As the name already imposes this is a canyon created by the river Jökulsá. It is 25 km long and up to 500 meter wide and partly up to 100 meter deep. This area is since 2008 part of the Vatnajökull national park. There are at least two must places to visit. You may also choose to take one of the walks connecting several of the places worth visiting in the area.
The first must is the majestic waterfall Dettifoss which is a fantastic experience to visit. The ground is shivering when the 100 meter wide and 45 meter high glacial river throws its at least 200 m3 per seconds down on the ground. If you are up to see only one waterfall in Iceland this is the one to visit ! Do not miss the remarkable two stone pillars called karl and kerling (man and woman) while taking your stroll. As so many places in iceland volcanic activity is the reason for land formation. Big glacier rivers have later eroded their way through the land.
The second must is the interesting nature creation of Ásbyrgi. Sagas tell that the horse of the god Ódinn put his foot here leaving his footprint on the ground. Looking at the size of the area for sure he had big feet ! More scientific approaches tell that there have been massive river flooding of Jökulsá 3000 and 10 000 years back in time carving out this canyon which is now free of water. You will notice that there is echo here but also arctic fulmar, the angry birds, nesting on the 100 meter high rockwalls. Beware of their rage since the material they try to deposit on you is hard to get rid off and stinks...
The whole area is perfect for walks and there are several path you can follow. You reach Dettifoss easier from the eastern side by road 864 which is accessible with a 2x4 car. The nicer view you have from the western side but it may require a 4x4 depending on when the dirt track is prepared. F862 is thus the more frequent approach for both Ásbyrgi and Dettifoss coming either from north going south or the more likely opposite. Coming from road 1 it is a 25 km drive on the gravel track.
The glacial river Skjálfandafljót which derives its water from Vatnajökull has several very beautifull waterfalls. This is the last before the river reaches the sea in the bay Skjálfandi. It is a natural stop also since the only shop and petrol station in the area is close by. Here you also start your way going Barðardal south for 30 km before the highland route F26 over Sprengisandur takes on taking you to the southern part of Iceland crossing the sands. The road junction where main road 1 and the highland route meet is very frequented by tourists not only due to the beautiful waterfall. The waterfall Góðafoss is only 30 meters wide and drops 12 meters in height but it runs through dramatic lavastone creations.
Of course there is saga connected to the waterfall to as the name already implies. In the year 1000 the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland at the Allthing. After his conversion Þorgeir threw his statues of the norse gods into the waterfall. True or not it is fascinating that names can have such a long history.
This peninsula has got the name "plain of the polar fox" even if it is less likely you will see so many here. They reside more in the north western region of the country. The area is known for the many shipwrecks in the coast line. From a geological point of view the area is interesting since also today there are still often earth quakes and many volcanos give evidence of the activities in the earthcrust during the continental divide. The area is very rich in small lakes and those who want a calm stroll on their own can be sure to find this here. A lot of birdlife can be found in this area too where wetlands are predominant.
Raufarhöfn is one of the few hamlets in the area and it is also the northernmost tiny city in Iceland. Raudanes offers a nice walk along a marked trail in coastal areas.
Today a fully abandoned area full of drift timber and sea birds. The ride out to the lighthouse is spectacular especially if branching off to the old herring factory site at Skálar. Today a ghost town but once two hundred people lived here during the herring fishing period. The old icehouses, where only ruins remain today, were important to fishermen from other countries buying ice for their caught fish here. After WW2 the area also became dangerous to live in due to mines placed by the allied army, which had occupied Iceland during the war, and people left the area. Like in all once full of life and now abandoned places there is a tragic atmosphere in this place. The 4x4 ride and the great sea views in an historic atmosphere make this a wellworth trip. There are also many birds in the area for those interested in bird watching.
