Iceland is the Land of Fire and Ice, so it’s no surprise that the powerful forces of glaciers and volcanoes (not to forget tectonic plates) have shaped our country.
Our location in the world has blessed us with a myriad of natural wonders, from geysers and hot springs to waterfalls and glacier lagoons.
But in this blog, we’re focusing on some of the must-see canyons in Iceland.
Natural erosion processes create these deep gouges in the land over huge stretches of time. But today, we can enjoy them in all manner of ways, be it simply looking at them in awe or hiking between their towering walls.
At Ice Guardians, we love the great outdoors— and that includes canyons! It’s this passion that fuels our Iceland adventure trips and courses.
Let us guide you through some of our picks for Iceland’s best canyons. And if you think of any questions as we go, please get in touch for the information you need.
Fjaðrárgljúfur: A Winding, Green Oasis in the South
Our first stop takes us to the mesmerizing Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon in southern Iceland.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is often described as an emerald-green paradise, with its moss-covered cliffs and a winding river at its base.
It’s no wonder this canyon has earned its spot on countless Instagram feeds.
You can explore Fjaðrárgljúfur from the top and the bottom. The former is by far the easiest option!
The route is simple and doesn’t take long to complete, and you can enjoy the viewpoints built at the most breathtaking spots in this lush, otherworldly landscape.
Approaching from the bottom is only recommended for the adventurous and the prepared. You may need to wade through a shallow, freezing river along the way, so you absolutely must not underestimate this option.
Whichever option you choose, be sure to bring your camera because every angle is a photo opportunity!
Don’t forget to read our Complete Guide to Hiking in Iceland for all the information you need before lacing up your walking boots.
Jokulsargljufur Canyon: Hear the Roar of Waterfalls
Next on our adventure is Jokulsargljufur Canyon. It’s in northeast Iceland and part of the greater Vatnajökull National Park area.
With dramatic cliffs, roaring waterfalls, and pristine wilderness, Jokulsargljufur is a jaw-dropping sight.
The crown jewel of this canyon is Dettifoss, one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls.
Stand on the viewing platform and feel the ground tremble beneath you as 183 cubic metres (1,970 cubic feet) of water flow over the precipice per second.
Dettifoss is also impressive in its scale, measuring approximately 100 metres (330 feet) wide and 44 metres (144 feet) tall.
Upriver, you can also find Selfoss, while Hafragilsfoss is downriver.
Check out our Adventurer’s Guide to Vatnajökull National Park and get to know this sprawling, stunning region better.
Ásbyrgi: The Horseshoe Canyon
Now, let’s head to Ásbyrgi, a canyon with a mystical past. Located in the northeast, Ásbyrgi is shaped like a horseshoe and is said to be a hoofprint of Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.
Mythology aside, this canyon is a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts. There are multiple hiking trails for people of all ability levels to enjoy, offering a range of awe-inspiring views of this unique geological feature.
The trails in Ásbyrgi lead you through a forested wonderland of birch and willow trees and lush vegetation.
This is a unique experience in Iceland, as the landscape here starkly contrasts with the volcanic plains found in other parts of the country.
Almannagjá: A Hidden Gem in Þingvellir National Park
Our journey now takes us southwest to Þingvellir National Park, where Almannagjá awaits.
While a gorge rather than a canyon, this feature formed by the shifting of tectonic plates is too impressive to leave out!
Almannagjá is part of the famous Golden Circle, making it a convenient stop for travellers exploring Iceland’s most iconic attractions.
A walk through Almannagjá allows you to witness the unique geological formations that define our country.
Almannagjá marks the edge of the North American tectonic plate, so this extraordinary place is a testament to the ongoing transformation of the Earth’s crust.
As you explore the park, you’ll also have the chance to learn about the historical and cultural significance of Þingvellir. It’s known for the Alþing, Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th century.
Are you planning to explore southern Iceland on your trip? Get a better idea of what’s possible with our sample Iceland South Coast itinerary.
Stuðlagil Canyon: Some of Iceland’s Most Striking Basalt Columns
Hidden away in the northeast, Stuðlagil Canyon is a geological marvel that has gained popularity in recent years.
The striking basalt columns lining its walls create an otherworldly atmosphere and truly set this canyon apart.
To appreciate this wonder in all its glory, you’ll need to hike down to the canyon floor. You can take in views from the east and west bank of the river.
The west bank is far easier to access, but the views aren’t as impressive as those on the east bank. However, to reach the east bank, you have to hike along a trail for around an hour.
The journey to Stuðlagil is an adventure in itself, with captivating rugged terrain and river crossings.
And once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the incredible sight of the basalt columns rising like organ pipes.
Find even more local tips and insights for your trip in our blog How Should I Plan My Trip to Iceland?
Aldeyjarfoss: Nature’s Artistry Unleashed
Up in the north of Iceland, Aldeyjarfoss awaits those seeking natural beauty in its purest form.
This majestic waterfall is not just a cascade of water; it’s a work of art. The contrast between the crystalline blue waters and the black basalt columns surrounding it is simply mesmerizing.
A visit to Aldeyjarfoss involves an off-road adventure, but the journey is well worth it.
The remote location ensures that you can experience the raw power and serenity of nature in perfect harmony.
Are you hoping to see nature’s artistry in the sky while you’re here too? Our blog Chasing the Northern Lights in South Iceland is a great starting point for all aurora hunters!
Eldgjá: Exploring the Volcanic Depths
As we venture into the Icelandic Highlands, we arrive at Eldgjá, one of the world’s largest volcanic canyons.
Eldgjá was formed by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in the 10th century and is yet another remarkable showcase of the geological forces that have shaped Iceland’s landscape.
Hiking through Eldgjá, you’ll feel dwarfed by steep, rugged cliffs, and the imposing Mt. Ófærufoss at the canyon’s heart.
This is a place to connect with the untamed spirit of Iceland, where the sheer scale of the landscape will leave you in awe.
Iceland Adventure Tours for Adrenaline Junkies!
Remember, these are only some of our picks for the canyons you must see in Iceland. This is not an exhaustive list—there are even more amazing sights to discover!
If you’re planning a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice that’s rich in heart-racing experiences, look no further than our thrilling adventure trips and courses in Iceland!
From canyoning to ice climbing to glacier hikes, let us show you Iceland’s wild side.
For more information about any of our tours and courses, please contact us.