Dettifoss Waterfall

Dettifoss disappearing into it's own mist
Dettifoss disappearing into it’s own mist

Referred to by some as ´The Beast’ in comparison to ‘The Beauty’ of Goðafoss, this monstrous behemoth of a waterfall is guaranteed to steal your breath away. Set within stark, rocky surrounds with bone-shatteringly sheer drops on either side, there couldn´t be a more fitting backdrop for such untethered natural power. It’s a truly unmissable jewel in the Diamond Circle’s crown, one you will never forget.

The name Dettifoss could be loosely translated as ‘The Collapsing Waterfall’. Officially holding the title of the most powerful waterfall in Europe, an average of 96,500 gallons of water crosses its bow every single second. Such is its force, the mist from the falls are visible from several miles away.
Straggling a 100 meter wide abyss, Dettifoss plummets 45 meters to the craggy shores below. To put this into perspective, this is about the height of the Statue of Liberty, so, pretty damn high.

Dettifoss was recently featured in the opening scene of Ridley Scott’s 2012 Aliens prequel, Prometheus. There was also a piece named after it by the Icelandic composer, Jón Leifs.

The entire Vatnajökull National Park surrounding Dettifoss has been approved as UNESCO world heritage site in 2019.

Dettifoss seen from the west (road 862)© Christin Irma Schröder
Dettifoss seen from the west (road 862)© Christin Irma Schröder

Nearby Waterfalls

If you’ve time to take a wander, it’s about 200m upstream to see Dettifoss’ little sister, Selfoss. Two kilometers in the other direction, there is a turning point off the road if you’d like to reach their other sibling, Hafragilsfoss. The closest approach is from the western side, but beware – this is a particularly adventurous route, expect to scramble down ropes and steep inclines.

The Jökulsá Canyon

Dettifoss approached from the east (road 864) © Christin Irma Schröder
Dettifoss approached from the east (road 864) © Christin Irma Schröder

Iceland´s answer to the Grand Canyon, the gorge which houses the wonder of Dettifoss warrants a lot more than a quick detour off the ring road. Nationally treasured as a haven for walkers, it’s widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Iceland to hike. For alongside the triple whammy of Dettifoss, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss, there are magnificent geological anomalies, such as the Whispering Rocks of Hljoðaklettar and the footprint of Odin´s horse, Ásbyrgi.

Large parts of the canyon are part of the Vatnajökull National Park, which has been announced as UNESCO world heritage in 2019.

How to get there

Dettifoss can be reached from both sides at the east and west. Which way to choose depends mainly on the time of the year and the kind of vehicle you are driving. If you are driving a regular car or if it is winter time Dettifoss can be reached on road nr. 1 coming from Mývatn or Egilsstaðir and take road 862 (not 864!) and drive a view kilometer north, then turn right at the sign and comfortably reach the parking lot.

If you drive a 4×4 vehicle during summer time Dettifoss can be reached on east and west from the south and the north, either via road 864 or 862. Check out road.is to see the actual road conditions and if the roads have been opened for traffic.

GPS: 65°48’54.6″N 16°23’04.8″W