In far northern Iceland, the extraordinary natural landscapes of Gjástykki are among the region’s most striking. Hewn from a series of eruptions by the neighboring Krafla volcano, the rift valley features 65-foot-high (20-meter-high) walls of lava rock and valleys of multicolored slag, still hot with volcanic activity.
For those looking to venture off the beaten path, the rift valley of Gjástykki makes a worthwhile side trip from the Mývatn area or Akureyri. The site is only reachable by 4WD, while exploring the valley is only possible on a guided hike. In addition to admiring the otherworldly landscapes, Gjástykki offers a unique example of Iceland’s tectonic plate movement. The still-active volcanic area lies on the mid-Atlantic ridge—the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian plates—with its landforms clearly showing the separation of the plates.
Things to Know Before You Go
Geothermal activity can reach temperatures of up to 400°F (205°C) in the region, so only walk in areas designated by your guide and don’t be tempted to go exploring on your own.
There is no cell phone coverage or Wi-Fi at Gjástykki.
Due to the challenging natural terrain, Gjástykki is not wheelchair-accessible and may be challenging for those with limited mobility.
How to Get there
The volcanic area of Gjástykki is located 3 miles (5 kilometers) north of Mt. Krafla, about a 1.5-hour drive from Akureyri. The still-active valley is closed to public vehicles, and visiting is only possible by guided tour.
When to Get There
It is possible to explore Gjástykki all year round, although access is occasionally restricted in winter, depending on weather conditions.
Exploring Iceland’s Diamond Circle
Gjástykki lies along northern Iceland’s principal sightseeing route, the 162-mile (260-kilometer) loop known as the Diamond Circle. While Gjástykki is one of the less visited sights, its close proximity to Lake Mývatn makes it an easy detour. Highlights of the route include Dettifoss waterfall, the mud pools of Hverir, the Mývatn thermal baths, and the ice cave of Lofthellir, while the landscapes of Vatnajökull National Park and the Tjörnes peninsula provide ample opportunities for outdoor activities.