Markafljótsgljúfur Canyon

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Basic Information

  • GPS: 63.76801, -19.39732
  • Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon is located in the Icelandic Highlands. 
  • 200 meter deep canyon. 
  • Off the beaten path – less crowded place.
  • The canyon was formed due to the historic eruption of Volcano Katla.
  • Can be visited when hiking the Laugavegur route. 
  • A 4×4 car is required to go to Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon. 
  • Hiking trails that lead to Markafljótsgljúfur canyon are easy.

Markafljótsgljúfur canyon, located in Iceland’s Southern highlands, is a technicolor canyon. It is deep, delving down 200 m (656 feet). Due to its location in the Icelandic Highlands, it is less crowded and hence visitors experience tranquility here. However, the canyon’s most accessible area stretches for 4 Km. While hiking through the popular route Laugavegur, you can visit Markafljótsgljúfur on the way. Furthermore, the canyon was formed due to the historic eruption of Volcano, Katla. The eruption took place approximately 2000 years ago forming this deep gorge. Katla Volcano is itself buried under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier; thus, the eruption resulted in great floodwaters spilling into the surrounding areas. Hence, even today, the glacier river can be seen flowing through the canyon.

The best time to visit the canyon is during the daytime. Also, the view from the 1493 m high peak is spectacular. Whether you are hiking from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk valley or vice versa, the Markafljótsgljúfur can be seen on the way. This canyon further takes its names from the towering, moss-covered rock walls that shelter it from the elements. The luminous green flora makes it look like a natural oasis in a volcanic landscape. 

Markafljótsgljúfur canyon in Iceland

Getting There

The hiking trails on the way to Markafljótsgljúfur canyon are easy and puts on display the beauty of nature. However, the non-hikers can reach it by driving the Syðri Fjallabak, entering the highland road at Emstruleið F261 and following it till Fljótshlíð. The Emstruleið F261 is a challenging mountainous road and hence a 4WD (Four-Wheel Drive) is required. The vehicle with a driver-selectable system that mechanically engages the drive to all four wheels is what shall be ideal for this kind of route.

Tindfjöll mountain range has many peaks and stands 1251 m high. From this mountain range the views are over Markafljótsgljúfur Canyon, Fjallabak, Mýrdalsjökull, Eyjafjallajökull and Þórsmörk.

Markafljótsgljúfur canyon in Iceland

What is the best time to hike the Markafljótsgljúfur Canyon?

Summers are when a lot of local people or tourists prefer to go on a hike to this canyon in the Southern Highlands of Iceland. The winds during the summers in Iceland are comparatively less chilly. It can get sunny and pleasant in the summer months. On a warm summer day, the temperature reaches around 20-25 Celsius (68-77 Fahrenheit). However, on an average day, it is usually closer to 10-15 Celsius (50-59 Fahrenheit). It can still rain in Iceland during summers, so be ready to experience the temperature variations.

How to Prepare for Hiking in Iceland?

Wearing the right clothes is very important while hiking especially when you are hiking in Iceland as the weather is unpredictable. Hence, a checklist for what all must be carried along for the hike to the Markafljótsgljúfur canyon is a must. So, the list of basics for the hike is as follows:

  • Thermals (top and bottom)
  • Two sets of Shirts
  • Hiking Pants
  • Waterproof Jacket and Pants
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Water Bottle

This tiny list of basics shall help you in packing for hiking in basically all the spots in Iceland during summers. You can find more detailed packing lists here. 

Markafljótsgljúfur canyon in Iceland

Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon on a map

Interesting locations in the area

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Skátalaug Hot Spring

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