If you’re wanting to get out in Iceland’s jaw-dropping natural scenery, look no further than one of Iceland’s stunning canyons. These are the best canyons in Iceland and how to reach them by car.
1. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in South Iceland
Made world famous by none other than Canadian popstar Justin Bieber, Fjadrargljufur canyon is located in southern Iceland. Created by glaciers, the Fjaðrá River cuts its way through the heart of the canyon. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is one of the most dramatic landscapes in the country. It’s sheer, ebony walls are covered is vibrant moss and
Reaching the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is fairly easy as it’s only about an hour’s drive from the small town of Vik along the Ring Road. You’ll need to drive on a short side road for 3km to reach the parking area. You can reach the canyon with any kind of car, there’s no need for 4×4 vehicles.
The canyon is open year round but has had to close several times in the past. Official pathways and trail through the canyon often become slippery and wet during spring and visitors have resorted to walking in the fragile vegetation to avoid it, causing closures. The best time to visit Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is in the summer months.
- View the guide to one Canyon in south coast: Stakkholtsgjá Canyon and get inspired.
2. The basalt canyon Studlagil in East Iceland
Once hidden beneath a lake, Studlagil is an entrancing natural gem in Iceland’s rugged east. A shock of turquoise river runs through Studlagil’s basalt columns creating otherworldly scenery that’s straight out of a fairytale.
The basalt columns were formed by hardened lava while the canyon itself was formed when the Jökla River slowly ate its way through the rock. Like many natural attractions in Iceland, a parking area makes accessing this canyon easy in the summer months. Keep in mind that Studlagil cannot be reached in winter.
It’s recommended to rent a 4×4 vehicle to reach Studlagil Canyon as the road turns to gravel once you exit off the Ring Road to Route 923. As an additional side trip, tack on the beautiful Studlafoss waterfall, also surrounded by basalt columns.
3. Glymur Canyon in East Iceland
Just outside Reykjavik, Glymur Canyon is a worthwhile day trip from Iceland’s capital. The canyon is located at the end of a long fjord and also comes with an additional waterfall sighting, Glymur, whose rushing water was what created Glymur Canyon in the first place. Glymur is the second tallest waterfall in the country and it’s not difficult to see why such an impressive canyon arose here.
The best time to see Glymur Canyon is in the summer months, when Iceland’s rural areas are more easily accessed. It takes a fairly long, 4.3 mile hike to reach the canyon and waterfall and you’ll need sturdy footwear to do it. A 4×4 vehicle is ideal for reaching the canyon’s parking lot as the road is gravel.
4. Almannagja at Thingvellir National Park Golden circle
Another great day trip by car from Reykjavik, Almannagja is less than an hour away from both Reykjavik and Glymur Canyon. Located inside Thingvellir National Park along the Golden Circle, this canyon is extra special as it is the natural boundary for the North American tectonic plate.
Almannagja gives visitors the opportunity to quite literally walk between the North American and Eurasian plates along a path that winds through the canyon. You can also swim within this unusual natural phenomenon at the nearby Silfra Fissure.
Almannagja can be accessed year round, although you’ll likely need a 4×4 vehicle to safely access it in the winter months.
5. Jokulsargljufur Canyon in North Iceland
Northern Iceland secrets away some of Iceland’s most striking natural wonders, hidden where few visitors dare to go. Jokulsargljufur Canyon is one of those beautiful wonders that’s worth the trek outside Iceland’s well worn traveler trail. This crack in the earth is home to Europe’s most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss, and the second longest river in the Land of Fire and Ice, Jökulsá á Fjöllum.
Hiking trails and huge waterfalls crisscross the areas near the canyon, making a trip out to see this area even more worthwhile.
While you can reach Jokulsargljufur Canyon with any car in the summer months, it’s recommended to have a 4×4 vehicle for winter or any time when snow might make roads treacherous. There is a possibility of road closure due to winter weather.
Safety tips when visiting the Canyons in Iceland
As with many of the stunning natural attractions in Iceland, you need to keep your safety in mind while exploring.
- Stay on Marked Paths: It’s crucial to never leave the marked path, both for your safety and to protect the fragile flora. The same goes for approaching the edge of any canyons, as the ground can become unstable. Straying from the path not only poses risks to yourself but can also cause irreversible damage to the environment.
- Appropriate Clothing: Dressing in layers is advisable due to the unpredictable weather in Iceland. This includes wearing sturdy shoes, which are essential for navigating the rough and often slippery terrain.
- Weather and Road Conditions: Always check the road (road.is) and weather conditions before heading out. The weather in Iceland can change unexpectedly, potentially leading to uncomfortable or even dangerous situations.
- Choosing the Right Vehicle: Booking an appropriate car, preferably a 4×4, is often recommended when visiting Iceland’s canyons and remote areas. This is not just for the tough terrain but also to ensure your safety in varying driving conditions, such as during unexpected winter storms. However, note that some canyons aren’t accessible in winter, even with a 4×4 vehicle.
- Travel in Groups: If possible, avoid exploring canyons alone. Traveling with a group or a guide can enhance your safety, especially in remote or challenging areas.
- Carry Emergency Supplies: It’s wise to carry a basic emergency kit, including a first aid kit, extra food and water, a flashlight, and a charged mobile phone. This ensures you’re prepared for any unforeseen situations.
- Respect Wildlife: If you encounter any wildlife, maintain a safe distance and do not disturb them. Iceland’s ecosystems are delicate, and the wildlife is an integral part of it.
- Inform Someone of Your Plans: Before you set off, let someone know about your travel plans and expected return time. This way, someone is aware in case you encounter any issues and need assistance.
Road tripping to any of these canyons in Iceland is a worthwhile adventure! With the right set of wheels and a sturdy pair of shoes, you’ll be able to access these natural wonders in almost any season.
Book your discount car rental through Firefly Iceland Car Rentals for some of the best prices on 4×4 vehicles in the country. Bonus, their wonderful staff will also be able to help with road trip planning and choosing the right car for you.