Venture into the heart of Iceland, and you'll discover a world where nature's artistry knows no bounds. Iceland's Canyons are a testament to the raw power and delicate beauty of our planet.
Carved by ancient glaciers and sculpted by relentless winds, these canyons boast many unique features. From cascading waterfalls that shimmer like liquid silver to vast expanses of verdant moss that blanket the rugged stone, every twist and turn offers a new spectacle.
The canyons in Iceland are nature's masterpieces, waiting to be explored and admired. So, without further ado, let's delve into the best of what Iceland has to offer.
Top 10 Must-Visit Canyons in Iceland
Dive deeper into these natural wonders as we unveil the crème de la crème of Icelandic canyons. Here's our curated list of the must-visit canyons in Iceland, each promising an unparalleled experience.
1. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
Welcome to Fjadrargljufur Canyon, one of the crown jewels among Iceland canyons! Nestled in the south of Iceland, this captivating canyon stretches just over 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), yet it's packed with nature's grandeur at every twist and turn.
With its steep cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and iconic meandering bends, it's a visual symphony of nature's finest. And guess what? Pop sensation Justin Bieber was so enchanted, he filmed his 'I'll Show You' music video right here!
However, with fame comes responsibility. Due to its rising popularity, we urge visitors to tread lightly, ensuring this masterpiece remains pristine for generations to come.
How to Get to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
Reaching Fjaðrárgljúfur is relatively simple. It's located just off Ring Road (Route 1), approximately 250 km (158 mi) from Reykjavík. Take a detour at Kirkjubæjarklaustur towards the east to Road 206. A well-marked gravel road will lead you straight to the canyon's parking lot.
To maximize your Iceland canyon experience, you can also explore the nearby Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon on a boat tour. This stop is not to be missed!
2. Ásbyrgi Canyon
Asbyrgi Canyon, one of the standout Iceland canyons, is a testament to nature's grandeur and the myths surrounding it. Located in Northeast Iceland, this horseshoe-shaped marvel stretches over 3 kilometers (2 miles), its towering cliffs reaching heights of over 91 meters (300 feet).
Legend whispers that Asbyrgi was sculpted by the hoofprint of Sleipnir, Norse god Odin's eight-legged steed, a tale deeply rooted in Icelandic folklore. But beyond myths, its geological history is equally fascinating, having formed roughly 8-10 million years ago due to glacial flooding from a volcanic eruption.
How to Get to Ásbyrgi Canyon
Ásbyrgi Canyon is easily accessible, located east of Husavik just off Road 85, which connects seamlessly to the Ring Road. For those seeking a unique perspective, there are several tours available, offering unparalleled views of the canyon and surrounding landscapes - truly a photographer's dream.
3. Studlagil Canyon
Studlagil Canyon stands as one of the most enchanting canyons in Iceland. Situated in the eastern part of Iceland, Studlagil is a captivating destination for nature enthusiasts. Its vibrant blue-green river beautifully contrasts with the deep gray and red tones of the country's largest collection of basalt rock columns.
Carved by a powerful glacial river from the highlands, Studlagil's history is as fascinating as its breathtaking beauty. The multitude of unique basalt columns, reminiscent of those at Reynisfjara but more abundant, is a testament to the mesmerizing wonders of cooling lava.
How to Get to Studlagil Canyon
Getting to Studlagil Canyon requires a bit of a journey, but it's completely worth it. You can access this Icelandic canyon via Route 1. Turn onto Road 923 towards Jökulsá á Brú. A private guided tour is available, which includes a visit to the Rjúkandi waterfall and a short hike to Studlagil. The guide provides a local perspective, sharing stories and insights about the region you'll pass through.
4. Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon
Jokulsargljufur Canyon, nestled in North East Iceland, stands as a testament to the country's awe-inspiring landscapes and is a jewel among Iceland's canyons. Carved by the relentless force of a glacial river and stretching over 24 kilometers (15 miles), it showcases nature's raw power and majesty.
The canyon is home to several cascades, with Dettifoss taking the spotlight as one of the best waterfalls in Iceland and the second-most powerful in Europe. But the wonders don't stop there. Hljodaklettar, or 'Echo Rocks,' offers a mesmerizing display of basalt columns and peculiar shapes, echoing the unique beauty and allure of Iceland's natural formations.
How to Get to Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon
To get to Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, drive north on Road 1 from Lake Mývatn. Turn onto Road 862 and follow it to the canyon. Travelers can also experience this majestic canyon with a private Diamond Circle tour, which offers a comprehensive exploration of the region's natural wonders.
5. Sigöldugljúfur Canyon
Sigoldugljufur Canyon, affectionately termed the 'Valley of Tears,' stands as a testament to the diverse beauty of canyons in Iceland. Nestled within the Icelandic Highlands, this canyon is a visual symphony of cascading waterfalls, vivid blue waters, and lush greenery.
Unlike many of its counterparts, Sigoldugljufur boasts a unique origin story. Originally part of a glacial river, it was transformed into the captivating canyon we see today following the establishment of a nearby hydroelectrical plant.
