Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon: Hiking One of Iceland’s Most Scenic Gems

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, hiking one of Iceland's most scenic gems.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is a 1.25-mile-long canyon in south Iceland, famous for its jaw-dropping scenic views. A short and easy hike will showcase the spectacular sights of one of Iceland's most incredible landscapes. Visit different viewpoints of this deep twisting canyon covered in moss and surrounded by lush greenery, and you'll imagine you've been transported to another world. This captivating trail is not to be missed, as Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is hiking one of Iceland’s most scenic gems.

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How to Get To Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

By Car and Parking

To get to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, you’ll need to rent a car as public transportation does not go here. It’s about three and a half hours from Reykjavik via the Ring Road. From Route 1 (the Ring Road,) turn onto Road 206 Holtsvegur, driving for five minutes until you reach the small parking lot. There is no entrance fee, but there's a parking fee of 1000 ISK ($7 USD) payable on the Parka app. The restrooms are here, but they were closed when I went, so be prepared just in case. A second parking lot is available if the first is full, however, it is on an F-road (F206.) I recommend arriving early in the morning and using the lower parking lot to avoid the F-road.

By Tour

If you’re staying in the capital and don’t plan to rent a car, tours are available to visit the canyon. These are either full-day or multi-day trips that generally combine several of Iceland’s south coast's most notable attractions, including stunning waterfalls and jaw-dropping glaciers.

How Long Does It Take To Hike Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon?

The trail is approximately two miles out and back. Dedicate at least an hour here to see all three viewpoints plus Mögárfoss waterfall. Visitors also have the option to continue hiking on designated paths around the canyon and into the canyon itself. Estimate another 1-2 hours for any additional hiking.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon?

May - October in Iceland is the best time to visit Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, and it is open 24/7 daily for visitors. Temperatures are comparatively mild, weather conditions less severe, and the paths are safer without ice and snow. Of course, this is also Iceland's peak time for tourism, and attractions will have an influx of visitors. Plan to arrive early in the morning for a less crowded experience. The canyon is open year-round, so if you visit during the winter, consider bringing crampons for possibly icy conditions.

Why Is Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Famous?

What was once one of Iceland's hidden gems, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is now one of its most popular attractions. The canyon became famous in 2015 from Justin Bieber’s music video, “I’ll Show You.” The video features several beloved sites in south Iceland besides Fjaðrárgljúfur, including Skogafoss and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. It was then used as a location in season 8 of Game of Thrones in the first episode during the dragon fight scene.

Following its appearance on the video and popular fantasy show, the canyon saw an explosion of visitors. Which ultimately led to it briefly closing in 2018 and 2019 due to environmental damage. Today, the canyon is still heavily trafficked as its otherworldly beauty is shared across social media. To keep the canyon open and protect the environment, visitors must stay on designated paths.

How Did Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Form?

The canyon formed through progressive erosion from flowing glacier waters approximately 9000 years ago. This occurred during the last Ice Age. However, the actual bedrock is believed to be 2 million years old! Over time, the combination of water flow and geological processes gradually carved out the unique features of the canyon we now see today. Faðrárgljúfur is now 1.25 miles long and 328 feet deep, it’s truly an impressive wonder of nature.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, woman hiking one of Iceland's gems.

Quick Need to Know Information

Hiking Distance: 1.9 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 337 feet
Hike Difficulty: Easy
Location Coordinates: 63.7713° N,
18.1718° W
Parking Fee: 1000 ISK ($7 USD)
Entrance Fee: None
Restrooms: Located at the main parking lot
Open Hours: All-day, year-round, but check for closures beforehand

Hiking Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

There are three main viewpoints to experience Fjaðrárgljúfur from above, each more beautiful than the last. The path becomes steeper after each viewpoint, but you’ll want to see all three. Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s important to stay on designated trail paths to protect the fragile terrain. The path I took was from the main parking lot. If you’re using the second lot, then the viewpoints are reversed.

Hiking Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in Iceland, the first viewpoint.
The first viewpoint

The first spot isn’t far from the start of the trail. After walking for about five minutes, you’ll come across a short deviation from the main path at the edge of the canyon. Barriers are in place to ensure the safety of visitors and the environment, preventing the trampling of the terrain. Here, you’ll have a spectacular view of the canyon straight on. It feels as if you’re walking through it rather than standing slightly above it. The view behind is also breathtaking as the emerald Icelandic landscape stretches for miles.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon start of the hike, view from behind.

Continuing, the trail towards the second viewpoint begins to incline, and the hike will become steeper. However, the first and second viewpoints aren’t far from one another, and it does not take long to reach. You will approach the second viewpoint once more on a short detour from the path. The second spot offers a raised view of the canyon from an angle. The walls of Fjaðrárgljúfur are considerably more detailed compared to the first viewpoint since it’s higher. It’s an interesting perspective, but the slanted view was the least impressive of the three, in my opinion.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, second viewpoint in the hike.
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon's second viewpoint

The hike between the second and third viewpoints is the longest part of the trail. There are a couple of steep sections, but most of the hike is an easy walk on a flat surface. While the viewpoints above the canyon are the main attractions, this part of the trail shouldn’t be overlooked. The rugged terrain of short curving hills covered in greenery extends as far as the eye can see. It’s a scenic hike that captivated me as I walked until I reached the final viewpoint.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon’s third and last viewpoint blows the first two away. This view is the iconic image of the canyon that photographers flock to and has been shared across social media. The steep moss-covered walls twist and bend in a unique formation, with the river gently flowing through it. From the highest perspective, visitors can see far into the canyon to truly enjoy this spectacular beauty. The viewpoint is from a metal observation platform, but rest assured it doesn’t obscure the awe-inspiring vista.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon third viewpoint while hiking in Iceland.
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon's third viewpoint

Gazing into the otherworldly landscape, I felt as if I was transported into a fantasy realm. I could easily imagine a dragon flying above the bright emerald canyon walls. No wonder Game of Thrones had used this as a filming location. It’s undoubtedly one of the most unique and magical sights in Iceland.

