A breathtakingly beautiful place lies hidden away in Þjórsárdalur valley upcountry in South-Iceland. It is called Gjáin and is for sure one of Iceland's pearls of nature. It is a delicate beauty, which we have to preserve and treat with utter respect.
Rauðá river (Red River) runs through here. A lovely waterfall in the river, Gjárfoss falls cascades into the gorge of Gjáin. It is small, but ever so beautifully framed by the surroundings.
A relatively short easy hike from the Viking settlement manor at Stöng takes you 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.
Some of us, who live in Iceland, believe in elves and nature spirits, including me. 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 with the nature spirit of Gjárfoss, and the outcome was beautiful as you can see from my photo by the waterfall :)
There is more in the world than we can see and the belief in elves and trolls was common in Iceland in the olden days when people were more in touch with nature without all the distractions we have nowadays.
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 of Gjáin!
This is a lava area and lava can create such spectacular formations. Here you will find several lava caves and all over this area, you will find beautiful columnar basalt and volcanic tuff.
Here we are located right by the central highland of Iceland and one does not expect the landscape to be so breathtaking and lush here.
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.
Two small waterfalls cascade from Rauðá river into the gorge - Gjárfoss and another smaller one, which you can see in the photo above. I don't know its name, but it is possible to walk right up to it from the south side of Gjáin.
Gjáin, this beautiful oasis, was a perfect filming location for the scene, the Water Dance with Arya and the Hound, in the Game of Thrones series. And nothing had to be digitally altered.
I have written another travel-blog about the Game of Thrones locations in Iceland:
Gjáin has had an increase in visitors since the Game of Thrones scene was filmed here. Let's treat lightly in this delicate pearl of nature to keep it intact.
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 back and forth. It is an easy hike, 15 minute's each way.
When you arrive above Gjáin the path gets very rocky and inside Gjáin it is also rocky so wear some hiking shoes.
The other hike takes you to a parking lot on the south side of Gjáin, where you can walk down steps into this beautiful fairytale world. From there one can access the lava caves and the smaller waterfall. Here are also clear wellsprings coming from the lava.
I have had such WOW moments here. It is just awesome finding such a hidden pearl in this barren desert. 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. It is possible to walk up to the small lava caves, which were used by men who were rounding up sheep.
This area was inhabited by the Vikings until the volcano Hekla erupted in 1104 causing the devastation of some 22 settlement farms in Þjórsárdalur valley. The close proximity to this notorious volcano did not make this area a favourable place in which to live.
A protruding rock looks like a big troll or an American Indian - it is a pure artwork of nature. You can walk up to it and have your photo taken in a hole in the middle of the rock. I took the photo below of my friend Jórunn, who is a licensed guide and runs My Iceland Guide.
She took me on a custom-made tour of Gjáin and Háifoss in her super jeep. I can recommend her family-run business, as she is very knowledgeable about Iceland and knows all the elf- and troll stories.
Be careful here as the path, if you can even call it a path, leading to this rock, is very rocky and you will have to step on and hold onto big rocks. It is nature after all. On my last visit in 2020 to Gjáin, a tour guide told me that some decades ago when he was guiding people in Gjáin, one of his clients had broken her arm while climbing these very rocks :(
The road leading to Gjáin is a dirt road and parts of it are very bumpy. A 4x4 is needed here. Driving further up the road it will take you either to the bumpy road leading to Háifoss waterfall or take you back to the paved road no 32.
I have found two guided tours which include Gjáin:
Hidden Circle, which includes Gjáin and Háifoss waterfall, amongst many other interesting locations. I have joined the Hidden Circle and written a travel-blog about it: The Hidden Circle of Iceland - the Golden Circle with a very pleasant Twist.
This is a summer visit unless you have a guide.
See also other places in this area which are worth a visit:
Please, let's treat this beautiful place with the utmost respect and leave it for others to enjoy as much as we, who love this place, do. In 2020 Gjáin together with Háifoss, Granni and Hjálparfoss waterfalls were preserved.
Have a lovely time at Gjáin :)