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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Hengifoss waterfall East Region

Updated: Mar 21, 2022


Hengifoss is the island’s third-highest waterfall and certainly one of the most picturesque
Hengifoss is the island’s third-highest waterfall and certainly one of the most picturesque

Hengifoss waterfall is one of the best-known landmarks in the East Region of Iceland. At 118 meters high, it is the island’s third-highest waterfall and certainly one of the most picturesque. Cutting through steep walls of Tertiary lava strata, you will find layers of red scoria and ash pressed between the basaltic lava displaying horizontal stripes in the cliff. From the landscape surrounding Hengifoss, you can practically read the geological history. The layers are like a cake baked for millions of years. The iron-rich red layer is a former soil on the surface millions of years ago in a different climate. On top of the lowest red stripe is a layer of lava that flooded over the soil just like the lava you see in Geldingadalir at the Reykjanes Peninsulanew lava sitting on top of a pasture. Many eruptions occurred after the new layer of soil formed on top of the lava and nurtured vegetation for hundreds of thousands of years. But a newer series of eruptions came, and the lava drowned the fertile soil, forming another red stripe. This continued for millions of years until the cake was prepared and cooked. Then water broke its way through the layers. And, with the help of other erosion forces, the ravine was formed, giving us this spectacular snapshot of the geological activity and development over millions of years.


East Region on map of Iceland
East Region on map of Iceland

Two for one on the Hengifoss trail

The hike up to the waterfall is a great way to understand and experience nature
The hike up to the waterfall is a great way to understand and experience nature

Hengifoss is part of the Hengifossá river and runs into the Lake Lagarfljót in the Fljótsdalur valley. The river is a typical direct runoff stream originating in surface water, small streams, and lakes in the mountains above the waterfall. A little further downriver, you will find another fascinating waterfall, Litlanesfoss, impressive but with a totally different geological history, surrounded by beautiful, long, vertical basalt columns formed around 6 million years ago. Along the trail from the parking lot to Hengifoss, there is a beautiful small canyon that the river runs through, which gives the walk an additional enjoyment. The hike up to the waterfall is a great way to understand and experience nature. It is also a scenic place to take photos, with multiple motives, right from when you leave the parking lot to the ravine where the waterfalls are, right in front of the cliff.


A rewarding walk

The elevation is approximately 400 meters, but with no steep slopes along the way, it is just a comfortable, steady walk upwards.
The elevation is approximately 400 meters, but with no steep slopes along the way, it is just a comfortable, steady walk upwards.

The hike from the parking lot to the falls is approximately 2.5 km long and will only take you about an hour to an hour and a half. You will reach Litlanesfoss waterfall 1 km into the hike, making it a perfect resting stop on your way up. The elevation is approximately 400 meters, but with no steep slopes along the way, it is just a comfortable, steady walk upwards. But that’s not allthere are multiple other advantages. It is a relatively light walk and well worth your time as the view of the Fljótsdalur valley is also spectacular along the way. Even the Icelanders consider Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss to be absolute treasures, and that’s saying a lot in a country peppered with natural wonders like waterfalls, canyons, and loads of natural phenomena like ice fire. The best way to drive to Hengifoss is to take Road 95 south from the town of Egilsstaðir. You should then turn right on Road 931, pass the bridge on Lagarfljót, and turn right again. At this point, you definitely can’t miss the parking lot. Hengifoss is, by any definition, one of the most exciting places to visit in the East Region.


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