Your Guide to Dettifoss Waterfall in Iceland

Dettifoss Waterfall in Iceland

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

    With 10 000 and counting, you’ll find plenty of “foss’s” here in Iceland. But there are a few that simply cannot be missed, and Dettifoss Waterfall is definitely one of them. In this article, we tell you everything there is to know about Dettifoss and what makes this one of the must-visit falls here on the island.

    So, if you’re planning an upcoming trip to Iceland or are just curious to know more about one of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls, read on – you might be surprised at what you’ll learn.

    Quick Facts About Dettifoss Waterfall

    • Dettifoss loosely translates to “collapsing waterfall” since it looks as though it is collapsing into the earth.
    • Dettifoss Waterfall is a staggering 100 meters wide and 44 meters tall.
    • Visiting Dettifoss is usually a three for 1 type of deal since most come for Dettifoss, but also grab the opportunity to visit Selfoss Waterfall and Hafragilsfoss Waterfall, that’s just a short walk from there.
    • Dettifoss is the largest waterfall in Iceland and plummets into the largest canyon in Iceland called Jokulsargljufur.
    • The falls are renowned for being the most powerful in Iceland, with an average of 365,292 liters of water rushing over the cliffs every SECOND!

     Dettifoss Waterfall

    • The rushing water is so powerful that it actually makes the rocks surrounding the falls vibrate.
    • Whilst Dettifoss was believed to have been the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe, it has had to take second place to the Rhine Falls in Switzerland.
    • The falls’ power and size should come as no surprise, seeing that the falls are being fed by the largest glacier in the entire Europe; Vatnajökull.
    • You better come prepared with a raincoat and waterproof clothes and gear when visiting Dettifoss. This powerful waterfall creates such dense mist and spray that you will get completely drenched otherwise.
    • The water of the falls may appear to be a bit murky or milky. This is just because of the sediment that’s in the glacial water.
    • Dettifoss served as inspiration to composer Jon Leifs for his work by the same name.
    • If the falls look familiar, it’s probably because it’s graced our screens in the opening of the popular sci-fi movie Prometheus.

    What Makes Dettifoss Waterfall So Special?

    Dettifoss’s claim to fame is its size and power, especially the fact that it has the title of one of Europe’s most powerful falls. Experiencing the rushing water and the rumbling underneath your feet when standing at the falls is something one can’t explain to those who haven’t been there yet. 

    How Was Dettifoss Falls Formed?

    How Dettifoss was created in the first place will always remain a bit of a theory, since it’s very hard to prove the exact origin of something or an event that happened thousands of years ago. But, as far as the geologists are concerned, Dettifoss was the result of what can only be expected from a place called the Land of Fire and Ice.

    There are 8 subglacial volcanoes that can be found underneath Vatnajökull Glacier. One can just imagine what the result of just one eruption underneath the gigantic mass of ice must look like, never mind multiple eruptions. Yet, this is exactly what is believed took place.

    Dettifoss formation

    Numerous eruptions caused major glacial floods (9000 of them if you believe the history buffs) that carved their way through the earth, creating all sorts of caverns, canyons, and crevices, which includes what you see at Dettifoss today. The melting glacial water of Vatnajökull is what feeds Dettifoss ‘till this day, although multiple major eruptions may no longer be the main cause, but more global climate change.

    Where is Dettifoss Waterfall in Iceland?

    Dettifoss can be found in the largest national park in Iceland; Vatnajökull National Park. The park can be found in the northeastern part of the island. The falls are conveniently located close to popular routes such as the Ring Road and the Diamond Circle.

    How Do You Get to Dettifoss?

    Well, getting to the actual falls from the parking lot will require a short walk and will look different depending on whether you’re viewing the falls from the east or the west. On the western side, you’ll find an 800-meter pathway, and whilst the trail is easy to navigate, it can get quite muddy and slippery because of all the mist and spray from the waterfall coming that way.

