Gjáin is a literal oasis in the heart of the great valley of Þjórsárdalur. This magnificent lush green ravine seems to come out of nowhere in the middle of the barren lava fields created by the Hekla volcanic eruption of 1104.
Gjáin, literally “rift” in Icelandic, was long ignored by tourists until the site appeared in episode 5 of season 4 of the Game Of Throne TV show. That really put the place on the map in terms of tourism, even though it has always been a must-see attraction in the Thjórsá Valley .
Gjáin in the Thjorsá Valley
Gjáin is located between the beautiful Haifoss waterfall and the Stöng farm in the Thjorsá valley AKA Thjorsardalur. No one expects to find this kind of landscape in Iceland, especially here, in a terrain ravaged by the Hekla eruption of 1104.
This small valley of bright green contrasts sharply with the massively dark volcanic structures and striking blue waterfalls. The red river Rauðá flows through the Gjáin Gorge to weave and wind its way through the greenery. Rauðá is the source of several waterfalls in Gjáin, the most powerful of which is the magnificent Gjárfoss, a 15-meter-high cascade spilling from volcanic stone into a pond.
It is rare to find such lush vegetation in Iceland, especially in such dramatic and contrasting fashion. In addition to the vegetation and volcanic structures, did we mention there are magnificent basaltic cliffs there too?
And as you are driving up to this place, you really don't see it coming until a turn when you arrive near the car park when it appears all at once.
To get to the Gjáin car park, take Road 32 that connects Fluðir and Landmannalaugar, then turn off on your left just after the Hjálparfoss waterfall to take Road 327.
Even if it does not have fords, this is more of a trail than a road and a 4x4 vehicle is however recommended because it is a bumpy ride. The oasis of Gjáin is located about 1 hour 45 minutes from the capital Reykjavik (125 km) and 75 km from Geysir.
Gjáin is a destination for the summer. Indeed, while Road 327 may be open, the whole point of visiting Gjáin is to see the green grass lush flora, and these colors are only present in summer, between June and September.
Gjárfoss waterfall in Gjáin
Once parked in the car park, you can easily find the path to discover the canyon above, which provides the most impressive view and panorama on the site.
This may be enough for some, but most take the short hike that allows you to go around the ravine.
In just 30 minutes, you go down into the ravine and walk around its roughly 1 km with an elevation of about 70 meters. This walk will allow you to get as close as possible to the waterfalls and really takes you past the most picturesque flora.
Gjain is only a 15-minute walk from Stöng Farm (the Ruins) and this is a particularly nice short hike.
For the real hikers, this trail allows you to reach Haifoss from Gjáin. This is a 10 km trail, one way, and while easy can be stony, so you need proper hiking boots.