- Best time to visit
- All year round
- 63.77141687680506, -18.171756646505575
- Distance from Reykjavík
- 255km (158mi)
Experiencing Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon on Foot
The history of Fjaðrárgljúfur
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is a 100-metre-deep ravine that runs for 2 kilometres across Iceland’s beautiful landscape. A ribbon of glacial river wends through the bottom of the canyon, catching the light when the sun comes out. It is this river (the Fjaðrá River) that created the great chasm in the landscape as glacial meltwater tumbled through the rocks and eroded the chasm away over thousands of years. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is said to have formed at the end of the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago. But some of the rock at the bottom of the canyon dates back millions of years.
How to experience Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Iceland
The best way to experience this natural wonder is on foot, following the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon hike. From the designated car park, this short hiking route runs the length of the canyon and is around 2 kilometres (1.3 miles) long. It takes just under an hour to walk the length of the canyon and back to the car park. Along the way, you’ll get to see one of Iceland’s most beautiful sights – a ravine twisting through the landscape with a rushing, clear river at its core. Mossy greenery clings to the rocks and, in the sunlight, the cliffs appear to glow golden. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is certainly one of the most photogenic spots in Iceland and the short hike here is well worth it.
At the end of the canyon, you’ll find the tumbling cascade of Mögáfoss waterfall. This is also where you can stop at the Fjaðrárgljúfur viewpoint and admire the canyon from above. The Fjaðrárgljúfur hike is not an arduous trail, so it can be suitable for families with kids who love the outdoors.
Getting to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is fairly easy from Reykjavík. It sits just off the main Route One ring road that loops around the entire island. Simply follow the Route One road out of Reykjavík and along the south coast until you reach the turn-off for Fjaðrárgljúfur along Road 206. The canyon is just before the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Fjaðrárgljúfur is not as popular as some of the other natural wonders of the south coast, so you don’t get the same crowded feeling as at Skógafoss waterfall or Reynisfjara Beach. Due to time restrictions, day tours don’t tend to stop at the canyon. However, several in-depth multi-day tours of Iceland’s south coast include the hike at Fjaðrárgljúfur.
Where have I seen Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon before?
Fjaðrárgljúfur is the most famous canyon in Iceland. In 2015, the canyon was featured in the video for Justin Bieber’s ‘I’ll Show You’ which led to a huge influx of tourists and Beliebers to the area. Adding to the canyon’s popularity, it was also featured in the TV series Game of Thrones where it was the spot where John Snow and Daenerys Taergeran flew dragons above the fantasy landscape. Seeing how beautiful the canyon is, visitors to Iceland flocked to this pristine spot, so much so that the natural landscape was disturbed by constant foot traffic. The Icelandic government decided to close the canyon hiking path to allow for nature to grow back. Fortunately, it recovered and is open again now.
Sights and attractions close to Fjaðrárgljúfur
The closest settlement to Fjaðrárgljúfur is the little village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, where you’ll find a small selection of overnight accommodation. There are also a couple of cafés and supermarkets. Fjaðrárgljúfur is also an excellent place to stop and stretch your legs if you are making the long drive from Reykjavík to Jökulsárlón glacier lake – a further 130 kilometres (80 miles) along the Route One main road. Jökulsárlón is one of Iceland’s most unique sights where glowing blue icebergs float in a serene lake at the base of a glacier. Just across the road from Jökulsárlón, the Black Diamond Beach is where you can stroll the jet-black sand of Iceland’s south coast where crystal-clear orbs of ice litter the shore like scattered diamonds.
In the other direction, the charming coastal village of Vík is 68 kilometres (42 miles) away from Fjaðrárgljúfur. In Vík, there are plenty of options for lunch or dinner in local restaurants and pubs and it has a wide selection of overnight accommodation. There are also loads of activities at Vík – ziplining over the Icelandic landscape, the interactive Lava Experience and ATV riding across a black-sanded beach. Stretching for miles along the coast from Vík, the Reynisfjara black-sanded beach is a popular stop along the Route One main road on the south coast. Between Reykjavík and Fjaðrárgljúfur, it is an excellent place to stop, get something to eat at the café, and stretch your legs along the soft black sand as the powerful waves of the North Atlantic crash against the shore. Just be sure to heed the warning signs and stay well back from the water’s edge.
