The short, fierce rapids that cut through the narrow canyon at Barnafoss resemble a pale blue milkshake of sorts. The name Barnafoss means Children’s falls, and comes from a story about two young boys who disappeared many years ago from the nearby Hraunsas farm. The waterfall is among the most popular tourist attraction in West Iceland.

Once upon a time, the story goes, a wealthy woman lived at Hraunsas, not far from Husafell, and she had two young sons. One day she went with her entire household to church at Gilsbakki, north of the river, but both boys stayed behind. She told her sons to stay at home and not to stray from the house while she was away. But when everybody had gone, the boys grew bored and eventually decided to go after the others to church.

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They walked down to the Hvítá river and soon reached the natural stone arch that bridged the river. The arch is said to have been rather narrow, with a long drop down to the river and the waterfall beneath. The boys were frightened and they held hands to cross the river.

Things went well until they reached the middle of the stone arch and looked down into the water. They grew so dizzy that they fell from the bridge into the river and drowned. Their grieving mother destroyed the arch, and put a curse on it that no man would ever be allowed to cross the falls alive. Therefore, crossing the waterfall is not recommended!

Barnafoss viewpoint

Barnafoss has been a protected Natural Monument since 1987. A short trail leads from the car park to the waterfall. A coffee shop is open during the summer months.

Not far away is the stunning series of waterfalls Hraunfossar, flowing out of a lava field into Hvita.

Check out our complete guide to the Golden Circle and West Iceland