Gjáin Hike Details

Curious to embark on a bewitching hike during your visit to Iceland?  Allow our Iceland Wedding Planner team to introduce you Gjáin Waterfall Valley!  Some say it will feel like you’re stepping into Narnia or some other fantasyland.  But really, it’s just stunning little valley on the edge of the Icelandic Highlands.  And today we share with you a step by step guide to hiking in the area…  Lucky you!

Þjórsárdalur: Historical Volcanic Valley

Þjórsárdalur or Thjorsar Valley is an area of Iceland that is riddled with tons of Icelandic history, tons of unique waterfalls, other interesting geographical features.  First, the longest river in Iceland, Þjórsá flows through.  Which is fed by one of Iceland’s 13 glaciers named, Hofsjökull.  Second, the historical farm named, Stöng is also part of this iconic area which has a traditional Viking long house on the property.  Third, Háifoss and Granni Waterfall hike is within as well.  However, in our opinion, Gjáin is the most hidden gem among.

Driving Directions to Gjáin

Likely, now you’re wondering how in the world do you find your way to Gjáin, right?!  Very good question and one we are happy to help with…

From Reykjavik:

  1. You can expect your journey to be ~2 hours one way.
  2. When you leave downtown, you need to follow signs to Route 1 (Hringbraut / Ring Road).
  3. Then there will be a split where the Ring Road goes South or North.  Follow Suðurlandsvegur (Route 1 South) towards Vik.
  4. Follow the highway to over a mountain pass and down into the town of Hveragerdi (but continue to drive through). ~45 km / 27 miles
  5. Next, 13 minutes later (13km / 8 miles) you’ll go through the town of Selfoss.
  6. Still heading east, 15 minutes later (16km / 10 miles) you’ll see a LEFT turn off for Route #30 (Skeiða- og Hrunamannavegur).  At this turnoff you’ll see what looks like a car pooling lot for ease of referencing.  And at this point you have 1 hour left!
  7. You’ll continue on Route #30 for 18km / 11 miles.
  8. At Þjórsárdalsvegur or Route #32 you’ll turn RIGHT and stay on this road for 42km / 26 miles.
  9. Technically, there are two ways into Gjáin but we are going to take you into the more formal way (less bumpy).
  10. You’ll pass by the historical farm Stöng, a waterfall named, go up a mountain pass, see Hjálparfoss (to the right, you would turn and drive down if you wish to experience).
  11. About 15 minutes later (or 12km / 7 miles) among curvy highland (paved roads) you’ll come to your last turn named, Háifoss or Route #332.  Please be aware this is a unpaved stone road.  Furthermore, it can be heavily rutted and low sections can become river crossings as rain water can sit.  GO SLOW and don’t go through any deep water.
  12. The final stretch will take you approximately, 15-20 minutes driving the remaining 4km / 2.5 miles to the parking lot at Gjáin.  Please GO SLOW here as well as the potholes will continue until you reach the circle parking lot.

Gjáin Hike Details

The direct translation of Gjáin means “the canyon.”  But we nickname the area “waterfall valley” because of the amount of waterfalls in such a small area!  Therefore, if you’re a lover of falls, basalt, caves, and flora…  Then having this incredibly rich spot on your Iceland self-drive itinerary is ideal!  However, please be respectful to the landowners and landscape… For instance, where there are ropes do not cross and where there are signs please heed them!

A word before we begin… Be aware, there is another parking point further down on the unmarked not paved road (usually very pitted with potholes) but there you can park, cross a manmade bridge, and hike for 10-30 minutes one way (depending on your pace) to get to Gjárfoss (waterfall #3) without crossing a river by foot.  But in order to see the other falls in the area you would have to cross the rivers by foot or drive around to the side we highlight below.

Gjáin Specs:

  • Distance: ~1/2 mile to 1 mile round trip. Or nothing if you just view from the top!
  • Hike Time: 5 minutes – 1 hour depending on how far you go and how much time you spend.
  • Terrain:  Stairs, loose rocks, dirt/mud, grass, marsh, slippery rocks, metal / wooden bridges, sand, volcanic rocks, and river crossings.
  • Difficulty: Easy!  But if you’re an unsure hiker, it’s best to bring hiking poles.
  • Elevation Loss / Gain: ~160 feet to 700 feet.
  • Gjain Hike Parking Lot: Google Map
  • Best Time to Hike: Late May to mid-October.
  • Notes:
    • Between the months of mid October – Early May, it is best that you hire a local guide with super jeep to be with you.  Why?  The road is “impassable” during that time due to snow, slush, deep ruts, and river flooding.  Furthermore, sometimes in April and May it’s closed by the environmental agency and/or Icelandic Road Authority because of snow melt and is “closed.”
    • Flying drone here is not permitted unless in advance permits are approved by the Icelandic Environmental Agency.
    • Please respect the ropes, signs, and LEAVE NO TRACE!

Step by Step Guide to Hiking Gjáin:

Additionally, are you ready to start this fantastic hike into Gjáin Waterfall Canyon?  Let’s do it!  Follow this step by step photo guide to get yourself there…

Getting Married at Gjáin Waterfalls

In conclusion, did you fall in love with this magical area?  Maybe even now want to plan your Iceland wedding at Gjáin too?!  Well, good news with the help of a local Iceland wedding planner you can.  As they can help you secure the in advance permission and permit from this Nature Preserve area to do so.  But please keep in mind, that likely does not give you the right to “close” the area.  However it simply gives you permission to be there, hold your ceremony, and take Iceland wedding photographs.

Meanwhile, closing the area requires more of a commitment and investment much like a film crew / production would do.  Therefore, since the area has become more popular throughout the last decade, maybe you want a more special private place to say your vows at?  Lastly, feel free to contact us to get more information on our experience driven weddings!

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