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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Hafragilsfoss waterfall

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Hafragilsfoss waterfall in Jökulsárgljúfur
Hafragilsfoss waterfall in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon

Hafragilsfoss is a beautiful waterfall in the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, which is one of the largest rivers in Iceland and a significant part of the canyon Jökulsárgljúfur. The waterfall is approximately 30 meters high and about 90 meters wide, situated at the bottom of the canyon and surrounded by the highest cliffs in Jökulsárgljúfur. The surrounding area, with its cliffs, red craters, and vegetation, makes this waterfall especially photogenic. Getting close to it is quite tricky as the slopes are steep on the west side of the river and not very convenient on the east side either, so a telephoto lens is recommended if you want to take a close-up photo, since it is not advisable to hike down to the canyon. In addition to being a great waterfall, the parking lot for Hafragilsfoss at the hill Sjónnípa and the path to the observation point is also one of the best places to view the canyon Jökulsárgljúfur. You can see all the way south to Dettifoss waterfall by walking a short distance along the edge of the canyon. From this spot you also have an excellent view of the northern part towards Hólmatungur. Here you can clearly see how the mighty river has carved out the bedrock for more than two thousand years and created a stunning landscape, sometimes with a steady flow and sometimes with a catastrophic flood when a volcano erupts under the icecap at the river's source. Throughout the centuries, the river and waterfalls have experienced vast quantities of water.

Map of Iceland north east region
Map of Iceland north east region

Hafragilsfoss waterfall and Jökulsárgljúfur canyon

Hafragilsfoss in the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum
Hafragilsfoss in the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum

Even though the canyon Jökulsárgljúfur is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in Iceland, one can’t think about it without also thinking of the waterfall Hafragilsfoss. The canyon is often underrated as a tourist attraction, most likely because it is in the northeastern region of Iceland and as far as possible from the capital Reykjavík. Nonetheless, in addition to being a great place to visit, it is home to many other spectacular sites and waterfalls you won't see anywhere else in Iceland or on the planet for that matter. Although the waterfall Dettifoss is the biggest attraction in Jökulsárgljúfur, Hafragilsfoss is a significant natural wonder to visit, experience, and admire. The short distance of only two and a half kilometers north to Dettifoss is a very tempting hike if you have time.

Access is quite easy

Hafragilsfoss is a significant natural wonder to visit, experience, and admire.
Hafragilsfoss is a significant natural wonder to visit, experience, and admire.

As with most of the 30-kilometer canyon Jökulsárgljúfur and its natural wonders, I recommend viewing Hafragilsfoss from the east side where you can easily access some beautiful spots that are considerably better for both viewing and photography. It is also a place where it is challenging to drive buses, so the traffic is much less than on the west side. Although the road is a rougher gravel road, the view of Hafragilsfoss and the parking lot on the east side is much more impressive. If you are coming from the lake Mývatn on the Ring Road (Road no. 1), you must go over the bridge on the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum and take a turn left almost immediately after you pass the bridge north on Road no. 864 Hólsfjallavegur. The parking lot by Hafragilsfoss is about a 32-kilometer drive. From there, you can enjoy Hafragilsfoss waterfall, Dettifoss waterfall, Selfoss waterfall, and the spectacular Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.


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