter speeds for the Milky water effect.  Shutter speeds from 1/4 seconds work well at Gullfoss. I was always able to capture the whole waterfall with 24mm from all the viewpoints.  From the lower carpark, a 50mm lens will frame the whole waterfall.  Use a telephoto from the upper level viewpoints.

Gullfoss Waterfall

4 – Dettifoss Waterfall

Number four in this collection of Icelandic waterfalls is Dettifoss. Dettifoss is in the North of Iceland and is fed by meltwater from the Vatnjokull glacier. It is considered to be the most powerful waterfall in Iceland. Dettifoss can be accessed fairly easily from the West for most of the year and from the East in the Summer.

Camera Gear

Either side you end up on, you will need to hike before getting to Dettifoss waterfall.  My recommendation for gear would be a travel tripod, a 24mm and 50mm lens.  If you are able to get really close to the waterfall, the 24mm will capture the full cascade.  From some of the distant view-points, the 50mm will capture the whole scene well.

Dettifoss waterfall

3 – Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall

Number three in our list of Icelandic waterfalls is Kirkjufellsfoss. This waterfall in on the North side of the Snæfellsness peninsular and has become famous as the most photographed waterfall in Iceland. The falls has 3 spouts at the top level and the bottom level has multiple cascades. The top level is easier to photograph both waterfall and Kirkjufell mountain.

PHOTO TIPS

I prefer to photograph the waterfall with the mountain in the background. You will need a 24mm lens or wider to include both.   A 50mm lens will frame Kirkjufell Mountain quite tightly from the waterfall with room for a tiny part of the falls.  Wide-angle lenses will allow you to get many more composition of the waterfall.  In good conditions, it is possible to get really close to the waterfalls and this will give your photos a more unique feel.

Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall

2 – Goðafoss waterfall

The second best waterfall is Goðafoss, the Waterfall of the Gods. This is a horse-shoe waterfall in the middle of a huge lava field in North Iceland. According to ancient legend, the Ljósvetningagoði 1000 years ago declared Christianity to be the new religion and cast his old Pagan idols into the falls.

Photo Guide

Experiment with 1/4 second to 1/125 second shutter speeds for the silky water effect.  Slow shutter speeds can be achieved with a Neutral Density Filter (N.D.)  in the daytime.  My strong recommendation is to schedule your photo shoot for an hour before and an hour after Sunset/Sunrise.

Godafoss waterfall

1 – Dynjandi Waterfall

The top waterfall in Iceland is Dynjandi in the Westfjords. It is the only waterfall on our list that doesn’t end in “foss”, but this doesn’t mean it lacks any “foss-ness”. The Dynjandi waterfall complex is massive and contains every kind of waterfall you could imagine, from delicate cascades to thunderous flumes. I call Dynjandi “the mother of all waterfalls”.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Photographs don’t do Dynjandi Waterfall justice. The shape of the waterfall becomes distorted as you get closer to it and the spray can be intense.  A drone will do a better job of avoiding the spray and capturing the true shape of the main cascade.   It is a good idea to include a person in your photo to show the scale. I have taken many great landscape photos at this location with Dynjandi Waterfall behind me.

Dynjandi 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.