A classic tour in North Iceland.
Asbyrgi (Shelter of the Gods) is the remarkable horseshoe-shaped canyon which Viking settlers believed to be a hoof-print formed by Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged flying horse from Norse mythology. Geologists believe it was formed as the result of a catastrophic flood from the nearby Jokulsa glacial river. Some people say that it is the capital of the Hidden People in Iceland.
Located in Jokulsargljufur within the Vatnajokull National Park, Asbyrgi has 100 meter (330 ft) high cliffs which form a 1 kilometer (.5 mi) wide ring of protective shelter around the rich vegetation and forest. The forest is a protected area but there is camping near the canyon’s entrance and you can climb the canyon itself. For more than half of its length, the canyon is divided through the middle by a distinctive rock formation called Eyjan ("the Island"), from which hikers may enjoy spectacular views.
The canyon's steep sides are formed by cliffs up to 100 metres in height. Down in the canyon, visitors walk through a woodland of birch, willow and mountain ash. Between 1947 and 1977, a number of foreign tree species were introduced, including fir, larch and pine. The small lake Botnstjörn is home to a variety of waterfowl species while artic fulmar nest on the cliffs.
Although Ásbyrgi is part of the Vatnajokull National Park, it is run by the Iceland Forest Service.