Anyone looking to go chasing waterfalls in Iceland is in luck. The country is home to over 10,000 cascades of different shapes and sizes. They're all beautiful and special in their own way. One of the most scenic waterfalls that is also hidden away is Haifoss, which was the island’s third-highest waterfall until recently. As one of our tallest waterfalls, the dramatic beauty and secluded location will surely take your breath away.
Haifoss waterfall’s location is found in Iceland’s rugged interior. Looking at Haifoss waterfall on a map, it rests between the famous Golden Circle route and the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in Landmannalaugar.
It's close to the volcano Hekla, an active Iceland volcano that many say is overdue to erupt. The stratavolcano was known as the “gateway to hell” in the Middle Ages and has erupted 20 times since 874 AD. It warrants a visit if you’re in the area.
Even though all of these natural wonders are in the same region, the road to Haifoss is quite a ways from the Ring Road. Because of how the connecting roads are set up, I would do it as its own separate day trip. You’ll want to have enough time to visit both the Golden Circle and Landmannalaugar on their own.
Haifoss waterfall is one of three stunning cascades on the River Fossá. The other two are Granni and Hjálparfoss. There’s also the Gjáin area nearby that’s a peaceful refuge if you decide to make a full day out of it.
Haifoss waterfall Iceland: One of our tallest waterfalls
Measuring 122 meters (400 feet), Haifoss was the third tallest waterfall in Iceland for many years. The 240-meter (787-foot) waterfall discovered in 2011 at the edge of Mosárjökull glacier supplanted Glymur and Hengifoss as Iceland’s highest waterfalls. This in effect now makes Haifoss waterfall the fourth tallest waterfall in Iceland, which is still pretty impressive.
In fact, Haifoss waterfall Iceland gets its name by combining the words in Icelandic for tall or high (há-) and waterfall (foss). Essentially, they are the country’s “Tall Falls”.
The Fossá River is part of the larger Þjórsá glacial river, which is Iceland’s longest. It cuts through Þjórsárdalur valley and has formed a dramatic gorge with steep, rocky walls.
The Fossárdalur valley, where you’ll find the waterfall, is actually the innermost valley of Þjórsárdalur, which gives it that tucked away feeling. It’s so fun to find these little surprises in a country with geography as varied as Iceland. You’ll always discover something new.
Haifoss Iceland: How to arrive
Haifoss waterfall in Iceland is at the edge of the Highlands in South Iceland. The country’s wild, untamed, inland territory is only accessible during the summer when the zone's famous F-roads open up. Only 4x4 vehicles are allowed on these special mountain roads, so keep that in mind when picking your Iceland car rental. Although most of the roads to reach our destination are paved, the final stretch is an unpaved gravel road.
A small car or 2WD simply won’t cut it as the roads are rough, bumpy, and quite hard to maneuver. The stones and pebbles underneath will especially do damage if you don’t have the right type of vehicle.
Haifoss Iceland is about a two-hour drive from Reykjavik. Head east out of the capital city on Route 1 and continue past the town of Selfoss. Once you see the turnoff for Road 30 (Skeiða og Hrunamannavegur), hang a left. Follow that for around 18 km (11 miles). Look for the yellow sign indicating the turn for Road 32 (Þjórsárdalsvegur) towards Árnes and make a right. Follow this road or just under 43 km (26 miles).
Along the way you’ll pass the turnoff for Hjalparfoss, another waterfall in the area.
Eventually you’ll turn left onto Road 332 (Háifoss), the gravel road that leads to the waterfall parking area. If you reach the Sultartangi power plant, you’ve gone too far. Please note that this is a gravel road, so it’s extremely bumpy and rough. Go slowly and make sure you have a 4x4 vehicle.
You can keep going straight on 332 to get to Haifoss waterfall Iceland immediately or take a short detour to Gjáin in Þjórsárdalur valley. It’s a tranquil haven with beautiful little waterfalls and peaceful ponds. Take Road 327, another gravel path, if you want to explore this hidden gem.
The Haifoss hike
When you arrive to Haifoss Iceland, you’ll leave your car in the parking lot. It’s on the south side of the falls at the top.
If it’s a sunny day and you're interested in doing the Haifoss waterfall hike, you can go down to the bottom. It’s also possible to go hiking in the valley or do horseback riding tours.
If you’re driving and want to go see the waterfall from below, you’ll need to come prepared. Good hiking boots are a must as you’ll encounter a rocky hiking path. It might be a good idea to hire a guide if you’re not a very experienced or sure-footed hiker.
It will take you around an hour to do the 3.7 km (2.3 mile) hike. It’s definitely worth it though, as you’ll be dwarfed by this massive waterfall and left in awe.
You don’t have to do the Haifoss hike, however. It’s perfectly fine to just enjoy the views from up top. You’ll get plenty of unforgettable pictures from above. If you decide to go this route, be very careful. You’re up quite high and it’s a long way to the bottom.
Granni: The friendly neighbor
The view from above is absolutely spectacular. And while you’re up there, you might notice something unusual. Right next to our main waterfall, Haifoss, there’s another gorgeous cascade. If you’ve been researching waterfalls in Iceland, you know that “foss” means waterfall. Most falls in Iceland such as Dettifoss, Skógafoss, Seljalandfoss, Godafoss, and many others have this word in their name.
But the waterfall next to Haifoss is called Granni, which means “neighbor” in Icelandic. It’s the friendly neighbor sitting adjacent to the Tall Falls. These two make a lovely pair and are about as picturesque and postcard-perfect as can be. Be ready to set those cameras to panoramic view for some breathtaking shots.
Legends and tales
Like many of Iceland’s most mystical and magical places, certain tales of Icelandic folklore become attached. Háifoss waterfall is no different. The story here says that there was once a female ogre who lived in the waterfall. She survived by catching trout there and eating it. A teenager and some companions he was traveling with decided to throw a rock into her river home. Naturally, this annoyed her.
As punishment, she went to their tent that night later as they were sleeping. She started to pull him out of the tent by his legs, but his friends caught him. They began pulling on his upper body and a tug of war ensued. Eventually the ogress gave in and let go. She went away but the damage had already been done. The young man had to stay in bed for an entire month to recover from the struggle.
So I guess, lesson learned: Don’t mess with lady ogres. And don’t throw rocks into rivers or waterfalls! You never know who you might disturb.
Nearby wonders: Hjálparfoss and Gjáin
If you’re coming to the area, there are some other places to visit besides the two waterfalls sitting side by side. There is actually another pair of waterfalls close by known as Hjálparfoss. It’s at the point where the Fossá and Þjórsá rivers join. The rivers flow through a lava field and meet at a 45-degree angle. They tumble down into a serene pool together.
The aforementioned Hekla volcano created the lava field these two exquisite waterfalls come from.
You can actually see Hekla from Gjáin, the other additional stop while touring the area. This charming valley hideaway has tiny waterfalls flowing into shallow ponds. It’s about a 30-minute walk from Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng farm.
The hypnotizing tall waterfall in Iceland's Highlands
Iceland’s Haifoss is one natural attraction you definitely do not want to miss during your Iceland road trip. You’ll get a two for one deal with the twin waterfalls Háifoss and Granni. And if you’re feeling especially adventurous, do the Haifoss waterfall hike and make your way down to the bottom.
Iceland is a naturally-blessed land famous for its unparalleled scenery. Come see one of our most breathtaking sights that is off the beaten path. An astounding Iceland waterfall that’s one of our highest and the country’s treasure.