Anyone visiting a new country wants to see the most popular attractions and highlights the country is famous for. After all, they’re famous for a reason, right? Additionally, travelers also want to get off the beaten path and discover some hidden gems that are not as well-known among tourists. One of these special destinations in Iceland is Stuðlagil canyon, a newly discovered geological wonder in East Iceland. Come learn more about the basalt column canyon, stunning, glacial river, and Stuðlafoss waterfall, a basalt column waterfall to rival Svartifoss.

Stuðlagil canyon in Iceland has basalt columns

An Unexpected Discovery in Jökuldalur Valley

Stuðlagil is a beautiful basalt canyon in Jökuldalur valley with a turquoise river flowing through it. Jökuldalur (Glacier Valley) is a picturesque valley in East Iceland. It’s known for its powerful glacial river which runs from the Highlands to the bottom of the valley. It has three names (Jökulsá á Brú, Jökulsá á Dal, and Jökla). Jökulsá á Brú (The Glacier River by the Bridge) is the part of the river where you find Stuðlagil canyon. It’s sometimes anglicized as Studlagil canyon.

The natural wonder stayed hidden for many years and those who first discovered it must have been astounded. As the valley opens up on the Stuðlagil canyon hike, the views you encounter are beyond breathtaking. You’ll be hypnotized and feel as if you’re entering a secret and sacred territory. You feel dwarfed as you’re surrounded by soaring basalt columns on both the east side and west side of the canyon. This impenetrable fortress of hexagonal rock formations will surely be unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Why Stuðlagil Was Hidden For So Long

The 150 km (93 mile) Jökla river cuts through the northern Highlands of Iceland and eventually lets out into the North Atlantic. This powerful glacial river gets its icy water flows from the massive Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest glacier. For hundreds of years, it was one of Iceland’s mightiest rivers, which made it too dangerous to cross. 

The valley that it created, Jökuldalur, didn’t have any way for people to cross. Getting from one side to another was too difficult because of the flowing river. The canyon was also covered by parts of the river. 

Eventually, the river lost strength, the water level lowered, and people begin to explore the valley more. The Kárahnjúkavirkjun hydroelectric plant was even built in this area. One of the natural treasures they stumbled across was this exquisite basalt column canyon. 

Stuðlagil canyon is a beautiful basalt canyon in Iceland

Stuðlafoss Waterfall

You get a two-for-one treat if you decide to visit the hexagonal rock formations in this formerly hidden valley. In addition to the impressive canyon, there’s also a basalt column waterfall to discover. Stuðlafoss waterfall has basalt rock formations similar to ones in other parts of the valley. Along with Svartifoss waterfall, it’s one of the few basalt waterfalls in Iceland.

Stuðlagil Canyon Iceland: How to Arrive

It’s quite easy to either hire a guide or do a Stuðlagil canyon tour on your own. It’s located in the upper part of the river valley close to the Ring Road. From the East Iceland town of Egilsstaðir, head towards Akureyri on Route 1 until you reach the turnoff for Road 923. It’s close to Skjödólfsstaðir farm. 

You’ll go left on this road to turn south, and then after a couple of kilometers, keep going straight onto Jökuldalsvegur. This is a gravel road, so be prepared for that if you’re not driving the right kind of vehicle. 

After 14 km (8.6 miles) or so, on your left-hand side, there will be a sign for a farm by the name of Klaustursel. There’s a parking lot where you can leave your car and head for the white bridge up ahead. The trailhead starts to the right of the bridge. Please be sure to park your car on the north side of the bridge. These are not only the wishes of the landowners, but you can’t drive over the bridge anyway.

It’s about an 8 km (5-mile) hike to and from the canyon round trip. The dramatic waterfall makes its appearance around the 2 km (1.2 mile) mark. The hike is most definitely worth it but you might have to figure it out on your own as there are no well-worn paths here yet. Be very careful as the rocks can be quite slippery.

Stuðlagil canyon is basalt column canyon in Iceland

You can make your way back the way you came or find an alternate path to get back to the farmhouse.

Stuðlagil Canyon: The Newly Discovered Icelandic Gem

It’s definitely worth the time and effort to pay a visit to Stuðlagil canyon Iceland. Word will soon get out about the magnificent scenery and unparalleled beauty of this recently discovered geological treasure. Get here before everyone else does so you can experience its beauty, wonder, and majesty in their purest form. Stuðlagil and Stuðlafoss are waiting for you. Come visit where few have tread before and discover something new.

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