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A Travel Guide To 10 Canyons in Iceland You Can't Miss

07-06-2024

Iceland Canyons

If you're itching for an adventure that's truly out of this world, let's talk about Iceland's canyons. These aren't just any landscapes; they're a showcase of what happens when Mother Nature goes all out.  

With Iceland's unique geological features—think volcanoes meeting glaciers—you're in for a visual treat unlike any other. And why should exploring these canyons be on your travel list? Well, it's simple.  

Each canyon tells a story of Earth's raw power and beauty, offering a journey that's as enlightening as it is breathtaking. So, gear up because we're about to dive deep into what makes these Icelandic wonders a must-visit for every traveler out there. Ready to explore?

10 Must-Visit Canyons in Iceland ?️

Since there are over 16 canyons in Iceland, we've handpicked 10 that offer the finest of what this country has to offer. Here's our list, in no particular order:

1. Fjadrargljufur Canyon

Fjaðrárgljúfur, a jewel among Iceland's canyons, captivates with its over 1.9 km (1.2 mi) of sheer beauty, nestled in the south of Iceland. This mesmerizing canyon tempts adventurers with its steep cliffs, rugged formations, and serpentine waterways, famously highlighted in Justin Bieber's 'I'll Show You' video.  

Its popularity, however, underscored the fragile balance between nature's allure and conservation, leading to a temporary closure for the land to heal. Today, visitors are welcomed back, reminded to honor this spectacular site by sticking to marked trails, ensuring Fjaðrárgljúfur remains a pristine haven for future generations to marvel at.

How To Reach Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is located in Southern Iceland and is just over 3 hours from Reykjavík. If you're driving the Ring Road (Route 1) you'll find it off Route 206, near the village Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

2. Asbyrgi Canyon

Nestled in the heart of Northeast Iceland, Ásbyrgi Canyon is a canyon in Iceland that looks as if it leaped straight out of a Norse myth. Legend has it that this large, horseshoe-shaped canyon was formed by the hoofprint of Sleipnir, Odin's mighty eight-legged steed, adding a mythical aura to its already staggering beauty. 

Today, it spans over two miles, enclosed by cliffs that tower more than 91 meters (300 feet), creating a dramatic backdrop for the lush, colorful trees that flourish within its boundaries. This verdant oasis is divided by Eyjan— 'The Island' —a large rock formation that majestically rises in the canyon's center.  

Its geological history traces back 8-10 million years and is believed to have been shaped by catastrophic glacial flooding following a volcanic eruption beneath the glacier Vatnajokull. For those yearning to immerse themselves in its serene beauty, Ásbyrgi offers hiking opportunities like the tranquil trail to Botnstjorn Pond. 

How To Reach Ásbyrgi Canyon

Located in Vatnajökull National Park, the canyon is about a 2-hour drive from Akureyri. You can also catch a flight to Húsavík or take a bus to nearby towns and drive from there.

Asbyrgi canyon

3. Thakgil Canyon

Thakgil Canyon is the kind of place that whispers secrets of the Earth's ancient past, nestled in the rugged heart of the South of Iceland, close to Myrdalsjokull glacier. This Icelandic canyon is a sanctuary for those seeking respite from the well-trodden tourist paths.  

Its remarkable jagged rocks and whimsical shapes capture the imagination, offering a unique off-the-beaten-path adventure. The canyon is encircled by towering mountains, providing a secluded, protective environment.  

A well-equipped campground makes it an ideal spot for hikers eager to explore its velvety moss-covered grounds, mysterious caves, stunning waterfalls, and dramatic glacier vistas. 

How To Reach Thakgil Canyon

A 40-minute drive from Vik, the canyon is found by driving along Route 1 until you reach the turn-off to Sólheimajökull glacier. From there, follow a gravel road for about 16 km (10 mi).

thakgil canyon

4. Eldgjá Canyon 

Eldgjá Canyon, translating to 'Fire Canyon' in Icelandic, stands as a majestic emblem of Iceland's volcanic prowess. Stretching over 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) and reaching depths up to 250 meters (approximately 880 feet), it's among the planet's largest volcanic canyons.  

A hike through Eldgjá offers a vivid window into Iceland's raw, volcanic essence, especially as it runs along Lakagígar's historically eruptive craters. Visitors are captivated by its grandeur and the stunning Ofaerufoss waterfall, a harmonious blend of fire and water emblematic of canyons in Iceland's untamed landscapes.

