The original explanation for Ásbyrgi’s existence is that Sleipnir put a hoof down there and left a giant footprint (Sleipnir was the god Óðinn’s giant eight-legged horse). However, at about three-by-one kilometres in size, that would be a pretty big foot. So we’re going to assume that’s quite unlikely.
The more modern explanation is that a catastrophic glacial flood in the Jökulsá Fjöllum river started washing away rocks and soil and stuff some 8-10,000 years ago and that another similarly epic flooding event completed the job 3,000 years ago. When you go there and consider that this 3 x 1 km canyon surrounded by hundred metre tall cliffs could have been carved by nothing more than water, during just two floods. Well, that’s what we mean by it being one of Iceland’s most remarkable features.
Ásbyrgi is part of the Vatnajökull National Park, but is managed by the national forestry service. It is an excellent place to camp in tent or caravan; but also a great place to stop off for an hour or three’s exploration. The canyon has a shop and a restaurant.
You will find Ásbyrgi on Route 85, east of Húsavík in Northeast Iceland, just before the junction with Route 864.
Travel Guide Iceland – Reykjavík (Iceland)