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Aptly named, the Land of Fire and Ice is known for its dramatic landscape. Deep canyons, hot springs, colossal waterfalls, and hanging cliffs make this country one of the most scenic in the world. Jökulsárgljúfur National Park is spectacular with its canyons, waterfalls, and rivers. Most of these sites are must-sees, so while planning your Iceland trip, make sure you don’t miss them.

Guided tours that include Jökulsárgljúfur National Park

Where is Jökulsárgljúfur National Park Located?


Jökulsárgljúfur National Park is located in northeastern Iceland, approximately 130 kilometers (81 miles) from Akureyri, "the capital" of northern Iceland. It's also 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the charming town of Húsavík, which is situated on Iceland's north coast.

The park's exact coordinates are:

  • 65.9179° N 
  • 16.5189° W

How to Get to Jökulsárgljúfur National Park?

Taking a cab is the best way to reach the park. Take Road 85 from Husavik to reach Asbyrgi Visitor Center at the northern end of the park. From Akureyri, it is at a distance of 130 km (80 mi). To visit the canyon, you can take Route 862 or Route 864. However, due to bad weather conditions, the roads may be closed. So, always check before you take any route.

General Information About Jökulsárgljúfur National Park

Infographic of Jokulsargljufur National Park
  • Size 150 sq km (58 sq mi)
  • Location Northeastern Iceland
  • Established 1973
  • Accessibility Car
  • Time to visit Year-round
  • Activities Hiking, Sightseeing

What is Jökulsárgljúfur National Park Known For?

Jökulsárgljúfur National Park is a part of Vatnajokull National Park in North Iceland. The national park comprises the northwestern region of Vatnajokull National Park. Jökulsárgljúfur National Park forms the western boundary of Jokulsa, the river that rises from the Vatnajokull Glacier. Covering over 150 sq. km of land, the national park is one of the prime attractions of North Iceland. 

The park got its name from Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in Iceland. The canyon stretches for more than 25 km and has a width of 500 m. It is 100-120 m deep in some places, offering breathtaking views and a unique ecosystem. 

Lady on background of Dettifoss and rainbow

The national park is home to three gigantic waterfalls, craters, and canyons. The huge area of the national park is home to numerous trails that lure hikers. Both novices and experienced trekkers flock to this area to hike on its various trails. The entire area is very scenic and a photographer’s paradise. River Jokulsa is an additional attraction.

History of Jökulsárgljúfur

Iceland's Jokulsargljufur canyon in sunset

The literal meaning of Jökulsárgljúfur is glacial-river-canyon. Thousands of years ago, glacial bursts led to the birth of the canyon. Such eruptions took place 10,000 years ago and then again 3,000 years ago. All the landforms, like the deep gorge, ravines, and basins, were carved by glacial floods. Asbyrgi Canyon was also born due to these geological events. 

Humans have inhabited the Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon for millennia. Archaeological evidence suggests that the area was inhabited by hunter-gatherer communities who sought refuge and sustenance in the canyon as early as 8,000 years ago. The Vikings, who arrived in Iceland around the 10th century, also found the canyon's resources valuable, utilizing it for fishing and grazing their livestock.

The Jökulsárgljúfur National Park Iceland was formed in 1973, and later on, in 1978, Asbyrgi was included in it. Today, It's a popular tourist hub that boasts its outstanding natural beauty and importance to Iceland's history and culture. 

Interesting Facts About Jökulsárgljúfur

  • Do you know the myth associated with the strange horseshoe shape of Asbyrgi? The early Viking settlers believed that it was the hoofprint of Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged flying horse. The U-shape was formed when the horse crashed its hooves onto the earth.

  • Sami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia, consider Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon a sacred place. They have a deep connection to the land and its resources, believing that the canyon is a place of power and healing.

  • Local people believe that mythical Hidden People reside in the cliffs. According to some folktales, Asbyrgi is their capital. According to local folklore, there are houses and concert halls hidden behind the peaks. When you visit Jökulsárgljúfur, don’t forget to look for these houses and people.

  • People believe that elves can be seen at midnight as they dance near Botnstjorn Pond. 

  • The Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon's exceptional natural beauty and historical importance have earned it UNESCO World Heritage status in 2004.
Rainbow above Jökulsárgljúfur river canyon

What to Do at Jökulsárgljúfur National Park?

Geological Landmarks

Holmatungur, an expanse of Jökulsárgljúfur full of lush vegetation, is popular with tourists as you can see translucent streams getting merged into a brown gush of water. If you want to see fascinating formations of columnar basalt rocks, mark Hljodaklettar on your to-do list. And if you are interested in a Marsian-like pseudocrater, check in at Raudholar for its distinct, iron-produced redness. Also known as the Red Mountain, it is a huge draw for its beautiful colors.


One of the most exciting things to do in Jökulsárgljúfur National Park is waterfall viewing.

Dettifoss – Oh! It is the mightiest of all. Being the largest waterfall in Europe, it receives the maximum number of tourists. The waterfall gets its waters from the Jokulsa River. It drops down 44 m (144 ft) at a rate of 200 cubic meters (7063 cubic feet) per second into Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. The cascading milky-gray waters spout a lot of mist that aids in creating lovely photos. Ideal for photography, Dettifoss gets plenty of tourists both in summer and winter.

