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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. Best volcanoes in Iceland.

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. Where are the best volcanoes in Iceland?

You can hover over these (or any image) to quickly pin it!

Helka

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?

Eyjafjallajökull

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. Photos of Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption. 

Öræfajökull

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. How close can I get to Iceland’s volcanoes?

Snæfell

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. How many volcanoes are there in Iceland?

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

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.

Grímsvötn

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.

Katla

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. 

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Featured photo, Pinterest photos & Eyjafjallajökull lava by michi_s. Eyjafjallajökull cloud by Bjarki Sigursveinsson. Snæfell by Thomas BONNIN. Boy exploring Lakagigar craters by Leon Dolman – photo has been cropped. Moss covered Lakagigar by Federico Moroni. Lakagigar craters by Leon Dolman – photo has been cropped. Photos under subheading “Grímsvötn” CC by Bjarni Thorbjornsson.

    30 Comments

  1. The more I read about Iceland, the more fascinated I am with it. I really hope we manage to get there this year. Your photos, as always, are stunning, the one of Eyjafjallajökull erupting is my favorite.

    • It’s a fascinating country indeed! I really hope you do have the chance to visit this year, Iceland was one of the very few places which just completely blew us away (no pun intended!!) and we would love to get back for more time in the country :)

      You’ll seriously love it!

  2. Iceland is an intriguing country and one that we are looking forward to visit.There are so many volcanoes in this land of fire and ice that would be well worth exploring.

    • Absolutely Paula – volcano tourism here is unlike anywhere else in the world, and if you’re a volcano nut you’ll have a ball!

      Happy travels :)

  3. Iceland is one such wonderland for me which has intrigued me most visually. I really really want to explore this place. Thanks Megan for fueling this desire further.

    • Thanks Himanshu – I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post :) Iceland really is such a fascinating country, and one of the most visually stunning in the world, that’s for sure!! It’s a photographers playground like none other!!

      I hope you manage a trip sometime soon :)

  4. I didn’t know much about Iceland, before reading your post. But now, I want to visit it soon. Thanks for sharing your amazing expereince

    • Glad we could inspire a potential visit Mansoureh! You’ll seriously love Iceland, it’s one of the most magical and fascinating countries on earth :)

  5. Iceland is on my list for 2016! I’m so fascinated by the landscapes. It seems like every photo I see is better than the last!It seems unreal that such a small island has so many volcanoes, but then again it makes sense with so many of the dramatic ways the land has been shaped.

    • Happy to hear that Jackie!! Iceland truly is one of the most amazingly beautiful countries we’ve ever visited, and the diversity of the landscapes on such a small island is unbelievable.

      Though the fact that the island is relatively small means you do have the chance to make your way around the country and see everything in a relatively short period of time. We only had a week and a half but rented a car and drove the Ring Road – it was so unreal.

      Definitely push to make it happen for 2016! Feel free to reach out if you’re looking for any tips :)

  6. Iceland really is a magical and powerful place. It is one of the rare parts of the world where you can witness the raw, powerful beauty of nature in action!

    • Oh absolutely. We were in awe of the diversity of untouched landscapes on such a small island. Really is one of the last places on earth where nature hasn’t been ruined by man.

  7. Fascinating but a little bit scary ;)

    • Luckily the recent eruptions haven’t caused much damage – definitely a scary scenario though to be there when one explodes. I’m torn between staying to watch such an incredible display of nature, or obviously evacuating the area for personal safety!!

  8. You can certainly admire the handy work of those volcanoes when you see the craggy lava everywhere. Iceland is a beautiful place to visit.

    • Mother nature created a beautiful thing!

  9. WOW! I am very fascinated with volcanoes and enjoyed seeing a lot of them while we were in Indonesia. But Iceland is a whole different ballgame. Would love the chance to do so!

    • I would love to get to Indonesia to explore the landscape there too. We’ve just arrived in Australia, so I’m actually very close by.

      Hope you can get to Iceland too :)

  10. More and more articles i read about Iceland this past days, the more I want and go and visit it such a beautiful place to explore and wander.

    • You will absolutely love Iceland Anne! It is one of the most naturally beautiful countries on earth – I hope you can get there soon :)

  11. Wow, this is pretty crazy! I would love to see a live volcano, the colours and intensity look amazing! I also love the green mountains too!

    • It’s one of those things where you’re torn between evacuating for personal safety, though wanting to stay to witness such a spectacular display and powerful force of nature.

      Luckily the last few eruptions in Iceland haven’t cause too much damage (albeit delaying flights all over Europe), so tourists, locals and photographers were capturing so much amazing footage of the scene.

      Would definitely be something I would be keen to see.

  12. What great information you have here. True, there are some people who think that Iceland is just ‘ice’. Thank you for this. Must share.

    • Thankyou Dalia! Those who travel to Iceland expecting nothing else but ice are in for a very lovely surprise :D

  13. Just on time! I am planning trip to Iceland and I love volcanoes, I found this post very useful :) Thanks for sharing :)

    • You’ll love Iceland Oliwia!! So psyched that you’re getting geared up to go! We loved our time there and would jump at the opportunity to get back. Enjoy your trip!

  14. Iceland is such an environmentally diverse and beautiful country, and offers so many natural experiences. Each of the volcano systems seems to have a distinguished personality with different characteristics. Grímsvötn looks like the perfect fusion of fire and ice in an Icelandic volcano. Cool post!

    • Absolutely Mary! They’re such a unique combination of fire and ice that’s unlike anywhere else in the world. Makes Iceland such a fascinating country to visit, the landscapes are just so incredibly diverse!

  15. Nature is too Beautiful and too Powerful. We should always respect the Nature.

    • Absolutely agree with you :)

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