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Jennifer Cauli / © Culture Trip
Jennifer Cauli / © Culture Trip
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What You Should Know About Iceland's Volcanoes and Waterfalls

Picture of Camille Buckley
Updated: 11 May 2018
If you’re interested in visiting Iceland, chances are it’s because you want to see the beautiful natural features of this tiny Nordic island. Situated on a rift between the North American and European tectonic plates, the island has a lot of volcanic activity and is in fact one of the most volcanic places on Earth, with 150 to 200 volcanoes both dormant and active. Of the 22 active volcanoes, 13 have erupted since the settlement of Norwegian Vikings in 874.

Over the centuries, consistent lava flow created amazing sites dotted around the island, such as towering spires made out of black lava and huge fields covered in moss. Check out Dimmuborgir in the North of Iceland, the name of which translates to ‘Black Castles’ in English.

Jennifer Cauli /
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip
Jennifer Cauli /
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip
Jennifer Cauli /
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip

Iceland is responsible for more than a third of the fresh lava that exists on Earth. Eruptions can even happen under a glacier, which occur quite regularly as Iceland’s surface is covered by many glaciers. In this type of eruption, the fast-cooling lava does not crystallize into normal, rocky lava but instead it becomes shiny volcanic glass.

Jennifer Cauli /
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip
Jennifer Cauli /
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip

Another natural feature that gets a lot of worthy attention is Iceland’s waterfalls. In such a rugged landscape, there are ample opportunities for a river to find its way to sea by rambling over steep cliffs, resulting in thousands of waterfalls. Iceland has an abundance of water in all forms from swimming pools, hot pools, lakes, geysers, glaciers, rivers, and the North Atlantic ocean. But many of the major waterfalls can be seen from the main ring road, which circulates around Iceland.

Gullfoss
Gullfoss | © Culture Trip
Gullfoss
Gullfoss | © Culture Trip
Gullfoss
Gullfoss | © Culture Trip

The most popular of all Icelandic waterfalls is definitely Gullfoss or ‘Golden falls’. Known for its beauty, it is the tallest waterfall in the country and is in close proximity to the capital Reykjavik. The second tallest waterfall is Glymur, at almost 200 meters high, and it’s located in a fjord just West of Reykjavik. It takes a two-hour hike up a mountain to get to but is well worth the effort. Meanwhile, Dettifoss in the North of Iceland is the most powerful waterfall by volume of water, although it is only 45 meters tall. You may recognize it from the opening scene of Ridley Scott’s 2012 film Prometheus.

Gullfoss
Gullfoss | © Culture Trip
Jennifer Cauli /
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip
Jennifer Cauli /
Jennifer Cauli / | © Culture Trip