Haifoss

Thjorsardalur / Interior, South Region (Suðurland), Iceland

About Haifoss


Hiking Distance: 1-2km round trip
Suggested Time: 30-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2007-07-08
Date last visited: 2021-08-20

Waterfall Latitude: 64.20794
Waterfall Longitude: -19.68685

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Haifoss (more accurately Háifoss; I think it’s pronounced “HAU-i-foss”) was once said to be the second tallest waterfall in Iceland at 122m tall when we made our first visit 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.

Haifoss_012_07082007 - Háifoss and bold rainbow with Granni
Háifoss and bold rainbow with Granni

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 Þjórsárdalur Valley, the Fossá cut a deep chasm further adding to the drama of the overall rugged and desolate scenery in the highlands of Southern Iceland.

A Very Satisfying Experience

Both times I’ve been here (once in July 2007 and again in August 2021), it seemed like we had gotten lucky with the timing of our visits.

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.

Haifoss_064_08202021 - View of both Háifoss and Granni as seen with a late morning rainbow during our August 2021 visit
View of both Háifoss and Granni as seen with a late morning rainbow during our August 2021 visit

For lighting reference, we were at the falls between 10:30am and 11:30am in early July 2007, and we were there around 10:50am-11:40am in mid-August 2021.

And as if the rainbow wasn’t enough, Háifoss was set amidst the hauntingly beautiful yet desolate landscape of the Icelandic Highlands so the waterfalls stood out even more!

Add it all up, this was one of our waterfalling highlights of our 2007 trip to Iceland, and it was certainly up there on our return trip in 2021 even though the shock-and-awe factor was no longer there!

Julie and I still think about this place whenever we reminisce about our 2007 trip, and I have a feeling that the same thing will happen to my Mom who came with me to this waterfall on our 2021 trip.

More difficult drive than hike

Haifoss_002_07082007 - Julie on the short trail leading to the overlook of Háifoss amidst a desolate landscape during our July 2007 visit
Julie on the short trail leading to the overlook of Háifoss amidst a desolate landscape during our July 2007 visit

Walking to the Háifoss Waterfall from the car park (see directions below) was pretty easy, but I’d say that the drive to get here was a lot harder.

Regarding the hike from the car park, we took an easy-to-follow trail that went gently downhill to the various cliff-edge viewpoints of both Háifoss and Granni.

Back on our first visit in 2007, we walked about 500m from the car park to a viewpoint where it was easy to see and photograph both Háifoss and Granni together.

When we came back in 2021, it appeared that an additional spur trail (as well as some signage) was added about 200m from the car park for a more direct cliff-edge view of both waterfalls.

Haifoss_003_08202021 - We noticed new signage and rope barricades as well as this spur trail to a more direct lookout of both Háifoss and Granni during our August 2021 visit
We noticed new signage and rope barricades as well as this spur trail to a more direct lookout of both Háifoss and Granni during our August 2021 visit

That spur trail went about 100m to the first viewing area though there were informal use-trails that kept going further downstream away from the waterfalls to try to improve the viewing angle.

That said, the best view was still the original lookout further downstream where we got our photos in 2007 (it’s the same spot where we took the hero photo on our About Us page).

On each of our visits to Háifoss, 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.

Perhaps the greater drama in accessing the falls was more about the drive to get there than the physical exertion required.

Haifoss_078_07082007 - More focused look back at the fairly rough unpaved road that had ruts and potholes as it ascended from Þjórsárdalur and headed towards Háifoss
More focused look back at the fairly rough unpaved road that had ruts and potholes as it ascended from Þjórsárdalur and headed towards Háifoss

The road we took was a pretty bumpy one, and I would imagine high clearance vehicles would be necessary to get here.

But then again, on our 2007 visit, we did see some low clearance 2wd vehicles at the car park, which would suggest it might 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.

Háifoss Meaning

As for the meaning of the waterfall’s name, I looked up my Icelandic dictionary and saw that hár means high or tall.

Haifoss_025_08202021 - Contextual look downstream with Háifoss and a thinner companion waterfall providing a sense of how high the falls is
Contextual look downstream with Háifoss and a thinner companion waterfall providing a sense of how high the falls is

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, but since it was possible to drive there, we didn’t bother doing that.

Nevertheless, that same connecting trail also connected with an apparent use-trail leading into the canyon and towards the rocky base of Háifoss and Granni.

Haifoss_037_07082007 - This rock cairn marked the endpoint of the short hike to the overlook of Háifoss when we first came here in July 2007. Now, there's a signed trail leading to Stöng, which also included a detour to the bottom of the canyon
This rock cairn marked the endpoint of the short hike to the overlook of Háifoss when we first came here in July 2007. Now, there’s a signed trail leading to Stöng, which also included a detour to the bottom of the canyon

Judging by the steepness of the cliffs, this would be an excursion full of rockfall danger and rough scrambling within the depths of the canyon, but it is an option if you’re aware of the risks you’re taking.

