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On the spectacular and dramatic south-eastern coast of Iceland, nestled under the enormity of Vatnajökull glacier, lies the out of the way and little-visited Múlagljúfur (Mule Canyon). The canyon stretches up to 4 km and is home to two waterfalls, Múlafoss and Hangandifoss.


How to get to Múlagljúfur

Driving along the ring road, down the south coast, and turning the corner around Iceland’s biggest glacier, Vatnajökull is where the journey begins. Then, following an unmarked gravel road up towards the mountains, there is a small parking lot. What follows is a roughly 45 minute long hike dotted with trail markers. The hike is a visual spectacle, but the gorge gets truly breathtaking once it reaches the plateau overlooking the two waterfalls.

Wasteland Glacier

Múlagljúfur is a deep canyon just south of Öræfajökull (Wasteland Glacier), which is an ice-covered volcano and Iceland’s largest active volcano and the country’s tallest mountain. Öræfajökull is adjoined by Vatnajökull, as the ice cap covering both are connected, but its foundation is a separate mountain.


The volcano has been historically active and erupted violently several times. Most notably, in 1362, it destroyed the surrounding countryside to such an extent that it was abandoned for 40 years, earning it the name Öræfi (Wasteland). However, one of the features of its violent past is represented in Múlagljúfur. The deep canyon carved by a combination of catastrophic floods and continual meltwater from the glacier volcano for millennia is a testament to the ferocity of the natural forces shaping the land.

Overlooking the canyon

Once reaching the end of the hike and overlooking the canyon, it is a perfect time to soak in the views and take some very memorable pictures. The two waterfalls are clustered close together in the canyon. Múlafoss is farther away on the deep end of the canyon and falls down an impressive 50 meters, and Hangandifoss right in front drops an even more stunning distance of 110 meters.

Little known gem

Akin to another location, Kvernufoss, Múlagljúfur is a little-known gem in Iceland. Located far down the South Coast, in the literally named Öræfi (Wasteland), at the end of an unassuming gravel road, it does not receive many visitors. It is however a majestic natural wonder in its own right. For adventurers it is perhaps even enhanced by its remoteness and obscurity.

Kvernufoss waterfall in Iceland

Power of nature

Hiking up to Múlagljúfur is a welcome chance to experience one of Iceland’s multitudes of beautiful sights in relative quiet and peace, unlike many of the hotspots of tourism in Iceland. Múlagljúfur is also a somber and awe-inspiring reminder of the power of nature. Its dramatic landscape is full of contrasts, the deeply carved canyon into the broad and tall mountains, the ominous power of the volcano above, and the seemingly innocent thin streams of meltwater waterfalls of Múlafoss and Hangandifoss. Múlagljúfur is a hidden gem but a gem well worth exploring.