Location: Eastern Region
Height: 420 ft (138 m)
Amongst Iceland’s waterfalls, Hengifoss is set apart in beauty. You can find Hengifoss in the Eastern Region of Iceland. The name Hengifoss is translated to the Hanging Waterfall. Perhaps the name’s origin derives from the view of the Hengifossá river hanging over off the cliffside. It’s also that cliffside that gives Hengifoss its stardom, as it’s full of volcanic bedrock and bright red clay. These contrasting colors give Hengifoss an otherworldly view.
The stunning layering of red and black sediment can make anyone taking a picture feel like a professional photographer. In all directions, the landscape surrounding Hengifoss is pure beauty. This has also attracted many geologists, who have found fossilized trunks of coniferous trees between the layers. These trees are sensitive to cold weather, suggesting Iceland might have had a milder climate in the past.
Beyond the incredible geological amphitheater at Hengifoss, the waterfall boasts an impressive height. Hengifoss is often reported at 387 ft, but newer measurements put it at 420 ft. So when trying to determine the tallest waterfall in Iceland, you may see Hengifoss listed as the third tallest. However, we have identified seven other waterfalls taller than Hengifoss, ranking it at number eight on our list. One such waterfall is Strútsfoss which is the larger geological cousin to Hengifoss.
History of Hengifoss:
Such a place as uniquely beautiful, as Hengifoss is deserving of legend and folklore. Hengifoss sits in the Fljotsdalur valley where the Hengifossá river carves out the Hengifossargil gorge. According to one of Jón Árnason’s books, elves are said to live in this gorge. The myth tells the story of two men passing by the gorge when they heard singing. Allegedly elves were singing the hymn “Heiður sé Guði himnum á” which translates to “Honor to God in Heaven.”
While not directly related to Hengifoss, the Hengifossá river also flow into the famous lake Lagarfljót. This lake is home to the legendary wyrm, Lagarfljótsormur.
hiking to Hengifoss:
Length: 2.9 mi
Elevation gain: 830 ft
Route Type: Out & back
Hiking to Hengifoss is a two for one special. Not only do you get to see the extraterrestrial-looking Hengifoss, but also Litlanesfoss. Surrounded by basalt columns, this waterfall is worthy enough to be seen on its own.
The hike to Hengifoss is roughly 2.9 mi (4.6 km) and takes roughly under an hour to reach the fall. The hike is an out and back hike, so be prepared for at least around 2 hours for the entire hike.
AllTrails lists the trail as “Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss Waterfall.” There is an elevation gain of 830 ft, but the path is well maintained. There are also plenty of benches on trial for the weary hiker.
Less than a mile into the trail, you will be able to view Litlanesfoss. There’s more to this trail than these two waterfalls even. The valley is beautiful, and the Hengifoss river offers more minor falls along the way.
The section closed to the Hengifoss can sometimes be closed due to cold weather. However, it’s possible to hike behind the waterfall into a small cave on warmer days.
Directions to hengifoss:
Viewable from the road: Yes
Nearest major town: Egilsstaðir
Distance from Reykjavík: 386 mi (621 km)
Hengifoss is marked on Google Maps and takes you directly to the parking lot area. Being in the Eastern Region, the drive from Reykjavík, Iceland is a staggering 8 hr 10 mins. The drive follows the northern side of the Ring Road (Route 1) until you get to Fellabær. From here, you turn on Upphéraðsvegur (Route 931).
If that’s too much of a drive, there is an alternative. There are regional flights to Egilsstaðir, the largest municipality in the area. They also have car rental options, such as Hertz, Avis, and Bílaleiga Akureyrar. The plane tickets are reasonable, and the drive from Egilsstaðir is only 33 minutes to Hengifoss. This is a serious option to consider. There is so much to see in the Eastern Region, including many other waterfalls. This option will give you more time to see these sights.
Either way, Egilsstaðir will be your best but for food, drinks, and fuel. But if you go to Hengifoss at the right time, you may catch the Hengifoss Food Truck waiting for you in the parking lot. Be sure to check their Facebook to see if they are open.