Hraunfossar’s unique appearance is due to lava flowing from a volcanic eruption that occurred under the Langjökull glacier. What makes Hraunfossar genuinely distinctive is its formation. Instead of a single waterfall, it consists of a series of countless small cascades and streams flowing out from beneath the lava field. The water emerges from the porous lava, creating a stunning display as it cascades down into the river below.
Barnafossar offers a stunning display of cascading water flowing through a narrow, rocky gorge. The deep turquoise water contrasts with the surrounding lava rock formations, creating a visually striking scene. The powerful flow and unique geological features make it a captivating sight for visitors.
- Best time to visit
- All year-round
- 64.70286, -20.97680
- Distance from Reykjavík
- 124km (77mi)
Ready for an adventure! Visit a unique and remote man-made ice cave in Langjökull Glacier, one of Iceland's largest and most spectacular glaciers. Climb the glacier in a specially-designed monster truck before delving deep inside the glacier.
Discover the magic of Borgafjörður, celebrated by Lonely Planet as a top region to visit. From Europe's mightiest hot spring, Deildartunguhver, to the captivating cascade of Hraunfossar and the mystique of Vidgelmir lava cave, embark on an adventure through Iceland's geothermal wonders and rich history.
How to get to the Hraunfossar and Barnafossar
Hraunfossar is situated in the Borgarfjörður region of West Iceland, approximately 120 kilometres north of Reykjavík. It is part of the larger Hvítá River system and flows through the Hallmundarhraun lava field. There is a parking area to the left of the falls, and it’s a short walk to a platform overlooking Hraunfossar.
Barnafossar, which shares the same parking area as Hraunfossar, is easily accessible, with a walking path leading to viewing platforms. The path allows visitors to get a closer look at the falls and appreciate their beauty. It is often combined with a visit to the nearby Hraunfossar waterfall, creating a dual waterfall experience in the Borgarfjörður region.
Attractions close to Hraunfossar and Barnafossar
The Deildartunguhver hot spring, one of Europe’s most powerful geothermal springs, is close to the pair of waterfalls. Deildartunguhver is one of Europe’s most potent geothermal springs and is just 25 kilometres from Hraunfossar. The hot spring produces an immense amount of hot water, which is utilised for heating nearby towns and greenhouses.
Geology buffs can’t miss a visit to Deildartunguhver. It provides 200 litres per second of 100°C water. Most of the water used for central heating in the West Iceland towns of Akranes and Borgarnes is taken from Deildartunguhver. However, please note that you should keep your distance, as you can get splashed with scalding hot water if you get too close. Travellers will see steam and water bubbling up, splashing against bright green moss and multi-coloured rock. It’s a powerful example of Iceland’s bubbling geothermal energy below the surface.
Adjacent to Deildartunguhver, Krauma is a geothermal bath and spa, a welcome addition to West Iceland. Krauma has six baths at the facility: five of varying warm temperatures and one cold bath. Guests can also access two steam baths and a relaxation room with comfortable lounge chairs, a roaring fireplace, and soothing music. Krauma is an ideal way to spend a couple of hours relaxing when sightseeing in West Iceland.
Reykholt is a historic site and cultural hub located around 30 kilometres from Hraunfossar. It was the home of the renowned medieval writer Snorri Sturluson, who wrote many sagas and played a significant role in Icelandic history. Visitors can explore Snorralaug, a historic hot spring bathhouse, and visit the Snorrastofa exhibition centre.
Snorrastofa was established in 1995 as an independent research centre to investigate and collect information on the medieval era in Iceland, with a particular focus on the legendary saga writer and politician Snorri Sturluson, who lived in Reykholt until he died in 1241. The building also holds a tourist information centre, an Snorri Sturluson’s Sagas exhibition, and a public research library hosting courses and lectures. If you want to learn more about Iceland’s Sagas, this is the place to visit.
