Fjaðrárgljúfur is a 2 km (1.24 mi) long canyon in the South-East Region of Iceland. The canyon is about 100 meters deep and through it runs a small freshwater stream.
It’s known to be one of the most picturesque places in Iceland. It’s quickly become one of the most sought-after locations, especially after appearing Justin Bieber’s video “I’ll Show You.”
The Fjaðrárgjúfur Canyon was formed during the last ice age when a glacial river carved its way through soil, creating a massive canyon about 100 meters down. Even though the canyon was created at a cold period, today it’s a very fertile place with beautiful vegetation.
The fairytale-like Fjaðrárgljúfur has steep tuff walls on both sides. They are believed to be about 2 million years old. The Fjaðrá River runs like a snake in between the palagonite walls and originates in the Geirlandshraun lava field. It also falls from a cliff into the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, creating quite the scene. The river then joined the powerful Skaftá river.
How did Fjadrargljufur form?
Fjaðrárgljúfur is believed to have formed at the end of the last ice age, or about 9 thousand years ago. When the glacier retreated, a lagoon formed in the valley behind the canyon.
Drainage water from the lagoon then ran its course over the area. The glacier river carried with it rocks and other natural materials that carved into the landscape.
When the power of the stream was at its highest it started to dig itself into the sedimentary land. After some time a canyon had formed. This is the canyon we now know as Fjaðrárgljúfur.
Where is Fjaðrárgljúfur located?
Fjaðrárgljúfur is located in Skaftárhreppur County in the southeastern region of Iceland.
The distance between Reykjavík and Fjaðrárgljúfur is about 248 kilometers (154.1 mi) and the drive takes about 3 hours and 10 minutes (without stops).
Fjaðrárgljúfur is very close to Kirkjubæjarklaustur (only about 11.9 km [7.39 mi]) and about 20 minutes of driving.
GPS coordinates of Fjaðrárgljúfur: 63.7713° N, 18.1718° W
How to get to Fjaðrárgljúfur?
The turn to Fjaðrárgljúfur is right off Ring Road 1 and 20 minutes before reaching Kirkjubæjarklaustur if you are driving the Ring Road counterclockwise.
Look for a sign pointing to Road Nr. 206 called Holtsvegur. There you will drive for about 3 km (1.86 mi) before finding the parking lot.
Accommodation and hotels near Fjadrargljufur
There are plenty of wonderful places to stay around the picturesque canyon Fjaðrárgljúfur. Here we will name a few:
Hotels near Fjadrargljufur
- Hotel Geirland
- Hotel Laki, Efri Vík
- Icelandair Hotel Klaustur
- Magma Hotel
Guesthouses near Fjadrargljufur
- Glacier View Guesthouse
- Hunkubakkar Guesthouse
- Eldhraun Guesthouse
- Klausturhof Guesthouse
Cottages and Cabins near Fjadrargljufur
- Eldhraun Holiday Home
- Hörgsland Cottages
Please note that wild camping is forbidden along the entire South Coast. Campers of all types are obligated to use the designated campsites.
The hiking paths at Fjadrargljufur
The water levels are usually not high in Fjaðrá river which runs through the canyon. Due to this reason, hikers can safely walk inside the canyon.
They might still need to wade the river a few times so it’s best to be prepared, have sandals or wade shoes with you.
The walk is a bit adventurous but the deeper you go the more beautiful the canyon gets. The view from the deepest part is without comparison. Please note that this hike is not recommended in wintertime!
Most visitors prefer the path that doesn’t require any wading. It takes you to the edge of the canyon where you can now stand on a viewing platform and see the stunning vista over the whole area. Please don’t leave the marked path and don’t enter the restricted areas for posing for photos!
If you have time, we recommend doing both A and B!
Safety Tips for visiting Fjadrargljufur
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is a relatively safe place, especially on an Icelandic standard. Still, like when visiting all new places, it is best to be prepared. Keep this in mind:
- If the water levels are high you might want to consider skipping going into the canyon itself. Wading the river is necessary and at this point, it might not be smart.
