An Ultimate Guide to Visiting Stuðlagil Canyon in East Iceland

This was one of our must-sees when we visited Iceland, and it lived up to the hype. I think we all have that place where we’re not sure if it’s as cool as photos make it look. Well, Stuðlagil Canyon lives up to the hype.

It’s mesmerizing, beautiful, and captivating. Basically, it’s everything I could have hoped for.

So, if you’re on the fence about visiting or just looking for more information, dive into this article, and you’ll come away with starring it on your map!

Why you can trust me: You can trust that this review is authentic and real because I actually went here and stayed the night. I recommend it as a must-see in the area. I try to use my blog as I’d talk to my friends, and Studlagil Canyon is one you’ll be stoked to see!

A tourist enjoys the views at Stuðlagil Canyon.

A Guide to Visit Iceland’s Stuðlagil Canyon

First things first: Visiting Stuðlagil Canyon

Is Stuðlagil Canyon worth it?

Yes, full stop! Stuðlagil Canyon is incredible, and I was so glad we visited it while checking out East Iceland’s best locations. The views, unique formations, and geological history were so impressive. We spent 90 minutes here, and you could easily spend more.

If you’re in the area, you have to visit Stuðlagil Canyon.

Quick hiking Details:

Stuðlagil Canyon is around a 3.5 to 4-mile hike round trip. It gently roller coasters you (so it is not flat) but not steep. It should take you about 40 minutes to get there.

Related: Exploring Katla Ice Cave

Distance from Egilsstaðir

It’s about a one-hour drive from Egilsstadir to Stuglagil Canyon. It’s a beautiful drive, with the last 20 minutes on a decent dirt road before turning onto a road towards the trailhead. This final mile is on a pretty bumpy but doable road. (This is for the hike into the canyon.)

Looking down from a drone into Stuðlagil Canyon.

When is the best time to visit?

I don’t think there is a bad time to visit. From a photography viewpoint, I would recommend coming early or later in the day for better lighting. However, this place is brilliant even during the day (as you can see from my morning photos), and you can’t go wrong.

I started hiking around 7:15 a.m. and only had two other groups ahead of us. I would recommend this route so that you get to enjoy it with fewer people.

Related: Snaefellsness National Park

What you need to know about getting to Stuðlagil Canyon

There are two sides to Stuðlagil Canyon.

We made this mistake. We first went to the West side of Stuðlagil Canyon, which might be where Google Maps takes you. If you go to this side (it’s where tour buses go), you will only have access to a viewpoint above the canyon. It is still cool, but it’s not the view many are expecting.

A river in East Iceland.

Furthermore, the west side has the campground, bathrooms (must pay), and a food truck.

If you want to go down to the classic photo spots, you’ll have to start at the Stuðlagil Canyon trailhead on the East side.

Related: Purchase photos from Iceland

Where is Stuðlagil Canyon?

Stuðlagil Canyon is located in East Iceland, to the west of the city of Egilsstaðir. It is East Iceland’s largest city, though it has less than 3,000 people.

Here is the Google Maps link to the west side of the canyon.

How do I get to Stuðlagil Canyon?

Depending on the route you’re coming from (but likely east to west as most people hit the southern coast first), turn off the “1” and onto 923. It’ll be paved for a while before transitioning to a dirt road. It’s nothing bad, and you’ll be able to motor pretty quickly through here.

After about 25 minutes, you’ll reach a sign that says “Stuðlagil Canyon” to the left.

Inside the Canyon

If you’re looking to hike down, this is your turn. Follow this for a short distance. If you feel your car can make it on the bumpy dirt road, keep driving over the bridge to the parking lot.

If you’re worried about the drive, park before the bridge and walk. Just know it’ll add another 30 minutes each way.

The famous basalt columns in Stuðlagil Canyon.

To the campground/overlook

If you’re looking for the Stuðlagil Canyon campground, keep going straight on the main road. After 5 minutes you’ll see the campground from the road. Turn left at the sign, and you’ll be there in no time.

How long is the hike to Studlagil Canyon?

The hike to the famed basalt column canyon is around four miles round trip. It’s not a strenuous hike, but it can be warm. Make sure to bring plenty of sun protection, water, and snacks.

The trail stays high above the water for the entirety of the walk. Only at the end do you drop down and have access to the gorgeous basalt columns, water, and views.

Inside the Basalt Canyon

What do see

Once you’re there, you can walk out onto the rock above the water. Be careful, as it’s a straight plunge down into the water below.

Or you can follow a short path down to the actual basalt columns and water level. This is really cool to see the scale of the place!

How to photograph

I recommend bringing a wide-angle lens and drone when you visit Stuðlagil Canyon. Considering how close you are to the canyon walls, you’ll need at least 24 mm, if not wider. I brought my 16-35 and 70-200 to get some compressed shots from further away.

