Studlagil Canyon Travel Guide
Picture from Pierre-Axel Cotteret
Studlagil Canyon can be found in East Iceland in the Glacier Valley called Jokuldalur. With the largest number of basalt rock columns in Iceland and a stunning blue-green glacial river to contrast, Studlagil is one of Iceland's hidden gems.
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The force of this glacial river, which is 90 miles long (150 kilometers), and its water level had such great volume, that the area was considered dangerous. As a result, the area around the canyon was inhabited only by sheep for a long time.
The water level decreased, and with the hydroelectric plant harvesting the force of the water, the river became less fierce. This was part of a large-scale industrial project at the time to provide the aluminum plant in Reydarfjordur with electrical power.
Now that the water has calmed and the level reduced, this natural beauty has received more attention and adoration from travelers and locals alike.
Picture from Thomas Bennie
What to Expect
The basalt rock columns you can see at Studlagil are the same type as at the famous Reynisfjara black sand beach near Vik. But it’s Studlagil that is claimed to have the largest number of these basalt columns in Iceland.
There is a beautiful waterfall called Studlafoss (which translates as Basalt Column Waterfall) in Upper Jokuldalur. This beautiful waterfall is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area and have time to explore further.
The terrain around the canyon is still relatively untouched, and like most of Iceland, facilities are not in place, so visitors need to be conscious of their surroundings and travel at their own risk. The terrain is loose underfoot in places, so hiking boots are advised. Be mindful of nesting birds, particularly in the spring and summer. Pink-footed geese, for example, lay their eggs along the gorge in May and June, so be extra cautious around this time.
Picture from Serafin Lichtenhahn
Incorporating a visit to Studlagil into your Iceland road trip is worthwhile if you have the time to head east. While you might want to visit some of Iceland's hot spots, such as the geothermal spa Blue Lagoon, the beautiful waterfall Seljalandsfoss, and the unique icy-blue Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, it is worth exploring Iceland off the beaten track as well.
You could easily spend two to three hours at Studlagil and its surrounding area, taking in the beauty of its glacial gates and marveling at this natural phenomenon.
The color of the water tends to change depending on the season. From March to July, the water has a beautiful blue-green color, but as the meltwater from nearby glaciers rises to towards the end of summer, the color turns to a light grey, which is distinctive for glacial rivers.
In winter, you may be able to see the northern lights from remote areas like this, and in summer, you can take advantage of the midnight sun and go there late in the evening when it's still bright.
How to Get There
One of the reasons Studlagil had remained relatively unknown for a long time is because it can be hard to get there. There are virtually no signs or markings for this beautiful basalt canyon on the route.
The best way to get there is to head north on the Ring Road (Route 1) from Egilsstadir, a small town in the East of Iceland. Head towards Guesthouse Skjoldolfsstadir. Continue past it until you reach the turn-off for road 923.
After a short journey on road 923, you will begin to see the opening to the lower part of Jokuldalur and the turn-off for Jokuldalsvegur. There you can see a beautiful basalt column waterfall called Studlafoss. If you have a four-wheeled drive vehicle, you may be able to drive further down Jökuldalsvegur, but we recommend parking your car in the parking lot and taking a walk the rest of the way. This way you can enjoy more of the scenery, plus there is a white bridge you can cross which is only accessible to pedestrians.
This area is ideal if you enjoy walking in nature, and there are plenty of nice hiking trails around the canyon. Indeed, the walk to the basalt canyon is estimated to be around 2.5 miles (4 kilometers), so you need to be up for some brisk walking to get to the beautiful glacial gates of Studlaberg.
If you plan to hike in the area, make sure to log your travel plans to ensure that you stay safe while in Iceland.