Hraunfossar (meaning “lava falls”) was an intriguing series of springs coming out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field appearing like a long 900m strand of cascades feeding the light blue Hvítá River.
That characteristic of springs emerging from lava tubes and rough grooves within the lava made this waterfall unique among those that we’ve encountered throughout Iceland so far.
After all, for most of the other waterfalls, we’ve seen them drop over solid basalt columns instead of through porous lava.
Hraunfossar’s strand of cascades was so long that we had a very difficult time trying to photograph the falls in its entirety without any postprocessing given its enormous length.
Further augmenting this place’s scenic appeal was the presence of Barnafoss, which was a turbulent convergence of more springs and waterfalls flowing beneath a natural bridge.
We have a separate write-up for Barnafoss, which goes more into a saga concerning why that waterfall no longer had a second natural bridge across the span of the Hvítá River, which was fed by the Langjökull Glacier.
In any case, the color of the water flowing before the Hraunfossar really added plenty of color to the overall landscape, especially since it contrasted with the black lava.
Experiencing Hraunfossar and Barnafoss
A short series of trails, boardwalks, and a bridge allowed us to experience both Hraunfossar and Barnafoss from various lookouts each yielding different perspectives.
Starting from a fairly sizable car park (see directions below), we followed a footpath to a signed junction and then walked immediately towards the nearest lookout in about 50m or so.
At this lookout, we got our first look at the main springs within the impressive Hraunfossar as seen from across the Hvítá River.
However, from here, we also managed to look further downstream where more spring-fed cascades and waterfalls could be seen for as far as our eyes could see.
Proceeding further to the east (upstream) along the trail, we continued to get looks across the river at the Hraunfossar until we reached the next lookout just under 200m later.
At this lookout, we got more angled looks back at the Hraunfossar Waterfall as well as views towards the Hallmundarhraun Lava Field and the footbridge spanning the Hvítá River.
The trail would eventually converge at a series of trail junctions before the bridge in less than 100m.
From this junction, we could across the bridge to get a closer look at the Hallmundarhraun Lava Field, or we could go further upstream towards the Barnafoss Waterfall seen from a couple more sanctioned lookouts.
The first of the lookouts let us look down at the lone standing natural bridge left at Barnafoss, and the second lookout was probably about 60m from the trail junction.
However, I swore that on our first visit in June 2007, we actually went further upstream towards a natural channel where more waterfalls sprung into the turbulent Hvítá River below.
According to my GPS logs, the entire excursion encompassed roughly a 1km walk in total for both waterfalls, and we easily experienced the whole thing in less than an hour.
Over the years, it seemed like Hraunfossar had grown in popularity as Julie and I had this place to ourselves when we first came here in June 2007, but as of August 2021, the place was busy with a constant stream of visitors.
Hraunfossar resides in the West Region near Reykholt, Iceland. It is administered by the municipality of Borgarbyggð. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting their website.
To get there from the Ring Road from the south, we’d leave the Ring Road at the Route 50 just south of the bridge over the Borgarfjörður about 2km south of Borgarnes.
Then, we’d follow the Route 50 east for 33km before continuing on the Route 518 for another 21km to the signed turnoff on the left for Hraunfossar.
This 58km drive would take roughly 45 minutes.
If we were coming from the Ring Road towards the north near Haugar (roughly 12km south of Bifröst), then we’d leave the Ring Road at Haugar onto the Route 50.
From there, we’d follow the Route 50 for 18km or so before keeping left to go onto the Route 518 for the remaining 21km to the turnoff for Hraunfossar on the left.
This 52km drive from Haugar would take between 30-45 minutes.
Finally, for geographical context, Reykholt was about 35km (about 30 minutes drive) southeast of Bifröst, 41km (over 30 minutes drive) northeast of Borgarnes, 71km (under an hour drive) northeast of Akranes, and 108km (about 90 minutes) north of Reykjavik.
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