Often said to be one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, Godafoss (which translates to “Waterfall of the Gods”) cascades into the Skjálfandafljót River that tears through Bárdardalur lava field. It lies along the “Ring Road” and leads to the Sprengisandur highland plateau, nestled between Hofsjökull and Vatnajökull glaciers.
What makes Godafoss waterfall so spectacular is the 330-foot-wide (100-meter), horseshoe-shaped canyon dug by the powerful river over the centuries. In typical Icelandic fashion, the canyon and waterfall are sort of split in two by black lava promontories, which only adds to the uniqueness of the place.
Guided tours of Iceland’s Diamond Circle and day tours to Lake Myvatn, leaving from Akureyri, typically include a stop at Godafoss. You can book a group or private tour and travel by 4WD vehicle, minibus or minivan, or even take an aerial tour in an airplane. Whether you visit the falls independently or on a guided excursion, be sure to take the path behind the falls for a more intimate, less-crowded viewpoint.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Godafoss is a must-see attraction for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and those with an interest in Icelandic history.
- Don’t forget to wear waterproof clothing: You can get soaked by the falls’ spray
- Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces.
- Access to the falls is free of charge.
- Although you can walk close to the edge on the west bank, practice utmost caution as the rocky ledges can be extremely slippery.
- There are several spots from where to get views of the falls, including a viewing platform and a nearby restaurant with free Wi-Fi.
How to Get There
Godafoss is located 31 miles (51 kilometers) east of Akureyri and you can reach it within around 45 minutes by car via Route 1 (Ring Road). The site has a parking lot with restroom facilities. If you’d rather not rent a car, you can join one of a number of tours leaving from Akureyri that include visits to Godafoss.
When to Get There
All of Iceland’s main attractions are at their busiest during the summer months. You can avoid the biggest crowds by visiting in the early morning or at night—long daylight hours mean you will still be able to see clearly. The weather in northeast Iceland can be challenging in winter, but the lack of crowds makes this a peaceful time to visit.
The Legend of Godafoss, Iceland’s Waterfall of the Gods
Even more than being one of North Iceland’s most beautiful sights, Godafoss waterfall holds a significant role in Icelandic folklore due to its role in the Christianization of the country. Legend has it that in the year 1,000, Iceland’s local Chieftain Thorgeir Ljósvetningagodi threw his heathen statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall upon returning from the Althingi (parliament), where he had decided that Iceland’s official religion would be Christianity from that point forward. In honor of his decisions, Thorgeir then decided to christen the mighty cascade, the “Waterfall of the Gods.”