How To Reach Eldgjá Canyon

Eldgjá lies in the Southern Icelandic Highlands, an approximate 2-hour drive from Vik. The most straightforward route is to follow Route 1 until you reach Kirkjubæjarklaustur and then take a right onto Route 208.

Eldgja canyon, Iceland

5. Jokulsargljufur Canyon

Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, a crown jewel among Iceland's canyons, is a spectacle of nature's artistry in the Northeast of the country. Sculpted meticulously by a glacial river over millennia, it stretches impressively over 24 kilometers (15 miles), presenting a grand canvas of natural wonder.  

Hosting Dettifoss, Europe's second-most powerful waterfall, it channels a breathtaking flow of 500 cubic meters (17,657 cubic feet) per second, demonstrating nature's raw strength. Within its depths, Hljodaklettar, or 'Echo Rocks,' captivates visitors with peculiar echoes, courtesy of their unique basalt column formations, adding an audible dimension to the visual majesty of Jökulsárgljúfur.

How To Reach Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon

Jökulsárgljúfur is located in Vatnajökull National Park, an approximate 2-hour drive from Akureyri. From Route 1, take a turn onto Route 864 and follow until you reach the Visitor Center at Dettifoss

Jokulsargljufur

6. Sigoldugljufur Canyon

Tucked away in the rugged expanse of the Icelandic Highlands, Sigöldugljúfur Canyon, affectionately known as the 'Valley of Tears,' stands as a breathtaking hidden gem among Iceland's canyons. Unlike its ancient natural counterparts, Sigöldugljúfur has a more recent, man-made origin, initially carved out by the flow of a glacial river, which was later altered by the construction of a nearby hydroelectric plant.  

Today, it mesmerizes visitors with its numerous waterfalls that gently cascade into the canyon's vividly blue waters, all set against a backdrop of lush greenery, providing a striking pop of color against the stark, otherworldly landscapes of Iceland.  

Still relatively unknown to the masses and less crowded than more famous sites, Sigöldugljúfur offers a uniquely serene experience, inviting those who discover it to absorb its tranquil beauty in solitude.

How To Reach Sigöldugljúfur Canyon

Sigöldugljúfur is located in the heart of the Icelandic Highlands, accessible by a 4x4 vehicle. It's about a 2.5-hour drive from Reykjavik, with the last stretch being a gravel road. Before venturing into this remote and beautiful location, it's recommended to join a guided tour or seek advice from locals. 

Sigoldugljufur

7. Almannagjá Gorge

Almannagjá Gorge, nestled in Thingvellir National Park, presents the perfect blend of historical depth and geological spectacle. It's the most frequented within the array of Iceland's canyons, spotlighting its significance on the celebrated Golden Circle. 

Spanning nearly 8 km (about 5 mi) and perched on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Almannagjá carves a visible line between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, inviting visitors to witness Earth's dynamic crust. Historically, it served as the assembly site for the Althing, the world's oldest existing parliament, offering an immersive walk through the annals of time.

How To Reach Almannagjá Gorge

Almannagjá can be reached by driving along the Ring Road from Reykjavik and then taking a turn onto Route 36. Visitors can park at the designated parking lot, where they'll find several walking paths that lead to the gorge. Guided tours are also available, providing historical context and insight into the geological marvels of Almannagjá. 

Almannagjá

8. Studlagil Canyon

Studlagil Canyon, tucked away in the East of Iceland, feels like a fantasy sprung to life. It's not just any of the canyons in Iceland; it's a marvel with the largest collection of basalt columns, more numerous and grandiose than those at Reynisfjara.  

These natural pillars frame a river so enchantingly blue-green that it seems surreal—a hue imparted by glacial meltwater rich in minerals. Long hidden due to its seclusion, it's a place where nature's artistry is on full display, from the towering columns that echo a gothic cathedral's majesty to the verdant allure of nearby Studlafoss waterfall, all contributing to Stuðlagil's reputation as Iceland's most beautiful canyon.

How To Reach Stuðlagil Canyon

Stuðlagil is located about a 3-hour drive from Akureyri, and the last leg of the journey includes a hike through rugged terrain. As it's less crowded than other popular destinations, visitors can enjoy its beauty in isolation.

