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10 Iceland Canyons You Must See Before You Die

Ever dreamt of exploring Iceland's canyons, those magnificent natural wonders carved by the forces of nature over millennia? Picture yourself standing on the edge of one of these vast canyons, the ground beneath your feet a testament to centuries of natural history, witnessing landscapes so otherworldly they seem to belong in a dream. 


Our team, armed with an intimate knowledge of Iceland, is here to guide you through these breathtaking sights. This blog is your gateway to the adventure of a lifetime, showcasing the allure of Iceland's canyons and why they're an absolute must-see. Trust us, these are views you won't want to miss!


Top Canyons in Iceland


Top 10 Must-Visit Iceland Canyons


For the best Canyons in Iceland, we went all out and created a list of the top 10 must-visit canyons that are sure to take your breath away. So, are you ready to embark on a journey through the best of Iceland's canyons? Let's dive in!


10. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon


Fjaðrárgljúfur, a canyon as melodious to the ear as it is to the eye, has recently etched its name into the halls of fame. Its nearly 2 million-year geological passage has transformed it into a model for Iceland's canyons, with its mystical waterfalls and emerald cliffs. 


Just south of the beaten path, near Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Fjaðrárgljúfur expands 100 meters (328 ft) skyward and spans a compact yet visually dense 1.9 km (1.2 mi). The canyon's increased recognition, in part a node to pop culture—thanks to Justin Bieber's "I'll Show You"—rings as both a blessing and a concern. 


Its fragile beauty, now needing protection more than ever, invites visitors to tread softly along sanctioned trails. Pairing your journey with a visit to the enchanting Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon complements a tour of Iceland's south, balancing the environmental footprint with responsibility and awe.


Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in South Iceland


9. Asbyrgi 


The Asbyrgi Canyon stands as a geological marvel in the heart of North Iceland's rugged terrain, a testament to ancient myth and natural splendor. Horseshoe-shaped and monumental, this magnificent canyon is steeped in Norse mythology and is believed to be fashioned from the mighty hoofprint of Sleipnir, Odin's legendary eight-legged horse. Such tales only add to the grandeur of this natural creation.


Spanning over two miles, Ásbyrgi's sheer cliffs tower more than 91 meters) (300 feet) high, enclosing a verdant oasis abundant with a variety of colorful flora and birch trees. The rock formation, fondly known as Eyjan, bisects the canyon, offering a distinctive topography that ignites the imagination of every visitor. Estimated to have begun its formation an astounding 8-10 million years ago, the rich geological history of Ásbyrgi is closely tied to the volcanic forces beneath the ancient glacier Vatnajökull.


A network of hiking trails weaves throughout the canyon, inviting adventurers to uncover hidden sights, including the tranquil pond Botnstjörn nestled within. Visitors find reprieve in Ásbyrgi's tranquility, awed by the surrounding green moss, quiet waters, and a soundscape that captures the essence of Icelandic wilderness. Easily accessible from Husavik via Road 85, Ásbyrgi Canyon forms a crucial part of the celebrated Diamond Circle and awaits those who seek serenity within its grand, natural walls.


 Asbyrgi canyon


8. Almannagjá Gorge 


Amidst the dramatic landscapes of Iceland's canyons, Almannagjá Gorge in Thingvellir National Park stands as a geological and historical marvel. Situated along the renowned Golden Circle route, it is not only a sight of natural beauty but also a cornerstone of Iceland's heritage. 


Ranked as Iceland's most-visited canyon, Almannagjá measures nearly one mile in length and forms a striking rift along the expanding Mid-Atlantic Ridge, bridging the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This monumental gorge is also notable for its profound historical significance – being the site of the Althing, the world's oldest existing parliament, where law speakers once stood to proclaim their edicts. 


