One can begin to crave nature after one too many walks up and down Laugavegur. On a recent autumn day, our choice was to head to one of Iceland’s most astonishing sights—Háifoss, the majestic high falls, located in a beautiful water carved gorge that houses not just one, but two waterfalls—just around the corner from Háifoss sits its handsome neighbour, Granni. It’s a pretty great two for one deal.
Located on the very edge of the Highlands, just over a two hour drive away from the big city, these two falls originate in Fossá, the “waterfall river,” with meltwater from Hekla in its cold blue veins.
Mind the car
There are a couple of options when it comes to getting there. One is a 14 km hike from Strönd—a reconstructed viking settler manor—or a rough 7 km drive to the front porch of the viewing spot. But be warned, while driving sounds easier, this gravel track is a mosaic of deep potholes, boulders of various sizes and sharp rocks. A rugged 4×4 is not just advised, it’s a must. You hear this a lot, where Icelandic nature is considered, but don’t let that fool you, the volcanic rock roads won’t bend their ragged nature to suit your car.
When you step out of your car, there aren’t many signs giving away the presence of the mighty water giant, but you can feel it it in your nerves; the vibration of the air, the charge of natural force setting the ground and elements into never ending motion. But after just a few steps, the ground splits open—a 100 metre drop appears, and your gaze slides over a white stream of water, foaming and cascading over the black volcanic rock. Dazzling.
Common sense safety net
The cliffs that wrap around the chasm are over 2 million years old and have no man made safety structures. The only safety net is common sense. As you marvel at the waterfalls and look down to the very bottom of the valley, vertigo creeps in; with bones of jelly and a strange tickling at the back of your head, you take half a step closer to the edge—a thrill that makes your heart skip a beat. Extreme care is necessary, especially on windy days—the cliff edges are just very old rocks. Make sure to take the long way down to the valley.
No pain no gain
From the first viewpoint, which shows off Granni, you continue down the path to the viewing spot for both waterfalls and to stand across from Háifoss itself. On sunny days it’s not uncommon to even have a rainbow striking a pose for lucky spectators.
The onwards hike leads to the bottom of the valley, to the foot of Háifoss. It isn’t too long—just a 1.6 km round trip—however there are some steep, tricky gravel slopes. Make sure to wear proper hiking shoes and take extra caution on rainy or icy days, and take into account that the way back will steal your breath, but for quite different reasons than the views.
Laces of water and rock
We’re also treated to gray, blue, black and green colors that melt together and draw sharp lines with sudden contrasts, forming into an effortless masterpiece. That’s the magic of hiking—when you have the time to truly take in the view, it reveals itself in more and more mesmerising detail. Shaped by the astounding and persistent force of water, the solid rock walls of the gorge look almost like they’re slowly moving, with rounded curves, delicate layers of soil, and basaltic formations lacing together behind the waterfall.
At the end of the hike, you get to stand at the very foot of the Háifoss with your head thrown back, your eyes closed, and the slow thunder of the waterfall hitting your eardrums. I let the nature soak into my tired limbs, putting my ever-running thread of concerns and thoughts to rest. I take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Nature is awesome.