• Einar Páll Svavarsson

Stakkholtsgjá is a canyon close to Þórsmörk


Stakkholtsgjá canyon
Stakkholtsgjá canyon

Stakkholtsgjá is a beautiful natural wonder, a canyon close to Þórsmörk in the southern part of the Icelandic Highland. The canyon entrance is surrounded by high and straight 100-meter-high palagonite cliffs. The two kilometers of the path to the end of the canyon makes one of Iceland's most rewarding short hiking trails. Inside the canyon is a small creek that runs on a bed of pebbles, enhancing the landscape within the canyon. The track is not smooth, and crossing the river, which can at times be relatively high in volume, takes caution; however, on the other hand, it is not a particularly tough hike.


Map of Highland in Iceland
Map of Highland in Iceland

The palagonite cliffs have many forms—suspicious caves, shelves with vegetation, and deep and narrow ravines, to name a few. Once inside the canyon, you experience peace embracing your thoughts and simply can't avoid thinking of creatures from other dimensions. Toward the canyon's end, where it narrows down, the place becomes more exotic. Then, at the end of the track, the canyon turns into a very high cave open at the top. Inside the cave, dreamlike waterfalls enthrall you completely; as you look up to feel the magic of the waterfalls, they shower you with both light and drizzle. The canyon is one of those phenomena in nature that uplift your mood as you walk through, view, and experience them.


Stakkholtsgjá is a perfect place to take kids:

The hike in Stakkholtsgjá
The hike in Stakkholtsgjá

Stakkholtsgjá is a natural wonder that plays with your mind and imagination. It is not merely a beautiful place but a place that fills your head with vivid imaginations, right from the entrance. For example, you can't help thinking if this is one of those places where elves live and, as you get deeper into the canyon, if there might be less attractive creatures living there up on the cliffs; a picture of a troll climbing into one of those caves might pop up in your mind. This is one reason why Stakkholtsgjá is an excellent place to take kids, especially energetic kids with a lively imagination. It is one of those places Icelanders have loved and visited for many decades. Moreover, the place is just perfect for families to hike. However, although exceptional in every way and especially interesting for families for kids, caution must be observed, especially near the waterfall at the end of the cave.


Access to Stakkholtsgjá is a bit difficult and requires a full-size 4X4 vehicle:

The "cave" inside the canyon Stakkholtsgjá
The "cave" and the small waterfall inside the canyon Stakkholtsgjá

Access to Stakkholtsgjá is not simple. It requires a 4X4 vehicle of the larger kind. From the Ring Road Nr. 1 in by the south shore, you turn north on Road Nr. 249, the same turn you take to see Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the road that takes you to Þórsmörk. When you continue on Road Nr. 249, you quickly enter F249, which is both rough and requires a river crossing. Overall, if done correctly and with caution, visiting Stakkholtsgjá in Þórsmörk is a great adventure.


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