Iceland is a country known for its natural wonders. The sheer number of outdoor attractions and the breathtaking beauty of its landscapes have earned the island a reputation as one of the most stunning places on earth. Glaciers like Vatnajökull, volcanic crater lakes like Viti in Askja, mossy lava fields like Eldhraun, and geysers like Strokkur are some of the more well-known destinations for nature enthusiasts and outdoor lovers. The country’s waterfalls are also a source of national pride. These towering, gushing mammoths leave visitors in awe and remind us of just how small we are. Destinations like Seljalandsfoss, Kirkjufellsfoss, Gullfoss, and Godafoss are among Iceland’s crowning jewels. But none are quite so impressive as the mighty Dettifoss waterfall. Nicknamed “the Beast”, this remarkable cascade is the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. Let’s learn a little more about this exceptional natural landmark in Iceland.

A female tourist sitting at the edge of Dettifoss waterfall

All About Dettifoss Waterfall

First, a little basic info. Dettifoss is located in northeast Iceland and is part of Vatnajökull National Park. It’s one of the sights that form a part of Iceland’s Diamond Circle route. Many waterfalls in Iceland have names related to their origin or appearance, and Dettifoss roughly translates to “the collapsing waterfall”. This aquatic powerhouse is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe, due to an average flow rate of 193 m³/s (6,816 cu ft/s). The seemingly neverending supply of water careening over the cliff’s edge gets its water from the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which has the extensive Vatnajökull glacier as its source. In addition to its expansive width, the rumbling water falls an impressive 144 feet (44 meters) and crashes down into the river below, producing a massive spray. It’s also quite neat to see in winter when the cascade is partially frozen.

Road goin to Dettifoss waterfall in Iceland

Getting to Dettifoss

As mentioned previously, Dettifoss is part of the Diamond Circle route. Many tourists use the whale watching town of Húsavík as their base for exploring the zone. If you’re coming from there, take Route 85 north out of town. After about 38 miles (62 km), you’ll turn right onto Route 864 and follow that for 16 miles (25 km). Shortly before reaching Dettifoss, you’ll see a turnoff on your right-hand side for Dettifoss road. Follow it for about half a mile (800 meters) to get to the zone where you leave your car. When coming from Akureyri (the capital of North Iceland), head east on Route 1 (the Ring Road) until you reach the turnoff for Route 864. It will take you about 40 minutes to reach the parking area.

Dettifoss in the Film Prometheus by Ridley Scott

In addition to having the greatest waterfall volume in all of Europe, Dettifoss holds another distinction. The thunderous beast so enthralled movie director Ridley Scott that he chose it as the setting for the opening scene of his cinematic masterpiece Prometheus. The magnificent cascade serves as the perfect backdrop of an alien world and conveys the majesty felt by viewers as they witness this important event in human history. The sheer volume and power give the film sequence a grandiose feel and seeing this monstrous behemoth in all its glory will leave you speechless. And it’s even better up close and in person.

Iceland Sightseeing: The Mighty Dettifoss Waterfall

One of the must-sees on Iceland’s long list of natural attractions is Dettifoss waterfall. You don’t want to miss the chance to experience its power and might during your Iceland road trip. Be sure to include Dettifoss on your Diamond Circle itinerary and on your travels throughout Iceland. You’ll be glad you did!

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