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It can be said that Iceland owes its very existence to the majestic volcanoes that cover the land of fire and ice. The American and the Eurasian tectonic plates split Iceland down the middle from South to North, meaning that the spreading process of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge can be witnessed on land. In total, Iceland has around 130 volcanoes, with 30 of them being active. If you didn’t already think Iceland was a land of mystery and power, read on to find out about 10 of their most impressive volcanoes in Iceland.
Eyjafjallajokull is possibly Iceland’s most famous volcano due to its eruption in 2010. An active volcano found a few kilometers north of Skógar waterfall on the south coast of Iceland, the eruption in 2010 had a knock-on effect across Europe by halting many international flights. A stratovolcano that reaches 1651 m, the volcano is completely covered by an ice cap. The south of Iceland is very accessible by car and there are hiking tours available for people who want to get up close and personal with the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano.
It is thought that Eyjafjallajökull and Katla are somehow geologically related. Often, when Eyjafjallajokull erupts, Katla follows with more force and destruction. It is located within the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in south Iceland and it’s penchant for frequent and forceful eruptions have gained it the reputation of being Iceland’s most dangerous volcano. Thankfully, Katla didn’t erupt after Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. It’s a challenging hike or a helicopter ride to get to Katla, though if you hike from Skógafoss to Thórsmörk, via the Fimmvorduhals hike trail, you will cross over Eyjafjallajökull and get an impressive view at Katla at the same time.
Snæfellsjökull is another famous Icelandic volcano. This picturesque stratovolcano appeared in the novel ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ by Jules Verne in 1864. Snaefelljokull was the chosen entrance for the centre of the Earth! The ice-covered mountain is surrounded by striking lava and picture perfect vistas, however the glacier has been receding in recent years due to global warming. Snæfellsjökull is in west Iceland and reaches 1446 m above sea level. It is part of a national park of the same name and, as a result, there is easy access and multiple tours to be taken.
If you need a little warming up after all the ice, Askja is the perfect volcano to visit. Though an eruption in 1875 caused massive destruction and resulted in many Icelanders choosing to emigrate, Askja is now known for its famous hot spring. Found in an aptly named, small caldera called Víti, or hell, Askja’s hot spring will warm your bones while you take in the impressive surroundings. Askja is in the north of Iceland and tours are available by bus or by 4x4.
If you’re heading to the north of Iceland, Krafla is another volcano that cannot be missed. Also famous for it’s eye catching lake called Víti, this lake caldera is cold and a shocking teal colour. The caldera is 10 km in diameter and Krafla as a whole is only 818 m high. There is a road that leads to the caldera and once there, a 30 minute trail that also leads to a hot spring.
Only 2 hours from Reykjavík and with a hefty reputation as ‘The Gateway to Hell’ - Hekla is an active Icelandic volcano that ticks all the boxes. Hekla has a long history of horrific eruptions since the settlement of Iceland in 874. While the last eruption in 2000 caused little trouble, past eruptions have caused tsunamis and covered the land with poisonous gas. No wonder it has such a hellish nickname. Hekla is a relatively short ride from the capital and car tours are available.
Despite being a very popular volcano to hike, no one can decide on the correct name: Hverfjall or Hverfell. Situated right next to Lake Mývatn, Hverfjall is a small, extinct volcano whose crater is only 1km in diameter. This makes it a fantastic option for families with younger children or people looking for an easy hike. In total, it should take no longer than an hour to circle the rim of this Icelandic volcano. Hverfjall is easily spotted in the Lake Myvatn area in northern Iceland. A bump in the landscape, it is actually one of the best preserved circular volcanos in the world. Drive up to the volcano along Road 1 and park at its foot.
Grímsvötn volcanic system is Iceland’s most active volcanic area at 60 recorded eruptions and counting! But don’t expect a traditional mountain-like volcano. Grímsvötn is a volcano of 15m diameter and 900m above sea level in North-East Iceland, yet is hidden below hundreds of meters of ice. There are three cabins around Grímsvötn that have been built by The Icelandic Glaciological Society. They serve as base camps for scientific research as well as visitor centres.
Þríhnúkagígur or Thrihnukagigur is a dormant volcano less than 30km from Reykjavík. Don’t let its dormant nature fool you, Thrihnukagigur offers a volcanic adventure like no other. The volcano was only discovered in 1974 and opened to the public in 2012. Visitors can enter the volcano via an elevator, that takes them down into the magma chamber. Don’t worry, the lava has all drained away, revealing the underground rift. Thrihnukagigur is easily accessible from Reykjavík and official tours are available for those wanting to go inside the volcano.
Bardarbunga is a stratovolcano located under the Vatnajökull glacier. At more than 2000 m above sea level, Bardarbunga is also a part of volcanic system that stretches on for 200km. Bardarbunga rose to fame in 2014 when it began erupting, only stopping 181 days later. It is located in the Vatnajokull national park, meaning accessibility is much improved, and guides and tours are available!
For volcano enthusiasts, Iceland is the place to go and the country boasts some unique volcano tours as well! Of course, caution must be exercised while on the tours. With the sheer amount of volcanoes present, everyone will find a volcano that they can conquer!