Húsafell is a scenic and tranquil village around 35 kilometres from Hraunfossar. It offers various recreational activities, including hiking, golfing, and horseback riding. The popular tour Into the Glacier is based in Húsafell as tours depart from the village, transporting guests up the glacier Langjökull to experience a manmade ice cave.
Háafell (The Icelandic Goat Centre)
Háafell, the Icelandic Goat Centre was established to protect and maintain the dwindling goat stock in Iceland. Several years ago, the Icelandic goat was considered an endangered species, but its numbers have soared in recent years due to the great care of some Icelanders. Travellers are welcome to visit the grounds and meet the goats and other farm animals, including sheep, horses, and chickens. Workers at the centre show an enormous amount of care for the animals. It’s an especially great place to visit if you’re travelling with children.
Langjökull, the second-largest glacier in Iceland, is relatively close to Hraunfossar. It is known for its ice caves, thrilling snowmobile tours, and the unique Into the Glacier experience, which takes visitors inside a manmade ice tunnel. Remember never to try to walk on a glacier unaccompanied, as it can be dangerous. There are numerous tours available so you can experience the beauty and power of the enormous glacier.
Víðgelmir, which is only accessible through a tour called The Cave, can take you to explore the beautiful ice formations, including scores of stalactites and stalagmites. There is a walking path inside most of the cave, but there are uneven surfaces, so take care. You will be provided with a helmet with a headlight for the 1.5-hours long tour.
Hraunfossar translates to Lava Falls, while Barnafossar means Children’s Falls. Barnafossar was named for children who disappeared from a nearby family farm and drowned in the river, and lore has it that the mother of the disappeared children put a curse on the falls that people should not cross the river.
This hiking trail starts from the Húsafell area and leads to the edge of Langjökull Glacier. The trail offers a chance to experience the rugged beauty of the Icelandic wilderness and provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. Please note that you should never walk on a glacier without a trained glacier guide. This trail takes you to the edge of the glacier, but don’t continue further.
The waterfalls are beautiful to visit in any season, especially on both rainy/sunny days when rainbows are frequently seen near the falls. Summer offers long days of sunlight and milder temperatures, while winter provides soft light and a possibly frozen landscape.
According to Icelandic folklore, the name Barnafossar originates from a tragic incident involving two children. It is said that long ago, a stone arch bridge crossed the river at this location. The children of a local family of farmers were playing near the bridge when their parents went to church. When the parents returned, they found that the children had vanished, and all that remained was the bridge. It was believed that the children had fallen into the waterfall and disappeared.
Grábrók is a volcanic crater located near Húsafell, Hraunfossar and Barnafossar. A short and relatively easy hike takes you to the top of the crater, providing views of the surrounding lava fields and the nearby fjord.
Although not directly adjacent to Hraunfossar, Glymur Waterfall is within driving distance and offers an incredible hiking experience. Glymur is one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls, and the trail takes you along a canyon, across a river, and up to a viewpoint where you can marvel at the waterfall cascading down a deep gorge. This is considered a summer hike as the log that allows you to cross the river is moved for the winter.
There are tours that go to West Iceland from Reykjavík that stop at Hraunfossar and Barnafossar, as well as other nearby sites. For instance, there are super jeep tours in the area, and most Into the Glacier tours that leave from Reykjavík visit the twin waterfalls.
Hraunfossar is easily accessible, with well-maintained pathways and viewing platforms that allow visitors to admire the falls from different angles. There are wooden walkways and bridges that provide opportunities for up-close views and fantastic photo opportunities. A walking path connects the two waterfalls, making Barnafossar equally accessible.
Numerous trails in West Iceland are relatively close to the waterfalls. Below are some suggestions to get you started on further research. Always consult maps and consider the weather and road conditions when heading out for a hike.
This coastal walking trail allows you to explore the scenic coastline of Borgarfjörður. It follows the shore, offering views of the ocean, birdlife, and charming coastal villages. The trail can be tailored to your desired length and difficulty level.