Location: 65.814666, -16.384576

Region: Northeastern

Height: 148 ft (45 m)

River: Jökulsá á Fjöllum

Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, with a water flow of  6,186 cfs (193 cms). The waterfall is created by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, where it spreads out 328 ft (100 m) and plummets  148 ft (45 m) into the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. You can find two more impressive waterfalls within the canyon, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss.

Dettifoss has similar geography and structure to the famous Gullfoss. These two waterfalls have been compared as “the beauty” (Gullfoss) and “the beast” (Dettifoss). Dettifoss is also part of the Diamond Circle, Northern Iceland’s version of the Golden Circle. Within the Diamond Circle, you can also find the historic Goðafoss.

The Jökulsá á Fjöllum flows from the Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe. Iceland’s waterfalls are often known for their beautiful clear and sometimes vividly blue water, but Dettifoss usually has a high silt content. The river’s course flows through active volcanic areas, giving the water a range of colors from gray to brown. This does not detract from the beauty of this waterfall, as it only helps demonstrate its might.


dettifoss p1

Dettifoss’s waterfall has been known to climb up to 20,000 cfs in the summer months, but that still is small compared to the waterfall’s history. In the past, Dettifoss was prone to massive glacial outburst floods due to the volcanic activity in the Barðarbunga caldera, which lies below the glacier. Research from Edinburgh University suggests that Dettifoss could have been formed in days. The volcanic activity is still active, with the last eruption in August 2014. With the looming threat of more activity and flooding, Dettisfoss could be permanently altered in the future.

Dettifoss has the potential to be the most powerful resource in Iceland for a hydroelectric power plant, and one was proposed to be built. Luckily the plan was scrapped due to the porous nature of the volcanic bedrock.

The power of Dettifoss, the basalt columns, and the canyon formed by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum create a unique vista that can be described as “alien.” Hollywood directors have sought out  Dettifoss in their films. In the opening scene of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, you can see that waterfall featured. It was also featured in the movie Oblivion starring Tom Cruise a year later.


Length: 0.0 mi

Elevation gain: 000 ft

Route Type: Out & back {Check All Trails}

Dettifoss has two separate hiking trails, the eastside, and the westside. It is recommended to plan which side of the waterfall you wish to visit, as the directions to each side of the waterfall will be different. See the section below for more details on directions. Both hikes are comparable in length, but accessibility is a significant difference. Both hikes include a view of Selfoss. There is an additional option to hike to Hafragilsfoss from both sides.

The West Side hike is the most popular path as the road to access the parking lot is paved. Tour buses access the waterfall via this route too. This path is well marked and considered an easy hike in good conditions. However, it is known to become slippery due to snow, ice, and rain. At Dettifoss, there is an observatory platform, but the west side is often reported to be mistier.

The East Side is widely considered to have the best view of Dettifoss. This hike allows you to stand on a cliff next to the waterfall to get a terrifying and majestic view at the same time. This side of the fall is less friendly to visitors as there is no railing but instead slippery rocks. This is also the most challenging side to access the waterfall but is considered worth it by many. The access road is gravel and roughly 20 mi (32 km) to the parking lot.


Viewable from Road?: No

Nearest Major City: Akureyri

Distance from Reykjavík: 323 mi (520 km)

As mentioned above, Dettifoss has two access points, the East and Westside. Google Maps list both areas, but searching “Dettifoss” defaults to the eastside. Instead, search for Dettifoss (East Side) or Dettifoss (West Side). The parking lots are also listed on Google. Dettifoss (West Side) is around a 6 hr and 45 min drive from Reykjavík. Akureyri, the “Capital of the North,” is the nearest major city to Dettifoss. However, the beautiful small town of Húsavík, which was the town featured in the film Netflix’s Eurovision, is also nearby. 

While the drive is long, finding the waterfall is simple. From Reykjavík, follow the Ring Road (Route 1) north. Then you will turn left onto Dettifossvegur (Route 862) for the westside or Hólsfjallavegur (Route 864) for the eastside.

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