Studlagil's blue green river in summer

Studlagil Canyon in East Iceland’s Jokuldalur Valley feels like discovering a well-kept secret. This spot’s got it all: a multitude of basalt columns and that jaw-dropping blue-green river, making it an absolute hidden gem in Iceland’s stunning landscape.

Unraveling Stuðlagil Canyon: A Journey Through Time

glacial river in eastern Iceland near Studlagil canyon

Stuðlagil Canyon’s story began when this mighty river, bursting from the Highlands and racing northward, carved its way through the land. This glacial river—stretching a whopping 90 miles (150 kilometers)—was no joke, and its colossal volume made the area a no-go zone. Yep, only the sheep dared to hang around there for a while!

Then, in 2009, enter stage left: the Karahnjukavirkjun hydroelectric plant. This game-changer turned the landscape upside down, creating the vast Hálslón reservoir out in East Iceland. As the water levels dropped and the plant did its hydroelectric magic, the once ferocious river chilled out.

All of this was part of this massive plan to power up an aluminum plant in Reydarfjordur—talk about an industrial makeover! And guess what? With the water calming down and the levels taking a chill pill, this natural wonder suddenly became the talk of the town! Travelers and locals couldn’t resist falling head over heels for its beauty.

Stuðlagil Canyon: What Awaits You

black sand beach in Vik in Iceland

Did you know those basalt rock columns at Studlagil are similar to the ones at Reynisfjara’s famous black sand beach near Vik? But here’s the scoop—Studlagil supposedly boasts the most of these columns in all of Iceland!

And hey, there’s this gorgeous waterfall called Studlafoss, meaning Basalt Column Waterfall, up in Upper Jokuldalur. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’ve got time to explore further.

Just a heads up—the terrain around the canyon is pretty natural, and like much of Iceland, it’s not heavily decked out with facilities. So, be mindful of your steps; it can get a bit tricky underfoot. Good idea to lace up those hiking boots! Also, during spring and summer, birds like the pink-footed geese make this place their nesting ground, especially from May to June, so let’s be extra careful during that time.

If you’re road-tripping Iceland, carving out time for Studlagil should totally be on your list, especially if you’re heading east. Sure, hitting the big shots like the geothermal spa Blue Lagoon or the jaw-dropping Seljalandsfoss waterfall sounds awesome, but Iceland’s got these hidden gems that are a total win.

Plan around 2-3 hours at Studlagil—you won’t regret it. Picture this: glacial gates that’ll leave you in awe, it’s like nature showing off! Oh, and here’s a cool tidbit: the water’s vibe changes with the seasons. From March to July, it’s this mesmerizing blue-green, but come late summer, when the meltwater from the glaciers ramps up, it switches to this light grey, a telltale sign of glacial rivers.

And hey, winter’s got a perk—catching the northern lights from these remote spots is a real possibility. But summer? It’s the flip side with the midnight sun blessing you with bright evenings, making even late visits totally doable

Getting there

travelling to Studlagil canyon

Studlagil’s been this hidden treasure mainly ’cause it’s a bit of a puzzle to find. Seriously, there are no neon signs shouting ‘Hey, I’m a stunning canyon!’ along the way.

So, here’s the secret route: Start cruising north on the Ring Road (Route 1) from Egilsstadir. Keep an eye out for Guesthouse Skjoldolfsstadir, pass it, and keep rolling till you spot the turn-off for road 923.

Once you’re on 923, things start to get interesting. You’ll catch a glimpse of Jokuldalur opening up, and there’s your cue for Jokuldalsvegur. That’s where the magic happens—the gorgeous Studlafoss waterfall.

Now, if your ride’s a 4×4, you might go a bit farther on Jokuldalsvegur, but parking and hoofing it on foot is the smarter call. Trust me, you’ll thank me for the extra scenery and that sweet white bridge you can only cross by foot. It’s a nature walker’s paradise, loads of trails around the canyon.

Speaking of walking, plan on trekking about 2. 5 miles (4 kilometers) to witness Studlaberg’s glacial gates in all their glory. Oh, and a pro tip: hiking here? Log your plans, always a smart move to stay safe while soaking in Iceland’s wonders.

Stuðlagil canyon

Robert Robertsson

Hey, I'm the founder of Airmango. My love affair with travel and entrepreneurship kicked off in 1994 in Iceland. Fast forward through two decades, and I've been lucky enough to weave my career through five different countries. Each place has left its mark on me, not just in my personal life, but in how I approach business too. With Airmango, I'm bringing all those global insights and experiences to the table – it's like seeing the world through a business lens.