How to Get to Sigöldugljúfur Canyon
To reach Sigöldugljúfur Canyon, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is essential. Begin your journey from Hella by taking Road 26 off the Ring Road. After approximately 82 kilometers (50 miles), turn onto F208 Mountain Road, which leads directly to the canyon. Remember, it's best visited in summer!
6. Stakkholtsgjá Canyon
Stakkholtsgjá Canyon, nestled within the Thorsmork Nature Reserve in South Iceland, is a hidden gem among Iceland canyons. Stretching one and a half kilometers (just over a mile) and plunging to depths of 100 meters (330 feet), its beauty is accentuated by serene streams that meander through its base.
The towering cliffs on either side create an ambiance reminiscent of a fairy tale, inviting explorers to delve deeper into its mysteries. But the true highlight is its concealed waterfall.
How to Get to Stakkholtsgjá Canyon
To reach Stakkholtsgjá Canyon, travel during summer using a four-wheel drive. Navigate the F249 Mountain Road off the Ring Road until a river crossing. Ensure safe conditions before crossing. Afterward, continue to Thorsmork Valley, arriving at the designated parking area for the canyon's entrance.
7. Almannagja Gorge
Almannagja Gorge, nestled within Thingvellir National Park, is a striking testament to the dynamic beauty of canyons in Iceland. This vast chasm, with its rugged cliff faces and jagged rock formations, is a key feature of the Golden Circle and is the nation's most frequented canyon.
Stretching 1.6 kilometers (just under a mile), Almannagja's walls reveal layers of geological history, uniquely positioned on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, marking the divide between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Beyond its geological significance, the gorge has a deep historical resonance, echoing with the voices of the Althing, the world's oldest ongoing parliament.
How to Get to Almannagja Gorge
Almannagja Gorge is less than an hour from Reykjavík via Route 36, leading directly to Thingvellir National Park. For a curated experience, consider a private Golden Circle tour, ensuring a personalized journey to this geological marvel.
8. Mulagljufur Canyon
Mulagljufur Canyon is one of the lesser-known Iceland canyons. While it lacks the usual signage, making it easily overlooked, its allure is undeniable. Popular among those passionate about hiking in Iceland, Mulagljufur offers narrow trails that meander through rugged cliffs adorned with green moss and vibrant wildflowers.
The tranquility of this secluded haven is amplified by the presence of two majestic waterfalls, Hangandifoss and Mulafoss. Despite being among the tallest cascades in Iceland, their off-the-beaten-path location often leaves them undiscovered, making a visit to Mulagljufur a truly unique experience.
How to Get to Mulagljufur Canyon
To reach Mulagljufur Canyon, travel 372 kilometers (231 miles) from Reykjavík, which is roughly a 4-hour and half-hour drive. The journey takes you along the scenic Ring Road, leading directly to the canyon's entrance, offering a blend of convenience and picturesque landscapes.
9. Thakgil Canyon
Thakgil Canyon, situated in the southern part of Iceland, is a captivating addition to the diverse tapestry of canyons in Iceland. Nestled beside the Myrdalsjokull glacier, Thakgil is a realm of jagged rocks, each uniquely shaped, sparking the imagination of its visitors.
Located just 20 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of Vik, this hidden gem offers more than just its natural beauty. With a well-maintained campground as a base, hikers can explore velvety moss-covered terrains, mysterious caves, and cascading waterfalls. For those intrigued by the icy landscapes, glacier hiking in Iceland offers an unparalleled experience with Thakgil at its epicenter.
How to Get to Thakgil Canyon
To reach Thakgil Canyon, drive approximately 40 minutes from Vik. Take Road 214 from Route 1, which leads directly to the campsite. While the road isn't mountainous, it's graveled, so please exercise caution and ensure a smooth journey to this picturesque destination.
10. Eldgja Canyon
Eldgja Canyon, aptly named 'Fire Canyon' in Icelandic, is a monumental testament to the volcanic might of the Iceland canyon landscape. Located in the Highlands, this vast chasm stretches an impressive 40 kilometers (25 miles) and delves to depths of 250 meters (880 feet), making it one of the world's largest volcanic canyons.
A journey through Eldgja offers a tangible connection to Iceland's fiery past, with its proximity to the Lakagigar craters bearing witness to historical eruptions. The canyon's grandeur is further accentuated by the multi-tiered Ofaerufoss waterfall, cascading gracefully through the volcanic rock formations.
How to Get to Eldgja Canyon
To reach Eldgja Canyon, navigate from Route 1 to Road 208, transitioning to F208 Mountain Road, and follow signs for Gjatindur towards Eldgja. While the journey requires a four-wheel drive and can be bumpy, the destination is rewarding. Alternatively, experience Eldgja's grandeur from above with an airplane tour.
When is the Best Time to Visit these Canyons in Iceland?
The best time to visit these canyons in Iceland is summer. Summer in Iceland brings more favorable weather conditions and improved access to remote regions, ensuring a seamless and enriching exploration of the country's majestic canyons.
Making the Most of Your Iceland Canyon Experience
Iceland's canyons are a testament to nature's grandeur and are a must-visit for every traveler. While various ways exist to explore these geological wonders, renting a car in Iceland offers the most flexibility and convenience. It allows you to traverse at your own pace, ensuring a personal and immersive experience of Iceland's breathtaking landscapes.