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Jökulsárgljúfur National Park and Canyon is located in the north of Vatnajökull National Park. One of the deepest canyons in Iceland, go hiking at Jökulsárgljúfur in the summer to enjoy its lush foliage, cliffs, and waterfalls.

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WHAT IS JÖKULSÁRGLJÚFUR?

Jökulsárgljúfur National Park is a beautiful protected site in northeast Iceland, with Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon as its chief feature. As one of the deepest canyons in Iceland, Jökulsárgljúfur draws hikers in the summer to experience its lush greenery, dramatic cliff faces, and elegant waterfalls. The canyon itself stretches over 24 km (15 miles), with a width of up to ½ km (1,640 ft) and a depth of up to 100 m (328 ft).

In Icelandic, the name “Jökulsárgljúfur” translates to “glacier-river-canyon,” named for the deep canyon that runs through it. You’ll find this national park, a deep canyon region, in the northernmost part of Vatnajökull National Park

The great glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum runs from Vatnajökull Glacier all the way to the sea at Öxarfjörður. On the south end of the park, you’ll find the Hljóðaklettar basalt columns and the Rauðhólar cinder cones, as well as the famous Ásbyrgi Canyon, shaped like a horseshoe.

The canyon was formed over eons by catastrophic glacial bursts, or jökulhlaups, once 10,000 years ago and again 3,000 years ago. These glacial floods carved out deep ravines and basins, including Ásbyrgi. Jökulsárgljúfur National Park was established in 1973, with Asbyrgi being incorporated a few years later in 1978.

river at Jokulsargljufur Canyon in Iceland

Where is JÖKULSÁRGLJÚFUR located?

The glacial river canyon is a huge stretch of land in North Iceland. The Jökulsárgljúfur National Park covers an area of 150 km² (93 mi²) and a length of 35 km (22 mi) along the western side of the glacial river Jokulsa. The Visitor Center is at the northern end of the park. It’s about 130 km (81 mi) from Akureyri to the Visitor’s Center, or 60 km (37 mi) from Husavik.

GPS coordinates of Jökulsárgljúfur: 66.0285° N, 16.4871° W

How to get to JÖKULSÁRGLJÚFUR?

The only way to get to the canyon is by car, whether as part of a self-drive tour or with an escorted guide. Scheduled bus services between Asbyrgi and Akureyri or Dettifoss have been suspended as of 2018 until further notice.

To reach the canyon, drive the tarmac road Route 862 or the gravel road Route 864. Be sure to check the weather, road, and trail conditions before you go. During winter, if conditions are treacherous, the roads or the hiking trails may be inaccessible.

road by Jokulsargljufur national park canyon

NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

As a deep river canyon, Jökulsárgljúfur is home to a plethora of peaceful scenery, lush flora, and the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. The area attracts thousands of hikers to its riverbanks each year, from novices to more experienced trekkers. Those seeking the opportunity to get up close and personal with Icelandic wildlife also have the chance to spot a variety of different creatures in and around the canyon.

couple looking at Dettifoss Waterfall from viewpoint

There are many notable waterfalls and other unmissable destinations in Jökulsárgljúfur National Park and the surrounding areas, including:

  • Hljóðaklettar - find the remains of ancient volcanoes, and to the north at Rauðhólar are old cinder cones to explore. 

  • Hólmatungur - see translucent streams that merge into a brown torrent. 

  • Ásbyrgi - a beautiful, horseshoe-shaped canyon with cliffs that reach up to 100 m (328 ft) high. The base of the gorge stretches 3.5 km (2 mi) long and over 1 km (0.6 mi) wide. At its center, a large rock formation known as Eyan (the Island) rises dramatically. 

  • Ásbyrgi Visitor Center - find exhibits on geology and local wildlife. There’s also a small restaurant, restroom, and souvenir shop with books and handicrafts. It’s at the mouth of the canyon and leads into the trailheads. 

  • Dettifoss - the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The waterfall is featured in the beginning of the film Prometheus. The glacial waters come from Jökulsá á Fjöllum and drop down 44m (144 ft) into the Jokulsargljufur Canyon. There is a public parking lot where you can park your car and walk 10 minutes to the waterfall

  • Selfoss Waterfall - a beautiful waterfall located less than a mile upstream from Dettifoss, and you can hike from one to the other with little problem. Meltwater travels from Vatnajökull, dropping 11 m (36 ft) at Selfoss, before continuing down to Dettifoss.

  • Hafragilsfoss - a 27 m (89 ft) muddy waterfall that pours into the Jokulsargljufur Canyon. You can get there on foot or by car.
Asbyrgi Canyon rock formations

Accommodation and Hotels near JÖKULSÁRGLJÚFUR

There are a handful of guest houses westward on Route 85 in Kelduhverfi, 10 minutes from Ásbyrgi Canyon. You can also stay in Husavik, which is a little further than the guest houses, but still not too far.

HOTELS NEAR JÖKULSÁRGLJÚFUR

  • Garður Guesthouse: single-story guesthouse that can accommodate up to 19 people, with equipped kitchenettes and shared bathrooms. 

  • Ardalur: guesthouse with three double rooms, shared bathroom, and twin beds on a horse and sheep farm.

  • Keldunes: guesthouse with six double rooms and two small fully furnished cottages.
double bedroom near Jokulsargljufur canyon

CAMPING NEAR JÖKULSÁRGLJÚFUR

There are official campgrounds at Ásbyrgi, Dettifoss, and halfway between at Vesturdalur. It makes the perfect base, with space for around 350 tents and a few campers and trailers. There is also access to electricity on the site. 

Facilities include toilets, showers, a washing machine, and a drying closet. It’s only open from May 15th to September 30th. Camping outside of these areas is prohibited. There aren’t any cabins or mountain huts in the region.