All About Fjaðrárgljúfur
From the car park, the hike along the Fjaðrárgljúfur takes just under an hour, there and back. You should allow for at least an hour to walk the length of the canyon, return to the car park and stopping for loads of pictures along the way. When the light hits the craggy cliffs and stunning rock bends of the canyon, you are going to want to snap a few photos.
The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon looks completely different season by season. The long daylight hours of summer are a popular time to visit the canyon as it is quite far along the south coast and takes most of the day to drive here (stopping at the myriad wonders along the way). Summer’s midnight sun means you can explore Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in the late evening without worrying about darkness descending. In autumn and spring, you have the chance to see the canyon bathed in a beautiful golden light – these seasons are known as the months of the long shadows in Iceland as it’s as though someone has put a golden filter over the landscape. While there is something dramatic about seeing the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon in a blanket of snow, the harsh weather in winter and very short hours of daylight make some of the hiking trails in the area inaccessible. If you plan on visiting Fjaðrárgljúfur in winter, you may be disappointed by the lack of access.
There are a few steep inclines on the walk along the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, but overall this natural wonder is deemed safe for children. If you are walking along the path above the canyon, just make sure young children stay well away from the edge. From the car park, it is a short hike so an excellent option for families with kids who enjoy exploring the great outdoors together.
The canyon itself was formed over millennia of erosion as glacial water cut its way through the rocky landscape. The canyon is now 100 metres deep with twists and turns that catch the sunlight, creating a beautiful scene.
By road, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is 256 kilometres (about 160 miles) from Reykjavík. It takes approximately three and a half hours to drive from the Icelandic capital to this remote canyon on the south coast. Of course, there are myriad natural wonders along the Route One main road as it meanders along the south shore of Iceland. You’ll most likely want to stop several times along the way – perhaps at Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, the Reynisfjara black-sanded beach or the charming village of Vík – making the journey much longer.
Fjaðrárgljúfur roughly translates into English as ‘feather river canyon’. It is named after the Fjaðrá River that flows through the canyon.
The trail along the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon is around 2 kilometres (1.3 miles) long, so it takes just under an hour to hike from one end to the other and back to the car park. The path is quite rough and scattered with rocks and pebbles, so it is a good idea to wear sturdy walking boots. If you fancy stretching your legs a little longer, you can continue along the path by the Fjaðrá River, whose glacial waters are crystal-clear.
While many of south Iceland’s natural wonders have completely banned the flying of drones – at Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, and Reynisfjara black-sanded beach to name a few – you can fly a drone at Fjaðrárgljúfur with special permission. In general, drone flying above 120 metres, above a crowd of people or near private addresses is illegal in Iceland without the appropriate permits. It is best to leave your drone at home and enjoy the scenery with your eyes.
As it is a public space and natural wonder in Iceland, there is no entrance fee to visit Fjaðrárgljúfur. Parking is also free at the dedicated car park and there is a free public restroom for a comfort break. Please note that the WC is often closed in the winter months.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is the famous canyon on Iceland’s south coast, just beyond the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. A clear, glacial river cuts through the mossy green landscape, making this spot beautifully photogenic. After it appeared in a Justin Beiber music video and on the hit TV series Game of Thrones, Fjaðrárgljúfur became overrun with visitors and the sudden influx of people damaged the natural landscape. For this reason, the canyon was closed for a while to allow nature to recover without human interference.
Despite its popularity, it is still one of the lesser-explored natural wonders of Iceland’s south coast. While sights like Skógafoss waterfall, Reynisfjara black-sanded beach and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon attract huge crowds in peak season, far fewer travellers stop at Fjaðrárgljúfur.
The dramatic sheer cliffs of the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon are believed to have been formed at the end of the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago. However, some of the bedrock at the bottom of the canyon can be dated back to around two million years ago.