Hraunfossar (“lava falls”) is a wide set of multiple waterfalls over the multi-colored lava flows, near Húsafell. Unlike many of the waterfalls in Iceland, Hraunfossar doesn’t come from a raging river — instead, it pours out from the porous lava underneath moss-covered hills.
The falls themselves look almost like a layer cake, as if someone poured icing down along the rugged cliff into the river. The terraced ledges are the edge of the Hallmundarhraun lava field and the colors — even in early spring — are gorgeous. The photos I’ve seen later in summer are red and yellow and gold and green and are quite a change from stark basalt cliffs.
The water, too, is colorful. This is glacial melt water from Langjökull, and it has that typical turquoise/teal color. At some times of the year, the water is a pale, milky green. Many rivers and waterfalls come from the glacial melts, and you’ll nearly always see this brilliant color.
The terraces and various falls stretch out over almost a kilometer along the cliffs. It’s not particularly tall (only about 40 feet), but bring a wide-angle lens, it’s hard to do it justice otherwise. They don’t thunder or foam like their bigger cousins, but they are some of the prettiest falls we visited.
It is very easy to visit the falls, although a private car makes it a lot easier. The site is an hour and a half north of Reykjavik on Rt 1, then east on Rt 50 and finally further east on Rt 518. There is a large parking area (now with a small coffee shop) and wooden walkways to a viewpoint over the falls, and a little further on to a bridge crossing the river at the churning Barnafoss. No mountains to hike on this one, I’m afraid, although you can clamber over the rocks on the north side of the falls for some pretty views over the lava fields and a better view of Barnafoss.
There are toilets here, with a requested donation of a 100 ISK coin. Which, after watching all the flowing water, you’re going to want to use.