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The Kerid Crater: Iceland’s Rainbow Jewel

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Imagine standing above a volcanic crater, the water below you a deep, opaque aquamarine blue. You’re surrounded by walls of red volcanic rock, some covered in a vibrant green moss. Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? This magical site is waiting for you at the Kerid crater (spelled Kerið in Icelandic).

Located along Iceland’s well known Golden Circle route, Kerid is one of many crater lakes in the country’s Western Volcanic Zone. It stands out among those other craters, however, because it is has one of the most visually recognizable calderas (which means it’s easy to pick out the cauldron-like dip in the earth’s surface). The crater is also unique in that it is only about 3,000 years old, making it about half as young as the geological features that surround it.

At an incredible 55 m deep, 170 m wide, and 270 m across, the Kerid crater is a sight that will truly make you feel small. The lake, however, is only about 7 to 14 m deep, depending on the weather in the area.

The Kerid crater at a closer look

While most volcanic craters are usually formed by huge volcanic explosions, scientists believe Kerid in Iceland is a little different. It is thought that Kerid was once a cone volcano that erupted, depleted all its magma, and then collapsed under the magma’s weight. The Kerid crater will look completely different depending on what time of year you choose to visit. In the summer, you’ll be greeted with aqua blue water and red volcanic walls. In the winter, however, the water turns to ice and the walls surrounding the lake become white with snow. The land around the Kerid crater is not public, and its private owners charge a fee of 400 ISK (USD 4) to see the crater, which is used to maintain the area.

The Kerid Crater is a lake in a volcanic crater in Iceland
One of the interesting things of Kerid is its red volcanic rocks instead of black
The Kerid Crater in Iceland is only about 3,000 years old
You can reach the circumference of the crater via a gentle slope

Things to do at the Kerid crater

  • You can descend to the Kerid crater itself without much difficulty. While most of the walls leading to the crater are quite steep, one wall in particular has a gentler slope. This wall is also covered in moss, allowing for a safer descent. Please be very careful while visiting during winter. The paths surrounding and going down to the crater can become very slippery with ice, so be sure to pack proper gear.
  • If you choose not to walk down to the crater lake itself, there are also trails bringing you around the crater’s circumference. Be sure to take appropriate walking gear if visiting during Iceland’s colder months as the paths can become quite slippery when wet.
  • Imagine attending a concert in an old volcanic crater. Yep, that’s right — music concerts are sometimes held at the Kerid crater, due to its unique shape that is somewhat like an amphitheatre. Performers will often float on the lake on a raft, while spectators fill the surrounding hills to watch and listen.
  • Once you’ve finished your visit to the beautiful, multi-colored Kerid crater, be sure to explore the other natural wonders that the Golden Circle area has to offer. The famous geysir is just a 35 minute drive (46.5 km) from the crater, while you can continue on for just another 10 minutes of driving to reach the powerful Gullfoss. 
Strokkur Geyser Erupt in Iceland
Strokkur geyser in the Geysir area erupts 8 – 10 minutes
Gullfoss waterfall is on every visitor's itinerary to Iceland
Gullfoss waterfall is an incredible sigh to behold any time of the year

How to get there

Finding the Kerid crater is relatively easy due to its location along the Golden Circle, one of Iceland’s most popular tourist routes. The crater is located just over 15 kilometres north of Selfoss.

The Kerid crater can easily be visited in a single day trip. If departing from Reykjavik, simply follow Iceland’s Ring Road (Road 1) for about 35 minutes (47.5 kilometers) before turning left onto Road 35, just before you reach Selfoss. This should be an obvious, well-marked turn. After another 10 minutes of driving, you will reach the parking lot for the Kerid crater. Note that while parking is free, there is an entrance fee of about 400 ISK (USD 4) per visitor.

The Kerid Crater is one of the most visited places in Iceland
In winter, the water turns to ice and the surroundings are covered in snow

*Please note: prices listed in the article are as of December 2017 

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