Dettifoss Falls in Iceland – the muddiest and wettest waterfall in Europe!
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Yes, the most important thing I almost forgot: Dettifoss waterfall in Iceland is also the largest in Europe! It is so huge and powerful that when you first drive to Dettifoss, you can already hear and see it a few kilometers before you park. You hear the deafening roar of the giant waterfall, and you see the huge cloud of spray that hangs over it forever.
In our article – practical information on visiting Dettifoss Falls in Iceland, how to get to it and of course, many photos of this indomitable monster.
The waterfall that won’t dry out
If your child hears the swear word “primeval might” in the yard and asks what it is, don’t explain anything to him – just take him to Iceland, to the waterfall of Dettifoss. 100 meters wide, 44 meters high, from 200 to 600 cubic meters of water per second – this is what the Dettifoss waterfall in Iceland is. Six hundred cubic meters per second! We use about fifteen of them in a month.
Dettifoss Falls in Iceland is very difficult to photograph close-up. Although the cheaper the camera, the easier it is.
It is because of this power that it is impossible to see Dettifoss Falls in full. Where the turbulent stream of water falls from the ledge into the river, a huge cloud of splashes rises into the air, covering from viewers a good half of the height of the giant. That’s why the ground around Dettifoss is always wet for dozens of meters.
And Dettifoss tries by all means to chase away tourists: no need for such miserable creatures to stick around. The thing is that it is located on a plain, where the wind is blowing at full speed. When the wind calms down – just take your camera out of your pocket and quickly take pictures of everything around, because in a few seconds you will be covered with cold and very dirty water. That’s how we walked around: with the camera under the jacket, grabbing every opportunity to pull it out and take a couple of pictures, and then gently wiping the lens.
These people need raincoats to protect them not from the rain, but from the splashing waterfall!
Why is the water so dirty, you ask? A little background information. Dettifoss Falls is on a river with the typically Icelandic chiseled name of Jökülsau-au-Fjödlum, which starts from the Vatnajöküdl Glacier, the largest in Europe, and flows through the lifeless land of the northern part of the island, covered with volcanic ash. This ash is what colors the two beautiful waterfalls on this river, Dettifoss and Selfoss, which are located one kilometer upstream, in a murky black color. They even share a parking lot, by the way. Of course, both of these waterfalls took honorable places in our rating:
That rare moment when Dettifoss Falls in Iceland allowed us to photograph not only myself, but also me.
And this is Selphoss. It consists of dozens of small waterfalls. Their total width is about 100 meters, just like Dettifoss.
Dettifoss waterfall in Iceland: practical information
The name Dettifoss translates from Icelandic to Russian as “bubbling waterfall”. As already mentioned, the Dettifoss waterfall is located in the north of Iceland, near the famous Lake Miwatn. Here is the point on the map:
The waterfall can be approached from two directions: east and west.
The best view of Dettifoss Falls in Iceland is from the west side. This is where the main parking lot is located (with bio-toilets!), to which a good asphalt road leads. From this parking lot you can walk to Dettifoss and Selphoss, the signs will keep you from taking a wrong turn. Here are the photos of Dettifoss Falls from the west side:
The road to Dettifoss Falls from the west parking lot.
Dettifoss Falls in Iceland. The first thing tourists see as they walk up from the parking lot.
The Jöküllsau-au-Fjödlum River, where Dettifoss Falls is located, heads into the Arctic Ocean.
You’d think if it weren’t for this rope, everyone would have jumped there!
However… I wonder where that path leads to on the left?
On a small hill a little further upriver from Dettifoss you can see the observation deck. You have to go up there! It opens a stunning view and great photos of waterfall Dettifoss, in addition, the spray reaches here less and you can just stand quietly, enjoying the surrounding beauty.
From the vantage point Dettifoss Falls in Iceland doesn’t look that wet.
I wonder if those people below think so, too.
You can also approach Dettifoss Falls from the east. Like most tourists, we didn’t go there. We had enough of the stunning view from the west side, and it really did not want to bog down the gravel (to the east parking lot is a dirt road). And for the sake of a good view, we’d have to jump over rocks. But if you have time and desire, you can look at the waterfall of Dettifoss in Iceland and from the east side. If you get there, we’re waiting for your feedback! And here’s the view from there:
Dettifoss Falls in Iceland, profile view. Photo by flickr.com.
How to see Dettifoss Falls and other beauties of Iceland
Dettifoss Falls in Iceland is located near Ring Route 1, the main tourist road around the island. You can get to Dettifoss Falls, as well as many other attractions, in an ordinary sedan: it is not necessary to rent an off-road vehicle.
What was on my mind when I decided to spend a month in Iceland? What images were in my head? Here I am standing next to a geyser, and it’s shooting boiling water into the sky. Or I’m sitting on the edge of a fjord, staring thoughtfully at the huge, cold ocean.