Authorities

Haifoss resides in the South Region near Selfoss, Iceland. It is administered by the municipality of Rangárþing ytra. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting their website.

Drive_to_Haifoss_015_iPhone_08202021 - During our drive to Háifoss, we had to wait for these horses to cross the Road 332 before continuing on during our August 2021 visit
Drive_to_Haifoss_021_iPhone_08202021 - The Road 332 passed beneath these power lines, which suggested that even the Háifoss might have been affected by hydroelectric schemes further upstream in the highlands
Drive_to_Haifoss_024_iPhone_08202021 - More rough, rocky, unpaved driving on the Road 332 en route to the Háifoss Waterfall in August 2021
Haifoss_001_08202021 - Looking back at the rough road that led us to the Háifoss Waterfall in August 2021
Haifoss_002_08202021 - Looking across the car park area for Háifoss during our visit in August 2021. It was definitely busier here than it was when we first came here in July 2007
Haifoss_006_08202021 - Mom starting on the short walk towards the lookouts for the Háifoss Waterfall in August 2021
Haifoss_013_08202021 - Mom approaching the nearest of the overlooks for the Háifoss Waterfall from the car park as seen in August 2021
Haifoss_014_08202021 - Broad direct look at both Háifoss and Granni as seen in August 2021
Haifoss_015_08202021 - Focused look at the main drop of the Háifoss Waterfall as seen in August 2021
Haifoss_019_08202021 - Looking downstream along the Fossá River and the cliffs above from one of the lookouts for Háifoss in August 2021
Haifoss_029_08202021 - Looking at the nearest viewing area for Háifoss from the car park as seen in August 2021
Haifoss_034_08202021 - This was probably as much of both Háifoss and Granni that I could see from that first lookout in August 2021
Haifoss_035_08202021 - Another look back at the context of the first lookout for the Háifoss Waterfall in August 2021
Haifoss_037_08202021 - Context of that first lookout for the Háifoss Waterfall and Granni as seen in August 2021
Haifoss_045_08202021 - Starting to see a faint rainbow in front of Granni as we went a bit further downstream from that first official lookout for Háifoss in August 2021
Haifoss_048_08202021 - Context of other onlookers at the earlier lookouts for Háifoss as seen in August 2021
Haifoss_050_08202021 - Something unusual about our August 2021 visit to Háifoss was the presence of more rope barricades, which meant that the area needed such infrastructure to minimize erosion
Haifoss_054_08202021 - Descending this trail past a junction for Stöng and Gjáin towards the original lookout that Julie and I were at in July 2007 but now it's August 2021
Haifoss_059_08202021 - Saving that familiar view of both Háifoss and Granni in August 2021
Haifoss_073_08202021 - Context of Mom checking out Háifoss and Granni in August 2021
Haifoss_092_08202021 - Looking towards the head of the canyon where the Fossá River dropped over Granni while causing enough spray to yield secondary waterfalls on the head of the canyon during our visit in August 2021
Haifoss_099_08202021 - Another look at both Háifoss and Granni with a rainbow in between them as seen in August 2021
Haifoss_105_08202021 - Looking back at the context of people showing up to the furthest of the lookouts after having our fill in August 2021. It's definitely not like in 2007 when Julie and I had this place alone.
Haifoss_106_08202021 - Looking back towards the furthest of the lookouts for Háifoss in August 2021 as a tour group was encompassing that lookout
Haifoss_107_08202021 - Another look towards the upper tiers of Granni as we were hiking back to the car park in August 2021
Haifoss_108_08202021 - On the trail heading back to the car park where there were more cars and more people as we were concluding our Háifoss visit in August 2021
Haifoss_114_08202021 - Back at the car park for Háifoss to conclude our visit in August 2021. We noticed here that there was a van with monster wheels, and that must have been the vehicle that deposited the fairly large tour group
Road_26_010_07082007 - On our first visit to Háifoss in July 2007, we drove along the Route 26 in Þjórsadalur and noticed this herd of Icelandic horses
Road_26_011_07082007 - While driving the Road 26 through Þjórsárdalur in July 2007, we took a brief break to look over the top of Tröllkonufoss
Haifoss_073_07082007 - Looking back at the unsealed access road to Haifoss in July 2007 once we left the main roads through Þjórsadalur
Haifoss_079_07082007 - After the first couple of forks, the road climbed past that farm on the lower right of this photo taken in July 2007. Notice how flat and desolate Þjórsárdalur is.
Haifoss_081_07082007 - Another look at the barren expanse of the Þjórsadalur Valley as seen in July 2007
Haifoss_008_07082007 - Háifoss on the left and Granni on the right as seen in July 2007 on our first visit here
Haifoss_035_07082007 - The psychedelic landscape downstream from Háifoss in July 2007
Haifoss_007_07082007 - Just Háifoss and rainbow as seen in July 2007
Haifoss_032_07082007 - Another July 2007 look at a portrait view of Háifoss and rainbow, but notice the building to the topright of this photo which provided a sense of scale as to the size of the falls
Haifoss_072_07082007 - Focused on Granni from a closer position as seen in July 2007
Haifoss_061_07082007 - Julie sitting down (to avoid falling over the cliff) admiring the surreal scene of Háifoss and Granni with a rainbow during our July 2007 visit
Haifoss_052_07082007 - Last look at Háifoss before we headed back to the car park
Haifoss_075_07082007 - Driving back to Þjórsárdalur after having had our fill of Háifoss in July 2007