During the winter months, the flow of water is less, but the sight looks stunning when everything gets covered with snow. This popular landmark of Iceland has been included in movies like Prometheus, where it is shown in the beginning.

Selfoss – A mile upstream from Dettifoss, Selfoss welcomes its visitors with its tumbling waters that drop 11 m (36 ft). Its width is 100 m (328 ft), and it is fed by the Jokulsa River. It is a beautiful waterfall with picturesque surroundings. You can walk close to Selfoss to have a better view, but there is a fear of getting wet. Moreover, the adjoining rocks are slippery, too.

Hafragilsfoss – This is the third of the famous trio, bringing fame to Jökulsárgljúfur. It lies downstream of Dettifoss and has a drop of 27 m (89 ft). Hafragilsfoss Waterfall has two separate falls as it flows down the canyon wall. The water is muddy here and thunderous, too. The waterfall and its surrounding cliffs make a perfect backdrop to take stunning photos. There is a parking lot that connects to the waterfall. You can reach it by taking Ring Road and turning onto Road 864, the gravel path. 


As we said earlier, hikers find Jökulsárgljúfur truly rewarding. The marked trails along the edge of the canyon cater to hikers of different abilities. Using the color-coded trails, you can easily determine which one you should try. 

The famous hiking routes belong to the main four areas within the park, which are Asbyrgi, Vesturdalur, Dettifoss, and Holmatungur. All these trails have abbreviations to help the visitors. Although it is not necessary to go hiking to enjoy the beauty of the park, to cover maximum sights, you can take any of the popular hikes.

The waterfall hike – As the name suggests, the trail covers the three waterfalls in a loop. It is 7 km (4.3 mi) in length. 

Klappir in Asbyrgi (A7) – The 9 km (5.6 mi) hike takes the hikers from the Visitor’s Center to the summit of the canyon. The highlight of the trail is viewing the potholes of Klappir, which were made by glacial floods. 

The trail from Asbyrgi to Selfoss is very popular. You can go farther to Lake Myvatn.

Asbyrgi to Dettifoss – If you are interested in multi-day treks, this one is for you. This two-day trek will take you across the canyon to reach Dettifoss. You can view forests, gorges, and springs on your way. In a nutshell, you will witness the best of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park Iceland in this trek. 

You can choose to visit Vesturdalur from Asbyrgi either by hiking along the rim of Asbyrgi and covering Klappir. This would be a 12 km (7.5 mi) hike. If you are ready for more, you can include the river in your trek. That would make the trail 13.6 km (8.5 mi).

Experienced hikers can try another route through lowlands with steep paths and loose rocks. This trek is from Vesturdalur to Holmatungur and crosses the river Stalla. You can reach Dettifoss through the Hafragil lowland or ravine path.

Rugged landscape of Jokulsargljufur river canyon

Asbyrgi Canyon

Venture into the horseshoe-shaped Asbyrgi Canyon, carved by ancient glacial floods. The cliffs reach up to 100m (328 ft). In places, the gorge is about 1 km wide (0.6 mi). Its base is around 3.5 km (2.2 mi) long. What makes Asbyrgi more photogenic is the outcrop of rock at the center, also known as Eyan. You can hike along the canyon rim and take pictures of it! 

Asbyrgi Visitor Center

The park’s visitor center is located at Asbyrgi. It exhibits artifacts from which you can learn about local wildlife and geology. Discover the stories of the people who have called this area home for centuries and gain a deeper appreciation for the canyon's unique heritage. 

You can buy souvenirs from the small shop located here. There is also a small eatery where visitors can get refreshed before they delve into the trails. 

Best Time To Visit Jökulsárgljúfur

You can visit Asbyrgi any time of the year, although some services may not be available during winter.

Summer is the best time to visit Jökulsárgljúfur. The sun doesn’t set in the last two weeks of June. This is a great time to explore Jökulsárgljúfur, but you may experience cold gusts and rain. So, take appropriate clothes.

Fall renders Iceland with a palette of colors that makes it more captivating. Visit Jökulsárgljúfur National Park Iceland during the fall to treat your eyes to a colorful vista.

Where to Stay Near Jökulsárgljúfur?

You can choose to stay near Asbyrgi on Road 85 in Kelduhverfi or in a nearby city, Husavik, which isn’t far from Jökulsárgljúfur.

  • Keldunes is a guesthouse with six double rooms and two small cottages.
  • Garður Guesthouse is located just outside the park and offers basic but comfortable rooms and a shared kitchen.
  • Ardalur Guesthouse is a small one on a farm. You can enjoy farm life here.
  • Fosshótel Húsavík is a modern hotel with a swimming pool, sauna, and restaurant.

Camping at Jökulsárgljúfur

Adventure lovers prefer to stay at the campgrounds of Asbyrgi and Dettifoss. There is another one near Vesturdalur. The grounds have basic facilities like electricity, toilets, and washing machines.

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