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What you need to know about the two-faced Dettifoss in Iceland

West side story of Dettifoss. Excellent but only part of the fall can be seen. PIC Brian Kingsley

West side story of Dettifoss. Excellent but only part of the fall can be seen. PIC Brian Kingsley

One of the natural marvels of Iceland and a must see for everyone is the mighty waterfall Dettifoss in the North of the country. This is the kind of experience that pretty much leave you speechless.

But folks visiting the area on their own should know the powerful waterfall is two-faced so to speak. Not in a derogatory way though. It´s just that the fall can be approached both from East and West and there is quite a difference to the experience depending on sides.

The East side however, does give quite great views over the whole thing

Nowadays there is a fine asphalt road from the Ring Road on the West side (road 862) which will take you to the Dettifoss car-park in twenty minutes or so from the highway. From the car-park a further five minute walk over boulders and sand is necessary to reach the fall.

The views from around here is quite stunning and be prepared to get wet pretty quickly if venturing as close as possible. But even in the best of times in high-summer one cannot fully see the massive fall from this side. In cold conditions snow and ice quickly builds up from the watery spray and close access is not only dangerous but forbidden.

East side story. From here you witness the whole shabang. PIC Andrew Bowden

East side story. From here you witness the whole shabang. PIC Andrew Bowden

The East side however, does give quite great views over the whole thing and one is quicker to get to the fall as the car-park is much closer than on the West side. The con is that the Eastern bank is very jagged and uneven and deep care must be taken. Quite a few accidents have happened here and this is not a canyon you want to fall into. Even if you survived the fall the crushing force of the waterfall would crush you to pieces in seconds. Also remember the road to this spot (road 864) is gravel and often quite bad too. On the up side it leads to Asbyrgi National Park near the coast which every individual should also visit.

Team Total Iceland recommends taking sides in this matter. Both sides to be exact. This could add an hour or two to your journey but how many times do you come up close to the most powerful waterfall in Europe?

Added bonus

If you really, really like waterfalls it would be foolish to leave either side without take the time to walk upstream from Dettifoss for ten to fifteen minutes. That time will bring you close to another curve-shaped waterfall called Selfoss. Selfoss is much smaller but no less lovely and the canyon wall between Dettifoss and Selfoss are magnificent. Also take note there are two more waterfalls downstream from Dettifoss in Jokulsargljufur canyon. Both beautiful but both can be a little hassle to get close to.

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