Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge is a natural formation on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula that navigates into Mount Botnsfjall. This massive crack on the mountain’s eastern face can be seen from Útnesvegur, the coastal road, and it is visited by many tourists throughout the summer season. From the parking lot, a marked trail climbs 125 meters (410 feet) over 0.5 kilometers (0.3 miles) up a stream valley to a small waterfall and a narrow passage that leads inside the mountain. You will probably need waterproof shoes and clothing as the path may have several inches of water and there are continuous drips from overhead. Inside, the space widens into a majestic grotto covered from the ground to the sky in a bright green moss. Overhead, the canyon lets in a window of light giving the walls and floor a mysterious glisten. The gorge extends inside the Rauðfeldsgjá fissure for several kilometers, which you are welcome to explore at your own risk. It can become fairly crowded as the passage narrows, and most visitors only go a few meters before turning back from the continuous water flow. Return to the parking area on the same path.
The name Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge, or Rauðfeldargjá, is inspired the Saga of Bárður Snæfellsás that took place at the end of the 9th century. Bárður Snaefellsas, who was said to be half man and half troll, lived with his beautiful daughters near Laugabrekka (in Hellnar) and his brother, Porkell, lived nearby in Arnarstapi with his two sons, Sölvi and Rauðfeldur. One day when the cousins were playing by the shore, Rauðfeldur pushed Bárður’s eldest daughter, Helga, onto an iceberg, and it is said that she drifted all the way to Greenland. While she survived, unharmed, Bárður became so angry with the brothers that he pushed Sölvi off the nearby Sölvahamar Cliff and pushed Rauðfeldur into this canyon, now called “Rauðfeldur Canyon.” After the incident, Bárður was said to have gone into the glacier and never seen again. If you are lucky, on your visit you may see Bárður up in the canyon since it is believed that he is still watching over the area to this day.
Other places to visit in this area include Djúpalónssandur (a beach), Lóndrangar (two massive lava formations), Sönghellir (singing cave), and Saxhóll (volcanic crater). Snæfellsjökull is the glacier that looms overhead. It is the main feature of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and became world famous following the publication of Jules Verne’s book, “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,” which identified the volcano as the starting point of the journey. Its peak reaches 1,446 meters (4,745 feet), and on a clear day it can be seen all the way from Reykjavik, about 200 kilometers away.