Fjaðrárgljúfur Pronunciation Problems
The pronunciation of Fjaðrárgljúfur may be a challenge, (Fiath – raor – gliu – vur) but the hike to see it is not. It is one of the 21 Most Famous Landmarks in Iceland.
My friend Angie and I were on a road trip across Iceland and our 1st stop of the day was the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon hike. We zoomed along east on Ring Road from Skogar, where we had spent the night.
Lava Rocks…On the Right…
“Hey check that out!” I pointed at the increasing hills of mossy rocks lining the horizon. “It’s a lava field. We should pull over.”
“There isn’t really a spot.” Angie looked around for a pull-off. ” We’re kind of in the middle of the road.”
There Goes Parking for Eldhraun Lava Field…
We slowed down as much was appropriate to get some pictures out the window. Suddenly we zipped past an opening in the rocks where a car was parked. After a quick screech to a stop and a three point turn, we eased into the small lot.
“Sweet…I so wanted to see this up close.” I barely waited for the car to stop before grabbing my camera and dashing out the door.
Hiking Path at Eldhraun Lava Field
Angie raced up next to me and we spotted what appeared to be a path through the mossy hills. A sign about the Eldhraun Lava Fields indicated we shouldn’t veer off the path in order to preserve the integrity of the rocks. The moss was fragile and could be easily damaged. The field was created by a volcanic eruption that took place around 1753, one of the largest eruptions on earth, killing 20% of the Iceland population at the time(over 10,000 people). The lava covered about 218 square miles (565 kilometers) of land and sent ash clouds over Europe.
Flippies on the Bumpy Eldhraun Trail
We stayed between the ropes that were strung along the designated walking area, stepping around and over large rocks along the way. The rocks crunching under our feet was the only sound as we navigated through the mossy maze.
“This landscape is crazy.” Angie bent to get a photo from rock level. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I know…it’s a good thing we’re not being chased, we would never get out of here.” I laughed. “It doesn’t seem real.” I gazed around at the mounds of moss covered lava as far as my eyes could see. The green coating made the miles of porous rock look soft and squishy.
I took some time to just be in the moment and enjoy this unique wonder. The blue grey clouds swirled above the green furry lava. The cool air filled my lungs. I then needed to refocus my attention on not falling on my face while balancing my flop flopped feet over the jagged path.
We carefully made our way through the narrow ropes, around the loop and back to the car and out onto Ring Road.
Riding on Ring Road
“To the canyon!” I bellowed.
“To the canyon!” Angie echoed.
We approached Route 206 and took a left.
“It says in the book we go about 3 kilometres down and we should get to a parking area.”
We bumped up the gravel road. The parking area and the short road to it was lined with cars. We found a side of the road parking space and began walking towards the canyon.
Not So Parallel Parking
As we were getting out, we could see a car parking on the other side of the road. The driver attempted a parallel park alongside a deep ditch. The car inched forward then reversed, wheels turned inward. Back…back…back…until the back passenger tire went over the edge. The car tilted at a precarious angle and bobbed slightly. Several onlookers walking to the canyon began running towards the oddly balanced car. The passenger opened the door and began to step out of the hanging vehicle.
More Bad Ideas
“He can’t get out that side! The car will crush him” Angie exclaimed, moving quicker towards the vehicle to assist.
“No…no…nooo.” I tried to mentally will the car’s 4th wheel back onto the ground, my heart pumping quicker, running behind Angie.
The teenage boy opened the door which sprung ajar and was angled towards the ground.
He leaped out as people yelled out for him not to. I gasped and held my breath as the boy landed in the low area and dashed, crouching towards the back of the car. The door was still swinging awkwardly towards the ditch below.
A few men had reached the car and grabbed ahold of the left front bumper, pushing the car back down to level. Another gave a hand helping the teen out of the ditch. The man behind the wheel gave it some gas as the others pushed.
The wheel spun uselessly in the air and the car stayed put.
“I’m gonna run and grab my truck.” A tall man shouted. “I’ve got a winch, I’ll pull you right out.” He took off running down the gravel lot.
Now for the Fjaðrárgljúfur Hiking Experience
With a crowd handling the scene, we continued towards the canyon.
At the base of the trail, steps down towards the river were to the left and a slow rising upper trail was to the right.
“The book said the river trail can take 4-5 hours, and you have to wade through the water.” I indicated towards the steps. “The upper trail is less than an hour.”
“Upper trail it is.” Angie headed right. “We still have a lot to see today.”
Thanks a Lot Justin Bieber
We began the slow upward climb. A webbed matting had been placed over the dirt walkway to help prevent erosion after Justin Bieber’s 2015 video filmed at the location increased traffic to the trail.
Fortunately we were visiting in the summer, when the trail was open. Visitors to the canyon had been restricted after the video’s release due to over tourism.
Game of Thrones also featured a scene with dragons flying through Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon.
The Beauty of Fjaðrárgljúfur is Revealed
Views of the 2 km winding snakelike canyon began to come into view on our left. The grassy flat areas on both sides of the river looked like 2 pieces to a giant puzzle that someone had pulled apart. The river carved the 100 meter deep canyon about 2 million years ago.
One offshoot of narrow mossy rock twisted towards the river like a serpent side-winding towards the other side. The sheer edges of the inner canyon wall was a green velvet curtain, folding back and forth.
Oooooh…Now For the Scary Part
We came to a set of metal grated steps leading down to a platform overlooking the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, the Fjaðrá river and the waterfall.
I grabbed the railing, looking through the holes in the metal steps, all the way down to the canyon floor. My heart jumped a little and the wind began whipping my hair crazily around my head.
I inched forward, gripping my flip flops with my toes in case one decided to take a leap into the canyon. I continued to hold tight to the rail, feeling my stomach jump into my chest every time I looked down. The beauty of the scene propelled me forward and I did a death grip on the railing with one hand and took a million pictures with the other.
Look With Your Eyes Love…
I was suddenly overwhelmed with the amazing beauty of this place. The blue flowing waterfall cut through the grey slabs of ancient rock down multiple mossy tiers to the river below. I just stood and breathed the fresh cool air, wind whipping around me, making me feel alive.
The bleating sheep looked like white dots on the other side of the hill, little cotton balls running through the green hills. Their sheep voices and the sounds of rushing water and wind echoed through the canyon walls.
Fjaðrárgljúfur…It’s Not Just for Breakfast
“Hey that wall in the canyon looks like bacon.”
Angie brought me out of my reverie.
“Holy cow it does…that is totally bacon.” I laughed.
We stared at the bacon wall against the brilliant blue of the river and the green mossy rocks. I snapped a few more photos and we headed back up the trail towards the car.
Next Stop…Turf Houses
On the way back, I noted that the precariously perched car was no longer askew.
The next stop that day was Núpsstadur turf houses and then Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Diamond Beach.
Have you ever witnessed an almost-incident while traveling? Comment below.
If you enjoyed this adventure, subscribe below for hot off the presses stories delivered right to your e mail inbox.