Hraunfossar is a uniquely beautiful series of waterfalls located on the Hallmundarhraun lava field. This lava field was created when a volcano under the Langjokull glacier erupted shortly after the settlement of Iceland. Hraunfossar is formed as several small streams flow from the lava field into the Hvitá river. The name Hraunfossar appropriately means “Lava Falls,” it is also known as “Girdingar cascade.”
Hallmundarhraun is known for its many caves, including Iceland’s longest lava cave, Surtshellir. This lava field is also home to another waterfall, Barnafoss. While only a short distance up the river from Hraunfossar, the two waterfalls are drastically different.
There is a legend that Hraunfossar is not naturally occurring but instead created. In the Heidarviga Saga, there is mention of an sorcerer named Musa-Bolverkur. The sorcerer lived on the farm Hraunsas and claimed he was responsible for diverting the Hvitá river to its current course. Whether naturally made or not, Hraunfossar has been protected as a National Monument since 1987.
The area surrounding Hraunfossar is rich in history and Icelandic lore. The Hallmundarhraun lava field was once home to bandits, and in the mythical tales, it also containted the home of the fire giant Surtr.
Length: 0.5 mi (0.8 km)
Elevation gain: 72 ft (8 m)
Route Type: Loop
AllTrails list the “Hraunofossar and Barnafoss Waterfall Loop” trail, an easy hike to see both waterfalls. The path is a well-maintained pathway and includes a bridge over the Hvitá river. The hike to see both waterfalls is a short walk of 0.5 mi (0.8 km). It roughly takes around 13 minutes to complete this hike. This hike is family-friendly and reportedly accessible during winter conditions.
Viewable from Road?: No
Nearest Town: Reykholt
Distance from Reykjavík: 78 mi (126 km)
Hraunofossar is listed on Google Maps and is around a 1 hr and 42 min drive from Reykjavík. There a no major town near this area, but the village of Reykholt has a gas station within the region. However, Hraunofossar is perfectly accessible within a day trip from Reykjavík.
From Reykjavík, head north on the Ring Road (Vesturlandsvegur / Route 1). As the road goes around and under the bays, stay on Route 1 until you reach Borgarfjarðarbraut (Route 50 ). Continue down this route until you reach Hálsasveitarvegur (Route 518). Follow Hálsasveitarvegur until you reach Barnafossvegur (Route 552), where you will be practically at the waterfalls’ parking lot.