This country sure has a lot of water: trapped in glaciers, flowing from glaciers, trickling down mountainsides, raging through canyons. And all that water sure is something nice to look at. But what watery spectacle is the nicest to look at? The most magnificent? Which foss is the mother of all fosses*?
Without a doubt, Dettifoss is one impressive foss. The thing is huge, at 100 metres wide and 44 metres high, carving out the gorgeous Jökulsárgljúfur canyon with its powerful surge of water. In fact, Dettifoss is the wateriest foss in all of Europe, spewing 200 cubic metres per second of the wet stuff. While unrelated to the foss, this well-visited tourist attraction not far from Mývatn is made all the more enjoyable by the hilarious signage above the restroom sinks warning of a water shortage in the area, despite there being a raging waterfall right there. How delightfully ironic.
While it is a relatively small foss, Goðafoss makes up for what it lacks in size in pure natural beauty. Here the Skjálfandafljót river tumbles 12 metres over the horseshoe-shaped ridge, with one main powerful chute and a gentler trickle reaching around to the right of it, where the river is shallow and dotted with mossy rocks peaking up through its surface. Goðafoss is also special for its role in Iceland’s history—after spending some time wrapped in fur and deep in thought, Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði decided that Iceland would adopt Christianity and promptly threw all his Norse idols into the waterfall on his land. You know, that’s probably why this foss’ name translates as “waterfall of the gods.” Another major selling feature of this foss is that despite being fairly close to Mývatn and Dettifoss, Goðafoss is not congested with all you tourists, so it can be appreciated in peace.
The most visited foss in Iceland, Gullfoss is just a hop and a skip from Reykjavík and is one of three attractions of the famed Golden Circle—in fact, Gullfoss translates to “golden falls.” From a distance this mid-size foss appears to not be a foss at all, instead the Hvítá river seems to just vanish. But upon closer inspection tourists—and there are always a lot of those—notice that this multi-level foss is just obscured by the curved canyon that it has carved out over the centuries. Another high point of this foss is the ample and delicious lamb soup available for consumption on site. Gullfoss and meat soup is a recipe for good times.
So which foss is the best foss?
It’s a tough decision and all fosses have their pros and cons, but this round goes to Goðafoss. Goddamn, that’s one beautiful foss. It may not have made as massive a dent in the earth and it may not be accompanied by some seriously tasty meat soup, but Goðafoss is so spectacular it could bring a tear to the eye of even the most cold-hearted tourist traveller there. Apologies to the losing fosses and to the fosses that didn’t even make the list, you’re all very nice too.
*Foss means waterfall and fosses is not the actual plural of foss. But it sounds fun.