I recently went on a fantastic tour with my mother, where I explored a beautiful canyon in Iceland - Stakkholtsgjá canyon. We were a group of Icelandic people travelling together and were headed to Þórsmörk National Park on a day trip. One of the stops on the way was to hike into this beautiful canyon.
Stakkholtsgjá is one of the places in Iceland which are just out of this world. It is around 2 km long and up to 100 m deep.
There are some small rivers to be crossed and many of us got wet feet and some people fell in and got drenched, but it was so worth it. Only 2 people had to be left behind, one of them was my mother, as she did not want to jump over rivers on slippery rocks only to end up falling in.
Our goal was to hike to the end of the canyon to see the waterfall there. But just the hike to the waterfall is so beautiful, that it would be worth doing this hike even if there were no waterfall at the end of the canyon.
But the waterfall is the icing on the cake :)
We were lucky enough to get some sunshine during our hike, which made the surroundings even more mystical.
As we got closer to the waterfall the canyon got narrower and narrower. It was just out of this world for me being there as I love canyons and waterfalls.
Now as we got to the end of the canyon it started getting really narrow and slippery and I could hear the waterfall.
I was so excited about seeing it that I was one of few people in the group who jumped on the rocks of the river again and climbed up on the big slippery rocks.
I started getting a glimpse of the waterfall, which cascades down the steep canyon. It was difficult to get one's footing there and take photos at the same time. Then my camera lens started getting wet from the drizzle of the waterfall.
I was getting drenched from the drizzle as well...
After I had crawled up on more slippery rocks I looked up; WOW, it was like being in a fairytale world, like being inside a castle! This was ever so rewarding, what a view! I can understand why Game of Thrones chose Stakkholtsgjá as a film location.
I asked one of my fellow travellers to take a photo of me by the waterfall. Only a very small part of the waterfall can be seen on the photo, as he didn't turn the camera upside down, but as you can see on my photo, then I was drenched, in an adrenaline rush and very happy :)
I love waterfalls and have written another travel-blog about my favourite waterfalls in Iceland:
We had to hike the same way back, but I was so energetic and filled with endorphins, that I easily jumped over the rivers and ran back to my mother, who had had to wait for the group to return. On the other hand, when I visited Stakkholtsgjá canyon again I fell into the river ;)
This hike takes around 1.5 hours back and forth. The hike starts from road F249 at the entrance to Þórsmörk valley.
F249 is a 4x4 road as there are several unbridged rivers to cross, some of which are glacial rivers, and the road is rough, so only full-sized 4x4 jeeps are suitable for this drive. Plus a driver who knows how to handle glacial rivers.
A fatal accident happened in August 2018, when a woman died after the car got stuck in the cold river when crossing Steinholtsá river :( She was on her honeymoon and floated for some 650 metres in the ice-cold glacial river. So I will reiterate that it is always better to be guided by a local in Iceland.
A warning sign was erected in 2019.
Photo: Árni Tryggvason
I am very often asked questions about this hike and would recommend that you join the guided tour Thorsmork Valley | Super Jeep Day Tour. As on this tour, apart from visiting Stakkholtsgjá canyon and the beautiful Þórsmörk valley, you will also be visiting the mystical Nauthúsagil ravine.
Here is a map of Stakkholtsgjá canyon and the surrounding areas if you fancy taking this hike.
Have a lovely time in Stakkholtsgjá :)