Háifoss, The high waterfall,  is one of the Highest and also one of the most striking waterfalls in Iceland. Placed in a magnificent but relatively narrow gorge leading into the Icelandic Highland from the valley Þjórsárdalur it is one of the major waterfall attractions in Iceland. It is part of the river Fossá or Waterfall River. The height is impressive as it falls the 122 meters down the two million years old cliff. It is a beautiful sight from top to bottom including the geologically rich background in the cliffs.  It is not a lonely waterfall as it lives in the bottom of the gorge with its dear friend and companion for thousands of years, the waterfall Granni or Neighbour.

When discovered it was thought to be the highest waterfall in Europe

The waterfall wasn't actually discovered until the first decade of the 20th century and was at that time believed to be not only the highest waterfall in Iceland but the highest in Europe. It was a natural scientist and geologist Dr. Helgi Pjetursson, the first Icelander to obtain a Ph.D. in geology, who wrote an article about the waterfall in a local paper Ísfold in July 1910 and named the waterfall Háifoss.  Since then the name has stuck.

Access is not complicated but might be an effort

Access to this beautiful natural wonder is quite easy considering the location on the edge of the Highland. If you are traveling from Reykjavík, you take the Ring Road nr. 1 east.  After you pass the town Selfoss, you turn left road nr. 30 after approximately 16 kilometers.  After 17 kilometers on road 30, you turn right and east on Road 32 and enter the great valley Þjórsárdalur; a place that is both rich in natural wonders and history.  Ahead of you is a 45-kilometer drive to the mountain track that leads to Háifoss. Unfortunately, this seven-kilometer track is not a road for small vehicles. Here you need a good 4X4 vehicle.  If you have a small car, you can aways take a walk to enhance your health of fourteen kilometers back and forth and gain a great hiking tour with a spectacular view.            

Háifoss waterfall in Iceland

When the first settlers started arriving in Iceland between AD 874 and 930, South Iceland was the area with the most arable land. Even so, Þjórsárdalur must have looked like a veritable Shangrila. This beautiful, lush valley, with its fertile soil, picturesque waterfalls and tranquil ponds attracted some people to build gladly farms and crofts and to count their blessings. That is, until 1104 when the ferocious volcano, Mount Hekla erupted and destroyed the valley.  Þjórsárdalur is rather flat, and the soil is mostly pumice due to Hekla's frequent eruptions. And for the very same reason you will find uniquely fascinating rock and lava formations throughout the area. It is also true that whenever an eruption destroys beautiful rivers and waterfalls, it equally creates new natural wonders. Apart from Mount Hekla, there are other volcanoes adjacent to Þjórsárdalur, e.g. the Vatnaöldur volcanic system that produced Iceland's largest lava field, Þjórsárhraun (The Þjórsá Lava Field).

But, the Icelander's are nothing if not resilient. Today, Þjórsárdalur is mostly fertile farmland as both farmers and the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland work tirelessly at reclaiming the earth covered by pumice with lupine and several varieties of grass.

There is much to see and admire in Þjórsárdalur – and if you go to the Stöng farm, you will get a piece of history. Stöng was covered in ash in the 1104 eruption, but was excavated in 1939 and has now been rebuilt. It is an excellent opportunity to learn what life was like in Iceland in ancient times.

Þjórsárdalur has many interesting spots