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Iceland Hidden Gems: Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls

You know what my favorite part of traveling in Iceland is? Going to places that are off the beaten path! Don’t get me wrong, places like Geysir and Skogafoss are definitely sights worth seeing, but there’s something special about being the only one around in the middle of pure Icelandic nature!

In January, I ventured out on a road trip for a day of exploring. I had my eye on these beautiful waterfalls for a while, so I was excited to finally see them in person! Even though there was still snow everywhere, and only 4 hours of daylight, that never stops me from discovering new waterfalls! Not to mention this is a 2-for-1 waterfall stop, 90 minutes from Reykjavik, who wouldn’t want to see it?! Especially if you are on your way to Snæfellsnes, or short on time, you NEED to stop here!

Oh, did I mention I was the ONLY PERSON out there?! The perks of Iceland in the winter!

Looking for some Hidden Gems in Iceland? Get off the beaten path by visiting Hraunfossar & Barnafoss waterfalls, a quick day trip from Reykjavik! | Life With a View

When you get out of your car,  you will immediately hear the rushing water of the falls. Walk straight ahead to a viewing platform to get your first look at the gorgeous Hraunfossar (translates to “Lava waterfalls”). When I first saw Hraunfossar it was everything I had imagined, but BETTER. You guys, this is the ultimate waterfall: a long wall of water cascading over moss covered lava, falling into bright turquoise water!

#waterfallheaven

Looking for some Hidden Gems in Iceland? Get off the beaten path by visiting Hraunfossar & Barnafoss waterfalls, a quick day trip from Reykjavik! | Life With a View

The water falls into the Hvitá River – downstream from Gullfoss waterfall! I love the look of this river, bright water carved out between sharp lava walls. If it’s a clear day you can see the Langjökull glacier in the bg.

Looking for some Hidden Gems in Iceland? Get off the beaten path by visiting Hraunfossar & Barnafoss waterfalls, a quick day trip from Reykjavik! | Life With a View

 

After plentyyy of photos, head right to start walking towards Barnafoss. There is a well marked path, then you will come to a bridge crossing over the river. But don’t forget to admire the scenery along the way!

Looking for some Hidden Gems in Iceland? Get off the beaten path by visiting Hraunfossar & Barnafoss waterfalls, a quick day trip from Reykjavik! | Life With a View

Look at all the colors in the rocks! I need a geologist friend to explain all of the awesome contrasts in Iceland!

Looking for some Hidden Gems in Iceland? Get off the beaten path by visiting Hraunfossar & Barnafoss waterfalls, a quick day trip from Reykjavik! | Life With a View

First of all: that water – are you kidding me?!

Second of all: next level icicles happening that day.

Looking for some Hidden Gems in Iceland? Get off the beaten path by visiting Hraunfossar & Barnafoss waterfalls, a quick day trip from Reykjavik! | Life With a View

After you cross the bridge you will see Barnafoss on your left. Barnafoss translates to “children´s waterfall” and has a creepy Icelandic legend that goes along with it:

A woman and her two children were living on a nearby farm. The woman went to church service, leaving the kids at home. When she came back, the children were missing. People searched for the children and found footsteps up to the stone arch over the river. Devastated at her loss, the mother had the stone arch destroyed so no children could cross the falls again.

READ MORE:   Ultimate Guide To The Fimmvorduhals Hike In Iceland

 

Looking for some Hidden Gems in Iceland? Get off the beaten path by visiting Hraunfossar & Barnafoss waterfalls, a quick day trip from Reykjavik! | Life With a View

Isn’t this area so beautiful?! I loved every minute of my short winter day trip. Being so close to Reykjavik, this hidden gem is definitely worth a stop.

Directions:

From downtown Reykjavik, get on Route 1 heading North. You will go through several roundabouts and a couple small towns. Continue for about 25km until you get to the Hvalfjordur tunnel. Here you have two options:

  • Pay 1.000 kr/$8 USD to drive 7 minutes through the underwater tunnel (Note: payment is collected at the North side of the tunnel)
  • Drive around the fjord, gorgeous views, but add an extra 45 minutes-1 hour.

After the tunnel, take a sharp right to stay on Route 1 towards Borgarnes. After about 10km, the road will split to Route 47, keep on Route 1 (the route is well marked with plenty of signs). Before crossing the bridge into Borgarnes, turn right onto Route 50, drive for 30km. Continue onto Route 518 towards Reykholt for another 20km. You will see a sign for Hraunfossar on the left side of the road.

