A gigantic, anomalous canyon, Ásbyrgi stands guard next to the northern entrance to Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. Approximately 3,5km long and 1,1km wide, the canyon is divided through the middle by a distinctive rock formation for more than half of its length. The 25 meters high rock is called Eyjan, the “Island”, and contributes giving the canyon its peculiar horseshoe shape.
So what happened here? It seems Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged gigantic horse, while the Norse god par excellence was riding him around the world, put down one of its legs in this place, stamping here and leaving its hoofprint. Since then the huldufólk, the legendary hidden people, made of Ásbyrgi their capital city. And they still thrive there, in the cracks of the cliffs.
If, instead, you’re willing for a more scientific explanation, you should know Ásbyrgi was most likely formed by a catastrophic glacial flooding of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river caused by an eruption of the Grímsvötn, a volcano underneath Vatnajökull glacier, source of the river which maintained its flow through Ásbyrgi for 100 years before moving to the current position.
Talking about huldufólk, we know trying to spot them is a game lost from the outset. They are called “hidden people” and there is a good reason for that name. So if you’re tired of wandering around the cliffs checking out every single crack, you might find a few more activities to enjoy this unique area. Birds lovers will find proper entertainment cause of Ravens, Ptarmigans and Gyrfalcons and, for those interested in trekking, there can be found several kilometers of short paths twisting and turning all around the canyon. The most spectacular view over it is from the top of Eyjan but each trail would show you something that will amaze you.
How to get to Ásbyrgi Canyon?
If you’re coming from Húsavík follow road n.85, first direction North-East and then South-East, for 65km.
If you’re coming from Dettifoss West side, follow rough road n.862 direction North for 39km, and make sure you make a proper stop in Hljóðaklettar and Vesturdalur.
If you’re coming from Dettifoss East side, follow road n.864 direction North for 31km.