Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls

The Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls are two beautiful waterfalls in West Iceland: and two very peculiar ones, especially Hraunfossar. Meaning “Lava Falls” (Hraun = Lava and Fossar=waterfalls), they own their name to the geological oddity they are born out of.

Detail of the Hraunfossarr waterfalls

Detail of the waterfall. Shot at 200mm

Seemingly appearing out of nowhere from the ground, they are born from a river that runs below a layer of old solidified lava, a lava field called Hallmundarhraun. This created that beautiful effect of multiple waterfalls falling in the Hvíta river, apparently out of nowhere.

Additionally, this is a short walk that everyone can easily enjoy. Most of the paths are boardwalks, and a large viewing platform covers the whole width of Hranfossar. The entire waterfall front is more than 900m wide, so it is quite a sight. Also, if you find the sound of Waterfalls soothing, you will definitely enjoy this one!

Table of Contents

Overview of the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls Hike

As mentioned, this is an easy walk, suitable for all skills and fitness levels. The trail is flat and well-maintained.

Max Altitude   96 m
Distance   1,2 KM
Elevation gain   10↑ / 10↓
Hike time  00:20/ 00:30  Hours
Hike Difficulty  Easy Walk

Detail of Barnafoss, a waterfall close to Hraunfossar

Detail of Barnafoss

How to Get to Hraunfossar and Parking

While this is an easy to get to location, it’s a bit of a drive from the ring road. The detour takes about 30/40 minutes each way. Therefore, ideally, you should plan a half-day excursion to enjoy it properly. Also, it is quite a nice drive, through typically Icelandic landscape, so you’d definitely enjoy that too. If you are looking for car rental options, I can recommend Blue Car Rental for cars and CampEasy for Camper Vans.

  • Driving Directions: From the Ring road, you should turn onto road 50 at the Baulan Diner / Okran gas Station. Keep following the road, then turn onto road 518. Keep following it until you reach the parking area.
  • Parking: there is ample parking right by the waterfalls.
  • Public Transport: no good options for public transportation. If you don’t have a rental car, joining a tour that covers this area is best.
  • Tips: there is a lovely cafe at this location, which is an excellent stop for a warm during or a snack. Also, if you are into hot baths like me, you may want to check out the Giljaböð / Húsafell Canyon Baths Tour. Nothing beats a warm bath in the middle of Icelandic nature after a hike!
Road 50 in Iceland

Road 50 in Iceland, on the way to Hraunfossar

The Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls Trail

The trail is mostly a walk board. There also is one pedestrian bridge from where you can watch the roaring waters of the Hvíta river, cross to the other side and follow the path across the lava field under which the waters of Hraunfossar run.

Again, this is an easy and short walk, but you will probably spend some time here walking around the waterfalls, and before you realise it, perhaps a whole hour would have passed.

Hallmundarhraun lava filed next to the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls

Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls Photos and Photography tips

Shooting waterfalls is always fun, and these two are no exception. You may spend more time than usual here. While getting close to the waterfalls is impossible, there are several good vantage points along the viewing platform.

Here I’d recommend both a wide-angle and a telephoto lens. With the wide angle, you can capture the whole scene from whichever angle you prefer. Something around 18/20mm will be enough.

A telephoto lens will allow you to zoom in and compose for many of the finer details on this waterfall. I actually had quite some fun just looking through the lens of all the different smaller waterfalls. Lastly, this is a great location to visit in September or early Autumn when the autumnal colors appear.

Hraunfossar waterfalls downstream of the Barnarfoss waterfall on an Autumn day

The Hraunfossar waterfall on a stormy Autumn day

the Hraunfossar in Iceland coming out of a lava field

Detail of Hraunfossar

Detail of the Hraunfossarr waterfalls

Detail of the waterfall. Shot at 200mm

Barnarfoss next to the Hraunfossar waterfall


sunrise in the Hallmundarhraun lava field

Sunrise in the Hallmundarhraun lava field

Waterfall Hraunfossar coming out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field downstream of the Barnafoss waterfall

Wide view of Hraunfossar, 18mm

The turquoise waters of the Hvíta river

The beautiful turquoise waters of the Hvíta River

Map of the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls Hike

Where to stay

There are a few accommodations available in the area. However, unless you plan to visit more locations in this corner of Iceland, a visit to Hraunfossar can be easily integrated into a half-a-day detour from the ring road.

Additional Resources