If you have a 4WD rent a car while traveling in Iceland, you should consider taking a drive to Elagjá. The name Eldgjá, or Fire Canyon, refers to a 40-kilometre fissure in the Icelandic Highland stretching from Gjátindur Mountain to a southwest direction, all the way to the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, and under the glacier reaching the much-feared volcano Katla. It is a geological wonder and in its essence, a volcano and much of the surrounding lava and vast lava carpets south of the fissure came from Eldgjá centuries ago. The name was given to the fissure by Iceland's first geologist Þorvaldur Thoroddssen at the end of 19th century. Today and for the last half a century the term Eldgjá has most often referred to a part in the middle of the fissure, the large and impressive canyon and natural wonder located at the Highland Road Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri.
A canyon with one of our most impressive waterfalls
The canyon Eldgjá is approximately 5 kilometers long and around 600 meters wide. The cliffs and slopes framing the magnificent natural wonder are more or less 200 meters high. In the middle of the canyon, the river Nyrðri Ófæra (The impassable northern river) falls into the canyon in one of Iceland's most impressive waterfalls, Ófærufoss (The impassable waterfall). From the mouth of the canyon beginning at the parking lot is a marked hiking trail. The walk to the waterfall is about 30 to 40 minutes. You can also walk up to a viewing deck by the middle of the waterfall to get up and personal with Ófærufoss waterfall, quite spectacular if I might say so.
Access to Eldgjá requires a 4WD vehicle
Eldgjá is part of the Icelandic Highland. Like all other places in the Highland in Iceland, it is only accessible during the opening time of the Highland Roads, from early July until the middle of September. Like most Highland Roads it also requires a 4WD vehicle as the road is a bit rugged and on your way to Eldgjá you need to cross unbridged rivers. The best way to access the road is from the Ring Road some 23 kilometers west of the village Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Here you take a turn north on Road nr. 208 and drive approximately 16 kilometers until you take a left turn and enter the Mountain Road F208 Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri. On this road, you need to drive about 26 kilometers to reach Eldgjá.