Háifoss is technically part of the highlands near the head of Þjórsárdalur Valley so I’ll describe the driving directions from Selfoss, which was probably the nearest town of significant size along the Ring Road.

From the roundabout just south of the bridge over the Ölfusá River in Selfoss, we’d continue east on the Ring Road (Austurvegur) for about 15km.

Drive_to_Haifoss_012_iPhone_08202021 - As soon as we got off the pavement of Road 32 and onto the unpaved Road 332, we then encountered this signed three-way junction about 550m later.  We kept right to continue driving on the Road 332
As soon as we got off the pavement of Road 32 and onto the unpaved Road 332, we then encountered this signed three-way junction about 550m later. We kept right to continue driving on the Road 332

Then, we’d leave the Ring Road by turning left onto the Route 30 for 18km before turning right onto Route 32 (Þjórsárdalsvegur), where we’d follow this road for about 43km.

Then, we’d turn left onto a signed turnoff for Háifoss, which put us on the unpaved Route 332.

At about 550m, we’d encounter a three-way intersection where we kept right to stay on the road to Háifoss (the road on the left was a 4wd route leading to Gjáin).

Then, we’d continue on the bumpy and potholed Road 332 for another 6.5km before turning left for the final 450m to the Háifoss car park.

Drive_to_Haifoss_019_iPhone_08202021 - Closer examination of the potholed and rutted Road 332 leading to Háifoss
Closer examination of the potholed and rutted Road 332 leading to Háifoss

This stretch on the Road 332 is where it would be advantageous to have a 4wd or at least a vehicle with high clearance and sturdy tires as opposed to a low-clearance passenger vehicle.

Overall, this 84km drive would take about 90 minutes.

Conversely, it’s also possible to drive to Háifoss from Hella, and the easiest way to do that would be to drive about 7.3km west of town along the Ring Road before turning right onto the Route 26.

Then, we’d follow the Route 26 for 62km (becoming unpaved for the last 10-15km stretch) before turning left onto the Road 32 (Þjórsárdalsvegur).

Drive_to_Haifoss_025_iPhone_08202021 - Descending on the final 450m of the fairly rough unpaved drive to reach the car park for Háifoss up ahead as seen during our August 2021 visit
Descending on the final 450m of the fairly rough unpaved drive to reach the car park for Háifoss up ahead as seen during our August 2021 visit

Once on the Road 32 (which is paved again), we’d then drive for 8km before turning right onto the Road 332 and follow the unpaved road as directed above for the final 7.5km stretch to the Háifoss car park.

Overall, this 85km drive would also take around 90 minutes.

For geographical context, Selfoss was 37km (30 minutes drive) west of Hella, 50km (about 45 minutes drive) west of Hvolsvöllur, and 59km (about an hour drive) southeast of Reykjavík.

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Right to left and back sweep from the nearest of the overlooks to the car park


Back and forth sweep starting with a right to left panning of both Granni and Haifoss with bold rainbow in between, then eventually panning down the canyon and finally ending at the waterfall pairing again


Sweep of the falls along with its neighboring waterfall and the psychedelic landscape downstream

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Tagged with: thjorsardalur, interior, highlands, thjorsa, hrauneyjar, hvolsvollur, selfoss, south region, sudurland, southern iceland, iceland, waterfall, granni, thjorsadalur



Visitor Comments:

Best waterfall in Iceland, hands down July 9, 2018 9:55 pm by Alejandro Colorado - We went because we were told it was impressive and not as crowded as the waterfalls over the South Coast. We made the right call by going there. Hot Damn, the waterfall is magnificent to look at and you can feel the sheer power of it, even if the point were you got to see… ...Read More
Amazing views! (Haifoss) September 5, 2015 9:14 am by Liz - We visited Haifoss as well as Gjain and Stong, all easily accessible by gravel roads, we did not have a high clearance 4x4 but we had absolutely no problem accessing the parking lots. We just drove slow- not a very long drive at all, maybe 10 minutes max. Beautiful area with wonderful views, if you're… ...Read More
Haifoss June 24, 2009 2:37 pm by _Anonymous11 - WOW!!!! The drive there was bumpy and very long, but WOW!!! This is all you can say when you walk down the small trail to the falls and hear the sheer power of the water cascading over the edge. Two falls within a few meters of each other with the larger one falling straight on… ...Read More

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