The latest attraction in East-Iceland is the magnificent Stuðlagil canyon - the Column Basalt Canyon, with spectacular column basalt formations through which a powdery blue river runs.
When driving around the ring-road in 2020 I visited Stuðlagil from the Grund side of the river, where you can have a look at the canyon from above. It can also be visited from the other side of the river, where a 5 km hike will take you down into the canyon itself.
Stuðlagil is really amazing and is considered to have one of the largest selections of basalt columns in Iceland. But these basalt columns were not always visible, as they were submerged when the massive glacial river Jökulsá á Dal, also called Jökulsá á Brú and Jökla, came running through the valley with great force, carrying tonnes of sediment.
When Kárahnjúkavirkjun hydropower dam closed off the flow of the glacial river into the Jökuldalur valley and diverted it into tunnels to Fljótsdalur station, these amazing basalt columns became visible.
Now the low flow of the river has got the most beautiful powdery blue and aquamarine colour, which perfectly complements the spectacular basalt columns.
And nowadays it is even possible to walk inside the canyon and on top of the basalt column island which was once in the middle of a roaring glacial river, which separated the farms in the Jökuldalur valley.
The people in my photo above visited Stuðlagil canyon from the other side of the river, but a 5 km hike leads to that more scenic part of Stuðlagil, i.e. from where the most popular photos of Stuðlagil are taken.
We, on the other hand, didn't have time for a 10 km hike during this trip, so we visited Stuðlagil from the other side of the river, from the farm Grund. The farm used to be a sheep farm, but now grows trees.
From the Grund side of the river Jökulsá á Dal, the access into the canyon is via a steep path above the canyon. A parking lot with information signs and an observation platform further down into the canyon was being erected during my visit, and some machinery was in one spot of the canyon.
The new stairs leading into Stuðlagil canyon
On that spot, an observation platform will be erected. Now, in August I visited Stuðlagil again and stairs had been added which lead straight to the observation platform.
This made the descent a whole lot easier. I used the stairs to see what the view from the observation platform is like. It is good enough, but some trees block a part of the canyon.
You can still visit the canyon via the steep path, but the stairs are safer. Just remember to sanitize your hands after touching the stairs as a lot of people are visiting Stuðlagil canyon now.
The descent via the steep gravel path into Stuðlagil is nothing major, and I found it more difficult ascending than descending.
It helped a lot holding onto the rope which had been put up to mark the path, but due to heavy traffic (as everybody wants to see this canyon now), the sticks holding up the rope had collapsed in several places.
Once down as far inside Stuðlagil as is possible on this side of the river, I was amazed at the multitude and beauty of the basalt columns. They take on all kinds of forms in the canyon and are both vertical and horizontal.
Here you will see grey, brown, bluish, and russet-coloured basalt columns.
The most popular photo is by the russet-coloured basalt columns on the other side of the canyon, which you can see in my first and second photos. But I was quite happy with the view I had from my side of the canyon.
The information sign by the parking lot of Grund farm
Be careful while taking photos and the signs warn us that the fall into the canyon is deadly and that we are here at our own risk.
When we ascended the sun started shining, so this is what Stuðlagil looks like from above from the steep path. My husband took this photo below. I was not about to turn around while climbing uphill to take a photo with my heavy camera. Not with my shaky balance ;) And I must confess that I was a bit out of breath on the way up the steep hill again.
I would not have wanted to miss visiting Stuðlagil, even though I was struggling a bit during my visit. It is an absolutely breathtaking canyon. And I for one love basalt columns and seek out places with prominent basalt columns.
Note that by the farm and inside the canyon heiðagæs - the pink-footed geese breed, so from May 1st until June 10th, visitors are asked not to disturb the breeding grounds, and always to stay on the paths.
Stuðlafoss waterfall on the other side of Stuðlagil canyon
To visit Stuðlagil from the other side of the river, which I plan to do one day, you leave your car on a parking lot by Skjöldólfsstaðir farm. You cross a bridge and walk for some 5 km to reach Stuðlagil. From what I could see when looking over to the other side then the path is mostly even.
Some 2 km along the way you will see Stuðlafoss waterfall - The Basalt Columns Falls, which from afar at least looked amazing. I zoomed in on it from the road on the other side of the canyon, hence the quality of the photo. I will get a better photo when I manage to visit Stuðlagil from the other side of the river.
The information sign pointing towards Grund farm and the parking lot
There are many other beautiful stops in the East-Fjords, many of which I have written travel-blogs about. f.ex:
Have a lovely time and stay safe at Stuðlagil canyon :)