Dettifoss - the largest waterfall in Europe? Access, parking, sightseeing, points of interest

Dettifoss waterfall, Iceland

A demonstration of strength

I.e. MONSTER. A real beast. Wild and mad!
The sight knocked me off my feet, and then mesmerized me for long minutes.
The river, flowing calmly and wide, suddenly narrows sharply and accelerates rapidly. The current is gaining considerable speed, as if he wanted to take the opportunity to perform a spectacular aerial evolution in a moment. With its mad rush it pours over the edge of the rock and, with a wild roar, it hurls into the abyss, creating a gigantic ripple. Then time suddenly slows down. The water is falling as if it is flying in slow motion. As if some other, less gravity was acting on it. Thick, brown, and dirty with river sediment, a rug of water slowly falls down. It rolls nobly in front of the eyes of captivated viewers, giving time to enjoy its sight.

giant wall of water… Dettifoss, Iceland

I was standing on a rock over the edge of the abyss, and a wall of water, several dozen meters high, was falling right in front of my eyes, brutally crushing my previous image of waterfalls. Everything that I saw so far was like a child's play with him.
The water hits the bottom with such fury that the earth trembles. It is enough to put your hand on the rocks to feel this incessant earthquake, caused by the sharply pressing water column.
A real demonstration of the brutal and unbridled power of nature. Terrifying and captivating at the same time.
The waterfall caught my attention for a good few minutes. I just stood there and watched, seduced by the sight. For a moment my senses registered nothing but sight and sound Dettifoss. Even now, I have goose bumps as I write these words, and it's been a few months now.

Dettifoss from a little longer distance


Dettifoss to the biggest the second (as one reader rightly pointed out) about the amount of water flowing through a waterfall in Europe. I think a hundred million meters of water per second passes through it. Because I don't care how much water is there. It just looks like the body hair stands on end from the impression.
However, in order to be precise at least for a moment, about 200 m3 of water flows through the waterfall's threshold every second. Of course, this is indicative as the amount varies depending on the season. River Jokulsa and Fjollumwhose waters form a waterfall is fed mainly by what is melted from the largest glacier in Iceland Vatnajokull. Naturally, the most water flows down the river in the summer, and this is when the waterfall looks most magnificent. It is 100 meters wide, and the falling water has to overcome a 45-meter chasm.

some of them are having fun


Location of Dettifoss on the map of Iceland

You can reach the waterfall from two sides: from the west (road number 862) and from the east (road number 864). In my opinion, the views are nicer from the west, and by the way, the access road is easier (even tour buses can handle it easily). If someone wants to, he can see the waterfall from both sides. On the map below I have marked the location of parking lots on both sides of the waterfall and two alternative routes between them. The time in both directions is similar and theoretically is about 1 hour. In practice, you have to take much more, because both access roads are so difficult that you cannot drive on them at the maximum permissible speed. Access road 864 to the eastern car park is closed in winter.

There are two ways to go from the west to the east parking lot

Parking lots and sightseeing

Visiting the Dettifoss waterfall is always combined with seeing a different waterfall: Selfoss. Both waterfalls are about a kilometer apart. Even though they are on the same river it does Selfoss it is definitely calmer.
Well-marked walking paths lead from the parking lot. A detailed map showing the location of parking lots and the course of walking paths is provided below.

Dettifoss - location map of parking lots and walking paths on both sides of the waterfall:
1 - Dettifoss waterfall
2 - Selfoss waterfall
map background source:
Trail posts with information about the direction and distance to the waterfalls
Sightseeing from the west car park - P1

The length of the sightseeing route from the western parking lot (if you decide to see both waterfalls) is about 3 km. The walk should not take more than 1,5 hours. If you choose to see only Dettifoss, the route will be shortened to 2 km and the tour will take less than an hour.

Western car park P1, GPS coordinates:
65°48’40.9″N 16°24’01.3″W
65.811369, -16.400368 - click and route

The trail to the waterfall leads through a vast field of huge boulders
Sightseeing from the eastern parking lot - P2

A longer breed variant, i.e. Dettifoss and Selfoss it is roughly 3 km, both ways in total. Reserve about 1,5 hours for this.
The shorter variant that includes only Dettifoss is a really short trip. In total, there will be about 1 km to walk, which will not take more than 40 minutes.
The undoubted advantage of the viewpoint on the eastern side is that you can walk right up to the edge of the waterfall, where the water overflows over the threshold and begins to fall down. However, I do not recommend getting too close. There are no safeguards and barriers here. Rocks can be very slippery, and an unexpected gust of wind (remember that this is an open area) can easily throw you off balance.

Eastern car park P2, GPS coordinates:
65°49’08.8″N 16°22’44.7″W
65.819108, -16.379088 - click and route

From the eastern parking lot, you can walk to the very edge of the waterfall, visible in the upper left corner of the picture

Hotels nearby Dettifoss

There are no hotels directly at the waterfall. What is the closest you need to drive over 20 km. You will receive a list of the closest hotels by clicking on the link: hotels near Dettifoss - [Klik].
In addition, below are some other suggestions that you may find interesting.

nordic nature


Iceland sightseeing itinerary

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4 comments for "Dettifoss - the largest waterfall in Europe? Access, parking, sightseeing, points of interest"

  • o
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    By the way ... You wrote "Dettifoss is the largest waterfall in Europe in terms of the amount of flowing water". This legend repeats by Icelanders for marketing purposes. The flow of Dettifoss is approx. 1/3 of the flow of the Rheinfall waterfall (approx. 600 m³ / s). He can fight for the second place with the Norwegian waterfall (because the data here is inconsistent).
    Which does not change the fact that as you wrote, it is huge and impressive.

    Access to both parking lots. You wrote "The time in both directions is similar and theoretically is about 1 hour" Very theoretical 🙂 I understand that you went from noon. And the travel time from both sides was calculated by Google maps. The northern road (862 to Ásbyrgi) is practically impassable by ordinary passenger vehicles. Especially after the rainfall. Most of it is a narrow dirt road with monstrous ruts. A minimum of an SUV is needed and the Google travel time for that distance is multiplied by 2.

    For me, the eastern side of the waterfall is prettier. It is not without reason that the famous opening scene for "Prometheus" was shot from this side.
    Regards 🙂

    • o
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      As for the amount of water flowing through, you are of course right. I introduced the appropriate amendment in the text. Thank you!
      When dealing with it, frankly speaking, all the numbers fell into the background, because - as I wrote - the impression is that: “I think a thousand million meters of water passes through it per second. Because I don't care how much water is there. It just looks like your body hair stands on end. "

  • o
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    So in winter you can only reach the west side of the waterfall?

    Also, are there any gas stations in the area? Coming from Reykjavik, it's almost 600km so you have to refuel on your way back ....

    • o
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      Good morning,
      Please check here: map of gas stations in Iceland – [click]
      These maps should help you get the hang of it.

      The arrival depends on the weather. In winter, the weather is sometimes such that it happens that even the main roads are closed. This cannot be predicted. Hopefully there won't be any bad weather. In winter, only access from the west makes sense.
      I strongly advise against trying to get there in winter from the east. This road is difficult to drive even in summer. It will probably be permanently closed in the winter.


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