Rauðfeldsgjá Canyon is a natural formation on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The Canyon unfolds old Icelandic sagas and folklore as well as being one of the most beautiful hidden location in Iceland. With a dramatic tale and family tragedy attached to its name, it is a deep ravine situated on the eastern side of the Botnsfjall mountain, amidst the glorious cliffs near the hamlet of Arnarstapi. As the secretive gorge showcased its beauty to tourists and travelers, it gradually received media coverage and has now become a must-see for the adventurous hearts exploring Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland. Translating to ‘Red-Cloak Rift’, the Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge is a colossal crevasse in the façade of the mountain that simply cannot be missed.
The Saga That Named the Canyon
Inspired by the saga of Bárður Snæfellsás, the Rauðfeldasgjá Gorge gets its name from the events believed to have taken place at the end of the 9th century. Said to be half-troll and half man, Bárður Snæfellsás lived in Laugabrekka with his daughters. His brother lived in Arnarstapi nearby with two sons. The cousins often enjoyed playing by the shore and it is believed that once while playing, one of the two boys, Rauðfeldur pushed Bárður’s elder daughter onto an iceberg. She is said to have floated across to Greenland, leaving behind an aggravated father. Though the girl remained unharmed and survived, Bárður’s furiously pushed Rauðfeldur into the canyon and his brother, Sölvi, off the nearby cliff.
This popular Icelandic tale leads to the canyon being named Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge and the cliff, Sölvahamar Cliff. It is said that Bárður himself went into Snæfellsjökull glacier and was never been heard of or seen again. Locals believe he is still watching over the area till day from the glacier.
Stepping into The Majestic View
Once you have side-stepped into the heart of the Rauðfeldsgjá Canyon, space widens a few meters. The breathtaking grotto seems to be reaching the sky, laden with bright green moss. The cracks and slit let in a window of sunlight which falls on the walls and floor in canopies. There is a small strip of land allowing visitors to stand on with a small river flowing by majestically. This tranquil and unique scene is the final view for maximum sightseers, but for the adventurers, this is where it all begins. It is possible to further clamber into the narrow crack shadowing the flow of the water. This will lead to a rope to help you pull yourself up a trifling waterfall, taking you further into the ravine. Breathing in the calmness of the running water and surrounded by the peaceful scene of the cliffs, you will now be standing amidst the high air.
Trailing through the ravine, across the uneven rocks and stone, you will find birds taking sanctuary and along the path. They will perch up on the edges, chirping to add a blissful vibe to your paradise experience. The view facing away from the canyon and into the sky is the true highlight of the attraction. It paints an even alluring scene during sunrise and sunset for anyone to enjoy.
The Rauðfeldsgjá gorge has gained popularity in just a few years and has become a must-visit spot for every Iceland vacation.
How to Get to Rauðfeldsgjá Canyon and What to Expect
The Rauðfeldsgjá gorge is located on the south side of Snæfellsnes peninsula, directly off-road 574. Taking 574 toward Hellnar from the main road (54), it can easily be spotted and is easy to reach. From the car park, a climb of 125 meters along a marked trail will bring you to the narrow entrance of the canyon. It is advised to wear waterproof footwear and clothing for protection against the slippery and wet path and from the continuous dripping overhead. The difficulty of the climb depends on the weather. The wind and physical conditions heavily impact the trek as the paths are rather steep and slippery, with headwinds to look out for.