This grand canyon is one of Iceland's most remarkable natural features.
When you think about how the immense Ásbyrgi canyon was probably made, it surely ranks among Iceland’s most remarkable natural features. But if you don’t think about how it was made and just take it on face value, then it cannot be described as ‘breath-taking’ like many other Icelandic attractions – it is just an extremely pleasant place to be.
The original explanation for Ásbyrgi’s existence is that Sleipnir put a hoof down there and left a giant footprint (Sleipnir was the god Óðinn’s giant eight legged horse). However, at about three-by-one kilometres in size, that would be a pretty big foot. So we’re going to assume that’s quite unlikely.
The more modern explanation is that a catastrophic glacial flood in the Jökulsá Fjöllum river started washing away rocks and soil and stuff some 8-10,000 years ago and that another similarly epic flooding event completed the job 3,000 years ago. When you go there and consider that this 3 x 1 km canyon surrounded by hundred metre tall cliffs could have been carved by nothing more than water, during just two floods. Well, that’s what we mean by it being one of Iceland’s most remarkable features.
The Jökulsá Fjöllum river fancied a change of scenery and therefore now flows a couple of kilometres away to the east.
Remarkable feature or not, what you find in Ásbyrgi now is a lushly vegetated canyon of trees, grasses, herbs and flowers, a small lake and a raised ‘island’ in the middle commanding great views across the land. Being largely enclosed by cliffs makes Ásbyrgi a sun and heat trap and shelters it from the wind. That is just one of the reasons why its campsite is really popular and its hiking trails are leisure seekers’ highways all summer long.
Ásbyrgi is on Route 85, east of Húsavík in Northeast Iceland, just before the junction with Route 864. When you travel to North Iceland make sure you don't miss the region's capital Akureyri, which is a great base for exploring the countless natural wonders of the north. And of course, you'll find cheap flights to Iceland with WOW air.