    On the western side, you’ll also have the choice of viewing the falls from the upper or lower viewing deck. The 400-meter walk on the eastern side is not quite as easy, so whilst technically shorter, it might take you longer simply because it’s pretty rocky and steep. Getting to Dettifoss from somewhere else on the island is another story altogether, and you will have the following options to choose from:

    Getting to Dettifoss Via a Plane

    This is a good option if you have limited time on the island or just don’t want to spend so much time in the car (especially if you have the elderly and young kids in your party). Simply catch one of the flights from Reykjavik to Akureyri and then just rent a car to drive the 2 hours to Dettifoss.

    Getting to Dettifoss Via a Tour

    You will find plenty of guided day tours to Dettifoss, as well as multi-day guided holiday tours that include the falls as a stop. Most of these tours will depart from either Reykjavik or Akureyri, depending on which tour you choose.

    How Do You Get to Dettifoss?

    Getting to Dettifoss Via a Car

    Driving yourself is the best way to visit Dettifoss, especially if you add the falls as part of your road trip itinerary. If you just want to make a day trip out of Dettifoss, we recommend that you depart from Akureyri or Myvatn since merely getting there from Reykjavik will take you about 7 hours.

    But if you’re starting your road trip from the capital city, you’ll need to drive north on the Ring Road. Then you just need to take either Road 862 or 864 to take you to the falls. Road 862 is paved and will take you to the west side. Road 864 is unpaved and will take you to the east side. It’s important to note, though, that you cannot take this road on without a 4x4 vehicle, and this road is generally closed during the colder months of the year here on the island.

    When is the Best Time to Visit Dettifoss Waterfall in Iceland?

    Dettifoss is open to the public all year around, but the falls might be better to visit during the summer months in Iceland (June to September) due to the following reasons:

    • As the island’s most powerful waterfall, the falls create incredible mist and spray that will have you soaked to the bone in no time, unless you’re well-prepared with all sorts of waterproof clothing and gear. And getting wet during the colder months in Iceland is not a pleasant experience at all.
    • It’s easier to drive to the falls in the summertime since the road conditions are easier to navigate. Winter weather conditions can turn quite treacherous, and as we’ve already mentioned, the road to the east side is generally kept closed during the colder months.

     Just keep in mind that summer is our busiest season here on the island, so we’ll highly recommend that you visit the falls early morning or late afternoon to avoid the peak season crowds.

    Visit Dettifoss

    Where to Stay Near Dettifoss Waterfall

    Whether on your road trip or just trying to make the most out of your day trip, you’ll find plenty of overnight accommodation near Dettifoss that will suit a variety of preferences and budgets.

    You can opt for camping at Hljodaklettar Campground and save on accommodation costs. Or you can opt for another affordable option, such as Dettifoss Guesthouse. Alternatively, you can live a life of luxury at a hotel such as Fosshotel Myvatn.

    FAQs About Dettifos Waterfall

    Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Dettifoss:

    How High is Detifoss Waterfall?

    Detifoss Fall’s height clocks in at 44 meters, which doesn’t make it one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland, but taking into account that it’s 100 meters wide, it makes for a pretty impressive sight.

    How Long is the Hike to Dettifoss Waterfall?

    It all depends on which side you choose to view the falls from. The hike on the west side of the falls is 800 meters, whilst the hike from the eastern side is 400 meters. Despite being shorter in distance, the trail on the east side might take longer due to it being very steep and rocky.

    Is Dettifoss the Most Powerful Fall in Iceland?

    Yes. Not only is it the most powerful waterfall in Iceland, but it’s the second most powerful waterfall in all of Europe!

    Powerful Fall in Iceland

    How Much Time Do You Need at Dettifoss?

    The walk to and from the falls will take you roughly 20 minutes, and most spend about an hour at the falls themselves. If you want to add the other falls nearby to your outing, you should add at least another 2 hours. 

    Do You Need Tickets for Dettifoss?

    No, visiting Dettifoss is completely free of charge.

    Dettifoss; the Most Powerful Waterfall in Iceland Leaving a Powerful Impression

    Dettifoss is, without a doubt, a must-visit place here on the island. These powerful falls renews one’s respect for nature and is simply breathtaking. Rent a campervan in Iceland and make Dettifoss a stop along your Ring Road or Diamond Circle road trip. See for yourself how these powerful falls can leave a powerful impression.

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