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.

Successful Response to Extreme Weather

None were injured in the winter storm that hit Iceland yesterday, and response efforts went smoothly, representatives of the Icelandic Association for Search, Rescue, and Injury Prevention (ICE-SAR) and the Civil Protection and Emergency Management Department told Vísir. Efforts mostly consisted of assisting travellers who had gotten stuck in the snow. The weather has calmed across the country today and is expected to be calmer in the coming days, though with heavy precipitation.

Cars stuck in snow

Travellers required assistance in various regions, including the capital area, West Iceland, Southeast Iceland, and East Iceland. More than 10 cars got stuck in the Grafarholt neighbourhood of Reykjavík around 10:00 PM last night. Only one response centre for travellers was opened, in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Southeast Iceland, and 34 travellers sought shelter there.

Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir, the Civil Protection Department’s Communications Officer, believes that the weather warnings released over the past two days served to prevent serious accidents. “We believe that people just decided to stand with us in all of this,” she stated.

Single-Lane Bridge Replaced with Double-Lane Bridge Near Kirkjubæjarklaustur

kirkjubæjarklaustur bridge iceland

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Infrastructure, took part in the official opening of the new bridge over Jökulsá on the south coast of Iceland on Friday, October 21.

With the appearance of the new bridge, there will no longer be any one-way bridges between Reykjavík and Kirkjubæjarklaustur, a town on the south coast of Iceland. The improvement is a major one for the region, meaning that the drive east along the south coast will be all the more navigable.

Also present at the opening ceremony were Anton Kári Halldórsson, mayor of Rangárþing eystra, and Einar Freyr Elínarsn, mayor of Mýrdalshreppur municipality.

After the ceremony, minister Sigurður was the first to drive over the new bridge, inaugurating this latest addition to Iceland’s road system.

In his address at the ceremony, minister Sigurður outlined his ministry’s plans to get rid of single-lane bridges throughout the nation: “Today we move one step closer to that goal. Four years ago, 37 bridges on the Ring Road were single-lane, now there are 32, and there will be 31 when the new bridge opens today. And there is no let up in construction. I am hopeful that we will be able to reduce the number of them to 29 right before the end of the year, with new bridges openings on both Hverfisfljót and Núpsvötn later in the year. There are also three single-lane bridges that will be diverted around the Ring Road when traffic is allowed over the new bridge over the Hornafjörður River.”

According to information from the Road Administration, the new bridge is some 163 m [535 ft] long, with a total width of 10 m [33 ft]. The bridge it replaces was built in 1967, part of the construction of Iceland’s Ring Road.

Ring Road Closure Due to Flood Continues

Route 1, the Ring Road, remains closed at Kirkjubæjarklaustur due to a glacial outburst flood in Skaftá river, RÚV reports. Authorities are now evaluating whether to breach the road and build a channel to drain the area.

Though the road is closed to smaller vehicles, larger cars and jeeps have been permitted to pass through. Smaller vehicles can bypass the closure via Road 204 through Meðalland.

“There is just a large catchment area that has been formed there, I just have no idea when it will recede, that’s just how it is,” said Ágúst Bjartmarsson of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration. “This is over a kilometre long catchment area and lots of water behind it.”

Travellers are advised to check conditions at road.is before setting out.

Update August 9, 2018: The Ring Road has been opened to traffic at Kirkjubæjarklaustur.