Has Fjaðrárgljúfur made its way to your bucket list? Chances are that you may have no idea about this hidden canyon, mainly because you have never seen its picture in any travel brochures. That’s exactly why you need to include this place on your itinerary. The untouched beauty of the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon will stay in your memory for decades to come, though you may find it hard to pronounce its name!
About Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, Iceland
In southeast Iceland near the village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur, the Fjadra river swims through the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon that offers some spectacular views. The River Fjaðrá is not a huge river and it originates from the lava fields of the Geirlandshraun mountain. From there, it flows through the rocky walls and pastures of the glacier canyon, Iceland has been hiding for years - the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. It then makes its way to the Skafta glacial river. Due to its low water level, travelers and hikers can safely walk inside the canyon and enjoy the waterfalls.
The Fjadrargljufur canyon is around 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) long and 328 feet (100 meters) deep. It is believed to be almost 2 million years old with the palagonite foundations aging back to the cold periods of the Ice Age.
How did Fjaðrárgljúfur come into the limelight?
Before 2015, not many visitors knew about this canyon. It was once hidden from the spotlight, which helped immensely in preserving its vegetation. And then came Justin Bieber with his video "I'll show you". The whole world fell in love with this serpent-shaped canyon and the untouched beauty that surrounds it.
Since then, Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon has become a much-loved spot for travelers, so much so that there was a skyrocketing increase of 80% tourists in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, the number of travelers flocking towards the Fjadrargljufur canyon reached 300,000 – which is almost the same number as Iceland’s population! Although this officially put this unique canyon on the country’s tourist map, yet more visitors meant a threat to its fragile flora. For this reason, Fjaðrárgljúfur was closed in March and April of 2019 so that nature could have time to heal.
How was Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon formed?
According to the most authentic geological explanation, Fjadrargljufur canyon was created at the end of the last Ice Age some nine thousand years ago. Some powerful glacial rivers used to flow through our island. One such river flowed with all its might to the valley that is now known as Fjadrargljufur. When this river from the glacier retreated, a glacier lagoon formed in the valley behind a compact structure of rocks. The runoff from the lake made its way to where Fjadrargljufur canyon sits today. The basalt and palagonite rocks experienced constant erosion. Also, the river water that took a lot of sediment into the lake started filling up and this reduced its strength until the lake almost filled up. The fluvial platforms may give you an idea about how deep the lake originally was and how nature generally sculpts its way.
How to get to Fjadrargljufur
The easiest way to reach Fjaðrárgljúfur is to get an Iceland car rental and drive your way to the canyon. Also, if you plan to go to Skaftafell, you can stop by this mossy canyon Iceland has been hiding for so long. It is a great way to take a break while driving across this beautiful country of Fire and Ice – and canyons too!
Fjadrargljufur canyon is around 158 miles (255 km) away from the country’s capital city of Reykjavik and lies in the west of the Kirkjubaejarklaustur village. Its location near the Ring Road makes it quite convenient to visit. You can also head to this place as a day trip: go to the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, have a look at the natural architecture and take some pictures. An hour or two here will give you enough time to relax, observe the contrasting colors, and wonder how nature crafted this canyon from different angles.
To get there, drive on the Ring Road going towards Skaftafell, and turn left onto road 206 that will head towards Lakagigar. Once you are on road 206, your destination is just over a mile (2 km) away. However, you won’t be able to see the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon from there.
Drive a little more and you will find a small intersection that will take you to Fjadrargljufur canyon if you turn left. This is where the gravel road begins and heads toward the canyon. Once you reach the parking area with a small cabin on the right (before the bridge), you are there!
If you are in a smaller car, make sure you drive carefully, though a four-wheel vehicle is better. There may be some holes on the way (after heavy rain), so make sure you are extra careful when you drive.
Exploring the Fjadrargljufur Canyon
You can find a trail starting from the parking lot and heading uphill in parallel with the canyon. You can follow the main trail and experiment with the small diversions to see some of the naturally shaped edges. You can get a closer view of the huge rocky surfaces, moss-covered terrain as well as the blue water flowing underneath. This is where you take lots of pictures. One of those will definitely make its way to your Instagram feed or social media profile! However, be careful about the signs on some of the dangerous edges.
The river that peacefully flows in the Fjaðrárgljúfur Iceland valley is not deep. If you want to explore Iceland, the canyon and its surrounding areas are a great way to give you the real feel of the country. And what could be better than the Fjadrargljufur, which you can explore from the top of the rocks as well as the ground? If you are in the mood for hiking, you can splash through the river (make sure your boots are sturdy). However, if you plan to do so, you will have to walk your way back via the same route.
When you are going back to your car, you will find the view equally appealing as the river takes a curve after leaving the boundaries of the canyon. If you are traveling here in the winter season, you can still visit Fjaðrárgljúfur. However, you must be very careful as the ridges become very icy, and so do the roads. The landscape would be different than that in the summer, but one thing is for sure, you will find it to be equally breathtaking.
The Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon is slowly opening up to the world. In the last 3 years, it has become one of the most-loved surprises and wonders of the country. Travelers who do not know much about this canyon visit it and get mesmerized by the depth of beauty it offers. With so many tourists exploring and sharing the canyon’s pictures, it is becoming the canyon South Iceland is becoming famous for. You may have planned to come to this island for witnessing the dazzling Northern Lights. But if you intend to travel in Iceland, don’t forget to have a stop-over at Fjaðrárgljúfur. The couple of hours that you spend here will stay with you for a long, long time.