Eldgjá, Iceland


Eldgja
Ófærufoss Waterfall
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Eldgjá at a Glance

Located northeast of Mýrdalsjökull, between Landmannalaugar and the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Eldgjá  is a 40 km volcanic rift and canyon and home to the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland. In fact, at 600 m wide and 270 m deep at its peak, Eldgjá is the world's biggest volcanic canyon. The northern part of Eldgjá, taking in Ófærufoss and the area surrounding it, was incorporated into Vatnajökull National Park – one of Iceland's three national parks – in 2011.

Eldgjá is a pleasant place for walking and should appeal to those who enjoy exploring on foot and anyone who is interested in the volcanic and geological features of this region. Visitors can walk into the canyon from the parking area and, once there, they should experience the power of the float that created the canyon. Another noteworthy aspect of this canyon is its flat bottom, which is the result of solidified lava and not usually found in canyons created by water. Walkers in Eldgjá will also come across some unique caves that are only found in the type of lava floats located here. While the lava hasn't flowed in recent times it is still sufficiently hot to bubble out gasses from the underlying fissures. Indeed, the type of cave found here is created by a series of bubbles. Within the canyon, visitors will find a superb waterfall called Ófærufoss, from which a natural bridge disappeared in 1993 when melting ice caused an excess of water.   

The name Eldgjá means "Fire Gorge." It is estimated that this canyon was formed around 934 when eruptions were likely to have occurred along its whole extent, and the fissure is thought to extend from Mýrdalsjökull glacier eastwards towards Lambavatn lake. Eldgjá is considered a natural phenomenon of great uniqueness. The lava field covers an area of 700 km², making it one of the earth's largest lava fields since the last ice age.