#þórsmörk

Stakkholtsgjá or Stakkholts Canyon is a beautiful natural wonder, a canyon in Þórsmörk in the Icelandic Highland. From the entrance of the canyon, it is surrounded by high and straight one hundred meters high palagonite cliffs.  Hiking the two kilometers to the end of the canyon is one of the most rewarding short hiking trails in Iceland.  Inside the canyon is a small creek that runs on a bed of pebbles, enhancing the landscape within the canyon. The track is not smooth and crossing the river, that can at times be quite high in volume, takes caution. But on the other hand, it is not a particularly tough hike. The palagonite cliffs have many forms, suspicious caves, shelves with vegetation and deep and narrow ravines, to name a few.  Once inside the canyon you will experience a remarkable peace that embraces your thoughts and you simply can't avoid thinking of creatures from other dimensions. It is an exotic place as the canyon narrows, and you approach the bottom, turning into a very high cave open at the top, at the end of your track. In the cave, the water falls like a dreamlike shower with both light and drizzle falling on your face as you look up.  It is one of those phenomenon in the landscape, in nature, where your mood and feelings change while walking, viewing and experiencing.  

Stakkholtsgjá is a perfect place to take kids

Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is a natural wonder that plays with your mind and imagination.  It is not merely a beautiful place but a place that starts all kind of ideas in your head, even at the entrance.  You can't help thinking if this is one of those places where elves live and as you get deeper into the canyon if there might be creatures living there up in the cliffs, less attractive.  A picture of a troll climbing into one of those caves might pop up in your mind.  This is one reason why Stakkholtsgjá is an excellent place to take kids, especially energetic kids with lively imagination.  It is one of those places Icelanders have loved and visited for many decades and just perfect for families to hike. 

Access to Stakkholtsgjá is a bit difficult and requires a full-size 4WD vehicle

Access to Stakholtsgjá is not simple.  It requires a 4X4 vehicle of the larger kind.  From the Ring Road Nr. 1 in the south you turn north on Road Nr. 249, the same turn you take to see Seljalandsfoss and the road that takes you to Þórsmörk. When you continue on Road Nr. 249 you quickly enter the mountain road F249 that is both rough and requires river crossing. Done correctly and with caution, it is a major adventure to visit Stakkholtsgjá in Þórsmörk.  

The palagonite cliffs in Stakkholtsgjá in Þórsmörk have many forms

As one of Iceland's most remarkable place to visit and a natural wonder, Þórsmörk is not only beautiful but also packed with things to see and experience plus hiking trails.  A place where you can find peace and quiet and your own little sanctuary by a small creek or under a hunted cliff.  It is an ideal place to take a bus from Reykjavík the capital equipped with hiking shoes, a tent, and supplies for a few days stay.

Þórsmörk is not only beautiful but also packed with things to see and experience

Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon is a kind of hidden gem in the Icelandic landscape. It is one of our most impressive and stunning canyons but not visited by many.  One reason is the fact that it is placed in the Icelandic Highland and not simple to visit. Although not among the largest canyons in Iceland, it is quite deep, about 200 meters where it is deepest, and the main and most interesting and most accessible part spans about 4 kilometers. The canyon is very impressive and is part of the Highland road Syðri Fjallabak when entered by Emstrur continuing from Fljótshlíð in southern Iceland. It is also part of the popular hiking track Laugavegur from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk.

Formed in a single disaster flood

The canyon is believed to be created in a single disaster flood bursting from the famous volcano Katla in Mýrdalsjökull glacier in an eruption under the glacier.  If that is correct you will be amazed when looking at the canyon of the enormous power a single flood from an eruption under glacier can create and the devastation it can leave behind. This supposedly occurred about two thousand years ago, so other geological factors have contributed to the canyon since then. Through the canyon floods the river Markarfljót which has also given it a name.  A river with a significant place in Icelandic history and geological history.

Access is not simple

Access to Markarfljótsgljúfur is either by a hiking trail from Þórsmörk or on the mountain road Emstruleið F261. This is a challenging and rough mountain road with difficult rivers to cross, so it requires a well-equipped 4WD vehicle.  Another way is to find a good tour operator. To access the mountain road you take a left turn when coming from Reykjavík on the Ring Road by the village Hvolsvöllur to the Road Nr. 261.  From Hvolsvöllur village the drive is about 50 kilometers.

Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon is a kind of hidden gem in the Icelandic landscape.

If you ask an Icelander about the most beautiful place in the country, many would reply Þórsmörk. For many Icelanders, Þórsmörk is their favorite place for camping and visiting during summer and the number one place if they had to set up a list of favorite locations in  Icelandic nature.  It is almost romantic and comparable to our sacred place Þingvellir except in the Highland. It is an oasis surrounded and protected by mighty rivers, mountains, mountain ridges, cliffs, and glaciers.  Although defined as the Highland the altitude is not as high as in most of the Highland which is why Þórsmörk has more vegetation than most places in the Highland. It is an area of magnificent landscape, mighty rivers, endless creeks and peaks, beautiful canyons, impressive hiking trails, continuously moving glacier tongues, excellent camping areas and infinitive ways to have an outdoor adventure. Not to forget proximity to active volcanos that have just recently spared glowing lava down into some of its canyons.

Þórsmörk is hiker's paradise

There are many excellent hiking trails in Þórsmörk. Two of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland end in Þórsmörk. Laugavegur hiking trail from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk and Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail from Skógar and Skógafoss waterfall to Þórsmörk.  Both hiking trails are spectacular and so is most of the places and landscape in Þórsmörk. If your trip to Iceland and travel in Iceland takes you to Þórsmörk, we recommend spending at least two to three days hiking and enjoying nature in this remarkable place.

Access is not easy and requires a good 4X4 vehicle

Although it is quite easy to find the way to Þórsmörk by taking a turn on Road Nr. 1 to the Road Nr. 249 that also leads to Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the road to Þórsmörk is a rough and challenging Highland Road. As Road Nr. 249 continuous from Seljalandsfoss it turns into F249, Mountain Road Nr. 249, within eight kilometers.  From there by the old bridge over the river Markarfljót, it is a rugged road only for a large 4X4 vehicle.  There are some streams, creeks, and rivers you need to cross and most of them can change from “small” too big in a heartbeat due to rain, warmth and all kinds of climate related matters.  Driving to Þórsmörk in a small car is simply and plainly irresponsible and can be very dangerous.  One of the best options is to take a bus if you don't want to go through the expense of hiring a good 4X4 vehicle. 

For many Icelanders, Þórsmörk is their favorite place

If you are traveling to Iceland, bear in mind that it is a perfect place to find peace and quiet. Even though you are driving the Ring Road, you can always find a peaceful place in the grass by a small river or a waterfall for a picnic. Your trip to Iceland should energize you with relaxation and a peaceful mind. There is never a need to hurry. If you can’t cover what you intended, just come back later. Neither nature nor the volcanoes are going anywhere. Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) has been for a long time a favorite place among Icelanders.

For a long time a favorite place among Icelanders

Probably the most famous hiking trail in Iceland today is the Laugavegur trail from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork. It is a fascinating highland path where people go through all kinds of landscape and many geological wonders. A typical time for the hike is four days and five nights as most people spend a night in Landmannalaugar, the base camp, before starting and one night in Thorsmork, the oasis, at the end. Although the hiking trail is not particularly challenging, it requires some serious perpetration. The trail goes through some difficult terrain, and that requires good shoes.

The most famous hiking trail in Iceland today is the Laugavegur