The wild interior region of our country is known as the Icelandic Highlands. This territory is famous for its unparalleled scenery and breathtaking landscapes. It’s also home to one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland: Haifoss. In a land of over 10,000 waterfalls, it’s hard to stand out. But Haifoss waterfall (spelled Háifoss in Icelandic) does just that with its mesmerizing and incredibly steep drop.
Its dramatic beauty remains hidden away, but if you opt to visit this secluded location you will not be disappointed. During your road trip you’ll want to visit twin waterfalls of Haifoss and Granni. And for the adventure lovers in your group, be sure to go on the Haifoss waterfall hike. Whether or not it’s a sunny day, you’ll get an impressive view of the great cascade from below.
Haifoss Waterfall: Is it the Highest Waterfall in Iceland?
This astonishing natural wonder is the fourth tallest waterfall in Iceland, an honor of distinction. The highest waterfall in Iceland is the recently discovered 240-meter (787-foot) waterfall in Mosárjökull glacier followed by Glymur and Hengifoss. Haifoss waterfall Iceland rounds out the rest of the pack measuring 122 meters (400 feet).
And if you know anything about the Icelandic language, you already know that “há” means “tall/high” and “foss” means “waterfall”. So basically, these are Iceland’s “Tall Falls”. The River Fossá comes from the Þjórsá glacial river, which winds its way through the Þjórsárdalur Valley. The results are deep gorges and steep, dramatic drops like the one we see tucked away at Haifoss waterfall.
Where is Haifoss Iceland Located?
Haifoss Iceland is located close to the volcano Hekla at the edge of the Highlands. When looking at a map, you’ll see it nestled between the Landmannalaugar Fjallabak Nature Reserve and Iceland’s spectacular Golden Circle route. Iceland’s wild, untamed backcountry is only accessible during the summer months. This is because the special F-roads (mountain roads) that you need to drive on are closed most of the year.
Please note that because you will be driving on a gravel road, only 4×4 vehicles are allowed. Keep that in mind when you rent a car or campervan and Iceland. While most of the way there is paved, the final section is unpaved gravel. Having a small car or a 2WD just won’t do the trick here.
How to Get There
Before I give driving directions I do want to mention something important. although geographically all of the natural wonders in this region are quite close together, it’s very hard to travel between them individually. That is, there’s no direct road connecting Landmannalaugar to the Golden Circle or Háifoss. You need to take the Ring Road turnoff for each of these and dedicate time to each area.
In other words, it warrants its own day trip as you simply won’t have enough time to do everything.
You’ll find Haifoss Iceland around a 2-hour drive from the country’s capital, Reykjavik. Start your journey by going east on Route 1 towards Vik. After passing Selfoss, You will turn left onto Road 30. After 18 km (11 miles) there’s going to be a yellow sign towards Árnes that directs you toward Road 32. You’ll stay on this road for another 43 km (26 miles) until you reach the road to Haifoss (Road 332). Turn left onto this gravel road and follow it to the parking lot for the waterfall. You’ve gone too far if you reach Sultartangi power plant.
Do the Haifoss Hike
Once you’ve left your car in the parking lot, you’ll approach the falls from the south side. The path lets you out at the top, but did you know it’s possible to hike down to the bottom of the canyon? There’s also horseback riding and hiking available in the valley, depending on what your interests are.
Come prepared in the event that you do decide to descend into the canyon. The hiking path is rocky, so be sure to bring some high quality hiking boots. If you’re not an extremely sure-footed, confident, experienced hiker, then you might want to hire a guide. You might want to do it anyway as they will know the best places and rocks for stepping to go down and come back up.
The hike takes around an hour and is 3.7 km (2.3 miles) long. It’s well worth it though, as there’s nothing like witnessing the power and awe of one of Mother Nature’s most striking creations from below. You’ll be dwarfed by the size and realize just how small we truly are.
And of course, you’re more than welcome to just stay at the top of the cliff and take some lovely photos. If you opt for this just please be careful. Don’t get too close to the edge as there are no guardrails and it’s a long way to the bottom.
Granni and Legends
If you decide to enjoy the view from the top, you’ll likely notice a second waterfall just a a short distance away. This one is called Granni or “neighbor” in Icelandic. The tall falls have a friendly neighbor and the two of them together make a picture perfect shot.
And as with many of Iceland’s most special places, a certain mythology has sprung up around Haifoss. Legend has it that a female ogre once lived here. One day, a teenage boy and some of his friends were walking in the area and decided to start throwing rocks into the water. Naturally, this disturbed the ogress, as she lived here.
To get her revenge, she found the boys tent as they were sleeping. She took the rock-throwing culprit by the leg and began pulling him out of the tent. His friends caught his arms and they began a tug of war. Eventually she let go but the boy had already suffered injuries and was bedridden for the following month.
So if you see a lady ogre walking around, don’t throw rocks into the water!
Hjálparfoss and Gjáin: More Side Trips in the Area
If you’ve decided to make a day out of it you absolutely have to stop by Hjálparfoss and Gjáin. Very close by there’s another pair of waterfalls called Hjálparfoss. It where the larger rivers Fossá and Þjórsá join together. After flowing through a lava field they come together and meet at a 45-degree angle. They fall together into a lovely pool down below.
And a peaceful haven in the area is the charming valley hideaway of Gjáin. It’s got shallow ponds and tiny little waterfalls. You can reach it by walking for about 30 mintues from Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng farm.
Haifoss: One of Iceland’s Tallest Waterfalls
While it may not be Iceland’s tallest waterfall, you are sure to be impressed when you come here. It’s considered one of our country’ national treasures and I’m sure you can se why. So bring your hiking boots and camera, do the Haifoss hike, but watch out for those ogres!