The Land of Fire and Ice is a place characterized by the evolution of time and the push and pull of its fiery and icy elements. This ongoing dynamic has led to extremely interesting and completely contrasting landscapes and terrains. Some of these inevitable results are rock formations and incredible canyons. One of the most famous is Fjadrargljufur Canyon.
The Canyon has much more going for it than just admiring its aesthetics (although this is quite impressive), you will find plenty to do at Fjadrargljufur and its surrounding area. So, if you’re interested to learn more about Iceland, or have an upcoming trip you need to plan for, read on. Maybe Fjadrargljufur Canyon will make it onto your trip itinerary.
What is Fjadrargljufur Canyon?
Forget about the dusty canyons in the desert that are so often depicted on our screens, Fjadrargljufur Canyon is a canyon that winds across the landscape like a snake and is one of the lushest, green terrains you’ll ever lay your eyes on (at least if you don’t visit during the wintertime during which it’s all covered underneath a blanket of snow).
It’s hard to believe that not many knew about Fjadrargljufur Canyon till just a few years ago. Oddly enough, some credit Justin Bieber for putting the canyon on the map internationally, since he used the site in one of his music videos. But whether it was Bieber, the gods, or pure coincidence, the influx of visitors since 2016/2017 has increased by 80%!
The Canyon is 2 kilometers long and 100 meters deep and has a small river, Fjadra, running through it. If you’re struggling to pronounce Fjadrargljufur, don’t worry, even the Icelanders have difficulty with the name. It is pronounced Flath-raor-gliu-vur. The name Fjadrargljufur translates to ‘Feather River Canyon’.
Where is Fjadrargljufur Canyon in Iceland?
Fjadrargljufur Canyon can be found near the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in South Iceland, roughly 248 kilometers from the capital city of Reykjavík. Since it’s situated conveniently close to one of our main roads and a popular road trip route, the Ring Road, many opt to add the Canyon as a stop along their Ring Road road trip.
How to Get to Fjadrargljufur in Iceland
Most visit Fjadrargljufur Canyon in one of two ways:
Via a Tour
There is a legion of tour operators and tour guides to choose from here on the island, and most will offer you an opportunity to get to Fjadrargljufur. Whether it’s a private tour, a dedicated day tour, a combo tour, or even a multi-day holiday tour – you’ll find all these options available and waiting for you.
These tours usually depart from the bigger cities or towns, but in the case of Fjadrargljufur Canyon most depart from Reykjavík. Just keep in mind that our summer is considered peak season here on the island, and you’ll need to book a spot on a tour well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Via a Self-drive
We still believe this is the best way to explore the island. Not only does it make things much easier, but you’re always in control of your time and itinerary without having to rely on others. Getting to Fjadrargljufur Canyon aka ‘Feather River Canyon’ in Iceland with your own transport is very simple. Simply get on the Ring Road and drive towards Skaftafell.
Then turn left at the Road 206, Holtsvegur sign. You will continue along this gravel road for about 3 kilometers till you reach the Fjadrargljufur Canyon parking lot. Although the canyon is close enough to make a day outing possible in the warmer months of the year with sufficient daylight, we recommend that you rather make the Fjadrargljufur Canyon a stop along a road trip.
This way, you’ll have more than enough time to experience everything the canyon and surroundings have to offer. You also need to keep in mind that during the wintertime, you need to ensure that you have a 4x4 vehicle to take on this trip.
How Was Fjadrargljufur Canyon Formed?
The canyon is believed to have been created about 9000 years ago due to a glacier retreating at the end of the last Ice Age. Melted glacial water slowly started carving its way through the earth, finally leaving the canyon behind after much erosion.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Fjadrargljufur Canyon?
Unless you visit Fjadrargljufur as part of a tour, going there shouldn’t cost you a cent. That’s the best part of a trip to Iceland – there are loads of things to do and see that’s completely free!
How Much Time Do You Need for Fjadrargljufur Canyon?
That will all depend on you and what you want to do, but we would recommend that you allocate at least an hour to this outing if you just want to have a walk around and appreciate the breathtaking views. If you want to hike the canyon and leave enough time to stop and smell the Icelandic moss along the way, we suggest that you give yourself at least 2 hours.
When is the Best Time to Visit Fjadrargljufur Canyon?
Technically, you can visit Fjadrargljufur Canyon all year round. You just need to keep the following in mind when deciding when the best time will be for your visit:
- Summers in Iceland can get pretty busy at the canyon, so if you don’t like crowds, you might want to pick one of the shoulder months or stop by early morning or late afternoon.
- The wintertime brings a completely different experience. It’s not necessarily bad, but you need to manage expectations. Whilst the summertime dresses the canyon in lush green vegetation with the river running through it, the winter turns the vegetation darker and wraps a blanket of snow across the landscape with the river seemingly frozen in place.
- During the colder months of the year, you’ll also need to keep a close eye on the Iceland road conditions since there could be sudden road closures due to harsh weather conditions, and driving, in general, becomes much more challenging (especially if you would like to do a road trip around the country).
- As an outdoor activity, you’ll also need to keep a close eye on the Iceland weather forecast, so you don’t get caught in any unpleasant weather.
- The colder months of the year, especially the winter season, see dramatically decreased daylight hours, which means that you will have limited time and need to adapt your trip itinerary accordingly.
The Fjadrargljufur Canyon Hike
You can take a nice hike through the canyon, and marvel at all the beauty that surrounds you. The hike is roughly just over 3 kilometers (back and forth) and should take you about an hour to complete depending on your pace. The trail is considered to be easy in terms of difficulty level, and you don’t need to have ample experience or be the fittest person in Iceland to take this trail on.
Other Things to Do & See at Fjadrargljufur Canyon and Surroundings
There are plenty of things to see and do not only at the canyon but also in the area surrounding the canyon. Here’s what you can consider adding to your Icelandic to-do list:
- Bird watching at the canyon and surrounding area (you’ll be amazed at the incredible variety of bird species)
- Visit Katla Geopark
- Check out Eldhraun Lava Field
- Stop by Stjonarfoss Waterfall
- Check out the Kirkjugolf Basalt Slabs
- Stop by the Dverghamrar Rock Formations (and remember to keep your eyes open for those legendary elves!)
Where to Stay Near Fjadrargljufur Canyon
With so much to do and see, it’s no wonder that most decide to spend at least two or three days in the area. If you’re looking for accommodation, you will find a variety to choose from depending on your preferences and your budget. If you would like to enjoy the finer things in life, you can opt for a hotel stay at places such as Hotel Klaustur.
Or you can opt for a bit more affordability whilst still enjoying your creature comforts at a place such as Hunkubakkar Guesthouse. Alternatively, you can go the most budget-friendly route and book a spot at a local campsite such as Tjaldstædid Kirkjubær II. And don’t worry, you don’t need to “rough it” if you don’t want to. Simply rent a campervan in Iceland and you can go camping in comfort and style!
Fjadrargljufur Canyon; A Geological Wonder Not to Be Missed
Whether you opt to visit the canyon for a hike, bird watching, or simply admiring the beautiful lush green surroundings or whether you prefer to visit during the winter season where Fjadrargljufur seems to be a scene straight from the movie Frozen – visiting the canyon promises to be an experience you’ll never forget.
So, either plan a specific day trip from the capital city during our warmer months or rent a campervan in Iceland, head out on your Ring Road road trip, and include the canyon as a stop along the way. But whatever you do, do not miss out on this geological wonder!