Iceland’s Háifoss waterfall was one of my favorites sights during my 7 days in Iceland. Between its dual waterfalls, sheer cliffs, and majestic valley, it’s hard not to fall in love with such a magnificent place.
After my post on driving Iceland’s Ring Road, a lot of people asked about how to visit the Háifoss waterfall, specifically, how to visit Háifoss without 4×4. The truth is, it’s not the most accessible place in Iceland, but it’s not technically located on an all-wheel-drive-only F-road either. So can you visit Háifoss with a small car? And should you even attempt it? Read on to find out.
This post was originally written by a friend of mine who has since retired his travel blog. He has allowed me to make it mine and republish it here on MWL.
Visiting Háifoss waterfall in Iceland
At a height of 122 meters, Háifoss is one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland. However, when visiting the Háifoss waterfall you actually get to see two waterfalls for the price of one. (Even though the price is free, but you get it.) The second waterfall at the site is called Granni and both flow from the river Fossá through the Þjórsárdalur valley.
Háifoss is not one of the three major stops on Iceland’s Golden Circle—Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss—but it’s relatively close by. This makes visiting Háifoss an easy addition if you’ve got your own rental car and the time to do so.
Háifoss is typically viewed from above, with sweeping views of the canyon and valley, but it is possible to hike down to the bottom of the falls. However, if you are traveling the entire Golden Circle on the same day, that might be too large a time commitment. Regardless, the view from the top is worth the detour alone.
Visiting Háifoss waterfall on a day trip
If you are limited on time and are looking to visit Háifoss as part of a day trip from Reykjavik, know that you’re in for one long day. While it is entirely possible to add Háifoss on to your Golden Circle day trip, Háifoss is a significant detour…in the opposite direction of Reykjavik.
However, if seeing Háifoss is at the top of your bucket list, by all means prioritize it! It’s definitely worth the trip and, weather depending, you won’t regret it. If you wanted to dedicate a whole day to it and skip the Golden Circle, it’s just a 2-hour drive (each way) from Reykjavik. Otherwise, it’s best visited on, say, a Ring Road road trip.
While there are organized Golden Circle tours a-plenty in Iceland, I unfortunately can’t find any that include a visit to Háifoss as well. Given the facts of shuttling many people together and the road conditions to get there, this isn’t too surprising. So, to visit Háifoss waterfall you’ll definitely have to rent your own car or know a local with one.
(There is, however, this Super Jeep tour to beautiful Landmannalaugar that includes a stop at Háifoss among a few others. What a beautiful tour this one is!)
If you are short on time, check out my 4-day Iceland itinerary. It includes all you can see, do, and eat in just four days in Iceland. (Spoiler alert: A LOT)
Can you visit Háifoss without 4×4?
So, what kind of car should you rent to visit the Háifoss waterfall? And can you even visit Háifoss without 4×4?
Well, the road to Háifoss is not officially listed as one of Iceland’s F roads (the country’s more remote, mountainous, unmaintained roads). This means technically 4×4 usage is not mandatory for the road to Háifoss.
However, should it be listed as an F-road? Absolutely. The road to Háifoss is unpaved, rocky gravel, with potholes a-plenty, and will be extra dangerous for a non-4×4 car. And I’ve been told there are now signs that say “No small cars” – but that information has not been verified.
Also, the car you rent probably has included in its terms that you can’t take it off-road, as would be the case if you drove it to Háifoss. This means, even though technically the road to Háifoss is not a 4×4-mandatory F-road, you could still be violating the terms of your rental car agreement which could result in serious fines.
Not to mention the potential for vehicle damage and/or possibly getting stranded. If you do decide to attempt this, you do so at your own risk. You have been warned. Do not come crying to me if you get in trouble.
My job here is simply to tell you that Háifoss is not located on a 4×4-mandatory F-road. I am certainly not encouraging you to attempt risky travel practices. In fact, I’m trying to convince you against it by listing all the hazardous and expensive consequences.
Personally, I would not attempt to drive to Háifoss in a small car. Saving a few bucks on a car rental is not worth the potential financial risk, physical vehicle damage, and/or wasted time and hassle of getting stuck.
Check out Iceland rental car options here and seriously opt for a 4×4. This opens up so much more of this beautiful country to you and reduces travel risk.
Should you visit Háifoss without 4×4?
Technically you may not be required to have a 4×4 vehicle to visit Háifoss, but I’m certainly not saying you should attempt it in a small car. In fact, no, you definitely shouldn’t. Keep in mind that renting a 4×4 vehicle for visiting Háifoss and many other Icelandic adventures is highly recommended. This is the much less stressful and risky way to go and will allow you to visit more amazing locations here.