And here is a huge waterfall and I, so small in comparison, enjoy the rumble of falling water in my ears and my eyes cannot tear themselves away from this natural spectacle. Truly, you can look at the water endlessly, and Dettifoss, one of the country’s calling cards, is the best proof of that.
How to get to Dettifoss Falls
Dettifoss waterfall is located in the north of the island, in the national park with a difficult to pronounce name Jökülsaurglüvür (marked with a red circle on the map below).
You can get there by shuttle or sightseeing bus, by car and by hitchhiking.
By shuttle bus.
Three towns are located close to Detifoss Falls: Reykjähliid (50 km), Akureyri (150 km) and Egilsstadir (160 km). On the Reykjavik Excursions website you can buy tickets in advance from any of the cities listed above. If you are going to drive from Egilsstadir, the journey will take about an hour and a half and cost about 35€ (5,000 ISK), from Akureyri 4.5 hours and cost 70€ (10,000 ISK), and from Reykjahled 20 minutes and only 7€ (1,000 ISK).
Here you should be sure to ask exactly where the bus is going, because they may not take you to the waterfall itself, but only to an exit on a country road, which will take you another 24 kilometers to get to the water miracle. All the buses go once a day and only in the morning, Icelanders are such early birds. All schedule should be checked on the site, because in the low season, many bus routes just “fall asleep”, only to “wake up” later in the high season.
With an organized tour.
If you’re in any city in Iceland and don’t know what to see, how to get there and what to do in general, feel free to go to the information center. They’ll tell you, show you, and maybe even take you to the protected areas. No, I’m serious. In all the time I’ve been traveling, I’ve never once encountered anyone at the information center who couldn’t answer my question. So if you want to go to Dettifoss, but don’t know how, feel free to go to the house with the bright “i”. There you will be offered a tour, and although it is not cheap in Iceland, it is worth it. There is no separate tour for Dettifoss, but you can see it on a tour of the Diamond Ring, costing about 300 € (11 000 ISK).
Tour guides love and know a lot about the natural attractions and tell with pleasure. In addition, by choosing a tour, you will be assured that you will be picked up and brought accurately on schedule to the place you want.
From any of the cities mentioned above, you can get to Dettifoss Falls by car. There are two country roads 864 and 862 off the main road 1. You can’t miss the turn: there is a big sign at the intersection that says Dettifoss, and this is the exit to the main 862 road. Turn there and you will reach the main lookout.
But when the snow melts in Iceland and the roads, which were blocked all winter, open up, you can take a risk and drive up to the waterfall from the other side, which is Route 864. Here you won’t see a big signpost, just the highway number. The road here is bumpy, but the scenery is absolutely fantastic, as if you were driving a private car on the surface of the moon.
And, eventually, you’ll end up on the other side of the waterfall, which tourists rarely get to (still, there’s parking and a toilet there for the brave).
Let’s say you’re on a tight budget and don’t want to pay quite a bit of money for a rental car or a tour. Then, welcome to Icelandic hitchhiking. You just stand on the road, lift your thumb and within half an hour at most, tourists will take you for a ride. From Rejakyahlide, Akureyri and Egilsstadire, you have no trouble getting away, there are extremely many people and everyone – locals and visitors – is very friendly, so they give you a ride with pleasure.
Dettifoss waterfall (Dettifoss)
Dettifoss is 44 meters high and is considered the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The water comes into the river from melting glaciers, so at different times of the year it can be both clear and clean, and brown, grayish and with soil particles.
The waterfall became even more famous after director Ridley Scott showed it to the general public in the movie Prometheus. We were there in the summertime, when all roads are open and tourists can drive up to it from either side. Even at this time of year you won’t find a restaurant or even food for sale there. Everything you need on this trip should be taken with you – this is a feature of most of the natural attractions in Iceland. We walked to the waterfall on a small, leftover winter snow edge, so it’s worth wearing trekking shoes and clothes to stay warm.
If you walk 1 kilometer up the river you will see another waterfall, Selfoss. It is wider than Dettifoss and forms a pond on the ledge. It’s quick and easy to reach, and well worth the beauty.
In Iceland, admission to almost all natural attractions is free, which is a great characteristic of the people of the country. They want to share their beauties with all comers, but ask to respect and preserve them for the future: if there is a parking lot, do not put your car on the lawn, if there is a path, do not trample another one, if there is a fence, do not climb over it to take selfies on the edge of the chasm. Nowhere else have I seen such a reverent attitude to nature as in Iceland, and it is pleasantly appealing.
I advise everyone who decides to go to Iceland not to miss Dettifoss Falls. No matter what time of year you find yourself in the north of this country – winter, spring, fall or summer, it is sure to be different, but in any case, striking.