Less than an hour's drive from Reykjavík via Route 36, accessible Almannagjá Gorge beckons countless visitors. They explore not only the foundations of Icelandic democracy but also a breathtaking example of Iceland's wondrous geological phenomena.


almannagjá gorge


7. Jokulsargljufur Canyon 


The Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, an integral part of Vatnajökull National Park, stands as one of the most magnificent canyons in Iceland, offering awe-inspiring scenery and a vivid testament to nature's raw energy. Carved by the tumultuous forces of a glacial river over millennia, this 24 km (15 mi) stretch of breathtaking canyon features the majestic Dettifoss, celebrated as Europe's second-most powerful waterfall, with a staggering flow of 1,970 cubic feet per second. 


Visitors are mesmerized by Hljodaklettar, known as the 'Echo Rocks,' home to echo-enhancing basalt columns and sculpturesque rock formations. Nestled in North East Iceland, the canyon is seamlessly reachable from either East or North Iceland through nearby settlements such as Egilsstadir, Akureyri, Husavik, or the serene Lake Myvatn. 


Explorers may journey to this beautiful canyon by road using Route 862 or 864 or by participating in a guided North Iceland tour, embracing the grandeur of Dettifoss and the enchanting landscapes surrounding Lake Myvatn.


jokulsargljufur canyon


6. Sigöldugljúfur Canyon 


Sigöldugljúfur Canyon, tenderly nicknamed the 'Valley of Tears,' stands as a spectacle in the central Icelandic Highlands. Its multitude of waterfalls cascades into an azure river, creating a contrast against the lush green moss that drapes the canyon walls. 


Unlike the ancient canyons etched by glacial rivers, Sigöldugljúfur is a relatively new addition to Iceland's natural wonders, born from the construction of a nearby hydroelectric plant. This breathtaking canyon remains a hidden gem, offering solitude and an incredibly serene experience away from the more populous tourist attractions. 


Accessible only to those willing to navigate harsh highland trails via a four-wheel-drive vehicle, the journey to Sigöldugljúfur begins in Hella, venturing on Road 26 off the Ring Road and onto the rugged F208 Mountain Road, revealing its best-kept secrets exclusively during the summer months.


sigöldugljúfur canyon


5. Thakgil Canyon 


Nestled within South Iceland's rugged landscape, Thakgil Canyon is an enchanting hideaway adjacent to the mighty Myrdalsjokull glacier. With unique, jagged rock formations that evoke the whimsy of a fantastical realm, Thakgil stands as a testament to nature's artistic prowess. 


Just 20 km (20 mi) northeast of Vik, this picturesque gorge is often celebrated as a hidden gem amidst the iconic Iceland canyons. A welcoming campground offers essential amenities and marks the beginning of multiple hiking trails, inviting adventurers to explore the surrounding tall mountains that shelter the area from Iceland's extreme weather. 


Here, the landscape is adorned with lush, velvety moss, secretive caves, transcendent waterfalls, and awe-inspiring panoramas of glaciers. For those seeking this secluded natural wonder, a 40-minute drive from Vik on the gravel Road 214, diverging from Route 1, leads to a world unlike any other.


thakgil canyon


4. Mulagljufur Canyon


Mulagljufur Canyon, a magnificent canyon in southeast Iceland, remains one of the island's best-kept secrets. Without conspicuous signage, this picturesque gorge is easily missed, yet it boasts some of the most beautiful scenery for those intrepid enough to discover it. 


Once there, hikers are greeted by narrow trails that thread through steep cliffs blanketed in vibrant green moss and sprinkled with wildflowers—an idyllic setting showcasing Iceland's enchanting natural beauty. Hidden within this secluded landscape are the canyon's crowning jewels, 


Hangandifoss and Mulafoss are two of Iceland's tallest but lesser-known waterfalls that offer serene and undisturbed splendor in a quiet corner far removed from the tourist hotspots. Venturing from bustling Reykjavík, one must embark on a 4.5-hour journey, covering 372 km (231 mi) along the famed Ring Road, to witness the tranquil allure of Mulagljufur's remote cascades.


mulagljufur canyon iceland


3. Eldgja Canyon 


Eldgja Canyon, aptly known as 'Fire Canyon,' embodies a raw and imposing spectacle in the Icelandic Highlands. Stretching an expansive 40 km (25 mi) and reaching depths of about 250 m (820 ft), it proudly ranks among the largest volcanic canyons globally. Adventurous souls seeking an intimate connection with Iceland's dynamic natural forces will find Eldgja's hiking trails to be both challenging and awe-inspiring. 


