Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nature's Art at Vesturdalur, Northern Iceland

For travelers to northern Iceland, whether as part of the Ring Road or otherwise, Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon should be part of your itinerary. Formerly a national park on its own, it now falls under Vatnajökull National Park.

If you had planned to visit Dettifoss or Ásbyrgi canyon, then you're essentially visiting Jökulsárgljúfur already. Basically, Ásbyrgi marks the northern while Dettifoss marks the southern end of Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon. However, what I found the most interesting is in the middle - Vesturdalur.

Vesturdalur is prime hiking area, with weaving trails leading to many lava rock formations all around. In particular, Hljóðaklettar (Echo Rocks) and Rauðhólar (Red Hills) trails can be easily done from the carpark in a 2-3 hour loop. The basalt rock (formed by rapidly cooling lava) formations at Hljóðaklettar is the highlight for me. You may have seen the basalt columns in Vik, or the many lava fields all around Iceland, but nothing quite like this. Here, the basalt rock lined horizontally (hence columns is not the right word eh), and even at bizarre angles. Parts of the rock formations are also being cut off yielding eye-catching honeycomb patterns! It's mind-boggling how rapidly cooling lava can produce such "art pieces"! There are also lava caves formed by these basalt formations.

Rauðhólar is a crater row which provides a wonderful panoramic view of the canyon, and itself offers some colorful touch to the landscapes. It is easily done together with the Hljóðaklettar trail. For those who have more time and energy, there is a popular 2-day trek that goes from north (Ásbyrgi) to south (Dettifoss). Otherwise, there are parking lots on all 3 sections of the Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon.

Colorful Rauðhólar

If you are using public transport, there are summer buses going to all these places from Akureyri or Mývatn but do check the schedules carefully at

Check Hljóðaklettar out !

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