It isn’t Iceland’s tallest waterfall, but it’s still rather unusual to see a kayak go over the falls at Godafoss.
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A slightly atypical visit to beautiful Godafoss waterfall
Icelandic myth claims the “Waterfall of the Gods” was where the pagan priest and lawspeaker Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi sent his figures of the Nordic gods after converting to Christianity in the year 999 or 1000. (His decision helped Iceland avoid the worst of the religious wars that ripped apart so many other places.) Godafoss (Goðafoss ) seems like the right place for such a dramatic gesture.
Perhaps surprisingly in this land of waterfalls, Godafoss was the first really big waterfall on my Iceland Ring Road trip this summer.
Of course, it wasn’t the only big waterfall I would see. But it is a beauty. (Iceland’s Godafoss is regularly identified as one of best waterfalls in Iceland.) And on my visit, watching a kayaker go over the falls may have made Godafoss the most memorable of the waterfalls I saw in Iceland!
A landscape filled with flowers
It’s hard to miss Godafoss waterfall when you are traveling Iceland’s Ring Road. That’s because the Skjalfandafljot (Skjálfandafljót) River flows below the highway bridge as you approach the falls.
While there are parking areas on both sides of the falls, we stopped at the main parking area.
It’s a longer walk to the falls from this side, but the view is probably a little better. And in summer the path to the river provides a good close-up look at the surprisingly flower-filled landscape we have been driving through.
Rushing water almost everywhere
As we near the river, the waterfall begins to come into view a bit at a time. Each bend in the path or break in the rocks presenting a different view.
Walkways run along the top of Godafoss waterfall as well as down to the river’s edge. But from the top, we can look almost straight down at the roaring water.
As Icelandic waterfalls go, Godafoss isn’t huge. The drop is just 40 feet, but that’s a lot of water.
It’s an impressive sight.
Over the falls
See that guy in the photo above?
He stood on that rock a long, long time. I kept hoping he would leave, but if he wasn’t up on that rock, he was on another one closer to the water (still in view) just watching water go over the falls.
After a while I found a spot where he was out of my sight line. And then I forgot about him . . . until he came walking up the path with a kayak.
Yeah, a kayak.
He’s not going to kayak over the falls, is he? That would be insane.
But we waited around awhile just in case he was actually going to kayak the Godafoss waterfall.
Sure enough, eventually we saw him in the water below us.
And over he went.
He popped up at the bottom and let out a jubilant whoop.
That must have been one heck of an adrenaline rush.
Plan your trip to Godafoss
Godafoss (Goðafoss) waterfall is located just off the Ring Road in north central Iceland. It’s an easy stop for travelers in northern Iceland, but not an option for visitors based in Reykjavik.
How to get to Godafoss waterfall
Godafoss is about halfway between the town of Akureyri and the Myvatn area. Both have plenty of lodging options and, in good weather, Godafoss is less than an hour’s drive from either.
(It’s several days of driving each way to get from Reykjavik to Godafoss.)
You can book a Godafoss waterfall tour in either Akureyri or Myvatn, but in good weather it’s easy enough to rent a car and drive there on your own too. Longer tours along the Ring Road through northern Iceland will include a stop at Godafoss.
Once you arrive at Godafoss
There is parking on both sides of the waterfall. However, the large formal (paved and maintained) paths are by the main parking area on the east side. This is also where tour buses park, because it provides easy access to the waterfall and a large tourist souvenir shop and restaurant. The restaurant has a limited menu, but there are also a few pre-prepared items and grocery snack foods. It also has a lot of clean restrooms. (Payment is required to use the restrooms.)
Paths along the top of the falls are found on either side of the river. However, the best path to the river’s edge that also provides a good view of the falls is on the developed side.
Paths along both sides of the river lead downstream to a pedestrian bridge across the river.
As is true most places in Iceland, there aren’t always a lot of railings or other barriers between you and the waterfall. Formal paths on the developed side of the falls include railings, informal paths do not. Be careful where you step and don’t get too close to the edge because you don’t want to go over the falls yourself!
And, of course, you probably shouldn’t try to kayak the waterfall either.
Because it is easy to so easy to get to, Godafoss is usually crowded. And, because it is easy to walk along either side, there will usually be people visible in your pictures.
Lodging near Godafoss
If you are serious about photographing Godafoss, you need to stay nearby where you can visit the waterfall at different times of day to get the best light on the water and the sky above.
Akureyri and Myvatn are both a little far for that. (Although there is plenty of lodging available in both, and Akureyri looks pretty charming!)
Your options close to the falls are limited, but there are a few spots nearby. The closest one is the Guesthouse Fossholl. It doesn’t have a lot of rooms, but it does have a great location. Located near the bridge, the Fossholl website claims it is just 550 yards from Goðafoss, with views of the falls.
It’s also worth checking Airbnb for other options in the area.
If you’ve never tried Airbnb, use this link to save $40 on your first booking and give me a $20 travel credit. But you have to use the credit immediately or it seems to vanish 🙁
Visiting in winter
I visited Godafoss waterfall in early summer. It was gorgeous then, but a number of sources claim it is even more beautiful in winter when snow and ice add to its drama.
Driving in northern Iceland in winter is not for inexperienced drivers or those in a hurry, as road conditions can become dangerous without warning and road closures are common. If you want to skip the drive, winter tours are available from Akureyri.
If you plan a winter visit, bring boots or shoes with really good traction, as the paths can be icy.