Aptly named ‘The Gateway to Hell,’ the Hekla volcano in the south of Iceland is a deadly force with a shocking history of destruction. This reputation caused people in the middle ages to believe that Hekla or Hecla was the entrance to Hell. That however, hasn’t stopped brave travellers from exploring one of Iceland’s active volcanoes!
Since settlers put down roots in Iceland in 874 AD, Hekla has caused havoc for those on its path. Past eruptions have spewed poisonous gas that covered the land and caused tsunamis to crash against Iceland’s shore. Luckily, Hekla has calmed down after its most recent eruption in 2000. Nowadays, intrepid travellers make their way to this famous Icelandic volcano to witness the result of its destruction.
Hekla is thought to have covered much of Iceland with tephra (volcanic debris) and lava. As much as 10% of all the tephra in Iceland is thought to have originated from Hekla. In fact, the Hekla volcano in Iceland has provided some of the largest amounts of lava in the world! All this activity has created an impressive landscape, both the the volcano itself, as well as the surrounding landscape. The volcano is a cross between a crater row and a stratovolcano, an unusual volcanic formation. Moreover, small glaciers, basaltic rock formations, waterfalls and ancient farmlands all surround this formidable beauty.
If Hekla’s impressive reputation wasn’t enough to tempt visitors, the fact that it is a short drive from Reykjavik certainly makes Hekla volcano a worthy attraction. Located in the south of Iceland in the middle of the Fjallabak mountain range, it’s easily accessible from Reykjavik. Head east on Ring Road 1 for approximately 90 km until you reach Road 26. Then head north for 50 km to the gravel road F225. A further 7 km ahead you will see signs that can direct you to Hekla. Be aware that a 4x4 is needed to reach the base, otherwise a car park and a walking trail are available. In total it would take around 2 hours to get to the base of the volcano.
Two primary activities take place near Hekla - hiking and horse riding.
Hiking Hekla: While there are trails aplenty within the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, the real challenge is hiking Hekla itself. The way up is partially marked, but a guided tour is necessary as you will need equipment and safety instruction for crossing the snowfields. In total, the hike will take approximately 8 hours.
Horse riding: For equestrian lovers, another popular activity is horse riding. This is a fantastic way to explore, riding through meadows, lava fields, along rivers and the famous dessert of ashes in the shadow of Hekla.
Hekla is a very active volcano that gives little warning. Moreover, it is topped with snowfields and small glaciers. You should therefore never head into these conditions alone, and a professional guide is the best way to ensure your safety.
Of all the volcanoes to see in Iceland, Hekla is a worthy contender: steeped in gruesome history, easily accessible and with a great landscape to explore – the Hekla volcano in Iceland should definitely be on your bucket list of things to do in Iceland. An alternative volcano to visit is the Katla Volcano. Check out other popular volcano tours in Iceland that will take you one step closer to these natural wonders.