Stuðlagil Canyon – Hidden Gem in East Iceland


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Stuðlagil Canyon

The Basalt Column Canyon in East Iceland

Stuðlagil canyon is a very unique and extremely beautiful canyon located in East Iceland. The canyon is located in Jökuldalur (english: Glacier Valley). Jökuldalur is a beautiful valley that is off the beaten track for most travelers that come to Iceland. The valley mostly consists of sheep farms and is known for the glacial river that runs through it.

Stuðlagil Canyon is the perfect stop on your road trip around Iceland. If you want locals to help you plan the perfect itinerary you might want to check out our famous personalized road trip plans.

Have you ever been to Stuðlagil canyon or is it on your Iceland bucket list? It would be great to hear from you in the comments below.

The Most Beautiful Hidden Gem in Iceland

Not many people have visited this extremely beautiful canyon with the rare basalt column formation. This natural wonder is one of the most beautiful hidden places in Iceland. But there is a reason why not so many people have been there. The river Jökla runs through the canyon. The river is 150 kilometers long and was one of the largest and most powerful glacier rivers in Iceland. In fact, the river was so powerful that it was both dangerous and too difficult to cross.

When the hydroelectric plant at Kárahnjúkavirkjun was built and the vast reservoir Hálslón was created in the highlands, the river started running into the Hálslón reservoir. From there it flows through underground tunnels to drive the hydro electric turbines of the power plant. Because of this, the water level in the canyon is much lower than it was before and the force of the river has changed dramatically. Instead of being a powerful glacial river carrying sand, mud and dirt from Vatnajokull glacier, it has now became a clear and beautiful river with its blue colored water slowly flowing through the canyon.

At some points during the autumn, the river changes again to its older form when Hálslón is full and the water has to find it’s old way of flowing. This means that the river becomes a glacial river again, with it’s white and brown color. It is still nowhere near the amount of water as it was before but the view of the canyon changes a lot. This usually happens in late August or the beginning of September.

Stuðlagil canyon

Photo by David Garcia Barber, Instagram @davidgarciabarber

The Most Beautiful Basalt Columns Formation in Iceland

Although the beautiful basalt columns have always been there, underneath the powerful glacial river, it has just recently gotten to show it’s beauty. Now you can often find birds swimming on the peaceful river that was once a forceful and almost terrifying place few years ago.

The basalt columns in Stuðlagil are with no doubt one of the most beautiful basalt columns formation that you can find in Iceland. Stuðlagil canyon is even one of the most beautiful place that you can find in the whole country. And you have a lot of places to choose from. Now you can enjoy watching the calm river with the breathtaking basalt columns formation and take some stunning photos that you will want to share with everyone. If you want to take photos of the canyon we recommend to be in the canyon in the morning.

How to get to Stuðlagil Canyon?

Since Stuðlagil canyon has not been visited by many travelers, it can be hard to find it. There are not so many blog posts or maps that will guide you to it. However, it is pretty simple and straightforward to get to Stuðlagil canyon. You will have two options, one where you view the canyon from the west side and one that requires some hiking and will take you to the east side of the canyon. If you choose the hiking route, you will get a surprise on the way when you see Stuðlafoss waterfall. This is perfect because everyone can get something that they want. The hikers can get a hike before viewing the beautiful canyon, and those who prefer not to hike, can get there easily with only around 250 meters walk.

How to get to Stuðlagil Canyon – Route 1

If you arrive to Stuðlagil canyon on this route, you will get a view of the canyon from the west side. Turn south on the Ring Road by Skjöldólfsstaðir to road 923. Drive around 19 kilometers to the farm Grund. You will find a parking lot at the farm and a walking path that will lead you to the riverbank. The walk to is only around 250 meters and takes around five minutes. Here you will find a narrow hiking track to the bottom of the river.

When walking down to the river you need to be careful because you will be walking towards a high and steep slope that descends to the river. During the winter time, you need to be extra careful because the path can be slippery. The view from here is breathtaking.

If you take this road you need to follow the path and not go out of it.

How to get to Stuðlagil Canyon – Route 2

The second route requires some hiking, but who doesn’t love hiking in the beautiful Icelandic nature?
After you turn south on the Ring Road by Skjöldólfsstaðir to road 923, you drive around 14 kilometers to the farm Klaustursel. This is a little bit shorter drive than in the route above, where you will be driving to the farm Grund.

By the farm you will find a bridge that leads you over the river Jökla and to the other side, the east side. Park your car at the parking lot by the bridge. Note that driving over the bridge is not allowed. After you walk over the bridge you will find a hiking trail. The hike to Stuðlagil canyon is around 4 kilometers each way. On the way you will see the beautiful Stuðlafoss waterfall that has the same basalt column formation as in Stuðlagil canyon. You will see the waterfall when you have hiked around 2 kilometers of the route.

You can climb down to the river at one spot but you need to be extra careful because the stones and rocks can be wet and slippery. Once you are down by the river you will feel like you have entered a whole new world of basalt columns.

Here you can find a map of the route from Egilsstaðir to Stuðlagil Canyon.
Here you can find a map of the route from Myvatn to Stuðlagil Canyon. 

Things to do close to Stuðlagil Canyon

Stuðlagil Canyon is the perfect stop on your road trip around Iceland. If you want locals to help you plan the perfect itinerary you might want to check out our famous personalized road trip plans.

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