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