One of the things that strike visitors most about Iceland is the wide variety of its landscapes and its stunning natural beauty. The destructive power of its ancient volcanoes reminds us of just how tiny and insignificant we truly are. Those looking for a transcendental experience frequently come here to be awed by all that Mother Nature has to offer. Iceland is famous for its beautiful waterfalls; Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skógafoss frequently top tourists’ Iceland bucket lists. But the one that takes the cake as far as the ability to awe is probably Dettifoss waterfall. This mammoth beast of a cascade in northeast Iceland is sure to leave you with a sense of wonder at the awesome power of the world around you.

Sunset at Iceland's beautiful Dettifoss waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park

Dettifoss – Europe’s Most Powerful Waterfall

As the furious waters careen over the cliffs and crash down below into a spray of mist, you will feel dwarfed by the sheer power and force of it all. The thundering cascade bears the moniker “The Beast” due to the magnitude of its water flows. 17,657 cubic feet (500 cubic meters) of water plunge over the steep, 144-foot drop (44m) every single second. This makes it Europe’s largest and most powerful waterfall by volume. Dettifoss gets its greyish, murky hue from the runoff waters of the massive Vatnajökull glacier. The immense waterfall, along with the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon below, forms part of the second largest river in Iceland, Jökulsá á Fjöllum.  

Why does it look so familiar?

Are you a sucker for movie trivia? Film buffs around the world will no doubt recognize Dettifoss from the epic opening scene of Ridley Scott’s cinematic work of art. The magnificent, gushing water perfectly captures the grandiose scale of the events that take place on a distant, alien planet during the first few minutes of the movie. Hollywood’s love for Iceland and as a filming location for movies and TV shows has steadily been growing. The secret’s out and Iceland will surely continue as a destination for the film industry.

Where is Dettifoss Located?

The waterfall is located in Vatnajökull National Park in northeast Iceland. Many people visiting Dettifoss include it as part of the Diamond Circle route. This famous circuit is one of the staples of anyone coming to Iceland for the purpose of tourism and sightseeing. Along with Húsavík, the area around Lake Mývatn and Goðafoss waterfall, Dettifoss is one of the jewels of the Diamond Circle. Looking at a map, Dettifoss is located southeast of Húsavík and takes approximately an hour and 20 minutes to arrive by car. If you’re staying in Akureyri, Iceland’s northern capital, it will take you around two and a half hours to drive there. It lies east of Akureyri and we’ll provide driving directions in the next section.

How to Arrive

Before you set off on your journey, be sure to check that the roads to access Dettifoss are open. When you take Road 864 to go, keep in mind that it is one of Iceland’s f-roads (mountain roads). These trails are often single-lane, gravel roads that the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration closes when weather conditions are bad or if it is too dangerous. Just something to keep in mind before you head out and you are not traveling in June, July or August.

Driving Resource: Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration website

F-Road 864 will bring you to Dettifoss waterfall

Driving Directions from Húsavík

If you’re coming from Húsavík, head northeast on Route 85 for about 38 miles (62 km) and then turn right onto Hólsfjallavegur (Road 864). After about 16 miles (25 km) you’ll need to turn right and follow a short road to reach Dettifoss. Park your car and then take a short walk to the waterfall. You’ll get magnificent views from across the canyon or you can approach from the side.

  • Drive east on Route 85 for 38 miles (62km)
  • Turn right onto Hólsfjallavegur (Road 864)
  • Follow Hólsfjallavegur (Road 864) for 16 miles (25 km)
  • Turn right and after half a mile you’ll reach the parking area

Google Maps: Directions from Húsavík

Driving Directions from Akureyri

The route for arriving from Akureyri is slightly different than if you are coming from Húsavík. The get to Dettifoss, head east on the Ring Road (known as Route 1 or Þjóðvegur in Icelandic). After 83 miles (135 km), turn left onto Hólsfjallavegur (Road 864). Follow this road for about 19 miles (31 km) then turn left. You’ll find parking after half a mile (800 m) and then you can walk from there.

  • Drive east on Route 1 or Þjóðvegur for 83 miles (135km)
  • Turn left onto Hólsfjallavegur (Road 864)
  • Follow Hólsfjallavegur (Road 864) for 19 miles (31 km)
  • Turn left and follow the road for half a mile (800 m) to the parking area.

Google Maps: Directions from Akureyri

The Beast: Iceland’s Powerful Dettifoss Waterfall

Dettifoss waterfall will no doubt be one of the highlights on your trip. It’s considered one of the best waterfalls in Iceland and a must-see on any traveler’s itinerary. Let us know your impressions of this natural wonder and if you would recommend it to people traveling to Iceland.

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