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All You Need to Know About Studlagil Canyon in Iceland


Studlagil Canyon in Iceland

Towering basalt rocks and flowing blue-green glacial waters make the majestic Studlagil Basalt Canyon in East Iceland a true natural marvel. Standing tall along the bank of the glacial river Jokla lies one of Iceland’s largest collections of basalt rocks on land, making up the ever-impressive Studlagil Canyon.

Let’s learn more about the history and geology of this beautiful basalt rock formation, as well as how to get to Studlagil Canyon and hikes you can do in the area.

History of Studlagil, Iceland

Carved by the force of the glacial river Jokla, which made its way from the Icelandic Highlands all the way to East Iceland, Studlagil Canyon was once fully submerged underneath the river. With dangerously high water levels, the area around Studlagil was only occupied by sheep for a long time.

In 2007, a hydroelectric plant called Karahnjukavrikjun was built nearby, which drastically changed the landscape around Studlagil. With lower water levels and a redirection of the river by the Karahnjukar dam, the river slowly became calmer and more popular with tourists.

Studlagil Canyon

While the force of the river Jokla previously divided the Jokuldalur Valley into two, with farms and villages on either side of the river being inaccessible to the other, this new dam connected people on each side of the river for the first time.

What is the Geology of Studlagil Canyon?

You may have heard of the ‘giant basalt canyon in Iceland’, which is actually referring to the giant basalt rocks of Studlagil Canyon. This incredible basalt rock formation spans an impressive 150 kilometers (90 miles) and was formed through a process called columnar jointing.

In columnar jointing, hexagonal basalt rocks are formed when basaltic lava cools down and contracts into column shapes. The lava first begins to separate into columns at the places where the cooling happens the quickest, with the rest of the lava following, creating the towering columns we can see today.

Fun fact: The color of the water flowing through Studlagil Canyon varies from season to season, as the river shines a beautiful blue-green color during summer and slowly changes to a grey-brown during winter when the snow melts into the glacial river.

Studlagil basalt Canyon

Can You Swim in Studlagil Canyon?

No, you can’t swim in Studlagil Canyon as it’s very dangerous due to the strong currents and cold water. Even if you see some daredevils in the water at Studlagil, please know it’s not safe to swim here, as the currents are treacherous.

Where is Studlagil Canyon?

Nestled in Jokuldalur Valley in East Iceland, Studlagil Canyon is not far from the black beaches and spectacular landscapes of the remote Eastfjords region. This historic area was carved by glaciers in the last Ice Age, making it one of the oldest areas in Iceland.

Certainly, an off-the-beaten-path destination, the Icelandic wilderness surrounding Studlagil is truly stunning. One of the reasons that Studlagil Canyon remained undiscovered and untouched for so many years was its remote and relatively hidden location. Not to worry, though because nowadays, you can easily reach Studlagil Canyon by taking the main Ring Road in Iceland – let’s see how!

Jokuldalur Valley in East Iceland

How Do You Get to Studlagil Canyon?

Studlagil Canyon is conveniently just a short drive from the Ring Road in Iceland (also known as Route 1), so the best way to get here is to rent a car in Reykjavík and drive along Route 1 until you reach Route 923 Jokuldalsvegur.

Overall, you’ll need to drive 7 hours along Route 1 and a further 20-25 minutes along Route 923 to reach Studlagil Canyon – a long trip but worth it for the epic views!

How Long is the Hike to Studlagil Canyon?

At Studlagil Canyon, you can take a number of different hikes, depending on how long you want to be walking for and which route you’d like to take. The shortest hike you can take to Studlagil Canyon takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your fitness level.

 giant basalt canyon iceland

Here are some of the most popular hiking routes you can take in the Studlagil area:

  • Magnahellir – A short 30-minute hike, this route takes you to the amazing Dimmugljufur canyons and Magnahellir cave. Around 7-8 kilometers (4-5 miles) from the north of Vatnajokull Glacier, Magnahellir can be reached by driving north of the Karahnjukastifla reservoir to the parking lot next to the Dimmugljufur canyons.

  • Hnjuksvatn – On this 3-hour hiking route, you’ll reach the impressive Hnjuksvatn lake by taking a trail along the Hnjuksva river through beautiful rounded mountains. Perfect for a slightly longer walk that will still easily fit into your day trip plans, the Hnjuksvatn route features a hut called Binnubud, where you can collect a stamp and sign the visitors’ log.

  • Eiriksstadahneflar – This 5-6 hour hiking route crosses two mountains, starting at the Þvera river and ending at Eiriksstadir farm. Along the way, you’ll be treated to incredible views as you cross both Fremri Hnefill (947 meters) and Ytri Hnefill (922 meters).

What is the geology of Studlagil Canyon?
Top Tips For Visiting Studlagil Canyon, Iceland

When visiting Studlagil Canyon, it’s good to keep certain things in mind to make your trip the best experience it can be. Here are our top tips for your time at Stulagil, Iceland:

  • Take care on gravel roads – To reach Studlagil Canyon in Iceland, you’ll need to drive on gravel roads, which can be a little tricky if you’re not used to this unpaved road type. The main thing to remember is to go slowly and cautiously, so you can remain focused on the road ahead and keep in control of the car. You can check road conditions in Iceland before setting off to make sure everything is fine on the route you plan to take.

  • Bring enough food and snacks – Although you may be able to purchase some refreshments at ‘Studlagil coffee and snacks’ food stand close to the canyon, we recommend bringing enough water and food along with you to this remote area of Iceland. The closest major town to Studlagil is Eglisstadir, which is 72 kilometers (44 miles) to the east, or around 1 hour by car.

  • Pack a printed map and directions – In case you can’t access cell signal in this remote area of Iceland, a printed map will make sure you can always find your way. Having a printed copy of the directions you need to reach your destination and get home again will help put your mind at ease.
  • Wear appropriate clothing – Make sure to wrap up warm during your visit to Studlagil Canyon, so you can enjoy the spectacular views in comfort. A waterproof and windproof jacket is recommended, as well as waterproof clothing and sturdy hiking shoes.
  • Be careful on ice and snow during winter time – If you plan to visit Studlagil Canyon during winter, you’ll need to prepare for potentially slippery paths by wearing proper walking boots and proceeding carefully.
  • Submit a travel plan – An important thing you can do before setting off on your adventure to Studlagil Canyon is to submit a travel plan, which helps authorities locate and assist you in case of an emergency. Super important for your personal safety, a travel plan is especially essential if you plan to travel alone.

Studlagil iceland

Marvel at Studlagil Canyon in Iceland For Yourself!

Ready to explore the otherworldly landscapes at Studlagil Canyon for yourself? Make this dream a reality by starting to plan your dream Iceland vacation today. Whenever you choose to visit our incredible country and discover the awesome landscapes of the Land and Ice and Fire for yourself, we’ll look forward to welcoming you!