- If the water levels are low and you are planning on wading, bring sandals or wading shoes it helps a lot.
- Stay on the marked paths. Fjaðrárgljúfur had to be closed down several times during the last years due to poor conditions, but if visitors stay on the marked paths it is better to maintain the area and help keep this natural stunner at its best.
- Entering the river is not recommended in winter. Thin layers of ice can form on the surface and it is difficult to be sure how deep the water is. As the water is extremely cold, falling into the water can be especially dangerous in winter.
- Check the road conditions here. The road you need to check is around Kirkjubæjarklaustur and the Road Nr. 206 right before Kirkjubæjarklaustur in the left.
Is Fjadrargljufur closed?
During spring and autumn, however, the area gets extremely wet due to intense melting and precipitation. The paths often get muddy and slippery, which makes visitors leave the marked trail to avoid getting dirty.
Leaving the marked path can be very dangerous when you visit a thrilling canyon. Also, when tens or hundreds of people start to step off the path, they together cause serious damage to the vegetation, treading the grass and moss down, killing the fragile flora, and creating even bigger mud pots.
Fjaðrárgljúfur was closed in April 2018 for the first time ever. This was done by The Icelandic Environment Agency to protect the vegetation and to ensure the safety of visitors. The damage of the area around Fjaðrárgljúfur was extensive and was mainly caused by visitors going off the marked paths and not following the signs.
Sadly, this issue keeps coming up over and over. The canyon had to be closed several times during the last seasons. Please respect any closure in Iceland and never step off the marked paths, not even for just one photo!
The Justin Bieber Canyon
Note that many of the areas Justin is seen strutting around in the video are now off-limits for travelers. We urge you to follow the rules and signs. They are there for a reason to protect you and nature!
Do not climb over the ropes. Do not stand out on the edges of the cliffs where no viewpoint has been built. Never step on the moss, even if other people did so before you. Do not follow the detours started by others.
The Icelandic Environment Agency is constantly trying to restore the vegetation on which people have left their footprints and the process can take decades.
At the beginning of Justin Bieber’s Video I’ll Show you, Bieber is seen walking on a cliff overlooking the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon.
The video’s attention is again on Fjaðrárgljúfur at 1:09 when the camera shows an overview of the empty canyon before showing Bieber himself bathing in the water wearing nothing but undies.
After the video went viral Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, which before that time was mostly unknown to even the locals, became a sensation! The location is now listed as a must-do in the South East area and the visitors just keep coming.
Other locations in the video include Skógafoss Waterfall, Dyrhólaey Cliff overlooking Sólheimasandur, the Airplane Wreck on Sólheimasandur, Ring Road 1, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the Diamond Beach.
Fjaðrárgljúfur in Winter
Fjaðrárgljufur is absolutely gorgeous in winter but often ill-passible. The road leading up to it will often be closed off due to heavy snowfall. Trying to get past will only get your vehicle stuck so please do be respectful of signs such as this one.
But if the road is open you are truly in for a treat. The stream will continue running but the hills get all snowy and the place truly looks like something out of a Lord of the Rings scene.
If you are looking for information about the road leading up to Fjaðrárgljúfur you can always check out www.road.is and look for road number F206.
Interesting Places near Fjadrargljufur
- Kirkjugólf Basalt Floor
- Stjórnarfoss Waterfall
- Systrafoss Waterfall
- Systrastapi Cliff
- Kirkjugólf e. Church Floor Basalt Columns
- Eldhraun Lava Fields
- Fagrifoss Waterfall
- Foss á Síðu Waterfall
- Mt. Lómagnúpur
- Skaftafell National Park
- Hofskirkja Church
- Svartifoss Waterfall
- Svínafellsjökull Glacier
- Falljökull Glacier
- Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon
- Hvannadalshnúkur Summit
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
- Diamond Beach