Iceland is famous for its breathtaking natural beauties – for a good reason. We found places there that we wouldn’t have dreamed of and it was hard to believe we are still on planet Earth sometimes. We thought if there’s a place in this world where we could find the most amazing canyons it should be Iceland. And it turned out to be true!
Okay, be indulgent with us, superlatives come easy if we talk about such a unique place as Iceland. But we have base for comparison. We’ve been to the Grand Canyon, we’ve been to Kauai’s Waimea Canyon and we’ve seen the deep fairy tale canyons of Na Pali Coast. The world is much bigger though. And the more places we visit, the harder it is to pick favorites. But we are sure in one thing: if you are after wonderful canyons, Iceland is a place you should visit. It offers not only one or a few of them but countless…
Some of its canyons are famous, but even more are hidden. Nature, the most talented sculptor did a spectacular job with all of them. And there’s no chance to get bored with them as they are all so different. That’s how we felt while we were on our way around Iceland and now we’d like to tell you about the canyons that took our breath away.
Jökulsárgljúfur, Vatnajökull National Park, Northern Iceland
Jökulsárgljúfur is the deepest and one of the largest canyons in Iceland. It’s 25 km long, about 500 m wide and 100 m deep. A glacial river called Jökulsá á Fjöllum has been carving it for thousands of years. This wild river with its source in the Vatnajökull glacier can be thanked for even more though: for the powerful and impressive series of waterfalls in Jökulsárgljúfur – Selfoss, Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss and Réttarfoss.
Several hiking trails – shorter, longer, more and even more difficult ones – can be found in the area and it’s really spectacular to get down to the canyon!
Stuðlagil / Basalt Column Canyon, Eastern Iceland
Jökulsárgljúfur and its waterfalls are very famous. Unlike Stuðlagil – or the Basalt Column Canyon in English – that is a barely known but quite a magical canyon in Eastern Iceland. Its river, Jökulsá á Brú has the most perfect shade of turquoise and its basalt formations are unique even in Iceland. It’s one of those places that remained hidden gems thanks to their accessibility.
Getting to Stuðlagil requires a longer hike and there’s no straightforward trail to follow. Of course, we were up to it – and we got an amazing reward! We’ve already written a post about it, click here to check it out for all the details.
Valley of Skógar, Fimmvörðuháls, Southern Iceland
Fimmvörðuháls is a popular hike between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. It starts from Skógar and one of the possible routes runs in the valley of Skógar river for a while. We started it right at the famous Skógafoss and thank God, we didn’t plan to do it all the way. Because it was that beautiful! It doesn’t sound logic, does it?
Well, let me explain then. If you start a hike at one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland and you find similarly beautiful waterfalls on your way after like every 50 steps that affects your progress seriously. That’s how we spent most of our time staring at the upcoming waterfall or taking pictures of it or having another picnic because “this view is just the loveliest for a short picnic”. That’s how we managed to complete maybe the first 5 kilometres of the 22 kilometres long trail. And that’s how the valley of Skógar became one of our favorite day hikes in Iceland!
Fjaðrárgljúfur, Southern Iceland
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a 2 km long and 100 m deep picturesque canyon in Southern Iceland not far from the Ring Road. It’s lush green and it’s home to a lovely waterfall – of course, we are in Iceland. 😛 An easy hiking trail is established along the edge of the canyon with a viewing platform in the end. As you might expect it’s a popular place – no wonder. Who would want to miss such an easy walk with such fabulous views?
Sigöldugljúfur is another lesser known treasure and it’s located in the Icelandic Highlands. The Highlands is a good place to look for lesser known treasures, anyway, but it’s a challenging one with its 4WD roads. The charming canyon of Sigöldugljúfur is close to a popular route: F208, the route to Landmannalaugar from the North. (4WD roads that are open only during summer are marked with F.)
To find the canyon you need to find Sigöldufoss first. This waterfall is along road F208 close to a power plant and it’s at the beginning of the canyon. From there you are free to wander around. There’s no marked trail but it’s easy to walk on the edge of the canyon. The landscape reminded us a bit of a desert – and then we caught a glimpse of paradise:
Kolugljúfur, Northern Iceland
Kolugljúfur is a 1 km long and ~25 m deep gorge in the river Víðidalsá. It offers the typical (meaning breathtakingly beautiful) Icelandic setting: lush green canyon, lovely waterfalls, dramatic cliffs. All this is just a short detour from the Ring Road when you drive to Northern Iceland.
The parking lot is right by the canyon and walking paths give safe access to different viewpoints. One of the paths even lead us down to the canyon where we found our favorite picnic spot with our favorite view:
Okay, we are not sure about that favorite view. It’s probably Kolufoss, one of the waterfalls of Kolugljúfur?
Where have you seen spectacular canyons in the world? Which of these are on your list?