Ásbyrgi in snowless winter

Ásbyrgi is a glacial canyon and forest in the north of Iceland, located approximately 38 kilometers east of Húsavík on the Diamond Circle road. The horseshoe-shaped depression is part of the Vatnajökull National Park and measures approximately 3.5 kilometers in length and over 1 kilometer wide. For more than half of its length, the canyon is divided through the middle by a distinctive rock formation 25 meters high called Eyjan, from which a vast landscape is seen.

The canyon’s steep sides are formed by cliffs up to 100 meters in height. Within in the canyon is a woodland of birch and willow. Between 1947 and 1977, a number of foreign tree species were introduced, including spruce, larch and pine. The small lake Botnstjörn is home to a variety of waterfowl species.

Ásbyrgi was most likely formed by catastrophic glacial flooding of the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum after the last ice age, first 8–10.000 years ago, and then again some 3.000 years ago. The river has since changed its course and now runs about 2 kilometers to the east.

The legend explains the unusual shape of the canyon differently. Nicknamed Sleipnir’s footprint, it is said that the canyon was formed when Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, touched one of its feet to the ground here.