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  • Writer's pictureScandinavian Travel

Selfoss Waterfall: An Essential Guide to Iceland’s Stunning Cascade

Iceland, known for its dramatic landscapes and abundant waterfalls, boasts many stunning cascades that attract visitors from around the world. Among these, Selfoss Waterfall stands out as a must-visit destination for those exploring the northern region. This guide provides comprehensive information about Selfoss, including how to get there, what to expect, and nearby attractions, ensuring a memorable visit.

Selfoss Waterfall

Selfoss Waterfall, not to be confused with the town of Selfoss in southern Iceland, is located in the northeastern part of the country, within the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. Fed by the powerful Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which originates from the Vatnajökull glacier, Selfoss is renowned for its impressive width and scenic beauty.

Dimensions and Appearance of Selfoss Waterfall

Selfoss Waterfall is distinctively wider than it is tall, standing at approximately 11 meters (36 feet) in height and stretching around 100 meters (330 feet) across. This significant width creates a broad, majestic cascade, making it especially captivating when viewed from the surrounding cliffs.

The waterfall’s powerful flow and the mist it generates add to its enchanting atmosphere. This combination of vastness and mist makes Selfoss a photographer’s paradise, providing numerous opportunities for stunning shots of the waterfall in various lighting conditions.

The Jökulsá á Fjöllum River

The Jökulsá á Fjöllum River is one of Iceland’s major glacial rivers, originating from the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest ice cap in Europe. As it flows northward, it carves through rugged landscapes, creating a series of significant waterfalls, including the renowned Dettifoss and Hafragilsfoss. Selfoss, one of these waterfalls, is characterized by its turbulent waters and raw power, which it displays year-round.

The Jökulsá á Fjöllum River

The river’s journey through the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon showcases dramatic cliffs, basalt columns, and lush vegetation, contributing to the area’s striking natural beauty and geological significance.

Getting to Selfoss Waterfall

Reaching Selfoss Waterfall requires some planning, especially considering the rugged terrain of the northeastern highlands. Here are the detailed directions to help you navigate your journey:

From Akureyri

1. Start in Akureyri: Take the Ring Road (Route 1) heading east.

2. Turn onto Route 862: Continue north, following the signs towards Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.

3. Follow the signs: Directions to Selfoss and Dettifoss are well-marked along the route.

The drive from Akureyri to Selfoss takes approximately 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on road conditions and weather.

Summer vs. Winter Access

Summer: The best time to visit Selfoss is during the summer months (June to August) when the roads are more accessible. The highland roads, including Route 862, are generally open and maintained during this period.

Winter: Visiting in winter is more challenging due to snow and ice. While the roads are often closed, specialized tours are available that use equipped vehicles to navigate the harsh conditions safely.

Selfoss Waterfall in Winter

Exploring Selfoss and Its Surroundings

Selfoss Waterfall is part of a trio of impressive waterfalls located in the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. Visitors can explore these attractions in one trip for a comprehensive experience of Iceland’s northern waterfalls.

Dettifoss Waterfall

Just downstream from Selfoss, Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, standing at 44 meters (144 feet) high and 100 meters (330 feet) wide. Its sheer force and the roar of the water make it an awe-inspiring sight.

Hafragilsfoss Waterfall

Further downstream is Hafragilsfoss, another beautiful waterfall in the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river. Although less famous than Selfoss and Dettifoss, it offers stunning views and a peaceful setting.

Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon

The Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, which houses these waterfalls, is a breathtaking area characterized by dramatic cliffs, basalt columns, and lush vegetation. It was once its own national park but is now part of the larger Vatnajökull National Park.

Selfoss Waterfall in Iceland

Visitor Tips for Selfoss Waterfall

To ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to Selfoss Waterfall, consider the following tips:

1. Safety First

  • Slippery rocks: The rocks around the waterfall can be very slippery, especially when wet. Wear sturdy footwear with good grip.

  • Stay behind barriers: Always stay behind safety barriers and heed warning signs.

2. Best Viewing Spots

  • West Side: Offers a closer view of the waterfall and is accessible via Route 862.

  • East Side: Provides a broader perspective and is accessible via Route 864, although this route is more challenging to navigate.

3. Photography Tips

  • Morning light is better: Visit early in the morning for the best light conditions and fewer crowds.

  • Waterproof gear: Protect your camera equipment from the mist generated by the waterfall.

Nearby Attractions

While visiting Selfoss, take the opportunity to explore other nearby attractions in northern Iceland:

Mývatn Area

  • Mývatn Nature Baths: Relax in the geothermal waters of this stunning natural spa.

  • Dimmuborgir: A lava field with unique rock formations, often referred to as the “Dark Cities.”

Ásbyrgi Canyon

A horseshoe-shaped canyon located to the north of the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, offering scenic hiking trails and stunning views.


Known as the “Echo Rocks,” this area features peculiar basalt rock formations that create unique acoustic effects.

Fuel Prices and Travel Costs

When planning your trip to Selfoss Waterfall, consider the following information about fuel prices and travel costs:

  • Fuel prices: As of 2024, the average price of gasoline in Iceland is around 300 ISK per liter. Prices may vary slightly depending on location and station.

  • Vehicle rental: Renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended for navigating the highland roads. Prices vary based on the season and vehicle type, starting from approximately 10,000 ISK per day.

  • Accommodation: Instead of traditional accommodation options, ranging from budget guesthouses to luxury hotels, consider the unmatched flexibility and freedom of renting a camper. A camper allows you to stay close to Iceland’s stunning natural attractions, adjust your itinerary on the go, and enjoy the convenience of having your lodging and transportation combined. This is especially beneficial during the high season when booking in advance is essential for hotels, but a camper offers a more spontaneous and immersive travel experience.

Selfoss Waterfall by Motorhome or Campervan

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Selfoss have a waterfall?

Yes, Selfoss is a waterfall located in the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon in northeastern Iceland. It is part of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river system.

How long is the hike to Selfoss?

The hike to Selfoss from the nearest parking area takes approximately 15-20 minutes. The trail is well-marked and relatively easy to navigate.

Is Dettifoss worth it?

Absolutely. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and offers a spectacular sight with its immense force and dramatic surroundings. It is located just downstream from Selfoss, making it convenient to visit both waterfalls in one trip.

Visiting Selfoss Waterfall is an unforgettable experience, offering a blend of natural beauty, tranquility, and dramatic landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor to Iceland, this waterfall should be on your must-visit list. Ensure you plan your trip during the summer for easier access, take necessary safety precautions, and explore the nearby attractions to make the most of your visit.

For a comfortable and flexible travel experience, consider renting a camper. This allows you to explore the beauty of Iceland at your own pace. Visit Camper Rental Iceland to find the perfect camper for your adventure and start planning your trip to discover the best waterfalls in Iceland.

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