How to Visit the Stuðlagil Canyon Viewpoints (& Other Important Things to Know)

After seeing photos online of the other-worldly Stuðlagil Canyon in Iceland, I knew that we absolutely had to visit on our journey around Iceland’s Ring Road. As expected, it provided one of the most jaw-dropping views of all our travels in Iceland.

Though pop Stuðlagil Canyon into Google Maps and you’ll get some conflicting information about the Stuðlagil Canyon viewpoints. There are different ways to see the canyon, as well as different views to take in.

Discover everything you need to know about exploring Stuðlagil Canyon, including tips on obtaining the most captivating views of this Instagram-worthy gem.

All About Stuðlagil Canyon

Stuðlagil Canyon
Approaching Stuðlagil Canyon

One of the things that makes the views at Stuðlagil Canyon so impressive is the combination of turquoise river waters flowing between walls of hexagonal basalt columns. Both of these features would be impressive enough on their own, but when viewed together, the effect is magical.

All About Stuðlagil Canyon

Iceland is known for its unique landscapes and these hexagonal basalt columns are just one amazing geographical feature that can be viewed here. These strange shapes seen at Stuðlagil Canyon are made as lava cools and contracts over an extended period of time, forming these nearly uniformly shaped columns. The columns almost feel like steps or stairs, as they are also often at varying levels and heights. Another popular location for viewing these basalt columns is Reynisfjara Beach along the southern coast of Iceland, but I personally found the columns at Stuðlagil Canyon to be more impressive.

The turquoise river flowing through the canyon is called Jökulsá á Brú. The canyon’s features were revealed when a hydroelectric plant was built nearby in 2009, reducing the water level. These decreased water levels really add to the allure of Stuðlagil Canyon; when standing along the river bank, you are surrounded by towering basalt columns on either side.

Stuðlagil Canyon is located in the eastern region of Iceland and can be accessed easily from the Ring Road. We stopped at Stuðlagil Canyon as we traveled west from Seydisfjordur, and a visit to the canyon is easily one of my favourite things to do in Iceland. In general, eastern Iceland is a less-traveled area of the country because of its distance from the capital Reykjavík. However, a visit to Stuðlagil Canyon (and Iceland’s eastern region) is well worth the distance and effort, especially if you’re already circling the country on the Ring Road!

How to get to the Stuðlagil Canyon Viewpoints

Stuðlagil Canyon west and east bank
Stuðlagil Canyon west bank viewing platform (left) and east bank access (right)

Stuðlagil Canyon is located approximately 70km, or a one-hour drive, from the town of Egilsstaðir in the eastern region of Iceland. It can be accessed easily from the Ring Road by taking Highway 923.

One thing that we learned in planning our visit to Stuðlagil Canyon is the fact that it can be viewed from both the east and west side, but these viewing locations are not located within direct access to each other. The two locations are on opposite sides of the canyon, with the west offering a viewing platform and the east involving a 3km out-and-back walk with the opportunity to step inside the canyon itself. We were hoping for a more immersive look into the canyon, so we chose to visit the east bank.

Stuðlagil Canyon east bank parking lot
Stuðlagil Canyon east bank parking lot (very full)

If you are looking to get a closer view of Stuðlagil Canyon, including even walking near the canyon floor along the river, you will want to set your navigation for Parking Klaustrusel – Stuðlagil on Google Maps (located on the east side of the canyon). It’s a rough road to get to, but our Happy Campervan handled it just fine, as long as you take your time. At the parking lot you’ll find a small snack stand and a large parking area. From the parking lot, you will follow an easy hiking path for about 1.5 km. Portions of this path are essentially a gravel road and it was hot and dusty with no shade on the day we visited; bring water! You’ll pass a few waterfalls along the way, and overall it’s a pretty enjoyable walk, although at times you’ll probably be thinking you’re never going to reach the canyon view!

Also, it is important to note that there are two parking lots on the east side of the canyon. The first parking lot can be found just before a small bridge (identified on Google Maps as Stuðlagil East side parking) and involves a longer walk to the trailhead. There is another parking lot further along the bumpy gravel road past the small bridge, which we recommend parking at (Parking Klaustrusel – Stuðlagil). When we arrived, we found limited space at this parking area closest to the trailhead but managed to snag a spot. Interestingly, there is also a small coffee stand found here, and unlike many places in Iceland, parking for Stuðlagil Canyon is free. This was surprising as the parking area is located on what is essentially a farmer’s field, with limited official infrastructure.


If you are short on time or are looking for a viewpoint with easier access and not much hiking, set your GPS for Stuðlagil Canyon viewpoint. This viewpoint on the west side of the canyon has a viewing platform and requires less walking (although there are 130+ stairs to navigte). From here, you will view Stuðlagil Canyon from above.

If you have seen photos of Stuðlagil Canyon on Instagram or social media, it is likely that these shots are taken from the eastern bank of the canyon. While more effort is involved in hiking to Stuðlagil Canyon, this is where you can get the jaw-dropping photos you may have seen online.

