Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

The glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum - the Glacial River in the Mountains is the second longest river in Iceland (206 km). It is a roaring, turbulent milky white/greyish glacial river coming straight from Vatnajökull glacier, or Dyngjujökull glacier to be exact.

My first photos are taken in the highlands of Iceland in the vicinity of Askja caldera and the small, but powerful waterfall in the glacial river is called Gljúfrasmiður or the Canyon Builder.  I have twice visited this area with Saga Travel on the way to Askja in the highlands, as this is such a rugged area with glacial rivers to cross that a guided tour is needed.  Unless you have a super jeep.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

Jökulsá a Fjöllum glacial river is bridged in 3 places and on our travels in the highlands of Iceland we crossed the glacial river on the bridge by Upptyppingar.  The other two bridges are by ring-road 1 and by the end of Jökulsárgljúfur canyon by road 85.

Further north Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river runs through one of the biggest canyons in Iceland, the 25 km long ruggedly beautiful Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, with its beautiful waterfalls and extraordinary rock formations.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

In Jökulsárgljúfur canyon the glacial river creates the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss waterfall, plus several other smaller waterfalls.

Dettifoss, along with the smaller waterfalls, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss, which are south and north of Dettifoss, create a natural monument and have been declared as protected.  You will also find a very pretty horseshoe-shaped waterfall further down the canyon called ´ttarfoss waterfall.

The first waterfall in the canyon is called Selfoss waterfall. It is a beautiful horseshoe-shaped waterfall, 10 meters high and very wide. I visited it from the west bank of the glacial river, but it cannot be seen very well from there.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

It can also be visited from the east bank, where there is a 1,4 km hike from Dettifoss waterfall. Next time I visit Dettifoss I will make sure to get a better look at Selfoss waterfall from the east bank.

There are some very beautiful basalt columns on each side of Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river by Selfoss. From the west bank of the river there is an easy short hike to Selfoss waterfall.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

Now let's visit Dettifoss waterfall. Dettifoss is Europe's most powerful waterfall and it has got the wow factor big time. It is 45 meters high and 100 meters wide and has a flow of 193 m3/s. 

Dettifoss can be visited from both the east bank and the west bank of Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river and there is a totally different experience visiting it from the east bank than visiting it from the west bank. The road to the west is paved, but the road on the east side is a bumpy gravel road.

We first visited it from the west bank. There is a ca 15 minute's hike down to the waterfall from the parking lot on the west bank.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

It is awesome standing close to Dettifoss.  When I visit it I am always in awe at how powerful it really is. I get a feeling of unreality standing so close to such forces of nature. There is a lot of mist on the west bank so one is bound to get wet when standing so close to this powerful waterfall.

We also visited Dettifoss from the east bank. There you can stand even closer to the mammoth roaring falls. There are no guardrails here, so let´s be careful. 

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

A couple of hundred meters below Dettifoss waterfall you will find Hafragilsfoss waterfall.  Hafragilsfoss is also a beautiful waterfall, less visited than Dettifoss. 

Hafragilsfoss waterfall is 27 meters high and 91 meters wide.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

It is not possible to walk down to Hafragilsfoss waterfall from the east bank, but the view of the waterfall and the canyon is breathtaking. Here the canyon is ca 100 meters deep. 

There are several fresh water springs here creating lovely small waterfalls which run into the glacial river.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

The name Hafragilsfoss means Buck Canyon fall.  Legend has it that a giantess stole 2 bucks in Öxarfjörður fjord, which is north of Jökulsárgljúfur canyon and where Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river ends its course and joins the ocean.

The giantess had to act swiftly and tied the bucks together by their horns, threw them up on her shoulder and jumped over the glacial river in this spot.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

By Forvöð In Jökulsárgljúfur canyon there is an hour's hike down to a horseshoe shaped waterfall called Réttarfoss waterfall. This is a very interesting hike with lots of beautiful, historical sights - I will add another blog on this hike later on.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

There are some other smaller waterfalls in Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river before the river reaches the fairy tale like part of Jökulsárgljúfur canyon called Hljóðaklettar or Echo Rocks.  

Hljóðaklettar are a cluster of strange columnar rock formations creating all kinds of figures. It is like entering another world, in my opinion. These extraordinary rock formations, some of them standing in the middle of Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river, are the remains of volcanoes which have been eroded for centuries after centuries by the strong currents and floods of the river.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum Glacial River in Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon - the second longest River in Iceland

Hiking through this area will leave no man untouched. The volcanic plugs take on the form of so many creatures and are so big that you will feel like a small ant while walking there. This area is both beautiful and rugged as you walk on the bank of the glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum.

A little bit further north the glacial river runs its course in Öxarfjörður fjord.

In September 2014 lava flow from Holuhraun volcanic eruption reached Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river and the river up in the highlands retreated east away from the lava flow.  

There are several guided tours to Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, f.ex. Dettifoss waterfall and the Glacial Canyon tour and Dettifoss waterfall tour from Akureyri to name a few.  Here you can see all the available tours to Dettifoss. Also check out the many self-drive tours available. You can also rent a car and check it out on your own.

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