Guide to Hiking Dettifoss & Selfoss Waterfalls in Northern Iceland

Jökulsá á FjöllumJökulsá á FjöllumJökulsá á Fjöllum, the second longest river in Iceland flows from the Vatnajökull glacier down into the Greenland Sea. Welcome to:
Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon
Vatnajökull National Park, Northeast Iceland

A beautiful day of waterfall adventures await! The main attraction of this hike is the intense waterfall Dettifoss, reputed to be the strongest falls in all of Europe. It is 330ft wide and drops over columnar basalt rock 150ft into the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. However, it is the sheer volume of water that passes down this ledge that gives it the title of strongest... at 6,816 cu ft/s. That's a lot of water! The sound alone is breath taking.

 

DettifossDettifossDettifoss
Vatnajökull National Park, Northeast Iceland

 

Next up down the trail about 1.2km/45 minutes of hiking rocky terrain around and over boulders is the wide chain of waterfalls known as Selfoss. Uniquely beautiful, this falls looks like a table of basalt spilling over a vertical wall at the brim becoming 20 waterfalls in one!

 

SelfossSelfossSelfoss
Vatnajökull National Park, Northeast Iceland

 


Location / Directions:

Arguably the best view of the falls is by taking the 32km long rough gravel road off Highway 1, called #864. Also known as the East Dettifoss Road this route is only open during the summer months. A longer drive than the West (Road #862) but so WORTH it. You can barely see the expanse of Selfoss from the Western banks and the view of Dettifoss is in my opinion not as impressive from that side. Trust me, take the East Road #864!

The East Road lot has a block of portopotties and ample parking. From the lot the first lookout spot for Dettifoss is 1/3km 15 min walk down the trail which has steep stairs of natural rock. Hike a bit farther down and you can stand at the very edge of the falls. Be cautious if you get near the edge for obvious reasons! From there the trail to Selfoss is upstream about 1.2km and also worth seeing while you are there. The total hike distance round trip for both Dettifoss and Selfoss is about 4km.

East Parking Lot Coordinates: N 65° 49.140 W 016° 22.757
or   65.819, -16.37928



BONUS ADD ON: Hafragilsfoss Waterfall and sweeping Vista View

A hidden gem that many tourists miss... Drive north past the East Road Dettifoss parking lot on #864 another 2 kilometers. Look for a sign with a turnoff on the left then continue up a steep road and there will be a parking lot at the end. You are now at the top of the Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon with a perfect view of the whole gorge! Take the short path up the hill and you'll be looking down at the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river and canyon with a sweeping panoramic view of the Hafragilsfoss Waterfall. Enjoy!

 

Jökulsárgljúfur CanyonJökulsárgljúfur CanyonHafragilsfoss Waterfall, Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon
Vatnajökull National Park, Northeast Iceland

 


 

What to Pack:

  • Absolutely bring your camera for this one!
  • A clean cloth to wipe mist from the falls off your lenses.
  • Tripod, neutral density filters for long exposures.
  • Lunch or snacks and water. *
  • Sunscreen/sunglasses or warm layers as weather demands.
  • Comfortable shoes for hiking rocky terrain.

***There are no shops or food nearby and the gravel road is long so plan accordingly. I had a packed lunch, water and a full tank of gas for the car. It's a beautiful place for a picnic.

 



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