Stuðlagil Canyon Viewpoints

How Are Basalt Columbs Formed?

How Are Basalt Columbs Formed?

Basalt columns found in Iceland, such as those found at Stuðlagil Canyon and other famous sites like in Svartifoss (Black Falls) in Vatnajökull National Park, are formed through a process known as columnar jointing. This geological phenomenon occurs when basaltic lava, which is rich in iron and magnesium, cools and solidifies.

Step-by-step explanation of how basalt columns are formed:

Volcanic Activity: Basalt columns are primarily associated with volcanic activity. In Iceland, the country is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a tectonic plate boundary where the North American and Eurasian plates are pulling apart. This geologic setting leads to frequent volcanic eruptions, and basaltic lava is a common product of these eruptions.

Lava Flow: During a volcanic eruption, molten basaltic lava flows out onto the Earth’s surface. The lava is initially in a liquid state, but as it comes into contact with the cooler air and surfaces, it begins to cool and solidify.

Cooling and Contraction: As the lava cools, it undergoes contraction. The outer layers cool more rapidly than the inner layers, creating stress within the rock.

Cracking and Column Formation: The stress generated during cooling causes the rock to crack in a pattern of polygonal columns. The most common shapes are hexagonal, but columns with four, five, or seven sides can also occur. The cracking and formation of columns are a result of the contraction of the lava.

Column Growth: The columns continue to grow vertically as the lava cools further. The process of columnar jointing is often described as analogous to drying mud cracks, where the material contracts and forms a network of fractures.

Exposure: Over time, erosion and weathering processes remove the surrounding, less resistant rock, exposing the impressive basalt columns.

Tips for visiting Stuðlagil Canyon

Stuðlagil Canyon basalt columns
Incredible basalt column formations

If you’re like me, Stuðlagil Canyon might be high on your list of things to do while in Iceland. In order to make the most of your experience, it is helpful to be prepared! Read on to find out some tips for visiting Stuðlagil Canyon.

How difficult is the walk to Stuðlagil Canyon?

Stuðlagil Canyon
Studlafoss Waterfall, which you’ll pass while hiking to the canyon

For an up-close view of Stuðlagil Canyon and its vast basalt columns, plan to visit the east bank. From here, you can walk to the base of the canyon along the river. Keep your eye out for Studlafoss Waterfall, not far from the parking area.

The walk initial walk towards the canyon location is easy; the path is essentially a dirt road with very little elevation gain. However, the short trek down to the canyon floor can be slippery as you walk along the uneven hexagonal ‘steps.’ Ensure that you wear appropriate non slip footwear if you plan to venture down to the canyon floor.

When is the best time to visit Stuðlagil Canyon?

Stuðlagil Canyon

As with many of Iceland’s most photogenic locations, Stuðlagil Canyon can get crowded. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, plan to visit early in the morning or later in the evening. We visited mid-morning in July, and the parking area was almost completely full. However, July and August are peak tourist season in Iceland, and it is likely you will find Stuðlagil Canyon less busy if you visit during shoulder season. That being said, June-September is when you will get the best weather at the canyon.

How Much Does it cost to visit Stuðlagil Canyon?

There is no cost for visiting or parking at Stuðlagil Canyon. The location is not an official tourist destination, and has only gained in popularity in recent years. However, it is extremely important to respect the area and preserve it for future visitors by staying on the trail and following leave no trace principles.

How long should you plan to stay at Stuðlagil Canyon?

Stuðlagil Canyon
Standing in the canyon floor at Stuðlagil Canyon

We spent around 2 hours visiting Stuðlagil Canyon’s east bank. This included the time to walk to the canyon, walk along the basalt columns to the river bank, and plenty of time for photos. If you are also hoping to visit the west bank while you are in the area, you will want to plan for additional time here.

What should you wear on a visit to Stuðlagil Canyon?

Stuðlagil Canyon
Getting rained on at Stuðlagil Canyon

The weather in Iceland can vary widely across locations and throughout the day! Ensure that you are dressed for the weather and wear layers that can be added or removed depending on temperature. Comfortable, supportive footwear is also a good idea, particularly if you are hoping to climb down to the base of the canyon. On the day we visited, wearing a T-shirt and pants was just fine. However, we also packed along a light rain jacket in case the weather changed.

What should you bring with you on a visit to Stuðlagil Canyon?

The most obvious tip? Bring your camera! The views at Stuðlagil Canyon are absolutely stunning, and I could have spent hours here taking in the views and snapping photos from every angle. You might also want to bring snacks or water for your walk to the canyon.

Is Stuðlagil Canyon kid-Friendly?

If you are traveling with children, I think Stuðlagil Canyon would be an appropriate stop. However, if you are visiting the eastern bank, you will want to ensure that your children are comfortable with walking distance. Depending on the age of your children, you might also want to skip walking down to the base of the canyon and instead view Stuðlagil Canyon from above. We did not see any small children when visiting here, but families with older children were enjoying the view from the eastern bank.

