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Difficult to access, but well worth the effort, Stuðlagil canyon (Column canyon) is situated in the eastern interior of Iceland. The magnificent basalt columns that make up the canyon walls and the blue-green water make for a very photogenic site to visit.

How to get there

Road 1 encircles the whole country and runs close to Stuðlagil canyon. The road is reachable from Lake Mývatn to the northwest or from the town Egilsstaðir to the east. Once there, travelers have to turn down road 923 and then take a rural gravel road. That leads down to the river Jökulsá á Dal (The glacier river in Dal), which runs through the canyon. From there it still takes a 10 km walk to get to an accessible part of the canyon, to enter it and view it in all its glory.


The river Jökulsá á Dal has carved these spectacular canyons and runs for 150 km, making it the longest river in eastern Iceland. Its forceful water flow makes it very difficult to ford, but it is precisely that power that has resulted in such beautiful canyons over millennia. Several dams are located far into the interior, closer to where the river originates from Vatnajökull (Water Glacier). When they were built, they were somewhat controversial, but they utilize the river’s awesome power to create electricity.

As a side effect, the river below the dams transforms in the summers from a frothy and muddy glacial river to a clear spring river, which certainly adds to Stuðlagils beauty downstream. Not to mention that in the summers, when the glacier waters are reserved above the dams, the canyon is made accessible by foot. That is not true during the winter when the overflow waters are released, and a flood comes barrelling down the canyon. So make sure to visit in summer if you want to enter the canyon!


Basalt collumns

Stuðlagil canyon only refers to a specific section of the river, which runs for an enormous distance and has several distinct canyons. Stuðlagil is definitely the most eye-catching of them all. Its unique columns of basalt that make up its walls are considered the largest on-land collection of such columns in Iceland. The columns reach between 20-30 meters high, and the canyon itself runs the length of about 500 meters.

The columns are formed in a very particular volcanic process where still magma cools down rapidly. As it cools, it splits and separates into these fantastic hexagonal shapes that almost seem artificial. The process is all-natural, however, and the columns are rarely found in such volume on land as in Stuðlagil. They most often form underwater since rapid cooling by the water is instrumental in their formation.


In a strange combination of luck and unintended consequences, due to the controversial damming of the river Jökulsá á Dal, these marvels of nature are visible and accessible today. In fact, the location started to rise in popularity only from 2017, when it was featured in an airline brochure. Until that point, the area was not so well known, even within Iceland.

Wonder of nature

Today Stuðlagil is indeed accessible and gives visitors a rare up-close glimpse of a fascinating wonder of nature, and it’s well worth the effort to visit it.

Guide to photographing Stuðlagil

If you are looking for the perfect guide to photograph this beautifull canyon on your trip to Iceland be sure to watch this video bij Mads Peter Iversen. Mads is one of the most populair photographers on YouTube and has a range of videos about photographing in Iceland (and other top places). He explaines how to get to this top location, gives you tips to get the best out of your visit and what gear you should bring on your trip. Enjoy the video from Mads!

If you like the video about photographing Seljalandsfoss by Mads Peter Iversen be sure to follow him on YouTube and like his updates 😉

If you have been to Iceland and would like to write an article about locations you have visited don’t hesitate to sent us an email. We are happy to get your story and tips online!