Do you know what makes Iceland canyons so unique and otherworldly?
Iceland’s canyons are a sight to behold, shaped by glaciers carving through nature, creating awe-inspiring sights. It’s not just the glaciers and volcanoes that shaped this landscape; it’s the untouched barren beauty of Iceland’s canyons.
What Makes Iceland’s Canyons Unique?
Iceland’s canyons were carved by glaciers after the ice age, giving rise to the striking landscapes we enjoy today.
Although Iceland’s canyons are far from being the biggest they are quite unique. It’s probably the type of rock, Studlaberg, as well as many of them being covered by moss that makes their appearance distinct from canyons worldwide.
Other contributing factors are the barren landscape surrounding them. Relatively untouched land is what people are looking for when they explore Iceland’s canyons.
Top 10 Iceland Canyons You Should Visit:
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon: Fjaðrárgljúfur, with its steep walls adorned with vibrant green moss, offers a great hike along the canyon’s edge. The serpentine river flowing below provides picturesque scenes at every turn. This is one of the more famous canyons in Iceland. Justin Timberlake filmed a video there.
Sigöldugljúfur Canyon: Sigöldugljúfur with towering cliffs and a river cutting through the rugged landscape is some of the best Iceland has to offer. It’s definitely a less popular destination due to its location being in the highlands. Its remote location makes it a pristine spot for explorers seeking solitude.
Ásbyrgi Canyon: Ásbyrgi’s horseshoe-shaped canyon walls shelter a serene woodland oasis. Visitors can wander among the cliffs and enjoy the diverse flora, a haven for nature lovers. It’s a great place to hike and camp. The story behind this horseshoe-shaped canyon is that Óðinn, Thors father, came to earth on his 8 legged horse and this is the hoofprint it left behind.
Stuðlagil Canyon: Stuðlagil Canyon’s striking basalt columns create an otherworldly landscape. The hike along the river unveils these unique formations, providing an unforgettable visual experience. Although it’s not in the most accessible location it is still a very popular spot, probably due to it being very instagrammable. So if you are into photography or just want good photos this is the place for you.
Múlagljúfur Canyon: Off the beaten path, Múlagljúfur is well worth the drive and the hike to reach it. You might want to have a 4×4 and do plenty of research before going there but it’s worth the 1 hour hike. Obviously, the more effort you put into getting to a place the less people are there which is often the best part.
Glymur Canyon: Known for Iceland’s second tallest waterfall, Glymur Canyon offers dramatic cliffs and a challenging hike leading to amazing views over the canyon. This hike is not for everyone as it is about 3-6 hours there and back and some of the terrain isn’t easy to cover. Although it’s a long hike, this waterfall is easily accessible. It’s only a 70 minute drive from Reykjavík and then your feet can take care of the rest. You don’t need a 4×4 vehicle to get there. After the hike you can enjoy a relaxing bath at Hvammsvík hot springs.
Almannagjá Canyon: If you are looking for a beautiful view but also an easy and accessible canyon, Almannagjá is great. Part of Thingvellir National Park, it exhibits fascinating geological formations, allowing visitors to stroll through history amidst impressive rock walls. It’s where the tectonic plates of America and eurasia separate and the location of the longest running parliament.
Stakkholtsgja Canyon: Another hidden gem, Stakkholtsgjá, welcomes hikers with a cool and shady path along its narrow walls. It’s located close to Þórsmörk in the highlands of Iceland. You will need a 4×4 vehicle to get there and experience crossing rivers. The drive there might be difficult but the hike itself is only about 2 hours there and back and relatively flat.
Kolugljúfur Canyon: Kolugljúfur is easily accessible and one of the few stops you make on the way to Akureyri in North Iceland. The folklore surrounding this natural gem is that a troll called Kola lived there and hunted salmon in the river. You can walk along the river traversing through the canyon or you can make it a quick stop and just get a view of the river, waterfall and canyon from a bridge right next to the car park.
Fire Canyon Eldgjá: Fire Canyon Eldgjá showcases Iceland’s volcanic history with vast lava fields and cliffs, serving as a testament to ancient eruptions and geological wonders. This is another hidden gem, or not so much hidden as hard to access. You will need a 4×4 vehicle and an experienced driver to enter the highlands of Iceland. Here you can go for a hike to reach one of Iceland’s greatest waterfalls, Ófærufoss.
Iceland Canyon top safety tips
There is a lot to say when it comes to safety in Iceland. Many of these canyons are located out of main areas and are only reachable with a 4×4 vehicle. A number of traveler’s have gotten lost in these areas, especially in the highlands.
It can be a once in a lifetime experience reaching the more remote areas. There are fewer people because it’s not as accessible. You might have to cross some rivers and brave mountain roads to reach your destination. But keep in mind that it is just as hard for rescue services to reach you in these locations so be prepared.
Always notify someone you trust about your travel plan and estimate whereabouts. If you are going for hikes in these areas you should also register your hike at safe travel so that rescue services also know when you’re expected to return from your hike.
Iceland’s weather is unpredictable and what you might consider acceptable weather conditions might feel very different in the highlands of Iceland.
Although not a safety tip, always take all trash with you and only walk on trails. Iceland’s unspoiled nature is the reason we all enjoy it and we should keep it that way.
When is the best time to visit Iceland’s canyons?
The highlands are only open during the summer season and you will need a 4×4 highland approved vehicle to access these areas. Additionally, to reach Þórsmörk you need to cross a few rivers and we don’t recommend doing that unless you have experience with river crossing.
The bottom of cars are never included in car rental insurance, which usually doesn’t affect people unless they are crossing rivers.