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The northeast of Iceland is home to a mighty river called Jökulsá á Fjöllum (Glacier river of the mountains). As it flows down from the highlands it cascades in multiple waterfalls. The largest is called Dettifoss (Fall down waterfall) and is reputedly the second most powerful waterfall in Europe.

How to get to Dettifoss

Reaching the waterfall is no short trip. Being relatively remote in an already remote part of Iceland, the best way to get there is to take the Diamond Circle road from Akureyri, the region’s largest town. The Diamond Circle passes by some of the most beautiful and dramatic natural wonders in the northeastern part of Iceland. Those include Goðafoss (Waterfall of the gods), another beautiful waterfall, the volcanic lake Mývatn, the picturesque village of Húsavík and the list could go on. The immensely powerful Dettifoss is located at the farthest end of the circle and carries the glacial waters of Jökulsá á Fjöllum towards the north.

Most powerful waterfall Dettifoss


Jökulsá á Fjöllum has its source far to the south, in the interior of Iceland, stemming from the meltwaters of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull (Water Glacier). The glacier is the second-largest in Europe and occupies about 8% of Iceland’s landmass. From its northern side, Jökulsá á Fjöllum flows down an impressive 206 km of distance into the ocean, making it the second-largest river in Iceland.

Dettifoss and Selfoss

The river is split into several sections by four spectacular waterfalls; First Selfoss, second Dettifoss, third Hafragilsfoss, and fourth Réttarfoss. Of these four, Dettifoss is by the largest and most powerful of course, being classified as the second most powerful waterfall in Europe. Dettifoss is 100 meters wide and drops 44 meters into the massive canyon below, called Jökulsárgljúfur (Glacier river canyon). The flow of water drops down at 190 cubic meters per second, and its ferocity, speed, and power have carved the canyon into the landscape.

Extreme power

The power of Dettifoss and its glacial origins are immediately visible in its appearance as it froths off the cliff’s edge, with the milky white and greyish water. The scale of Dettifoss is mind-blowing enough, but as you approach the waterfall, you are struck by the thundering sound and the shaking of the ground you walk on. Add to that the truly dramatic landscape around it, making you feel as if you’ve entered a world of giants and experienced the raw power of nature first hand.

Movie Prometheus

The epic visuals even featured in the 2012 film Prometheus, as the stand-in for a primordial Earth-like planet, meant to represent the beginning of time. That is very easy to imagine when visiting the waterfall, with its scale and power making it feel otherworldly.
Therefore it is a must to visit this waterfall and its surrounding locations if you ever find yourself in the rugged and awe-inspiring northeastern region of Iceland.

Guide to photographing Dettifoss

If you are looking for the perfect guide to photograph this beautifull waterfall on your trip to Iceland be sure to watch this video bij Mads Peter Iversen. Mads is one of the most populair photographers on YouTube and has a range of videos about photographing in Iceland (and other top places). He explaines how to get to Dettifoss, gives you tips to get the best out of your visit and what gear you should bring on your trip. Enjoy the video from Mads!

If you like the video about photographing Gullfoss by Mads Peter Iversen be sure to follow him on YouTube and like his updates 😉

If you have been to Iceland and would like to write an article about locations you have visited don’t hesitate to sent us an email. We are happy to get your story and tips online!