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The 5 Top Hidden Gems in Iceland

Jessie Smith
|June 4, 2020
Jessie is a writer from Atlantic Canada. Aside from traveling, she enjoys sports, cooking, and music.

Iceland is one of the most isolated places to travel on Earth, but where can you go off the beaten path in Iceland? With everything from vast glacier landscapes to untouched stretches of rugged coastline, there are many remote places you can explore in Iceland.

This guide will help you find the best places to leave the stress of the world behind you and go completely remote. Hidden, unspoiled, and far away from the crowds, here are the most remote locations in Iceland:

1. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

No visit to the Westfjords would be complete without a stopover in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Home to Iceland’s only native mammal, the Arctic Fox, the nature reserve boasts picturesque fjords, lush green fields, dramatic cliffs and an array of unique flora and fauna. The region is only open during the summer months, which is ideal for visitors looking to enjoy the scenery in pleasant climates.

Hornstrandir is a hiker’s paradise as the region offers lots of great hiking options. However, the most popular route is a visit to the reserve’s iconic towering cliff. Visitors should know that the reserve is mostly uninhabited, so hikers should pack everything they need for a hiking trip, including tents if they plan on staying overnight.

How to Get to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

Though it’s quite difficult to get to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, the incredible nature makes the journey worth the while. You’ll need to take a ferry from Ísafjörður, the capital of the Westfjords, to get to the isolated area. If you don’t want the stress of transport, there are a number of excellent guided tours that take you to Hornstrandir.

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve Coordinates: 66.394956, -22.572893

2. Gjáin

The second of Iceland’s most remote places to visit is Gjáin. Situated about two hours from Reykjavik, this beautiful spot is home to waterfalls, canyons, caves and scenic treks – all you could ever need in a hidden paradise!

This secluded spot is said to be home to numerous elves, which isn’t surprising when you witness how magical the surrounding landscape is. The river Rauðá cascades and flows into the valley, before falling from the picture-perfect Gjárfoss Waterfall.

How to Get to Gjáin

Isolated areas such as Gjáin are always slightly more difficult to get to, but that’s also what makes them so special. To get to Gjáin, visitors need to take the Ring Road towards Selfoss, drive through the town and take Road 30.

Next, drive for 10 minutes before turning right on the number 32. Then drive for 25 minutes until you turn onto Road 327. From there it’s about a 30-minute drive to Stöng. At this point, you’ll have to take a short hike across Iceland’s beautiful landscape towards Gjáin Valley, where you can enjoy its pristine nature.

Gjáin Coordinates: 64.149364, -19.738076

3. Brúarfoss Waterfall

Brúarfoss Waterfall is often considered to be one of Iceland’s best hidden gems. Although not the biggest waterfall in the country, its icy blue waters and picturesque surroundings makes it worth seeking out. In fact, the waterfall is so off-the-beaten-track that many locals have never even heard of it, so make sure you get the directions before you go!

How to Get to Brúarfoss Waterfall

The waterfall is an easy stop to make, especially if you’re doing a tour of the Golden Circle. If you’re driving from Reykjavik, take Route 1 northbound. After Mosfellsbaer, you’ll come to a roundabout; take the first exit onto Road 36. Continue straight for 30 minutes.

After Laugarvatn, take Road 355 on your right-hand side and continue straight. Eventually, you’ll come to a junction in the road – take the left turn, signposted “Bi ALDAN,” and continue straight. You’ll spot a red gate on your left-hand side, park near here.

Next, it’s time to continue your trip on foot. Head north towards the access bridge and follow a small trail that leads you through the fields. After about five minutes you’ll arrive at a barb-wire gate. Go through it and cross the bridge.

Continue walking through the countryside until you see an arrow sign and then turn right. Continue walking along the path for about 10 minutes until you arrive at the waterfall. Make sure to pack a camera and capture some amazing pictures of what is Iceland’s most secluded waterfall.

Brúarfoss Waterfall Coordinates: 64.264429, -20.515685

4. Gljúfrabúi Waterfall

Situated close to Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is a spectacular sight often overshadowed by its famous neighbor. Partially hidden behind a huge cliff, visitors need to walk into the canyon to get the full experience.

The waterfall’s true beauty can be felt as soon as you walk into the canyon. Mist and the sound of water crashing onto the rocks below fill the air. The waterfall itself is 40-meters-high and the sight is simply mesmerizing. Be careful not to venture too close for your safety! 

How to Get to Gljúfrabúi Waterfall

rom Reykjavik, take road number 1 eastwards towards Vik. Drive for one hour before taking a left turn onto road 449. Seljalandsfoss is the first waterfall on the right, while Gljúfrabúi is the second.

Gljúfrabúi Waterfall Coordinates: 63.621255, -19.986337

5. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Found between Vik and Hof in South Iceland, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is comparable to something out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. Two kilometers long and 100 meters deep, the canyon boasts an otherworldly appearance with its sheer cliffs, lush greenery, and meandering river.

Created at the end of the last Ice Age when a glacier retreated to form a valley, Fjaðrárgljúfur is the perfect day trip for hikers. Walkers have two trail options when they arrive at the site. The first is to follow the well-worn trail at the top of the canyon, which allows for spectacular views. The second requires some waterproof clothing, as you’ll be walking down the base of the canyon and navigating many water crossings.

How to Get to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Visitors will be glad to know that it’s surprisingly easy to get to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. If you’re traveling eastwards on the Ring Road towards Skaftafell, take a left turn onto Road 206 – it’s just before Kirkjubæjarklaustur village – and continue for two kilometers. You’ll come to a small intersection, continue left to reach the canyon. The final stretch of the road is gravel, so drive with caution.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Coordinates: 63.781429, -18.173261

Want to drive to the most remote locations in Iceland? Our self-drive tours include detailed itineraries to the top hidden gems in the country!

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