Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Declared Nature Reserve

Fjaðrárgljúfur

The popular canyon Fjaðrárglúfur was declared a nature reserve by Minister for the Environment, Energy, and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson.

The popular canyon, located in Southeast Iceland near the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, was already listed on the Nature Conservation Register, a list of protected areas in Iceland and other important natural monuments deemed worthy of protection or conservation.

The designation as a nature reserve will place the canyon among some 130 other sites in Iceland and impose stricter regulations for its conservation.

A popular site protected

The boundaries of the nature reserve now extend over the eastern part of the canyon and mark the area above the eastern cliffs. This area is owned by Hverabergs ehf., and will be operated in cooperation with the municipality of Skaftárhrepp.

Work on the designation began following a memorandum signed by Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson and Hveraberg ehf. in January 2024. The memorandum outlined cooperation on protecting Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and developing infrastructure in the area.

Increasing tourist interest in Fjaðrágljúfur canyon

The canyon Fjaðrárgljúfur (so named after the Fjaðrá river which runs through it) is some 100 m [328 ft] deep and 2 km [1.2 mi] long. Formed by glacial activity nearly 10,000 years ago, the canyon came to international popularity after the 2015 Justin Bieber music video “I’ll Show You.”

Since then, the canyon has seen ever-increasing numbers of tourists, causing the site to be closed to travellers several times. 

The land through which the canyon runs was bought by Hveraberg ehf. in 2022 for 280 million ISK [$2,000,000; €1,860,000].

Immensely popular destination

The increased popularity has also driven a need for a higher level of infrastructure in the area, both to conserve the site and ensure the safety of visitors.

At the ceremony, Minister of Environment, Energy, and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson stated: “Fjaðrárgljúfur is an immensely popular tourist destination, and everything indicates that the influx of tourists to the area will increase in the coming years. I’m satisfied to be able to cooperate with landowners and the Skaftárhrepp municipality to preserve the area and create the necessary environment for the protection of nature in the area and for the reception of tourists.”

Read more about privately owned tourist sites in Iceland.

Fjaðrárgljúfur to Remain Closed Until June

Fjaðrárgljúfur walking path

The Environmental Agency of Iceland is extending its closure of Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon in South Iceland, RÚV reports. It will now be closed until June 1.

The closure of the popular nature site was originally only intended to last two weeks in order to allow trails and vegetation to recover from damage from high pedestrian foot traffic and thawing weather conditions.

This is the second time this year the canyon is closed to visitors due to environmental damage caused by increased visitors. Fjaðrárgljúfur was also closed last spring for the same reason.

The number of tourists visiting the canyon nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017, in part due to Justin Bieber’s music video for “I’ll Show You,” filmed at the location. The video, released in late 2015, has over 400 million views on YouTube.

The Environment Agency says that the canyon may be reopened earlier than June 1, but only if conditions allow.