The Hidden Gem in South Iceland: Nauthúsagil Canyon

The Hidden Gem in South Iceland: Nauthúsagil Canyon

James Taylor James Taylor
2. Oct 2023 ∼ 5 min. read

Discovering the Enchanting Nauthúsagil Canyon

Iceland, known for its breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders, has become one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. That means that there are crowds at most places, especially in South Iceland, famed for its waterfalls, glaciers, and black sand beaches.

But there are still places that remain under the radar. Iceland is a country where you could spend a lifetime exploring and still turn up some unique natural treasures. That means there are plenty of spots that other visitors don’t see. And it’s safe to say that the enchanting Nauthúsagil Canyon can be considered a hidden gem.

The Mystique of Nauthúsagil Canyon

Nauthúsagil Canyon is an adventurous attraction in South Iceland, offering a fun experience for those who visit. The canyon is characterized by its narrow passageways that you can clamber through, with towering rock formations above. The result is a feeling like you’re adventuring into a fantasy world. When the sun shines down into the canyon from above, reflecting off the river’s spray and black walls, those feelings are amplified even more.

The Legends of Nauthúsagil

Like many places in Iceland, Nauthúsagil Canyon has its own folklore and legends. According to local tales, the name "Bull Shed Ravine" originated from the construction of a bull shed for the bulls from Stóra-Mörk farm, which grazed in the area alongside non-milking stock. However, the area was abandoned in 1777 due to reports of excessive haunting, and it is believed that the spirits of the past still reside in the canyon. As you delve deeper into Nauthúsagil, keep your eyes peeled for any spirits!

Exploring the Waterfalls of Nauthúsagil

One of the main attractions of Nauthúsagil Canyon is its stunning waterfalls. As you make your way through the canyon, you'll discover several beautiful waterfalls. To reach the first one it’s only a short walk, but you’ll be navigating across a slippery path to get there.

From here, you can continue deeper into the canyon, but you’ll have to climb up and over the first small waterfall. This can be difficult, but you’ll find some chains embedded into the canyon wall to assist. Then, around the corner is the larger waterfall, hidden at the very end. All in all, the hike takes around 15 minutes or so, and is relatively easy.

In saying that though, it’s essential to wear proper footwear and exercise caution, especially during wet conditions and when climbing over the first waterfall.

Nauthúsagil in Different Seasons

Nauthúsagil Canyon offers a different experience depending on the season you visit. In the spring, when the vegetation is still awakening, the trees that arch over the top of the canyon add a vibrant touch of greenery. Summer brings lush foliage, creating a picturesque canopy above that filters the sunlight beautifully. In winter, Nauthúsagil transforms into a frozen wonderland, with icy formations adorning the canyon walls and the waterfalls partially or completely frozen. But it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to enter at this time of year. 

Getting to Nauthúsagil Canyon

Nauthúsagil Canyon is in South Iceland, near the popular attractions of Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi waterfalls. To reach the canyon, you'll need to drive east from Reykjavik on Ring Road 1 for approximately 120 km. Then, turn left onto Route 249 and continue until you pass Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi waterfalls, as if you’re driving to Thórsmörk.

From here, the road transitions into gravel, and will become F-249 for a short while before you get to the canyon, but it’s still an easy road (the real challenges of this F-road come later when you must cross rivers into Thórsmörk). Continue for a short distance until you find the farm called Stóra-Mörk. The ravine is just behind this farm, with some information provided on a sign from the Katla Geopark. 

If you find yourself fording any glacial rivers, it’s safe to say that you’ve gone too far.

Planning Your Visit to Nauthúsagil Canyon

When planning your visit to Nauthúsagil Canyon, it's important to come prepared. Wear suitable hiking boots or sturdy footwear that can withstand the uneven terrain and potential wet conditions. You’ll be clambering through the river and over slippery rocks, so be careful.

As always, pack appropriate clothing and layer up before venturing inside the canyon. It’s also recommended to bring a camera to capture the beauty of the canyon and its waterfalls. But remember to respect the natural environment, leave no trace, and take care of this pristine environment.

In regard to adding this onto your campervan journey, it’s an easy addition to a stop by Seljalandsfoss (which will be on most campervan itineraries anyway!). Budget around another hour or so to visit Nauthúsagil after visiting Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi.

Go Back
Related articles
The 5 Best Places to Visit in the Icelandic Highlands
The 5 Best Places to Visit in the Icelandic Highlands

There are plenty of great places to visit in the highlands, but we’ve narrowed it down to the 5 best locations in the region.

Read more
Game of Thrones Shooting Locations in Iceland
Game of Thrones Shooting Locations in Iceland

Iceland has enjoyed an integral role as a filming location thanks to its fantasy-like landscapes and epic glaciers.

Read more
The 10 Best Things to See and Do in South Iceland
The 10 Best Things to See and Do in South Iceland

There are plenty of things to see and do in South Iceland on a campervan trip, one of the most exciting regions in the country.

Read more
Featured campers

Go SMART Budget Camper

Go SMART Budget Camper Go SMART Budget Camper
No heater
2 beds
Manual
No highland
from 50 EUR per day
View Book

Go LITE Automatic Camper

Go LITE Automatic Camper Go LITE Automatic Camper
Heater
3 beds
Automatic
No highland
from 102 EUR per day
View Book

Go BIG Camper

Go BIG Camper Go BIG Camper
Heater
5 beds
Manual
No highland
from 130 EUR per day
View Book

Go 4x4 PRO Camper

Go 4x4 PRO Camper Go 4x4 PRO Camper
Heater
4 beds
Automatic
Highland
from 240 EUR per day
View Book