Location: North-east Iceland
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Ásbyrgi canyon, located in Vatnajökull National Park, in the north of Þingeyjarsýsla, is one of the greatest natural wonders of Iceland. It is up to 3.5 km long and about 1.1 km wide. The cliff walls are about 90 – 100 m high and are lowest at the front but rise as you travel into the canyon.
Various hypotheses have been put forward about the origin of this canyon. Still, it is most likely that it formed when catastrophic eruptions took place in Vatnajokull glacier, about 8-10 million years ago and then repeated about three thousand years ago. However, according to Icelandic legends, this natural phenomenon came about differently. The story says that Sleipnir, Odin’s horse, stepped firmly on his feet when he traveled through lands and seas. As a result, Ásbyrgi formed from the hoofs of Sleipnir, and the island in the middle is a passage of the foot.
The rock in the walls of Ásbyrgi is made of belted mound lava. The lava flowed from the crater Stóravít at the top of Þeistareykjarbunga 11 – 12 thousand years ago, shortly after the glaciers retreated from the area. Geologists call the lava Stóravítishraun. Stóravítisdyngjan is the same type of volcano as Skjaldbreiður and Trölladyngja and is the largest lava mound in the country in terms of material.
Ásbyrgi in Jökulsárgljúfur is within Vatnajökull National Park, and there is a large flow of tourists there during the summer. Walking paths have been laid around the area, and information signs have been put up about the nature and flora hidden there. There are various longer and shorter hiking trails around the canyon. There are organized walks in the summer, and you can get information about them in Gljúfrastofa, the national park’s visitor center, by the campsites.