Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall: the Hidden Treasure in North Iceland

Aldeyjarfoss waterfall is one of the best hidden gems in north Iceland, not too far from the super popular Goðafoss waterfall, the mystical lake Myvatn, or even from Akureyri, the capital of the north. With beautiful basalt column rocks and the wild Highlands all around, visiting this natural wonder makes a perfect little day adventure.

Photo of undefined

Mari Tirkkonen

2. November 2018

Aldeyjarfoss is by far one of my favourite waterfalls in Iceland. We all know that there is a ton of really beautiful waterfalls in this country of ice and fire, and that they all have their own unique charm. What draws my attention to Aldeyjarfoss though, is the semi remote location (makes the trip feel more like an adventure), the absolutely stunning scenery (I can’t highlight enough how astonishing it is here), and the fact that not that many people really come this far during their visit in Iceland (makes it even more of an adventure).

How to get there?

Located at the very end of a somewhat challenging gravel road of 842, it’s also on the doorstep to the Highlands – the Sprengisandur highland road F26 starts where 842 ends – and Aldeyjarfoss is pretty much right in between. The road is perfectly doable without a 4x4, especially during the summer, but to be frank, I do think having a 4x4 makes the trip a lot more enjoyable. 

The distance from the Ring Road to Aldeyjarfoss is about 25 miles (40 km), and takes about 50 minutes to reach. If you don’t have a 4x4, you can expect the diving time to be longer. For the road conditions I would always recommend to check the roads before going.
The fact that this beauty is located at the end of Bárðardalur valley, right at the doorstep of the Highlands, always gives me such a sense of an adventure, which I don’t often get when I’m popping over to some of the more popular waterfalls in Iceland. The excitement already starts when I start driving down the long gravel road and follow the river Skjalfandafljot, passing few farms on the way and looking over to the stunning valley landscape in the far distance.

Glacial river and views over the valley. Wonderguide/MariGlacial river and views over the valley. Wonderguide/Mari
So whether you are just passing by on the ring road or staying somewhere nearby, and don’t mind driving a bit more, getting to this scenic and geologically impressive place is easy. Once you reach the parking space for Aldeyjarfoss, the wind and the slight drop in the temperature will give you the first taste of the Highlands. Wrapping up warm and pulling your wool beanie down is an excellent idea before getting out of the car to explore. And don’t forget your camera! What you’re about to see will blow your mind, and that’s a promise. 

The walk towards the waterfall starts by going down on a steep gravel path, with little stones escaping under your shoes with every step. There’s no rail to hold on to here, so you might need to focus with all your senses to balance yourself. Soon the first set of the ice blue glacial water comes into your sight, and if you take a few more steps towards the edge of the hill, you’ll witness the first spine tingling sight of the area - a breathtaking curvy canyon.

Carry on the path a bit further and it won’t be long before you can start seeing the unique long basalt column rocks on the walls of the canyon, in the most jaw dropping shapes and forms. It’s amazing to stop here for a bit and just take it all in.

Glacial river coming down from Aldeyjarfoss waterfall in north IcelandGlacial river on the way to Aldeyjarfoss waterfall. Wonderguide/Mari

Walking further towards Aldeyjarfoss, you are most likely going to spot some photographers on the way. This place really is a photographer’s paradise, they all love coming out here and it’s not a wonder why - the landscape offers a great deal of variety and interesting angles to shoot. Before reaching the main viewpoint of the masterpiece, there is a possibility to go down to the river for a closer inspection of the basalt column rocks and canyon walls, moss covered stones, and interesting vegetation.

Just look at the paths on the riverside and pick one, but a big word of warning here though – these paths are very steep and can be quite slippery if it has been raining, so take care when descending.