Things to see in the Stuðlagil Canyon area

We visited Stuðlagil Canyon on a whole Iceland campervan trip around Iceland’s Ring Road. One of the most popular options for making your way around the Ring Road is to rent a camper van for ultimate flexibility and adventure. No matter how you make your way around the country, there are so many must-see stops. Below are a few spots that you could include on a visit to eastern Iceland.



The drive to the town of Seydisfjordur alone is worth the time. As you drive along the road that descends toward the town, you will be surrounded by steep cliffs and waterfalls. While we did not spend much time in the town itself, we spent the night at the local campground and could not leave without taking a photo at the charming and insta famous Seydisfjordur church with its rainbow walkway.

Vök Baths

Vök Baths
Vök Baths

Set in an idyllic location in eastern Iceland, Vök Baths is arguably one of the best hot springs in Iceland. Because of its geothermal activity, hot springs can be found throughout the country. However, the eastern region is more of a cold spot with regard to this geothermal activity, making Vök Baths one of the few hot springs in the area. Looking to avoid the crowds and get the most out of the relaxing atmosphere? Plan to visit first thing in the morning or during the last two hours before closing.


Powerful falls at Dettifoss

Dettifoss is reportedly Europe’s second most powerful waterfall and one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland. It is located in northern Iceland along the Diamond Circle route, one of the country’s many scenic detours that branches off from the main Ring Road. Standing along the edge of the waterfall is truly awe-inspiring as you watch the immense volume of water come crashing into the canyon below. A tip for visiting? Bring a waterproof jacket – we got soaked from the spray coming off the falls!

Myvatn Nature Baths

Mývatn Nature Baths main bathing pool
The main bathing pool at Mývatn Nature Baths

On the day we visited Stuðlagil Canyon, we traveled between Seydisfjordur and Lake Mývatn. Spending the evening relaxing at Mývatn Nature Baths was the perfect way to end a busy day of traveling. Here you will be surrounded by the unique landscape of Iceland’s northern region, a hot spot for geothermal activity. Plus, the admission price for visiting Mývatn Nature Baths is cheaper than the popular Sky Lagoon or Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik.

Is Stuðlagil Canyon Worth Visiting?


In our opinion, a visit to Stuðlagil Canyon is absolutely worth the time and effort on any trip around Iceland, particularly if you are planning on visiting the eastern region. Depending on your mobility and the time that you have available, there are two different viewing options for visitors hoping to stop at the unique canyon. With its location just off the Ring Road, Stuðlagil Canyon is a relatively quick stop that offers a view unlike any other. I would not hesitate to recommend adding Stuðlagil Canyon to your Iceland itinerary!

All that being said if you are short on time, it may not be worth the extra 3 hours you need total to drive to the parking area and hike, particularly if the weather is mixed (which it was for us!). While anyone of reasonable fitness and ability can complete this hike, if you have doubts, it may be worth it to continue driving to Myvatn and spend your time at the impressive Hverir geothermal area instead.

The World Pursuit’s Visit to Stuðlagil Canyon

This article was written in collaboration with Rachel, a guest author. We both visited Stuðlagil Canyon this past summer and had an amazing time. As you can tell by the photos, we didn’t get the most impressive weather despite visiting at the end of June.

We personally stayed overnight at a campsite in Egilsstaðir with our Happy Camper. After we woke up, we made our way to Vok Baths before opening to be some of the first to enjoy the atmosphere. We spent around 3 hours enjoying Vok Baths before continuing onto the Canyon. If I were to do this day over I would have somehow managed to visit Stuðlagil Canyon first and then finish the day relaxing in the baths. However when you’re road tripping around Iceland and living out of a van it doesn’t always work like that.

When we reached Stuðlagil Canyon, it was starting to rain, but after already detouring 40 minutes to the parking area, we weren’t going to abandon our hiking plans. We dressed in weather-resistant gear, although I regret not putting rain pants on our Iceland packing list. If there’s one piece of advice I can give, it’s to bring rain pants to Iceland, even in the summer! You never know what you are going to get! By the time we reached the viewpoint we were absolutely soaked, and not wearing proper footwear to grip the basalt columns and hike to the water’s edge.

While I hung back afraid of slipping, Cameron trekked down the edge to get inside the canyon. On a better day, it would have been simply amazing! After spending about 30 minutes taking photos we retreated back to the car absolutely soaked. Bring food with you as there is only one snack stand in the area selling expensive hot dogs.

My three takeaways after visiting – park at the closest parking lot if you have a high clearance vehicle, wear non slip shoes, and watch the weather carefully! The most reliable weather can be found on Vedur.

I hope this guide helps you plan a visit to the stunning Studlagil Canyon! For more information on traveling around Iceland, see more of our guides below.

About Rachel Dale

Hi, I’m Rachel! I’m a travel and outdoor enthusiast from Alberta, Canada. I love exploring the natural landscapes and cultural highlights of countries around the world. My favourite activities include hiking, running, and searching for my next best cup of coffee or new favourite restaurant. I am excited to document my travels here and hope that you can find inspiration for your next bucket-list trip!