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 it 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. She had two young sons. One Christmas 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.

They walked down to the Hvita river and soon reached the natural stone arch that bridged the river. The arch was 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 person would ever be allowed to cross the falls alive. Therefore, we don’t recommend trying to cross the waterfall!

Barnafoss viewpoint

Barnafoss has been a protected Natural Monument since 1987.  A short trail leads from the car park to the waterfall. A viewpoint gives you a spectacular view of the falls.  Not far away is the stunning series of waterfalls Hraunfossar, flowing out of a lava field into Hvita.

A coffee shop is open during the summer months.

Barnafoss has been a protected site since 1987 and has been evolving through recorded history, as the river has dug itself down through the lava and runs in a deep and narrow ravine. There used to be a stone arch spanning the river.

Barnafoss – Children’s Falls – takes its name from two children who disappeared many, many years ago from the nearby farm Hraunsas.

There was a rock arch over the waterfall and the children are believed to have fallen off it into the river. Their grieving mother destroyed the arch and put a curse on the falls that nobody would ever be able to cross the river on such a rock arch and live, so don’t even try!

The following story relates the reason for the name “Barnafoss” (Children’s Falls):

Once there lived a widow on the farm Hraunás. She was well off and among her possessions was the farm Norðurreykir in Hálsasveit. She had two children. They were quite young when this story took place. There came a time when evening services were to be held at Christmas at Gilsbakki. The Mistress of Hraunsás and all her folk, except the children, attended the service. The children were told to stay at home and play. The moon was shining and the weather was fine. When the people came home the children had disappeared. Their footsteps led to the stone arch over the river. Their mother had the arch destroyed, saying that no man would ever be allowed to cross the falls alive. She later donated to the Church at Reykholt the farm Norðurreykir, in memory of her children. (Kristleifur Þorsteinsson II (1972) Hvítá.276)”