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Day Trip 3: Gems of Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon

Dettifoss waterfall and Ásbyrgi canyon are well known, but the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon has much more to offer. Jökulsárgljúfur canyon is part of the Vatnajökull national park and has been announced as UNESCO world heritage in 2019. There are many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. The large distances can be covered by car but it really pays off to park the car and plan an entire day hiking around the area and get in tune with nature. Each stop has hiking tours of various length and levels of difficulty so there is something for every fitness level.

The first stop is Vesturdalur with its many basalt and rock formations and the red hills of Rauðhólar. The next stop is Hólmatungur with hidden waterfalls and lesser known hiking trails. The impressive waterfalls of Hafragilsfoss, Dettifoss and Selfoss will first be approached from the west side and then from the east. Even though the waterfalls are the same, the view points are entirely different. The tour ends with a visit to Ásbyrgi canyon.

The entire tour is 250km and a 4×4 car is needed for the entire tour. This tour is only possible during the summer months. Check the road conditions at The hiking route for each stop are linked in the tour description below.

Highlights of the Day


  1. Leave Húsavík heading north and follow road 85 for 58km until the road signs pointing out Dettifoss to the right or road 862. Follow this road for about 12km, then take the turn to the left where it says Vesturdalur. Follow the road until the parking lot. Several hiking trails guide around the area, more details here.
  2. Drive back up the hill to road 862 and continue to drive south for ca. 12km. A road sign on the left points out the parking lot of Hólmatungur. The hiking map can be found here.
  3. Continue on road 862 for several kilometers until you see the sign Dettifoss waterfall pointing to the left. Leave the car at the parking lot and take the hiking trail to Hafragilsfoss and Selfoss as well. detailed maps can be found here.
  4. Continue all the way on road 862 until you reach the junction, turn left on road 1 in the direction of Egilsstaðir. Continue on road 1, cross the bridge and take a turn left at the next junction to Dettifoss or road 864. Continue on road 864 for 30km and take the turn to the left to Dettifoss. Leave the car at the parking lot and explore the area by foot and discover Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfall. The hiking map can be found here.
  5. Continue on road 864 all the way up north, turn left at the junction to road 85, direction Húsavík. About 2km later you have reached Ásbyrgi canyon. The Gljúfrastofa Visitor Center informs about the area. A detailed hiking map can be found here.
  6. return home to Húsavík following road 85.