After soaking up the views of the canyon, don’t miss out on a second viewing spot only steps away. Another metal observation platform faces directly toward Mögáfoss, a stunning 115 feet tall waterfall surrounded by the same beautiful landscape as Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Mögáfoss is not one of Iceland's more popular waterfalls, but it's a must-see. The falls are unique as they appear to cut through the canyon, ending in a pool that meets the river. I came here for Fjaðrárgljúfur, but Mögáfoss was such an unexpected and incredible bonus.

Mögáfoss waterfall in Iceland while hiking this scenic gem.

The hiking trail continues, leading to charming farms teetering with sheep. Feel free to keep hiking on the designated paths, and remember to leave no trace. Hiking back to the parking lot is simple and easy, and the views continue to impress even on the return.

More Hiking Options

Hiking Into the Canyon

The nearly two-mile trail above Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is the most popular way to see the canyon, however, it’s not the only way. Travelers can also explore Fjaðrárgljúfur from below, descending 100 meters to the canyon floor. This option is significantly more challenging and involves wading through the river, but worth the effort to experience the canyon from this perspective. From the main parking lot, a trail leads down to the bottom of the canyon, where hikers can trek through it. Waterproof gear is recommended for multiple river crossings, and take caution during inclement weather.

Skaftafell Nature Reserve

Skaftafell Nature Reserve is an hour's drive from Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon with plenty of additional hiking options to include in your Iceland itinerary. There are epic waterfalls, magnificent glaciers, and picturesque landscapes. The nature reserve is part of the larger Vatnajökull National Park. I’ve listed a few of the top hikes in Skaftafell below.

Vatnajökull National Park Iceland

Svartifoss Trail

See three incredible waterfalls on Skaftafell’s most popular trail. The hike to Svartifoss is 2 miles out and back and rated moderately. There are some steep uphill areas on the trail, but overall it’s not a challenging hike. It’s well worth the effort for the three waterfalls, especially the final waterfall of Svartifoss. This waterfall is a stunning wonder of nature at 66 feet tall and surrounded by basalt columns.

Svartifoss Trail:
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 2 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 439 feet

Skaftafellsjökull Glacier Trail

This is an easy-to-moderate 2.5-mile trail that leads to an impressive view of the glacier tongue. The path is easy to follow and there are continuous glacier views throughout the hike. It’s important to note that you aren’t able to hike the glacier from this trail, for that you need a proper glacier hiking tour.

Skaftafellsjökull Glacier Trail:
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 2.9 miles out and back
Elevation Gain: 396 feet

Where to Stay Near Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Hotel Laki: This no-fuss hotel is located 15 minutes from the canyon and offers comfortable rooms at a reasonable price. Stays at Hotel Laki also include a free breakfast buffet and a restaurant on-site.

Magma Hotel: A small but highly regarded hotel with spacious cabins. Magma Hotel is approximately 10 minutes from Fjaðrárgljúfur and provides cozy cabins with beautiful lake views. There is a bistro on-site, and free breakfast is included with stays.

Hótel Klaustur: A modern hotel set in a lovely remote location less than 15 minutes from Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Guests rave about the delicious food from the on-site restaurant and spacious rooms.

Adventure Hotel Geirland: A simple and clean hotel with comfortable rooms. Rates are affordable, and stays include a free breakfast. The hotel is about 15 minutes away from the canyon and has an on-site restaurant.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon trail hiking back to parking lot.

What to Bring Hiking Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Waterproof Jacket: Outdoor activities in Iceland in every season require waterproof attire. Iceland is infamous for severe weather, and sudden storms are possible at any time of year. A waterproof jacket is essential to avoid getting soaked while hiking. Waterproof pants are also beneficial as a precaution.

Waterproof Hiking Boots: While this is an easy Iceland hike, you’ll still want to wear hiking boots. There are points where the trail gets steep, and hiking boots offer the most support. As with everything in Iceland, the best option is waterproof for the unpredictable weather.

Light Backpack: A bulky backpack isn’t necessary for hiking the canyon since it's a short trail. However, there are essential items to have with you including a water bottle, ChapStick, tissues, a hat, and a camera.

Hat: Iceland is known for its powerful winds, and one of the spots I experienced it at was Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Even in the summer, the temperature is generally chilly, and when combined with the wind, you’ll want to have a warm hat packed.

Water Bottle: A refillable water bottle is a staple for any hiking activity, even short and easy hikes like Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. It’s vital to carry water with you to stay hydrated. Plus, the water in Iceland is amazing.

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Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Hiking One of Iceland’s Most Scenic Gems

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4 comments

  • Meeka says:

    epic photos!

    Reply
    • Jillian says:

      Thank you! It's a beautiful spot for photography!

      Reply
  • Deirdre Jenkins says:

    I'm going to Iceland later this year so this guide is very helpful! Thank you

    Reply
    • Jillian says:

      I hope you have an incredible time and can take this hike!

      Reply