Asbyrgi (Ásbyrgi) Canyon

Asbyrgi (Ásbyrgi) Canyon

Asbyrgi is a horseshoe-shaped canyon about 3.5 km long and more than 1 km wide with 100m high sheer walls. 

The place is something of an enigma and it's not hard to see why because it is both hugely atmospheric and magical. 

It is generally accepted that the gorge was formed several thousand years ago in two catastrophic floods, caused by glacial bursts from the northern part of Vatnajokull.

Yet its cliffs are so regular one might be tempted to think subsidence and tectonic movements played a part. But there again, the legend says that Sleipnir, the Norse god Odin's eight-legged horse, put one of his hooves down here, leaving a giant hoof-print. Take your pick! 

At the head of the canyon, a flat trail to a small pond, Botnstjorn, which is the remains of the deep plunge pool of a waterfall that used to fall over the cliff face. Today, the river course lies east of here.

In this idyllic, sheltered spot, birch, willow, and mountain ash trees reach heights rare elsewhere on the island. Watch tame ducks (mostly wigeon) and their ducklings cruise the serene pond. Overhead, fulmars soar above around their nesting grounds on the cliffs.

Many other bird species can be seen in the woods and meadows. After taking the short walk from the car park to the pond, you can continue to a viewpoint over this magical spot.

From the center of Asbyrgi, a 250m wide rock formation rises up, known as Eyjan ‘the Island’ and a trail leads to this viewpoint from the campground.

If you’re after a long walk, a hiking path follows the east rim of the canyon to its head, starting from the fuel station on the main road. Allow around 1.5 hours each way.