Studlagil

9. Mulagljufur Canyon

Nestled on the edge of southeast Iceland, Múlagljúfur Canyon is a breathtaking yet elusive treasure, shyly tucked away from the typical tourist trail—so much so that it lacks signs, making it an easy marvel to miss.  

Despite its understated presence, those fortunate enough to stumble upon this canyon in Iceland can't help but be vocal about its stunning natural beauty. The canyon is particularly revered among hikers, who find joy in navigating its narrow paths that elegantly snake through rugged cliffs, all adorned with lush green moss and vibrant wildflowers.  

The serene environment of Múlagljúfur, punctuated by the majestic presence of towering cliffs and delicate flora and fauna, provides a tranquil retreat away from the hustle and bustle. Adding to its allure are two mesmerizing waterfalls, Hangandifoss and Mulafoss, towering among Iceland's tallest yet often overlooked due to their secluded setting.

How To Reach Múlagljúfur Canyon

Múlagljúfur is accessible by a 4x4 vehicle, as the last stretch requires navigating through rough roads. It's about a 2.5-hour drive from Vik, with the journey offering breathtaking views throughout.

Mulagljufur

10. Nauthusagil Ravine

Nestled beneath the imposing Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano, Nauthusagil Ravine stands as a secluded wonder among the canyons in Iceland. This narrow passage, enclosed by towering cliffs draped in vibrant green moss, cultivates an air of adventure.  

It's renowned for the wild rowan trees that audaciously perch on its precipices, adding a touch of wild beauty to the landscape. Traversing its length requires agility as visitors navigate a small stream that carves through the canyon floor.  

At its culmination lies a breathtaking waterfall, cascading into a natural funnel—an enchanting spectacle, often bathed in sunlight, that casts a magical, misty aura over the scene.

How To Reach Nauthusagil Ravine

Nauthusagil is a 1-hour drive from Vik, followed by a short hike through rugged terrain. As crowds are scarce, it offers an ideal spot to reconnect with nature and appreciate Iceland's raw beauty in solitude.

Nauthusagil

What Is the Best Time to Visit Iceland Canyons? ?

The best time to visit a canyon in Iceland hinges on your adventure whims. Here's the scoop: 

  • Summer (June-August): Ideal for vibrant green landscapes and midnight sun, offering extended daylight for exploration. Crowds peak, so consider early mornings or late evenings to dodge the masses.

  • Winter (December-February): For those craving solitude and don't mind the cold, winter reveals a frosty fairy-tale scene, albeit with limited daylight. Some canyons might be inaccessible.

  • Shoulder Seasons (May & September): Perfect for balanced weather, fewer tourists, and the chance to catch both snow-dusted cliffs and autumn hues.

Top best Iceland canyons

Essential Tips for Canyon Hiking in Iceland

Hiking Iceland's canyons is an unforgettable experience, but it demands preparation and caution. Here are quick, vital tips: 

  • Safety First: Always prioritize safety, especially when navigating rocky terrains and river crossings. Stick to marked trails and heed local advice.

  • What to Pack: Wear sturdy hiking boots and pack warm, waterproof clothes. Carry a map, compass, water, snacks, first aid kit, and a fully charged cell phone.

  • Leave No Trace: Respect nature by not littering or disturbing wildlife. Take your trash with you when leaving.

  • Weather Changes Quickly: Always carry appropriate clothing for changing weather conditions. Check the forecast before setting out.

  • Hire a Guide: If you're not an avid hiker, consider hiring a guide. They'll keep you safe while offering valuable insights into the area's history and geological wonders.

Ready to Embark on Your Icelandic Canyon Adventure? ?

Iceland's canyons are nothing short of magical. From the basalt columns of Stuðlagil to the serene trails of Múlagljúfur and the vibrant greenery of Nauthusagil Ravine, each offers a unique adventure.  

Remember, reaching these off-the-beaten-path wonders often requires more than just a map—consider renting a car in Iceland, as most public transport options don't cover these secluded destinations.  

With a vehicle at your disposal, Iceland's majestic canyons beckon with the promise of unforgettable landscapes, tranquil solitude, and the pure exhilaration of discovery. Ready your hiking boots and set off on an Icelandic canyon adventure that promises to be as exhilarating as it is serene.