If you are driving to Háifoss in your own car (or a friend’s car, or other vehicle not subject to any kind of rental agreement), you may have a bit more freedom. But still, you have been warned.
So why would anyone attempt to visit Háifoss in a small car then? Well, perhaps visiting Háifoss was a last minute decision. Or maybe the Iceland car rental companies were fresh out of 4×4 vehicles and they didn’t have a choice. Or maybe there were some but they can’t drive a stick. There are, in fact, a number of reasons anyone would encounter such an obstacle.
When to visit Háifoss waterfall
Before you head out on your Háifoss adventure, there’s something important you should know: Háifoss is a summer destination. The best time to visit Háifoss is between June and September, especially if you’re in a small car.
Because of its location in the Highlands, this area is not maintained in the winter. Given good weather, visiting off-season isn’t totally off limits, but if that’s the case you most definitely need a 4×4 vehicle and some common sense (or know someone with a Super Jeep). Otherwise, don’t even attempt it.
How to visit Háifoss from the Golden Circle
After you’ve visited Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss, turn back around and head south on Highway 35 until you reach a turnoff for Highway 359 for Flúðir. Turn left on Highway 359 and continue south through Flúðir.
Highway 359 will soon turn into Highway 30, where you’ll stay until you’re roughly seven miles past Flúðir. When you reach the first left turn after clearing civilization, turn onto Highway 32. If you feel lost at this point, don’t worry; there’s a very clearly marked and easy to read sign at this turnoff to help you out.
After turning onto Highway 32, stay the course for 25 miles before turning left onto a gravel road towards the Háifoss waterfall. This will be the road that takes you all the way to the falls. Drive down this road for 4 miles (it will take longer than you think!) and turn left into the Háifoss parking lot.
Driving to the Háifoss waterfall from Reykjavik
The directions for visiting Háifoss from Reykjavik are mostly the same, except you’ll take the Ring Road (Highway 1) south until you reach Highway 30, where you’ll turn left. From there, stay on Highway 30 for eleven miles until turning right onto Highway 32. Continue along the same path explained above.
Preparing for your Iceland vacation? Don’t miss this complete Iceland packing list for summer. (And be sure to grab the free printable checklist as well!)
Driving to Háifoss without 4×4
Ah, yes, the road to Háifoss. I wouldn’t be writing an article about how to visit Háifoss with a small car if it didn’t have its challenges. When first turning onto the gravel road leading to the Háifoss waterfall, the ride is already fairly bumpy. Spoiler alert – it only gets worse from here.
The gravel starts out rough but manageable, nothing that should give anyone any pause no matter what vehicle they were driving. There’s even a small café a short ways down the road as the pitch begins to incline.
The stair steps
Once passed the café, there will be a sharp uphill section that will be the first big test. The rocks here resemble stair steps and, without exercising caution, someone could dent their oil pan or damage their suspension.
The best thing to do here would be to go slowly and focus on reading the road. Keep in mind that this section of the road is a bit rougher than it looks. (Seriously, why would anyone even want to attempt this? Just get a 4×4!)
If the stair steps have been conquered, the rest of the way will be easier. The road will continue to be bumpy and one should:
- continue to drive SLOWLY
- read the road
- regularly pull over to let 4x4s pass
It will be obvious when reaching the left turn for the Háifoss parking lot. The top of the waterfall will be visible from the road, and there will be a sign marking the turnoff. There’s a chance there will only be one car in the parking lot without huge ground clearance, or more likely none at all. (This illustrates an added bonus that the rough roads deter huge crowds from this amazing location.)
Taking in the scenery
Now, enjoy one of my favorite waterfalls in all of Iceland. I was extremely fortunate to have incredible weather when I visited Háifoss. (For reference, I visited in July.)
I ended up spending about an hour there but easily could have spent the entire day hiking around. However, if you’re short on time, you can definitely take in the views in just 15 to 30 minutes.
I thoroughly enjoyed walking along the southern edge of the canyon, taking in the incredible size and scale of these falls. Even though there were other people visiting Háifoss while I was there, the area has so many spectacular viewpoints you won’t have a problem getting many great photos.
If checking out the Háifoss waterfall is just one stop in a busy day on Iceland’s Ring Road, then it’s time to head to your next destination. If you’ve committed a day to Háifoss on its own, I would love to hear about your adventures hiking around this incredible area. Share your experiences in the comments below!
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