Ásbyrgi - the Shelter of the Gods is located in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon way up in North-Iceland. It is one of the most magical places in Iceland, and definitely my most favourite place here in my country. It is like out of this world and when it opens up and I can see it from the road I feel like a kid, I am so excited about seeing it again.
I usually camp here for a couple of nights in the summertime and you will notice by my hair-colour that my photos are from my many, many trips to Ásbyrgi through the years ;)
Ásbyrgi belongs to the former Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, which is now the northernmost part of Vatnajökull National Park. It is 3.5 km in length and 1.1 km across with up to 100 meters high walls! According to Norse mythology the god Óðinn was once riding his 8-legged horse, Sleipnir, and it put one of its hoofs down and created Ásbyrgi, which is in the shape of a very big horseshoe.
The geological explanation varies to a great extent from what the Vikings believed, but I will stick to this explanation :)
By the way, Ásbyrgi is considered to be the capital city of the Elves of Iceland and psychic people have seen many homes, public buildings, and concert halls belonging to the elves in the cliffs. There are many stories in our folklore about human encounters with the elves, so you never know what might happen when you visit Ásbyrgi!
Ásbyrgi is divided in the middle by a 250 meters wide cliff, which is called the Island or "Eyjan" in Icelandic. From the camping site, a hiking trail leads to the top of the Island and all the way to the end where you can have a fantastic view of Ásbyrgi. To get an idea of how big this rock is, then if you look closely you can see in the photo how small I am waving my hands beneath the rock :)
The hike starts by a sign which reads "Eyjan". The first part of the hike you have to climb up onto the top of the rock, just a small climb. When you are on top the hike is easy, as you go gradually higher up and don't feel it.
The hike is all in all 5 km back and forth. In some places one has to follow narrow trails, we call them "kindastígar", or sheep trails. You will find these trails all over Iceland, made by sheep which walk in a row.
This is such a lovely hike as the view from here is breathtaking, to say the least. Well, I am so much in love with Àsbyrgi, that I find everything beautiful here.
To me, a whole magical world opens up when I look down into Àsbyrgi from the Island. I did this hike some years ago and only took photos on a small camera, so they are not good, but I hope to do this hike again soon.
You will find several hiking trails in Ásbyrgi, one leading to the beautiful Botnstjörn pond. It is called Skógarstígur trail and is 3.6 km long one way, but a very lovely easy hike by the cliff face, where you can see various formations, some of which look like faces. The hike also takes you through a small forest. It is indeed a very lovely hike.
It starts opposite the road from the campsite and takes you by the cliffs on the eastern side of Àsbyrgi.
The view from the rim of Ásbyrgi
It is also possible to climb up the cliffs and walk on the edge. There is a path up the cliffs with chains to make it easier to ascend or you can start from the Information centre and cross the golf course.
I did that 4-hour-hike in the summer of 2020 and started from the Information centre. I will show you this fun and beautiful hike a little later but add one photo here above.
Botnstjörn pond and the surrounding cliffs are in my eyes out of this world and I could stay there for hours, which I have done many times. If you want to drive there then you drive to the inner parking lot and the easy walk to and from the pond is 0.8 km.
This beautiful pond is what is left of a big waterfall, which once fell from the cliffs and it is extremely peaceful there.
It is very well marked and the first sign says: "Útsýnisstaður - Botnstjörn" - "útsýnisstaður" is the Icelandic word for view-spot. You walk down a few steps to get to the pond and then up to the view-spot which gives you an excellent view of the pond and Ásbyrgi.
You can even go up more steps and to a higher point, but that is riskier - but the view from there is breathtaking.
Here is another video I shot from that view-spot in the summer of 2017:
More and more people have discovered this beautiful, serene place and I am not alone here anymore like I used to be 10 years ago, but I still enjoy it immensely.
I love the presence of the fulmar here, but not everybody shares my opinion and some people even want to shoot them down and drive them away. One year the fulmar didn't nest in Ásbyrgi as they lacked food when the Ammodytidae (sandsíli), or at least I think that is what they are called, didn't show up.
I missed them a lot that year, as their squeaking adds to the magic of Ásbyrgi and Botnstjörn pond.
On the pond, there are some types of ducks, the most common being the wigeon. Let's not feed it as Ásbyrgi is a national park and the ducks need to be able to survive in nature by itself. I can understand people wanting to feed them though as then you can see them up close.
While visiting the pond I have seen quite a few people feed the ducks, as when tour-guides lead groups to the pond sometimes they have their lunch here sitting on the benches by the pond.
I know people want to try out the echo here, but to me, this is kind of a holy place and I prefer the sound of nature echoing in the cliffs - I get the same feeling as when inside a church, so man-made sounds bother me here.
That is why I choose to camp in Ásbyrgi during the bright summer nights. Then I walk to the pond in the middle of the night from the campsite and to the pond and stay there alone, surrounded only by the sounds of nature. It is heaven on earth, my absolute favourite place here in Iceland - too bad that it is so far away from Reykjavík, where I live.
As I mentioned earlier then Ásbyrgi is believed to be the capital city of the elves.
A folktale tells us a story that took place at Botnstjörn pond - the Hidden People and a Beast. You can read up on the folktale by Botnstjörn on the information sign by the parking lot:
Do greet the elves and let's be respectful and refrain from making loud noises in their city. If we respect the dwellings of the elves and thank them for allowing us to pay them a visit they will respect us in return - but woe to those who show disrespect and make a racket!
On the way back to the parking lot and closing the ring from the upper view platform by the pond, take a left turn and walk some 50 m. This path takes you to a small man-made platform, which is called "Danspallurinn" or the Dance Platform.
Danspallurinn was made in 1950 and used for dancing by the youth during the Ásbyrgi festivals. It is kind of hidden from view, but it is off the parking lot, on the west side of the parking lot. It is not more than a molten floor, but there can be a lot of fun here during concerts.
At the Visitor Centre at Ásbyrgi, Gljúfrastofa, you can get detailed information from the park ranger on Ásbyrgi and the National park, the wildlife, vegetation, and landscape, including maps on hiking trails and camping in Ásbyrgi. It is only open during the summertime from June-September.
At the Visitor Centre, one can see Falcon puke and Ptarmigan poo on display, amongst other things ;) You will also find a shop and a fast-food restaurant by the road, which has got a surprisingly varied selection of food - and good cheap coffee.
You can rent a car in Reykjavík and plan your trip around Iceland yourself. I would recommend staying at the camping site for the night.
Ásbyrgi is located by roads 85 and 861 in North-Iceland and here you can see the exact location of Ásbyrgi on the map
I have written several travel-blogs about Jökulsárgljúfur and the surrounding area if you want to see what else there is to do in this part of Iceland:
Have a lovely time at Ásbyrgi, my favourite spot in Iceland :)