The gorge with the unpronounceable name Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon in the south of Iceland. Located just 70 kilometers west of Vik, this canyon is one of the most beautiful sights in Iceland. Shaped by water and ice over thousands of years, this breathtaking place looks like a scene from a storybook, with its dramatic cliffs and lush valleys.
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The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in Iceland
The canyon was formed by the river Fjaðrá, which has its source far away in the highlands. The impressive canyon is up to 100 meters deep in some places and has a length of around 2 kilometers. The canyon was formed around 2 million years ago and offers steep cliffs and fantastic views of the rugged rocky landscape .
As the river seems very small today, it is hard to imagine how it has carved this gorge over the millennia. As a colorful counterbalance to the grey rock, the gorge is overgrown with vast amounts of grass and moss, which further enhances the ambience.
The meaning behind the name “Fjaðrárgljúfur”
The name “Fjaðrárgljúfur” combines the name of the river “Fjaðrá” flowing through the canyon with “gljúfur”, the Icelandic word for gorge or canyon. “Fjaðrá” can be interpreted as “feather river”, alluding to the soft, feather-like currents of clear water that meander elegantly through the canyon.
How To Get To Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is located just off the Ring Road, about three and a half hours from Reykjavík. You can reach the canyon by driving along the ring road and then turning onto road 206. Although road 206 is a gravel road, it usually remains passable for most types of vehicles during the summer months.
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For those who want to explore Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon without their own vehicle, we would recommend a guided tour*. On this tour, you will visit the canyon and other highlights in the south of Iceland in one day.
When to go
The ideal time to visit the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in Iceland is from May to September, as this is when it is most accessible and the climate is most pleasant. In summer, you also have the opportunity to visit the canyon very early or late, especially due to the midnight sun.
Please note that the canyon may occasionally be closed to visitors in spring during the bird breeding season in order to protect the local fauna. It is advisable to find out about possible access restrictions in advance.
Parking at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
There is a parking lot near the entrance to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, which serves as the starting point for your hike. From here you can follow the marked paths along the canyon. During the peak tourist season, the parking lot and hiking trails can be quite crowded. An early visit can help you avoid the peak visiting times and experience the tranquillity of the canyon undisturbed.
Entrance and parking are free at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, as is the case at most of Iceland’s natural highlights.
Hiking at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
From the parking lot, a narrow hiking trail along the edge of the canyon takes you to a waterfall that pours into the canyon and back to the parking lot in about an hour. There are always small natural “viewpoints” in between, which are located directly on the steeply sloping gorge. However, these have recently been closed for nature conservation reasons. You should plan a total of around 2 hours here to be able to take enough breaks and photos.
Brief information about the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon hike:
- Length: 6.5 km (there & back)
- Duration: 1-2 hours
- Circular route: no
- Elevation gain: 140 meters
- Difficulty: easy
Incidentally, drone flying is allowed here for once and I didn’t need to be told twice. The river has dug deep into the gorge here, leaving behind a wonderfully furrowed landscape that looks completely different from a bird’s eye view.