With its 1700 meter high icecovered volcano Kverkfjöll is a very visible landmark in Vatnajökull. Here you can explore ice caves formed by glacier river arms aswell as walk up to the hot water areas high above the ground. The hut is often fully booked and prebooking can be a good idea. Very spectacular area where still active volcanos, waste lavafield and glacier river meet. Full day guided tours up the glacier to the hot water areas are offered from the hut. One of my favourite places to visit ! There is a tiny camping site also where grass has been artificially grown. Free camping is forbidden in this and all other nature preservatives due to heavy soil erasion. Driving here requires a 4x4 due to some unbridged creeks and loose sand areas where you otherwise would get stuck.
After your visit to Kverkfjöll you are bound to visit Herðubreiðarlindir too. This is a place of the most utterly beauty ! After miles in lava desert you come to an area where green plants grow and the moss covers the ground. The name already implies there is a small creek.
The mountain Herðubreið lies in the area within walking distance from the hut. You can walk up to the summit on your own but also guided tours are offered. There is risk for loose falling stones in the steepest parts so only skilled walkers should make the attempt up to the summit unless you choose for a guided walk. The upper parts are snow and ice covered but the view from this 1682 meter high volcano is stunning. The volcano is a tuya, a rare form of volcano created under the ice during the last ice period. The waste lavafields around called ódaudahraun are mainly the result of the volcano Trölladyngjas eruptions. Several other volcanos in the area have also contributed and a walk in the area will shown several different types of lava fields. There is a small hut called Braedrafell a daywalk westwards from where you can explore the power of Trölladyngja. Booking is required since it only has sleeping places for 12 people. Also note that you need to carry your drinking water into this region since there are no creeks west of the Herdubreidarlindir hut.
1875 Askja made itself known worldwide due to its dramatic eruptions killing livestock miles and miles away by poisonous gases and tepra. 1961 it had its latest eruption. You are in volcanic areas where everything has been formed by eruptions. Askja is no exception. The caldera raises to above 1400 meters in height. You can walk down along the often snow covered sides of the crater down to the hot pot where you can take a swim in the warm water. It is not unusual that you have to walk through a lot of snow from the hut the 7 km to the viti crater even in summer time. The 4x4 track is very rough going :-) for your 4x4. Of course you will also visit the cave and canyon of Drekagil while in the area !
Areas around in the vicinity are of stunning beauty. This leaves you for the ultimate 4x4 ride north of Vatnajökull. You nowadays have two options the northern and the southern track. Both are tough going but the southern 30 km will beat all you have been up to earlier, especially when coming from east. I promise. Bring a snow shovel because you will pass the 1150 meter mark close to Urdarhals and you may face that the track seemingly may be gone here ! This is only for the more adventurous ones with high ground clearance and sturdy tires on their 4x4. Go early in the morning since some areas are flooded Dyngjujökull. Drive at low gear and do not stop when crossing the flooded sand fields.
The nice thing is there is a cache at Kistufell ! It is only found 10 times since it was placed in 2002 and just waiting for your logg ! The T4 must be one of the toughest available at all ! http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=b4a4cac9-1d4a-48c0-bdcd-8f59d9fec181
The northern route called F910 is easier but still not easy. It will take you into waste deserts of lava and pass south of another famous volcano, Dyngjufjöll. These rides are something you will remember for ever. Both can take their end at the small lake gaesavatn where you can raise your tent and relax at the foot of vatnajökull.
The decision is then yours if you want to cross the many arms of Skjálfandafljót going west (the deepest at Rjúpnabrekkakvisl is bridged after a severe accident - see the great road movie cold fever which deals with this sad happening) or the dryer and equally beautiful track east of Skjálfandafljót going north.
This is a walkers paradise area with many stick marked pathes in gorgeous surroundings. There are several fjords to explore and both daytrips aswell as longer trips are possible here. A very informative homepage will give you all the details http://www.borgarfjordureystri.is/ferdathjonusta/gongusvaedid-viknaslodir/stiklad-um-viknaslodir . There is a nice tab showing you the tracks on a satellite map. You should be able to find your way around on the homepage despite it is only in icelandic. To get there you have to go to roads end when travelling from Egilsstaðir.