Home > Blog > Complete Traveler’s Guide to Hengifoss Waterfall in Iceland

Complete Traveler’s Guide to Hengifoss Waterfall in Iceland

20-03-2024

Hengifoss Waterfall

Of the 10,000 waterfalls scattered across the island, the impressive red clay-lined Hengifoss Waterfall in Iceland is one of the top picks for both visitors and locals wanting to experience the raw power of a cascading Icelandic waterfall. This third-highest waterfall in Iceland is known for its distinctive basalt rock and red clay layers, giving the falls its nickname: the ‘Layer Falls’. 

Let’s learn more about Hengifoss Waterfall in Iceland in our comprehensive traveler’s guide, including where this marvelous waterfall is located, how to get there and when to visit, plus all the info you need about the beautiful Hengifoss Waterfall hike.

Hengifoss Waterfall 

Discover how high Hengifoss is, how the falls were formed and what the word Hengifoss means in Icelandic.

Geology of Hengifoss Waterfall 

Fed by the River Hengifossa, the striking Hengifoss Waterfall is also known as the Layer Falls, Iceland, due to the alternating layers of black basalt rock and vibrant red sedimentary clay lining the falls. 

These layers of multicolored rock give us a unique glimpse into Earth’s geological history, with the red silt and sandstone dating back to the Miocene era (between around 23 and 5 million years ago). The black basalt rock surrounding Hengifoss originates from volcanic activity in the area, which shaped the basalt rock into its distinctive columns as the lava slowly cooled and solidified. 

Sourced from Lake Hengifossarvatn, water flow from River Hengifossa varies by season, meaning Hengifoss Waterfall is dynamic in that its water volume changes over time – just another aspect of Hengifoss that makes this Icelandic waterfall so fascinating and captivating!

Hengifoss waterfall

How Tall is Hengifoss Waterfall? 

At 128 meters (420 feet) high, Hengifoss Waterfall is the third-highest waterfall in Iceland. The cascade drops into the Hengifossargljufur Gorge in Fljotsdalur Valley.

What Does Hengifoss Mean? 

Hengifoss translates to ‘hanging falls’, with the word ‘foss’ meaning waterfall in Icelandic. This epic Icelandic waterfall is also sometimes referred to as ‘the Red Waterfall’ due to the layers of vibrant red clay lining the falls.

Where is Hengifoss Waterfall? 

Located in East Iceland, Hengifoss Waterfall is located in the eastern part of the expansive Vatnajokull National Park, which covers 14% of Iceland’s total landmass. You’ll find Hengifoss around 30 minutes by car from the village of Egilsstadir.

How to Get to Hengifoss Waterfall 

Hengifoss Waterfall is fairly close to the main Ring Road in Iceland (Route 1), making most of the drive to Hengifoss relatively easy, as you can simply follow this paved and well-signposted road. 

Then, reaching Hengifoss Waterfall from the Ring Road requires a 30-minute drive on Route 931 on either the eastern or western side of Lake Lagarfljot. 

Alternatively, you can take a guided tour of East Iceland that stops off at Hengifoss. Just make sure to book in advance if you’re planning to visit Iceland in the summer months, as guided tours and attractions tend to sell out ahead of time during this peak travel season.

Visit Hengifoss Waterfall

When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Hengifoss? 

Your experience at Hengifoss will be very different depending on the time of year you choose to visit. In winter, you can expect to see a frozen and snowy landscape, with the path to access the waterfall being very icy. It can be difficult to get to Hengifoss during winter, as many roads, particularly in North Iceland, are closed during the cold season due to harsh weather conditions. 

Therefore, we recommend summer as the best time to visit Hengifoss. Summer brings with it longer daylight hours, warmer weather and open roads, making it the most convenient season for outdoor exploring around Iceland. If you’re planning to visit Iceland during spring or fall, you can also enjoy an exciting trip to Hengifoss at this time. 

Just make sure to plan your trip for during the daylight hours, so you don’t have to travel in the dark. You can also check the up-to-date Iceland road conditions and local Iceland weather forecast ahead of time.

Hengifoss visit in summer

When is the Best Time of Day to Visit Hengifoss? 

Early morning and late afternoon are the best times of day to visit Hengifoss in order to avoid the crowds. This is especially true if you’re visiting during the peak tourist season of summer. At other times of the year, Hengifoss should be relatively free of people at any time during the day, as this impressive waterfall is in a remote region of the country after all!

How Much Time to Spend at Hengifoss

Wondering how much time you’ll need to plan into your itinerary for a trip to Hengifoss? Well, we recommend around 2.5 to 3 hours, including the hike and time to admire the waterfall, plus enough time to take all the pictures you want!
Best Time of Day to Visit Hengifoss

Hengifoss Waterfall Hike 

One of the most popular hiking routes in East Iceland, the hike to reach Hengifoss Waterfall will take around 45-60 minutes from the parking lot depending on your ability. This means the entire round-trip hike will most likely take between 1.5 and 2 hours. 

During early summer, the path to Hengifoss can become muddy, so make sure to wear sturdy hiking boots for the trail. There are also some small streams along the way, meaning your shoes will also need to be waterproof. 

As you take this beautiful hiking route, you’ll come across another stunning waterfall along the way called Litlanesfoss. This 30-meter high waterfall cascades over two levels surrounded with basalt rocks, making another striking natural wonder to witness on your trip to Hengifoss.

Visit Hengifoss Waterfall For Yourself 

Feeling inspired to visit Hengifoss Waterfall and explore more of Iceland’s incredible landscapes for yourself? Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime by securing your car rental in Iceland, choosing your ideal accommodation and packing your bags! Iceland is waiting for you!