Iceland is a country full of natural wonders, and it is difficult to remain unmoved by the amazing diversity of it’s landscape. Though contrary to popular belief, Iceland is not an island which is covered completely in ice.
Iceland is a stunning playground with everything from majestic glaciers, cracked lava fields, gushing geysers, vibrant green fjords and geothermal lagoons. Also, due to its location between two tectonic plates that are spreading apart in the mid-Atlantic range, the country has a high concentration of active volcanoes; one of the highest in the world.
In fact, Iceland has 30 active volcano systems, 13 of which have erupted since Vikings settled here in the 9th century AD. While the country tends to see an eruption on average every 5 years, most recently have proved to be harmless, seeing thousands of tourists hiking, biking or driving closer to the craters to witness nature put on a spectacular show. Iceland’s best volcanoes.
Since the Middle Ages, a third of all the lava that has covered the earth’s surface has erupted in Iceland. Dubbed the land of fire and ice, Iceland is a true paradise for volcanologists, and the opportunity for volcano tourism here is some of the best on earth. Best volcano tourism in the world
Eruptions have become known as “tourist eruptions” because their fountains of magma, electric storms and dramatic ash clouds make perfect photos while causing relatively little damage. Volcano tourism in Iceland.
The following is an Iceland guide to the country’s top 10 volcanoes for your European Bucketlist.
The Land of Fire and Ice: Iceland’s Top Volcanoes For Your European Bucketlist
This is a large and lively mountain which has erupted over a dozen times since settlement, most famously burying a number of nearby Viking farms under ash in 1104. At 1491-m-high Hekla is one of Iceland’s most prominent, most known and active volcanoes. Can I hike into a volcano in Iceland?
The last major stirrings were in the 1940’s but there have been many smaller incidents since then. Inbetween eruptions, experienced hikers can walk to the top. When will the next volcano erupt in Iceland?
Helka was once believed to be the entrance to hell due to it’s eruptions followed by months of grumbling which Vikings took to be the sound of tormented souls. Many companies run super jeep circuits and trips to the mountain during summer. Can I see a volcano erupt in Iceland?
Most would remember the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 as the volcanic ash plume disrupted air travel in northern Europe for several weeks. The eruption started in March of that year at the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail, however a month later as it petered out a much bigger eruption started in the main crater, and sent a large cloud of volcanic ash across Europe.
The Porvaldseyri visitors center at the base of the volcano shows footage of the 2010 eruption. volcano eruption.
This is Iceland’s tallest volcano, and probably the most violent. It had a terrible explosion in 1326 which buried almost a third of the country under gravel and forced farmers to evacuate all along the south coast. This was Iceland’s largest historical explosive eruption. Biggest volcanic eruptions in Iceland.
An eruption occurred again in 1727, this one causing less damage, though only because few people had since returned to live here. Iceland volcanoes.
Öraefajökull is a broad glacier-clad central volcano at the SE end of the Vatnajökull icecap.
A volcano covered with a glacier, Snæfell is one of the most famous volcanoes in Iceland, a large ice-covered volcano in the West which sits in Snæfellsjökull National Park on the Snæfellsness Peninsula.
This is a stratovolcano whose cone has built up gradually over successive eruptions. Snæfellsjökull became world famous after Jules Verne described it in his book of “A Journey to the Center of the Earth” as the starting point of the journey.
The last eruption is believed to have occured around 250 AD, and unlike Hekla, whose top is usually covered by cloud, on a clear day you can normally see Snæfell’s white bright peak from Reykjavik which is almost 200 km away.
Lakagígar is a 25km row of craters which erupted with a vengeance in 1783 – the eruption that changed Iceland forever. The countryside split open and divided the country into nearly two equal halves, the tear in the earth belching fire and poisonous fumes for seven whole months. It largely disrupted weather patterns all over Europe and nearly wiped out the population of Iceland.
Legend has it that pastor Jon Steingrimsson saved the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur from mother nature’s wrath – he rounded the towns population into the church and prayed that they be spared. The lava stopped right at the church boundary. Best volcanoes in the world.
Today you can choose between walking trails which range from 20 minutes to 2 hours long, and you can explore the cones and expansive lavafields which are now partly buried under a thick matting of moss and heather.
There is no accommodation on site, though mountain huts and campsites can be found along the road. Seasonal buses from Skaftafell National park run here via Kirkjubæjarklaustur and the 37 mile F206.
This is currently Iceland’s most active volcano, hidden 400m beneath Europe’s largest glacier, the massive Vatnajökull icecap.
Grímsvötn volcano has the highest eruption frequency of all the volcanoes in Iceland. With a number of complex of calderas (volcanic cauldrons), about 6 by 8 km in area, and a subglacial caldera lake covered by a 200 m thick ice cap, when this volcano explodes it causes significant glacial floods. The magma chamber of the Grímsvötn volcano lies beneath the lake.
During eruptions, the overlying part of the glacier is often melted through, creating a giant hole in the ice permitting breathtaking views from above onto the lake, from where ash and steam can escape.
This is Iceland’s most dangerous volcano, and the most powerful in the world. A sub-glacial volcano, Katla lies buried beneath the Mýrdalsjökull icecap near Skógar on the south coast. Where can I see a volcano explode?
It erupts roughly once every 50 – 100 years, and the last one, in 1918, sent a titanic flood of meltwater and landslides down nearby valleys. It is infamous for it’s devastating eruptions; when rising magma makes contact with the overlying glacier ice, the ice is vaporized. The resulting buildup of gas pressure beneath the glacier may produce an explosive eruption of steam and ash.
Recent activity in the area, including earthquakes in the caldera, might be signalling an awakening. It has not erupted violently for 97 years, so statistically, Katla is due for a new eruption soon. Although there may have been small eruptions that did not break the ice cover, including ones in 1955, 1999, and 2011. Biggest volcanic eruptions in the world.