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.  

Below is the location of Elagjá on the map of Iceland

The walk to the waterfall is about 30 to 40 minutes

What is special about Ófærufoss is the amount of viewpoints you can see it from, giving you a new perspective of this impressive waterfall each time. At first, when driving towards Ófærufoss you will see it from above, along with a curve of basalt rock formation leading to the waterfall. After driving down to the canyon you can take an hour long hike towards the waterfall. When you have reached it you can walk/climb to see the pool in which the water falls down. That is where this photo is from, but we should mention it can be a bit slippery to take this detour.

When you have reached the waterfall you can walk/climb to see the pool in which the water falls down.

The waterfall Ófærufoss (the impassable waterfall) is one of the few interesting waterfalls in Iceland located in the Highland. A waterfall you don't want to miss if you are traveling in Iceland and waterfalls are on your list of things to do in Iceland.  It is a waterfall in the river Nyðri-Ófæra or “The impassable northern river”.  It is a beautiful and impressive fall, and probably one of ten to fifteen most interesting waterfalls in Iceland.  Placed in the great fissure Eldgjá, or Canyon of Fire, it is one of the main attractions in the Icelandic Highland.  The canyon Eldgjá, a 40 km long eruptive fissure, is a geological phenomenon and one of the largest and longest fissures in Iceland formed in an eruption around the time of settlement in Iceland around the year 930. The part where we find Ófærufoss is the most beautiful part of the fissure, and also the most interesting as both the canyon and the waterfall are stunning. The canyon is around 600 meters wide and 200 meters height.  Before 1993 the waterfall was even more stunning with an arch bridge across the lower cascade.  In 1993 the arch collapsed in the regular spring thaw that proved to be extensive at that time.

How to go to Ófærufoss?

Access to the canyon is a bit difficult, and the area is only accessible from the middle of June until late September. The highland roads are closed in winter.  From the Ring Road Nr. 1 in southern Iceland you turn north on road 208 located abut 20 kilometers west of the small village Kirkjubæjarklaustur.  After a short drive, this road changes into a mountain road F203, Fjallabaksleið nyrðri (The northern track behind the mountains). A 25-kilometre drive on this road will take you straight to the mouth of the part of Eldgjá that houses the waterfall. A few kilometers before you arrive at the parking lot for Elgjá you need to drive over a river the can be difficult to pass, so caution is required.  From the parking lot there is a two and a half to three kilometers walk, depending on how near the waterfall you want to go. The whole canyon with the waterfall is such an impressive natural construction that you can easily spend two to three hours here.  Before you drive to the parking lot passing the river, you can take a turn to Gjátindur. This is a road that defiantly requires a well equipped 4X4 vehicle as you drive up by the rim of the canyon, and here you get a new impressive view of both Elgjá and Ófærufoss.

Below is the location of Ófærufoss waterfall on the map of Iceland

The waterfall Ófærufoss (the impassable waterfall) is one of the few interesting waterfalls in Iceland located in the Highland.