I think Stuðlagil Canyon is one of the most picturesque places in Iceland and one of the most famous places to see the basalt columns in Iceland! Did you know that this spot is the place with the most amount of basalt columns in Iceland?
I think everyone wishes to get that photo next to the river surrounded by the huge basalt column walls, so let’s find out how to get there!
Where is the Stuðlagil Canyon?
Stuðlagil Canyon is located in the far East of Iceland – 700 kilometers from Reykjavik if you drive along the South coast, but 600 kilometers if you drive around the North coast. It sits in the upper part of Jökuldalur Valley.
Not long ago this area was not really accessible as the glacial river Jökla completely submerged the columns. However, a hydroelectric plant was built and the water level dropped revealing a truly incredible view – huge basalt column walls.
Important note! You can access the canyon from both banks of the river however you can get down to the water level only from the East side of the canyon.
The West side has a viewing platform above the cliff, but you can’t get down and get those incredible pictures at the feet of the basalt column walls you have seen all over the internet. Psst! It is a long journey around to the other side, so choose carefully!
How to get to the Stuðlagil Canyon?
First, I am going to assume that you wish to see the canyon up close and get down to the river level. That is the only way to get the pictures next to the river with basalt column walls surrounding you. That means – you have to get to the East side of the canyon.
Step 1. You can get to the Sudlagil canyon by driving road number 1 (the Ring Road) and then turning off of it to road number 923. Here is the location you have to turn from Road 923 to a gravel road (it is called Jökuldalsvegur).
The road goes along the river Jökulsá á Brú up until the Hvíta New York brúin bridge. It is a 13-kilometer drive on a gravel road so it will take some time to get there.
Step 2. There is a parking lot at the bridge for those who are ready to hike all 4 kilometers to the canyon on foot.
If the weather is bad and you don’t want to risk getting stuck, then leave your car here, cross the bridge, turn right and follow the road along the river to the canyon (it is a 4-kilometer walk).
If the weather is ok and you see other cars crossing the bridge, then do it! It is allowed to drive across the bridge!
Step 3. After you cross the bridge, you have to turn right and follow a bumpy dirt road along the river. It can be very bumpy at times, however, if you have a decent car that is not too low then you should be fine and go till the end – the parking lot is 2 kilometers from the bridge. It is very spacious with a lot of places for cars.
Step 4. After you park your car at the parking lot you have to continue on foot. It will be another 2 kilometers to the canyon. At first, you will see a sign indicating there is private property. Don’t worry about that, because it is allowed to use the road to access the canyon.
Some 200 meters from the parking lot will be a beautiful waterfall with basalt columns. Definitely check it out before you continue (or on your way back to the car!)!
Step 5. The road to the canyon goes through grass fields before it goes closer to the banks of the river. At one point you will start to notice basalt columns. This means you are very close to the right spot! You will also notice a viewing platform on the other side of the canyon.
That is the best view you can get if you go to the other side of the canyon, but you can’t get down to the river and explore it up close!
Go further until you see a place where you can actually walk down to the river – the river flows between two basalt column walls and it looks incredibly otherwordly! Make sure to get down to the river to see everything up close! It is quite a sight! Click to see the best photo location!
What to expect there?
Stuðlagil Canyon is quite a remote place. There are no services provided at the canyon, so you have to provide everything for yourself. Visiting this canyon will take more time than you may think. Roads are slow and walking distances are significant.
You will also want to spend some time exploring the canyon and taking pictures. This area doesn’t have the fastest network coverage, so preload and prepare everything before going there!
What color is the water at Stuðlagil Canyon?
You may have seen pictures online of this beautiful canyon with an even more beautiful turquoise/cyan/teal-colored river between the basalt column walls (I saw them too!).
The reality is that the color of the water actually differs from season to season and really depends on the weather situation.
Yes, the river can be blue, but it can also be green, grey, or even brown. We visited the canyon in late May and the water had this rather dark green color. Besides, the day was cloudy and it made the look moodier.
Turns out that around late spring and early summer (May-July) the water is mostly in blueish and greenish colors, however, towards fall (August-September) it will most likely be greyish or brown. Despite the color of the water, the canyon is beautiful and really worth a visit!
Stuðlagil Canyon is a hidden gem in Iceland. It is quite remote however it has gained popularity over the past years. Lots of people go there despite the hassle of getting to this spot. If you hope to get this place all to yourself then definitely go there in the morning – it does get crowded during the day!
The canyon will look great in any weather however it might not be the most pleasant activity to do on a very rainy day. There is no escape from the weather and you will be outside for a long time.
In my opinion, Iceland is THAT country everyone should visit once in their lives! It is full of magical and unbelievable nature spots and places you won’t really see anywhere else on Planet Earth! If you can, please, leave a comment below if there are any significant changes to anything that is written in this blog post! Many thanks!