Jökulsárgljúfur, a “Hidden” National Park with Hidden Folk?

Explore the wonders of Iceland's Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, home to breathtaking canyons, waterfalls, and geological formations.


blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

If you have not heard of Jökulsárgljúfur before, it’s probably because you know the name Vatnajökull National Park here in Iceland. Jökulsárgljúfur National Park was merged with Vatnajökull National Park in 2008, much like Skaftafell National Park.

But even though Jökulsárgljúfur might be a bit of a forgotten national park, it is one of the oldest parks in Iceland, established in 1973 already. This stretch of 150 square kilometers also boasts some of the main attractions the island has to offer.

Where is Jökulsárgljúfur?

Jökulsárgljúfur is in the north of Iceland, at the northernmost tip of Vatnajökull National Park. It is connected to the rest of the park by the glacial river Jökulsa a Fjöllum. The Visitor Center of the park is roughly 130 kilometers from Akureyri and 60 kilometers from Husavik.

How to Get to Jökulsárgljúfur

Unfortunately, the bus service that ran between Akureyri and the Visitor Center has been suspended. So, the only way to get to Jökulsárgljúfur is via your own transport or a guided tour.

How to get to Jökulsárgljúfur: from Husavik via Route 85 (+/- 47-minute drive)

  • Drive southwest to Gardarsbraut.
  • Turn right onto Gardarsbraut and continue onto Hedinsbraut.
  • Then continue onto Route 85 ‘till you turn right onto Asbyrgi.
  • Follow the directions to the Visitor’s Center.


How to get to Jökulsárgljúfur: from Akureyri via Nordausturvegur and Route 85 (+/- 1 hour and 45-minute drive)

  • Take Skipagata to Drottningarbraut.
  • Continue onto Podvegur, Nordausturvegur, and Route 85 till you reach Asbyrgi.
  • Follow the directions to the Visitor’s Center.

How to get to Jökulsárgljúfur: from Myvatn via Pjodvegur and Dettifossvegur (+/- 1-hour 14-minute drive)

  • Continue onto Pjodvegur.
  • Take Dettifossvegur to Asbyrgi.
  • Follow the directions to the Visitor’s Center.

How to get to Jökulsárgljúfur: from Egilsstadir

  • Take Tjarnarbraut and Lagaras to Pjodvegur.
  • Turn right onto Pjodvegur.
  • Take Dettifossvegur to Asbyrgi.
  • Follow the directions to the Visitor’s Center.

Jökulsárgljúfur from Husavík

The Best Time to Visit Jökulsárgljúfur

Although Jökulsárgljúfur is technically open all year round, the colder months usually have quite a few road closures. We would also recommend that you choose a time when daylight hours are not few and far between.

But irrespective of when your trip to the island is, you can check the Iceland weather conditions and the Iceland road conditions.

Things to Do in and Around Jökulsárgljúfur

You will find plenty of things to do and see in Jökulsárgljúfur and the surrounding area Here’s what you can look forward to:

Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon

Jökulsárgljúfur National Park got its name from the Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon that lay within its borders. Anyone who has ever visited a canyon before knows how beautiful it can be with its winding ways, cliff faces, rock formations... A definite favorite on photo tours in Iceland.

The Waterfalls of Jökulsárgljúfur

The waterfalls of Jökulsárgljúfur are pretty impressive, with one having achieved international fame. So, be sure that you visit the following falls whilst there:


Dettifoss is one of the most well-known waterfalls in Iceland. It is officially the most powerful waterfall in Europe, with 183 cubic meters of water every second. And if you don’t have waterproof clothing and gear with you, you will become drenched in its mist and spray. The falls are 44 meters tall and 100 meters wide.

Dettifoss waterfalls


Yes, there is a town by the same name in Iceland, but the falls have nothing to do with it. Selfoss is located just upstream from Dettifoss. Selfoss is much wider than it is tall, clocking in at only 11 meters in height and 100 meters in width.

Selfosss waterfall


Hafragilsfoss is the second waterfall that’s upstream from Dettifoss and can be viewed from both sides of the river. It is 27 meters tall and 91 meters wide, making it one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland.

Hafrangilsfoss, Iceland

Hiking Trails in Jökulsárgljúfur

Hiking is a favorite pastime here on the island for both visitors and locals alike, and you will find numerous trails in Jökulsárgljúfur. These trails vary in difficulty level and are color-coded, so you can know which is suitable for your skill and experience level. But whether you’ve never hiked a day in your life, or you’re a sem-pro – you will find the trail for you. Some of the most popular trails are:

The Dettifoss Trail

We don’t really know why it’s referred to as the Dettifoss trail, since it actually hikes to all three of the waterfalls. The trail is a 7-kilometer loop and is a nice trail for those who don’t consider themselves experienced or super-skilled hikers.

Detifoss Trail, Iceland

The Klappir in Asbyrgi Trail

The goal of this hike is to reach the potholes of Klappir that were created by glacial floods. You’ll need to summit the canyon to see these, so this trail is a bit more challenging than the waterfall trail. The hike starts from the Visitor Center and is 9 kilometers long.

Asbyrgi Trail, Iceland

Asbyrgi to Dettifoss Trail

This is a multi-day trek. It will take you two days to trek across the canyon to reach Dettifoss Waterfall. It’s a beautiful trail and many who like to take on multi-day hikes name this one as a favorite.

Jökulsárgljúfur cayon

Asbyrgi Canyon

Asbyrgi is a beautiful horseshoe-shaped canyon created by glacial floods. But it is the myths surrounding Asbyrgi that add to its allure.

In the olden days, it was believed that Asbyrgi was created when Odin was riding his eight-legged horse across the earth. Asbyrgi was the result of one of these hoove prints. It is also believed that the cliff faces of Asbyrgi Canyon are home to Iceland’s infamous Hidden People. 

Asbyrgi canyon

Accommodation Near Jökulsárgljúfur

If you would like to stay over and explore more of the area, you can either opt to stay somewhere along the road or in Husavik. For even closer options, you can consider one of the campsites. Here are a few places you can try:

  • Dettifoss Campground

Jökulsárgljúfur & its Attractions – Well Worth the Visit

As you can see, Jökulsárgljúfur holds incredible attractions that truly are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We highly recommend you add the area and its many stops to your Iceland trip itinerary.

Since the only way to get there is via tour group or own transport, we suggest that you rent a car in Reykjavík once you arrive in the capital from Keflavik Airport. After a Jökulsárgljúfur road trip, you’re bound to leave the island with incredibly special memories.

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