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Stuðlagil Canyon

Incredible Basalt Columns in East Iceland

Stuðlagil Canyon is one of the world’s most enchanting basalt rock formations. While it takes some effort to reach this natural wonder, you’ll be rewarded by an out-of-this-world view.


The basalt column canyon towers over a turquoise glacial river, making for one of the most stunning sights in the country.

The canyon is located in the upper part of Jökuldalur Valley in East Iceland. This rolling valley is known for its many sheep farms. Don’t be surprised if you come across a fluffy flock during your canyon hike!

History of Stuðlagil Canyon

Until recently, Stuðlagil Canyon was under the radar for visitors and locals alike. The canyon was completely submerged under the river Jökla. A few years ago, the water level of the river fell and revealed the canyon in all its glory. 

Studlagil basalt canyon

The river Jökla was once so fierce that it divided Jökuldalur Valley into two parts. Farmers and villagers on either side were completely cut off from each other. To solve this problem, locals built a dam across the river, causing the water level to fall. 

The dam was controversial because of its negative environmental impact. Still, without it, the canyon would have never been discovered.

The Jökla is now a force of clarity and color. Previously, the water was sourced by glacial sediment, turning it a murky brown color. Now the river is fed by the crystal-clear waters of Hálslón Reservoir. As a result, the waters that flow through Stuðlagil Canyon are a vibrant turquoise. 

How did Stuðlagil’s basalt columns form?

Geologists now know that these hexagonal columns are formed in a process called columnar jointing. When basaltic lava flows and cools slowly over time, it shrinks in volume and cracks into symmetrical patterns. These shapes, mostly hexagons, cluster together to form slender columns. 

Studlagil Canyon

Where is Stuðlagil Canyon located?

GPS coordinates of Stuðlagil Canyon 65.1635° N, 15.3073°

Stuðlagil Canyon is found in the plateaus of East Iceland, not far from the black beaches of the Eastfjords. The closest major town is Egilsstaðir, 44 miles (72 km) to the east. The canyon is 371 miles (597 km) from Reykjavik and 130 mi (210 km) from Akureyri.

Basalt Column Waterfall

Stuðlafoss Waterfall, also known as the Basalt Column Waterfall, flows into a branch of the Jökla. The cascade pours down from moss-covered basalt columns.

Studlagil Canyon Waterfall

The spectacular choppy columns of  Stuðlafoss resemble an ancient throne. Visiting the beautiful basalt waterfall, you’ll feel as if you’ve discovered a forgotten corner of the world. 

Places to Stay Near Stuðlagil Canyon

  • Guesthouse Skjöldólfsstaðir on Ring Road is located about 12.4 miles (20 km) from the canyon. In this charming lodge you’ll find reindeer decorations, an outdoor pool, and a restaurant. 
  • Stuðlagil Canyon Accommodation on farm Grund is another great option close to the canyon. Visitors have access to free WiFi, a dining area and kitchen, a private bathroom, and a terrace. 
  • The nearby town of Egilsstaðir offers a lot in the way of lodging. Here you have access to Icelandair Hotel Herad, Hótel Valaskjálf, Hótel Eyvindará, and Lyngás Guesthouse.

Camping Near Stuðlagil Canyon

Á Hreindýraslóðum Guesthouse, located in East Skjöldólfsstaðir, offers a camping site and restaurant. Visitors can also stay in single, double, or triple rooms with shared facilities. The guesthouse has a swimming pool, hot pots, and an outdoor playground for children. 

Places to Visit Near Stuðlagil Canyon

  • Egilsstaðir: Stuðlagil Canyon is close to Egilsstaðir, a charming town with the largest population in East Iceland. Besides the many museums in town, you can also access great hiking and biking trails. 

Egilsstaðir East Iceland

  • East Iceland Heritage Museum: The region is also home to Iceland’s only wild reindeer herds. Learn more about these animals at the East Iceland Heritage Museum (Minjasafn Austurlands) in Egilsstaðir
  • Klaustursel Farm: Just 2.5 miles (4 km) away from Studlagil, is an idyllic place to watch Icelandic reindeer up close. The farm is also famous for its handicrafts center, where you can buy souvenirs made of reindeer skin and horns. 

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get to Stuðlagil Canyon?

Like all hidden gems, Stuðlagil Canyon is a bit off the beaten path. You won’t be able to reach it directly by car. 

Take the Ring Road and turn south onto road 923. After about 9 miles (14 km) you’ll reach a farm called Klaustursel, which has a free parking area. 

From there, you’ll have to continue on foot. First cross the white bridge over the Jökla river. Then take the path to the right for 2.5 miles until you reach the canyon. 

Halfway through your walk to the canyon, you’ll see the stunning Stuðlafoss Waterfall. 

How far is Hofn, Iceland to Stuðlagil Canyon?

From Hofn, it’s about 250 km to Studlagil Canyon. It should take you close to 4 hours to reach the points where you’ll need to get out of your car and hike the rest of the way to the canyon.