The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is an easy to reach, stunningly beautiful canyon in the South of Iceland; the hike to admire its winding shapes is equally easy. The trail is a little over 2KM long or about 1.3 miles and it would usually take less than an hour from the parking area and back. This is definitely one of the marvels of the South Coast of Iceland!
Hiker looking at the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
Furthermore, its location is just a short distance from the Ring road. This makes Fjaðrárgljúfur an ideal stop that could be easily included in any road trip along the Ring road. The drive from Reykjavik to Fjaðrárgljúfur is more than 250km long and will take more a three and a half hours without stops, so while it’s doable, you may want to include in a longer, multi-day itinerary along the marvellous south coast of Iceland.
A bit of a fun fact before getting into the details; If you google “Iceland Canyon”, this will be the top result. Basically, this is “the” Canyon of Iceland. At least, if you ask Google. If you are wondering whether this is worth a stop due to how crowded and popular it is, I’d answer yes, it’s totally worth it if you have never been there. It’s popular for a reason, it is a very beautiful location. If you want to avoid crowds, definitely go early in the morning or late in the evening.
The Beautiful, winding Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
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Hot to Get to Fjaðrárgljúfur
The trailhead is easily accessible from the Ring Road and close to the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. It is an easy to get to location but the last bit of the road before the trailhead is rough, but doable with a 2wd car. If you are looking for car rental options, I can definitely recommend Blue Car Rental for cars and CampEasy for Camper Vans.
- Driving Directions: from the ring road, you would have to turn on road 206 Holtsvegut before Kirkjubæjarklaustur (if you’r coming from south) or after (if you’re coming from north). Keep following the road until you reach the parking area at the entrance of the Canyon.
- Parking: You can leave the car directly at the trailhead, but it can get crowder during the day. It would pay off to be here early or late in the day when the hordes of tourists and buses aren’t around.
Overview of the Fjaðrárgljúfur Hike
This is more of a walk than a hike, suitable for all skill levels. Still, I’d recommend having a good pair of hiking shoes or boots ready, as it could be muddy and slippery if it recently rained. Which, in Iceland, will be the case more often than not.
The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon and the Fjaðrá river
The Fjaðrárgljúfur trail and the Hidden Waterfall, Mögáfoss.
Just so you know, the trail was closed a couple of times in the past. Due to high pedestrian traffic and damage to the fauna, the hiking trail was closed to allow the vegetation to recover. No tourists, or locals for that matter, were allowed to hike up the trail.
Anyway, the reason I am saying this is you may want to check if it is open before heading there. You can do so on the safetravel.is website by checking their map here.
If you do get there, do not step over fences and closed areas; stay on the marked path. Unfortunately, I have seen people ignoring cordoned or fenced areas too often.
But back to the trail. You will see a path heading up the side of the canyon from the parking area. More than a hike, it’s going to be a walk to the far side of the canyon, where the is a viewing platform over two beautiful waterfalls which is where the canyon begins.
There are quite a few good vantage points along the trail that allow you to peek into the gorge below. This makes it quite an enjoyable walk right from the beginning, as the trail runs alongside the canyon all the way to the viewing platform at the far end.
Once you get there, you will have the nice “bonus” surprise of a beautiful hidden waterfall, Mögáfoss. I don’t think this waterfall gets the credit it needs. I guess you could say this is a case of overshadowing :)
The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Hike Photos and Photography tips
As mentioned earlier, there are several good vantage points along the way. Make the best out of them without stepping over the fences, though :). The best and most scenic views are toward the end of the canyon, so you’d probably spend most of the time shooting there. Not only for the Canyon but also for the beautiful Mögáfoss you will find there.
Do you want to catch the Canyon at its best lush green color? Then I’d recommend visiting from around mid early/mid-June until late August/Early September at the latest.
About the lenses, definitely have a wide/ultrawide lens. You’d want to fit the whole canyon in your frame. Also, anything up to 70/100mm to close in on some of the more distant and unapproachable parts of the Canyon. I didn’t find much of a use for anything above 100mm.
Here are some of the photos I took during my visits. Note, however, most of these were taken several years ago, and some of these viewpoints may no longer be accessible.
The entrance of the fjaðrárgljúfur canyon
3 minutes long exposure with a Lee big stopper
View toward the entrance of the canyon at the beginning of the hike.
The winding beautiful Canyon and its “sculpted” cliffs
Another view of the entrance of the Canyon
Hiker looking at the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
Map of the Fjaðrárgljúfur Hike
The trail is well-marked with the usual pint trail posts and is always easy to follow. You don’t need a GPS track here. Still, the map below can give you a good idea of the elevation profile and what to expect on the trail.
Where to stay
This is a very short hike, so you could easily integrate it into any Ring road itinerary as a relatively quick stop. If in a hurry, I’d skip staying in this area and move on to your next stop.
However, If you want to avoid the crowds, I’d recommend visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon. At that time of the day, most of the tourist buses and day trippers would have moved on to other locations. In this case, spending the night in the area would make sense. It will allow you to be on the trail early or late in the day.
Car or Camper Van Rentals
I can definitely recommend two companies here:
- Cars: Blue Car Rental, which is the largest Car rental company in Iceland, and for good reasons. Free Cancellation, Unlimited mileage, 24-hour break assistance, SCDW, CDW, TP, and GP insurance are included in the price. Blue Car Rental is also located within walking distance of the Keflavik Airport, so you can be on your way to explore Iceland right away. I’ve always been happy with my rentals there, which is why I’m happy to recommend their services here on my blog.
- Camper Vans: CampEasy. With CampEasy, you can rent 2WD or 4×4 campers alike. With a raised Chassis, larger tires, and extra insurance with reduced liability for river crossing, their 4X4 campers are the best choice for your trip into the Highlands. Their Website also provides extensive information about roads you can take and instructions on river crossings. Perfect choice for a hiking holiday in the highlands!
These are my two favorite companies in each respective rental area, which I why I am happy to recommend both here. If you also like this blog, booking through them is a great way to support it. I’ll get a small commission fee at no additional cost, so you can essentially support the running costs of this blog for free too.