Basalt column rocks on Aldeyjarfoss waterfall in north IcelandGreat view of the basalt column rocks. Wonderguide/Mari

Moss covered rocks on the glacial river around Aldeyjarfoss waterfallIt's worth going down to the river - the views here are stunning. Wonderguide/Mari

For the actual masterpiece, there isn’t any assigned viewpoint here – which in my opinion, makes it all so much better. Just pick your place, there are plenty of good spots to observe the beauty. Once again, though – a little word of an advice that is to be taken seriously - pay attention to your steps as the edge is right there and the drop down into the ice cold water would most likely (definitely) break some bones. 

The views here are to kill for though – the basalt column rocks surrounding the powerful waterfall are pretty spectacular – and there is plenty of space to observe it all from a bit of a distance too.

Aldeyjarfoss waterfall in north IcelandThe stunning Aldeyjarfoss. Wonderguide/Mari

The stunning AldeyjarfossBeautiful basalt column rocks surrounding Aldeyjarfoss waterfall. Wonderguide/Mari

Enjoying the waterfall

One of the best things about coming to Aldeyjarfoss, and what I love the most, is that you can walk pretty much all around the waterfall. You can inspect it from many different angles, and it really feels like there is a different view in every few seconds. Follow the trail up and if you dare, you can secure yourself a spot to observe the waterfall from the top. The drop is about 20 meters and the water comes down in such a force – it really makes you think how incredibly powerful the nature is. 

There are other trails that will lead you through the desert sand, away from the masterpiece and further up to the highlands, but still following the glacial river that is leading down to Aldeyjarfoss. By walking up, you’ll come across many small waterfalls and more beautiful canyons, surrounded by complete emptiness – it’s just desert here with endless beautiful skies. This is actually one of my favourite things to do here - I adore the feeling of being in the absolute middle of nowhere and alone with the astonishing Icelandic nature.

Hiking around the canyon in Aldeyjarfoss waterfall in north IcelandIt's wonderful to hike around the area and find more waterfalls on the way. Wonderguide/Mari


How to get to Aldeyjarfoss?
From the Ring Road, you can take either road 842 or 844. Eventually 844 will become 843, so turn to join 842 once you reach a little bridge on the right side – there is nothing but a river called Skjalfandafljot between these two roads. Once driving to the end of the road 842, which is approximately 25 miles (40 km) from the Ring Road, you’ll pass the last farm on the right hand side, before the road turns to left. This is where the Highland road F26 starts. After the left turn, there is a small bridge over a river, and you’ll need to drive about 3 km further on this road to reach the parking space for Aldeyjarfoss. During the summer time, this F26 is ok for other cars than 4x4 as well.

Travel time from Akureyri and Húsavik is closer to 2 hours – 56 miles (90 km). Google maps do say travel time is 1,5 h, but I have never been able to do it that fast, not even with a 4x4. Driving from Goðafoss takes about 50 minutes.

Best time to visit:
Any time between June and September for good road conditions. During the winter time, I would highly recommend to check the roads before going.

What to pack?
There are absolutely zero shops or cafés around Aldeyjarfoss, so taking some snacks and water with you is a very good idea, especially as you might end up spending more time here than first anticipated. The nearest shops and restaurants are in Akureyri and Húsavik, but there is a café and a gas station next to Goðafoss – about 50 min drive away from Aldeyjarfoss. The good news is, that there are toilets and a trash bin at the parking spot of Aldeyjarfoss.

Also, take warm clothing and a good pair of hiking shoes with you. It often is very windy here and the temperature is a few degrees lower than around the ring road – we are talking about the Highlands here after all. I have survived by walking around with a pair of pretty normal sneakers here, but after doing so I always came back with a decent pair of hiking boots. Makes exploring so much easier.

Good to remember:
We all want to be responsible travellers and therefore won’t leave any trash behind us. Unfortunately, as sad as it is, I have started seeing a bit of rubbish and cigarette buds around the trails here, and it’s just never nice. Not only is leaving any trash into the nature really uncool, but the trash also hitchhikes a lift from the strong Icelandic wind and travels all over the highlands – and that can be really damaging to the untouched nature, and never nice to look at.
For an unforgettable Goðafoss tour, book HERE

For an awesome Goðafoss & Lake Mývatn tour, book HERE