Gjáin in Þjórsárdalur valley

There is a breathtaking place in Þjórsárdalur valleyGjáin, which is one of Iceland's pearls of nature. It is one of the places in Iceland which is very dear to me and I would like to visit every summer and find it unspoilt.  Therefore I was so sad when I read in the news recently that so many guests are visiting this beautiful area that it is becoming down-trodden :( 

I am going to tell you a little bit about Gjáin as I am writing about my own travels in my country here on Guide to Iceland.  My writings are purely my hobby and my way of learning more about Iceland - and to show others how beautiful Iceland is. So I am asking those of you who read my blog - let's join hands in treating the delicate nature of Iceland with the respect it deserves.

Gjáin waterfall and pool

Rauðá river (Red River) runs through here. There is a lovely waterfall in the river. It is small, but ever so beautifully framed by the surroundings. It is called Gjárfoss falls and cascades into the gorge of Gjáin.

There is a short easy hike from the Viking settlement manor at Stöng to Gjáin and all of a sudden this beautiful fairyland opens up with waterfalls, columnar basalt and such lush vegetation. Here one can find angelica in abundance.

A lot of people living in Iceland believe in elves and nature spirits. I am one of them. I sometimes sense the waterfall dwellers/spirits and I sensed the waterfall dweller/spirit very strongly at Gjárfoss and had a conversation with him.

My husband took my photo in front of the waterfall, not knowing that I was engaged in deep conversation, and the outcome was beautiful as you can see from my photo by the waterfall :)

Basalt cliffs near Gjáin

As you can see from my photos then they are taken on several of my visits to Gjáin, so some of them are sunny, while others are not. I love sunny photos from Gjáin!

This is a lava area and the lava can take on such beautiful form. There are several lava caves in Gjáin and all over there is columnar basalt and volcanic tuff. 

Here we are located right by the central highlands of Iceland and one does not expect the landscape to be so breathtaking and lush here.

Rauðá river and waterfall

The main river in Þjórsárdalur valley is the longest one in Iceland, the glacial river Þjórsá.  Þjórsá ran through this area before it was redirected by a levee between Mt Sandafell and Mt Skeljafell. 

There are 2 waterfalls which cascade from Rauðá river into the gorge - Gjárfoss and another smaller one, which you can see on the photo above. I don't know its name, but it it is possible to walk right up to it from the south side of Gjáin.

Rauðá river in the Highlands

There are 2 ways of hiking to Gjáin. One of them is from the settlement manor Stöng, which takes you to the northern part of Gjáin and the beautiful Gjárfoss waterfall. That hike is 2.1 km and is relatively easy, ca 15 minute's each way. There are some rocks to climb down to enter Gjáin and of course one has to climb the rocks on the way out.

The other hike takes you to a parking lot on the south side of Gjáin, where you can walk down steps into this beautiful fairy-tale world. From there one can access the lava caves, pseudocraters and the smaller waterfall. Here are also clear wellsprings coming from the lava.

Lava caves and pseudocraters at Gjáin

I have had such "wow"-moments here. It is just awesome finding such a hidden pearl in this barren desert. It is possible to walk up to the small lava caves, which were used by men who were rounding up sheep.

Here one can see such beautiful lava structures, lava caves, columnar basalt and several lava trolls! It is so much fun walking around in this beautiful place looking for troll images and faces in this lava wonderland.

Lava caves and formations at Gjáin

There is one big troll up to which one can walk. It looks like it is man-made, the wonders of nature. There is a hole in the middle and standing in the middle of the hole makes for a good photo. If you walk a little bit further it is possible to climb up the hill to get back on the trail. 

A lava arch at Gjáin

This area was inhabited by the Vikings until the volcano Hekla erupted in 1104 causing the devastation of 20 settlement farms in Þjórsárdalur valley. The close proximity to this notorious volcano did not make this area a favourable place in which to live.

The road leading to Gjáin is a dirt road and parts of it are bumpy. A 4x4 is needed here in my opinion. If one drives further up the road it will take you either to the road leading to Háifoss waterfall or take you back to the paved road no 32. 

This area is ca 136 km away from Reykjavík, where you can rent a car, which makes this a lovely day-trip away from the city. Here is a the location of Gjáin on Google Map.

Please, let's treat this beautiful place with utmost respect and leave it for others to enjoy as much as we, who have visited it, do.

Here are some tours to join into the highlands:

Highlands Tours

Top 5 Places to Visit in the Highlands of Iceland

Plan Your Trip: Highlands

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