The Waterfall Circle Hike in Laugarfell, East Iceland
Welcome to the Waterfall Circle Hike in Laugarfell! This is probably the best Waterfall Hike in Iceland you may not have heard of just yet. Also, probably one of the best hikes in East Iceland (Austurland) overall.
Stunning waterfalls, Canyons, and a pristine landscape in an easily-accessible highlands environment.
Sunset at the last Waterfall on the Waterfall Circle (clockwise).
This hike had been on my list for a few years already, but never managed to visit it until May 2023, when I finally got a chance to do it…and what a hike! The trail is relatively easy, although a bit boggy in places. However, the several, beautiful waterfall you will come across on this hike, will totally make it worth it.
Honestly, this has to be one of the most underrated hikes in all of Iceland. Also, home to some of the most underrated waterfalls.
Unnamed waterfall on the Laugará River.
The only catch is it takes a bit of time to get there; it is a one-and-a-half-hour detour from the Ring Road and the hike will likely take at least two hours and a half. So you should account for almost a full day.
However, this is close to another major attraction – the Hengifoss waterfall. So you could combine both for an amazing “Waterfalls” day. If you decide to do it, you will not regret the long detour.
Table of Contents
Overview of the Waterfall Circle Hike in Laugarfell
This isn’t a particularly difficult hike, it’s actually relatively easy. No steep sections, but part of the trails are rather wet and slippery, so carefulness is required. The trail is also well-marked.
The Laugarfall hut, the start of the hike.
How to get to the Waterfall Circle in Laugarfell and Parking
Located in the Austurland (East Iceland) region, and technically located in the highlands, you do not need a 4X4 to get there. The road is paved all the way to Laugarfell, which is where the trailhead is.
Like most of the highlands, this hike is also only doable from around the end of May until September. I did it on the 16th of May and Road 910 to Laugarfell had opened only a couple of days prior.
- Driving Directions: from the ring road, you would have to first take the detour to Hengifoss. From the Hengifoss Car Park, you’d have to keep following the road and take Road 910. Keep following it for an additional 40 or so KM.
- Parking: free parking is available around the Laugarfell Hut.
- Public Transport: no public transportation options exist.
Boardwalk on the trail.
The Waterfall Circle Trail
First off, let me start by saying there are more than five waterfalls on this hiking trail. Second, I was only able to find the name of three of them (Faxi, Kirkjufoss, Stuðlafoss), so any help in naming the remaining ones will be much appreciated.
The trail starts at the Laugarfell hut. It is a loop so you can do it both ways, but I recommend doing it clockwise. The reason for this is the landscape will progressively look better as you progress on the trail. You’ll get better views of each waterfall as well.
A small waterfall and Stuðlafoss
If you are doing the hike clockwise first you. come across a small waterfall, only a short walk from the Laugarfell hut. The trail then follows the river downstream where it passes a small gorge before Stuðlafoss, a very beautiful waterfall framed by Basalt columns. Quick note: do not confuse this Stuðlafoss with the one close to Stuðlagil.
The first small waterfall on the trail, if you hike it clockwise.
Next, you’ll pass by the Faxi Waterfall. This is the lowest point of the hike and where the Laugará rover joins the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal River. Essentially, the two rivers meet in a sort of unique waterfall, just below Stuðlafoss.
The trail heads back uphill from here, following Jökulsá í Fljótsdal upstream through some marshlands.
Part software the trails are on boardwalks here, and follow the huge canyon where the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal flows. You’ll see a few more Waterfalls in the canyon down below, before reaching one of the most beautiful waterfalls on this trail, the amazing double waterfall Kirkjufoss.
Kirkjufoss at sunset
Next, the trail turns back toward the Laugarfell hut, to close the loop. At the end of the Hike, you can visit the hut, take a shower, and dip in their Hot Pools!
The Laugarfell hut at sunset.
The Waterfall Circle Hike Photos and Photography Tips
Well, take out your ND filters and tripods, it’s Waterfalls time!
There are several waterfalls and each one of them offers plenty of compositional options. Time will fly looking for the best ones.
Also, apart from the waterfalls, there are some boardwalks along the trail that makes for a great compositional element and help add depth to the image of the beautiful surroundings.
The Canyon where the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal River flows is also stunning and more than worth a few shots.
I visited on a partly cloudy day in the evening, so I was mostly shooting in the shade. I just kept a 0.75 medium GND filter and a Polarizer on my 14-24 lens. All the shots below were taken with this setup. Still, you may need a little more reach for some waterfalls, like Stuðlafoss – i.e. in between 24-50m.
Lastly, the use of drones without a permit is not allowed, as the area is part of the Vatnajokull National Park. You can apply for Permits here.
The first waterfall on the trail, on the Laugara river
Small gorge above Stuðlafoss.
Small, unnamed waterfall
Another small, unnamed waterfall on the Laugará river above Faxi
Unnamed waterfall on the Laugará river.
Above the Faxi waterfall, where the Laugará and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal rivers meet.
The Canyon where the Jökulsá í Fljótsdal river flows.
One of the Boardwalks on the trail.
Jökulsá í Fljótsdal canyon below the Kirkjufoss Waterfall.
Sunset at the last Waterfall on the Waterfall Circle (clockwise).
Video Of the Hike
If you want a feel for the trail, and a previous of what this amazing hike looks like, here is a short video I made on my hike.
Where to stay
Apart from Laugarfell which offers different types of accommodations, there isn’t much in the vicinity. you could either stay at Laugarfell, but advanced booking may be required, or head back toward Egilsstaðir.
Car or Camper Van Rentals
I can definitely recommend two companies here:
- Cars: Blue Car Rental, which is the largest Car rental company in Iceland, and for good reasons. Free Cancellation, Unlimited mileage, 24-hour breakdown assistance, SCDW, CDW, TP, and GP insurance are included in the price. Blue Car Rental is also located within walking distance of the Keflavik Airport, so you can be on your way to explore Iceland right away. I’ve always been happy with my rentals there, which is why I’m happy to recommend their services here on my blog.
- Camper Vans: CampEasy. With CampEasy, you can rent 2WD or 4×4 campers alike. With a raised Chassis, larger tires, and extra insurance with reduced liability for river crossing, their 4X4 campers are the best choice for your trip into the Highlands. Their Website also provides extensive information about roads you can take and instructions on river crossings. Perfect choice for a hiking holiday in the highlands!
These are my two favorite companies in each respective rental area, which I why I am happy to recommend both here. If you also like this blog, booking through them is a great way to support it. I’ll get a small commission fee at no additional cost, so you can essentially support the running costs of this blog for free too.