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.