Are you looking for incredible, awe-inspiring natural beauty? If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, you are already a step ahead of the game. For best-in-class wonder, we urge you to visit Fjadrargljufur canyon in south Iceland. It is in an easy to access area, but a surprising percentage drive right past.
The canyon is very easy to find, close to Kirkjubaejarklaustur, a small village of 500. To say that this canyon is impressive is n understatement. Read on, and let Iceland In 8 Days take you deep inside the Fjadrargljufur canyon.
Fjadrargljufur: Fun Facts, Fancy Figures
The canyon is a massive spectacle to behold. It is over 100 meters deep (300+ feet) and more than 2 kilometers long (almost a mile). Located in southeast Iceland, it is next to the small Kirkjubaejarklaustur village.
The canyon itself took tens of millions of years of water-based erosion to form its current state. This erosion arose from water melting from massive Icelandic glaciers. Breaking down the name, we get the following:
- Fjaora: River (like a fjord)
- Gljufur: Canyon (like Gljufrafoss, which is the Canyon waterfall)
Getting to Fjadrargljufur
Fjadrargljufur doesn’t get the respect and attention it deserves. With its serene beauty and awe-inspiring natural wonder, one would think it a hot spot for tourism. Instead, it is generally less crowded than other high-traffic south Iceland attractions. This, combined with ample parking, make Fjadrargljufur a great stop off.
Stopping at this canyon is a great in-between attraction on the way to Skaftafell from Vik. We stopped on our second day, and even through pouring rain, loved every second of our adventure. It’s a great place to take a breather, and a short hike up the canyon side.
The hike to the top is a little over a mile, and ends at a powerful, often overlooked waterfall. If it has rained recently (which is common in this part of Iceland) it is even more powerful. This hike allows visitors to appreciate the true beauty of the Fjadrargljufur canyon. We recommend leaving 60 to 90 minutes to explore this natural wonder.
The Drive to Fjadrargljufur
From the Ring Road, Fjadrargljufur is simple to navigate to. From Vik, drive east in the direction of Skaftafell. Vik is the home of such places as Reynisfjara and Dyrholaey (one of our top five attractions in Iceland). When you get to Road 206, headed towards Lakagigar, take a left. If you get to Kirkjubaejarklaustur, you have gone too far.
Once you’ve located this road, drive slow and steady for five to seven minutes. The road is gravel and can get hilly, but is not too treacherous. About two kilometers down Road 206 is the parking area and bridge for the canyon.
Hiking Up Fjadrargljufur
Once you are at the Fjadrargljufur canyon, you are at the start of the trail. The trail is well marked and has rubberized and graveled footings. These keep you from slipping and falling. The trail had turned into a stream when we visited in May. These rubber treads were beneficial and helped us to maintain our balance.
The trail runs the length of the right side of the canyon, up to the waterfall, which is on the left of the canyon wall. This trail begins immediately from the parking lot, with a bathroom as a starting marker. When we went, both the men’s and women’s restrooms had had locks on them.
Start up the hill. Stick to the main path and stay within the roped off sections. The moss and grass at Fjadrargljufur is very fragile, pummeled by winds on a near constant basis. Damage and vandalism is very common in this area, with tourists attempting to camp.
Many daredevils try to get closer to the edge pathways that are carved into the outcroppings. We didn’t, for several reasons:
- The ground was very slippery and wet, and it was a long way down.
- Doing so would have required stomping through fragile foliage.
- Several other tourists were doing the same, and slipping. We watched someone almost tumble down the canyon
Ask yourself if it is worth risking your life for that Instagram picture. If your answer is yes, go for it. It’s a once in a lifetime shot. If you are risk averse like us, stay on the trail and reward yourself with the view at the end.