What to bring:

FYI:

  • The walking path around the waterfalls are well marked and easy to navigate. No hiking involved.
  • There is a cafe at the falls open during the summer months.
  • This area can be snowy and slippery if visiting during the winter months. Make sure you have the proper outerwear! And always obey signs and roped off areas, the water is fast moving and extremely cold (aka you don’t want to end up like the children in the legend!)

 

 

Pin it for later!


 

Question: Do you like visiting hidden gems while traveling, or stick to the popular tourist destinations?

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  • Isabel
    April 7, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    The other day I dreamed I traveled to Iceland. Pictures like this might be the culprit. It is just so freakin’ gorgeous!

    • Jeannie
      April 14, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Haha, sounds like a great dream! Guilty as charged…thanks Isabel 🙂

  • Traci
    April 8, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    Hidden gems are the best. Also: I just stumbled here, and I don’t have a trip to Iceland planned in the near future, but my travel lust is growing stronger and stronger as I see your beautiful photos! I can see why you sold everything and moved there. Looking forward to following along. And–hopefully using these as a reference one day!

    • Jeannie
      April 14, 2016 at 8:54 pm

      Thank you so much Traci! If I was able to inspire any wanderlust to travel to Iceland then that would be awesome! Happy to have you here 🙂

  • Rachel
    April 15, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    This is so gorgeous! Hidden gems are the best. Going off the beaten path really is the best sometimes!

    • Jeannie
      April 19, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      Exactly Rachel! I’m a fan of enjoying nature with less people around 😉

  • Joe
    October 19, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Your “Hidden Gems” have just inspired me to go off the beaten path and explore Thjófafoss, Hraunafossar, and Barnafoss waterfalls (btw, loved the legend about Barnafoss!).

    So stoked – thank you! Always best to take the road less traveled 😉 Will be in Iceland next week!!

    • Jeannie
      November 7, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Awesome Joe! SO glad that I could inspire your adventure side. I always find it’s worth it to find those gems 🙂 Hope you had a great time in Iceland!

  • Joao & Anete
    November 11, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    My wife and I will be at Reykjavík next november/17, we will spend a couple of weeks there, maybe “The Northern Lights” will show up (fingers crossed), Iceland is the 11th stage of our 7 month trip.
    Your article was just what we are looking for, for sure we also will visit the popular destinations, but those gems …
    The only problem is that we are not used driving snowy roads, do you think with a lot of caution we can make this a day trip from Reykjavík ?
    We’d like to “drive around the fjord, gorgeous views” and add an extra 45 minutes-1 hour to our trip.
    Thanks for the great information.

    • Jeannie
      November 15, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Hi Joao & Anete! I definitely think you will be able to do this day trip in November. We don’t get that much snow by that time of year so you should be fine! Sounds like an awesome trip you have coming up 🙂

  • Joao & Anete
    November 16, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Dear Jeannie

    We read all your usefull articles. Right now we are working on “HOW TO TRAVEL THE RING ROAD IN 7 DAYS”.
    Really great tips.
    Saw your video too (SIM CARD).
    I could say that now we are members of your fan club.
    We are considering a 5 day trip to Akureyri by bus (7 hs up + 3 days there + 7 hs down), but from the pictures we’ve seen it seems to much for to little.
    Is there a wisely way to spend these 5 days ?
    Please, give us your advice.
    Thanks again.
    Kind Regards,

    Joao & Anete

  • Joao & Anete
    November 17, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Dear Jeannie
    Just forget about the bus trip to Akureyri.
    We just finish “our studying” of “HOW TO TRAVEL THE RING ROAD IN 7 DAYS”.
    And that’s what we will do, but as you said that you wished you’d have had more time to stop at each place, We are thinking of making it a 12-14 days trip.
    Thanks for your help and inspiration.
    Any new hints are very welcomed.
    Kind Regards,
    Joao & Anete

    • Jeannie
      November 30, 2016 at 8:16 am

      Sounds like you two are having a blast planning! Driving the Ring Road is a MUST in my opinion! If you have the time, I would definitely suggest a 12-14 day trip. It will still be full with things to do and will go by so fast!

  • Shakira
    April 13, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Hello Jeanie, quick question here- do I need 4WD to access road to Kirkjufell and these two waterfalls?
    Thank you!