Then, the drone is a great way to change perspective and see it from the sky and over the water, where humans can’t get to.

Remember to leave no trace

Whenever you recreate in Iceland, please remember to clean up your trash and leave it better than you found it. Also, please walk on established paths and trails to ensure grass and flowers are not trampled and killed forever.

Iceland is only as pretty as visitors allow it to be.

Flowers in Iceland.

Staying at or near Stuðlagil Canyon

Campground

As noted above, there is a campground on the west side of the canyon. We stayed here, and it was a nice place. I will mention the only way to get into the bathrooms is to pay, and I’m pretty sure the turnstiles have video monitoring.

If you camp, the host gives you two bathroom passes, though I think you can get more if needed. I think for two people, it was about $35 USD.

A hiker enjoys the views in Iceland.

Other Lodging Options

In Egilsstadir

Tehúsið Hostel
Hotel Edda Egilsstadir
Hérað – Berjaya Iceland Hotels
Hótel Valaskjálf

In the countryside

Hotel Studlagil
Fjalladyrd – Modrudalur a Fjollum
Stóri-Bakki Guesthouse with hot tub
Hotel Tangi

There are plenty of other lodging options around Stuðlagil Canyon.

What else should I see near Stuðlagil Canyon in East Iceland?

Waterfalls

There are numerous waterfalls in the area to explore. Here are a few close to Stuðlagil Canyon:

  • Rjukandi
  • Fardagafoss
  • Gufu
  • Fklifbrekku
  • Hengifoss
Views inside Stuðlagil Canyon.

Explore Egilsstadir

After driving in the East Iceland Fjords for two days, it was nice to get back to some resemblance of civilization. (Though I REALLY loved the fjords.) We stopped to check out the Austri Brewery, enjoyed some flights, and then had dinner at the Salt Cafe and Bistro. Both were great!

Related: Iceland Black Sand Beaches

It was one of the few places open late without reservation. We intended to go to Glod, but they were booked. (So book ahead if you want this spot.)

A flight of beer.

Explore Akureyri

Our trip didn’t have us to spend too long in cities, but we loved Akureyri! It’s charming, cute, and bustling! (Especially under the midnight sun.)

We enjoyed the Einstok Brewers Lounge, then headed to Strikið for dinner at their rooftop restaurant. It was stunning, and the food was so damn good. (Salmon, steak, and two wines were about $120 USD.)

Then, for dessert, we got ice cream at Turninn.

Whale Watching

Also, in Akureyri, you can embark on some fantastic whale-watching opportunities. This is supposedly the best place to do so, and you might even get to cross over the Arctic Circle.

A whale lifts up its fin.

East Iceland Fjords

You only need to drive through the east Iceland fjords to have a good time. There are many waterfalls, the views are gorgeous, and it’s basically empty compared to the rest of the country.

This means no tour buses, large crowds, and traffic is a piece of cake. Plus, the towns are adorable and make you feel at home.

Enjoying the top of Stuðlagil Canyon.

Take a tour of Iceland’s classic destinations

There are so many incredible places to see in north Iceland. Here are some great tours I think you’ll love!

Godafoss is a great waterfalls in north Iceland.

FAQ: Visiting Stuðlagil Canyon

Tell me about the Basalt Columns that make this place unique

Stuðlagil Canyon in Iceland is renowned for its captivating basalt columns, a mesmerizing testament to the Earth’s geological processes.

These columns, a product of ancient volcanic activity, are born from the cooling and contraction of lava flows.

What distinguishes these columns are their remarkable hexagonal shapes, resulting from the natural symmetry that emerges as the lava solidifies. Located in the remote Jökuldalur valley in eastern Iceland, Stuðlagil Canyon was concealed for years, lying beneath glacial river waters until a dam rerouted the river in 1980, unveiling this geological treasure.

Since then, it has become an increasingly popular destination for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

Soaking in Stuðlagil Canyon in East Iceland.

Can I fly my drone here?

Yes, you can drone here. Plenty of people were, so be careful when flying and know where others’ drones are at all times. If you plan to do so, I’d recommend coming early or late when it’s less crowded.

Is it safe to swim in Studlagil Canyon, Iceland?

The water moves pretty quickly and is quite cold. I would not recommend swimming here, and it could be very dangerous as there are no lifeguards nor help nearby.

Final Thoughts on visiting Studlagil Canyon

Its unique geological formations, breathtaking basalt columns, and vibrant blue waters offer an unforgettable experience for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

While the journey to reach this remote location may be long, witnessing such natural beauty is well worth the reward. Stuðlagil Canyon reminds us of our planet’s incredible wonders, inspiring us to protect and preserve these precious sites for future generations to enjoy.

Whether you are a photographer looking for the perfect shot or simply seeking solace in nature’s tranquility, Stuðlagil Canyon promises an awe-inspiring escape from the mundane routines of everyday life.

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.


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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside