Haifoss (more accurately Háifoss; I think it’s pronounced “HAU-i-foss”) is said to be the second tallest waterfall in Iceland at 122m tall (at least that was the case in July 2007). But encyclopedic facts aside, what really made this waterfall stand out was that it was also accompanied by a similar waterfall called Granni (the Neighbor) in an adjacent gorge. Moreover, it seemed like we got lucky with the timing of our visit because not only did we see both waterfalls at their full flow, but the sun’s position was perfect as it yielded bright quarter-arcing rainbows within the mist of the main falls. Then, to top it all off, the falls was set amidst the hauntingly beautiful yet desolate landscape of the Icelandic Highlands. Add it all up, and we still think about this place whenever we reminisce about our 2007 trip to the country.
Walking to this waterfall from the car park (see directions below) was pretty easy. We took an easy-to-follow trail that went gently downhill until we got the best views of both Haifoss and Granni. We were at the falls between 10:30am and 11:30am in the early July on a sunny day, and that was when we saw the awesome rainbows making this one of the most surreal visual experiences we’d ever had on a waterfalling excursion. We spent around an hour away from the car, but I have to believe that most of that time was spent taking photographs and just chilling out here.
Both waterfalls were on segments of the Fossá River, which was a tributary of the larger Þjórsá River. While the Þjórsá River cut right through the wide and most desolate Þjórsadalur Valley, the Fossá cut a deep chasm making it unwise for us to try to access the shadowy base. And because the views of the falls were from the top of a deep chasm, we had to be careful not to get too close to the edges of the unstable cliffs.
Perhaps the greater drama in accessing the falls was more about the drive to get there than the physical exertion required. The road we took to get here was a pretty bumpy one, and I would imagine high clearance vehicles would be necessary to get here. But then again, we did see some low clearance 2wd vehicles at the car park, which would suggest it would be possible for such vehicles to make it, too. If that’s the case, driving carefully and slowly would have to be done or else risk damage to the undercarriage of the car, damage to the transmission, or even suffer flat tires from the rocks on the road.
As for the meaning of the waterfall’s name, I looked up my Icelandic dictionary and saw that “hár” means high. If that’s the case, then I guess its name could’ve been surmised given that the spelling of the name of the falls would likely induce a non-Icelandic speaker to think it’s pronounced “high”, anyways.
Finally, I had read that visitors to the re-created historical farm at Stöng may wish to undertake a long 5- to 6-hour trek to get to the falls as well as experience the lush rift area at Gjáin. That may be an option if you truly want to immerse yourself in the unforgiving highlands.
To get to the unpaved access road to Haifoss, we first had to take one of two main approaches through Þjórsadalur. The approach we took involved leaving the Ring Road at Route 26 (about 7km west of Hella or 20km west of Hvolsvöllur). From the junction, we drove about 62km through Þjórsadalur to its junction with Route 32. Turning left onto Route 32, we drove about 8km to an unsealed access route (I think it’s signposted for the falls) on the right.
Had we been coming from Selfoss, we could’ve taken the Ring Road to 14km to Route 30, then follow Route 30 for a little over 18km to its junction with Route 32 on the right. Then, follow Route 32 through Þjórsadalur for 43km to the signed turnoff for the unpaved access road to Haifoss on the left.
Once we were on the unpaved access road (Stangarvegur), we took it for about 500m before turning right onto a rougher unpaved access road. We followed this access road for another 6.5km (keeping left at the major fork to stay on this road) until we reached the final turnoff on our left going the last 800m to the car park for the falls.
Overall, this stretch of unpaved driving took us less than 30 minutes in each direction in a high clearance SUV. Expect to take longer if you’re trying with a low clearance 2wd passenger vehicle.
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