Asbyrgi Canyon is one of the really magnificent geological wonders you can find in northeast Iceland. This tranquil horseshoe-canyon, which stretches 3.5 kilometers and measures 1.1 km across; will not only enchant with its ethereal physical features; but it will also captivate your imagination due to the myths and legends that surround its existence.
The canyon is split in half by a gigantic cliff, where adventurous visitors can climb to get amazing views of the landscape. This distinct rock formation is known as Eyjan, which means island. Below the cliff, the canyon is adorned with woodland, composed of trees like willow, birch and mountain ash.
According to a legend, which locals still strongly believe, Ásbyrgi came to be when Sleipnir, Odin’s horse, touched one of its eight hooves on the ground. Other myths points to the canyon as the ‘capital’ or main dwelling of the huldufolk or hidden people. These magical creatures who look like people are believed to stay within the cliffs. Whether you believe the myths or not, there is no doubt that Ásbyrgi Canyon is truly a spectacular site worth exploring. And the best way to do it, is to go for a hiking adventure that takes you through the different fascinating sections of the landscape.
One of the hiking paths in the canyon leads you to a body of water called Botnstjörn pond. This relatively easy trail starts from the innermost car park in Ásbyrgi, and takes you to a group of stone steps that descend to a platform next to the pond. From the platform, you can follow another set of stone steps that brings you to a small hill.
From the hill, you will get lovely panoramas of Ásbyrgi. If you welcome an even longer yet still easy hiking path, then set out for the Eyjan Hill trail, which covers a total distance of 4.5 kilometers (back and forth). This particular trail begins at the parking lot of the campsite. After conquering the Eyjan Hill, you may consider venturing through the woods of Ásbyrgi. This trail starts at the Visitor Center, and is much longer, making you walk around 4 kilometers one way. Aside from conquering this path on foot, you also have the option to cycle the route.
It is possible to stay overnight at Asbyrgi’s campsite. The canyon is also equipped with golf course for those who would like to play a few rounds amidst an amazing geological backdrop! Asbyrgi Canyon’s Visitor Center also offers an exhibition that showcases the nature and history of the canyon, but don’t expect to see an ultra-modern office. The center is actually a renovated old barn!
During summer, park rangers offer a variety of guided tours and activities for visitors. If hiking the trails around the canyon is not your cup of tea, another faster alternative of exploring the area it is to take a local driving tour. Asbyrgi is located within the grounds of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park in the northern part of the country. The city of Husavik is the main gateway to the canyon. It is easy to rent a car here and drive 45 minutes to the canyon.