Walking these paths unfolds a history of significant volcanic eruptions, particularly alongside the notorious Lakagigar craters. Visitors are treated to the staggering volcanic landscapes, which vividly recount Iceland's geological tumult and bring to life the immense power of nature. At its heart lies the magnificent Ofaerufoss Waterfall, cascading elegantly in a multi-tiered display through Eldgja's rugged terrain. 


Although Eldgja invites exploration exclusively in the summertime, requiring a four-wheel drive to conquer the rough terrain, the journey is well worth the effort. To reach this geological wonder, travelers proceed from Route 1, transition onto Road 208, and continue to the F208 Mountain Road, following signs towards Gjatindur to unveil Eldgja. 


eldgja canyon


2. Studlagil Canyon 


Nestled in East Iceland's enigmatic landscape, Studlagil Canyon stands as a breathtaking spectacle among Iceland's canyons. Often described as overwhelmingly picturesque, Studlagil Canyon is unlike any other, with its dramatic display of the largest collection of basalt columns in Iceland, a geological wonder that beckons awe and admiration. 


The serene blue-green currents of the glacial river weave through these towering pillars, set against the lush surroundings carved by the river's ancient path from the highlands. This majestic canyon gains its hidden gem reputation due to its seclusion, often resulting in visitors questioning the realness of such sublime beauty. In the midst of this magical setting is Studlafoss Waterfall, gracefully framed by more basalt columns than those found on the renowned Reynisfjara beach. 


The vibrancy of the river owes its hue to glacial sediments, contributing to Studlagil Canyon's otherworldly ambiance, celebrated as a natural gothic cathedral and arguably the most stunning canyon in Iceland. Those planning on visiting the canyon should journey along the Ring Road, veer onto Road 923, and embark on a brief walk from the designated parking area to experience the full grandeur of Studlagil's charm.


Studlagil canyon


1. Stakkholtsgjá Canyon 


Tucked away in the heart of the Thorsmork Nature Reserve, Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is a South Icelandic marvel that appears lifted from the pages of a fairy tale. Stretching over a mile long and plunging up to 101 m (330 ft) deep, the canyon ushers visitors into a world where myth and landscape merge. 


The journey to this hidden gem is an adventure reserved for the summer months, requiring a four-wheel drive vehicle to navigate the F249 Mountain Road and cautiously cross a river. 


Once across, a designated parking area marks the start of an enchanting trail, inviting explorers to discover Stakkholtsgjá's secret waterfall—a true hidden treasure. 

Walking along the stream and between towering cliffs, one can't help but feel transported to an otherworldly domain, well worth the effort of the journey through the iconic Icelandic wilderness.




When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland's Canyons?

The best time to visit Iceland's canyons largely depends on what you're looking for:


  • Summer (June to August): Optimal accessibility to highland canyons like Thakgil and Eldgja due to clear roads. Long daylight hours offer ample time for hiking and exploring.   

  • Winter (December to February): Though some areas like Fjadrargljufur may be accessible, expect snowy conditions and limited daylight. This season offers a chance to witness canyons like Studlagil adorned with ice formations. 

  • Spring (April to May) and Fall (September to October): These transition seasons see fewer visitors. Accessibility varies, but the changing colors of the landscape, especially the vibrant green moss in the canyons of Iceland, can be stunning.

The Enduring Allure of Iceland's Canyons


Iceland's canyons are a testament to the transformative power of nature's beauty, leaving a lasting impression on all who visit. As you venture through these magnificent landscapes, each view offers a reminder of the Earth's dynamic artistry. 


The untouched wilderness, with its soaring cliffs and cascading falls, invites a sense of awe and reverence. To truly capture the essence of these wonders, consider renting a campervan in Iceland. 


With a campervan, you can explore these canyons on your own schedule and truly immerse yourself in the ruggedly beautiful Icelandic landscape. So pack your hiking boots, grab your camera, and prepare for an unforgettable journey through Iceland's remote cascades.


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