Top five most famous volcanoes in Iceland
Iceland is a country of ice, world famous for its volcanoes. There are more than 140 on the island: shield, crater rows, mud, stratovolcanoes, mixed, surface, underwater, subglacial, active, dormant and extinct. The island is located in the waters of the North Atlantic between Norway and Greenland, on the boundary between two tectonic plates (the North American and Eurasian) what explains the high seismic rating of the area. 35 volcanoes on the island of Iceland and around it are active.
Most popular Icelandic volcano is Hekla that has nearly a hundred craters. There are other volcanoes in Iceland that deserve your attention and we will tell about the most popular of them.
Hekla Volcano is the most famous and the most active volcano in Iceland, its importance for Iceland is the same as the famous Mount Fuji has to Japan. In the middle Ages, the Icelanders called him ‘The Gates of Hell’. Over the past 6600 years Hekla was active; it was found in the study of the volcano and its ash deposits. The last eruption of Hekla was registered in 2000.
The top of the mountain is always overcasted with thick clouds, and the overall picture resembles monastic robes. In olden times, the locals in Iceland believed that the earth had three craters in hell: Broken, Vesuvius and Hekla. Until now Hekla volcano is active and people from all over the world come to the land shrouded in legends to experience the mystical awe of the millennial giant. The range of the volcano is nearly 40 km, it is by a 5.5-km crack; the height of the volcano is 1488 meters.
When the volcano erupted in 1159 everything in a radius of 7.5 km. was covered with ashes. Hekla volcano is unpredictable, every time waking up it behaves differently. Some eruptions were so powerful and strong that its ashes reached continental Europe. The eruption, which began in 1947, lasted more than a year; however, there were cases when the volcano came to life just for a few days. The more it is sleeping the more terrible its awakening is. To date, the Department for the Protection of the population of Iceland has reported on a possible Hekla’s awakening. The situation does not cause much trouble. Nevertheless, the locals and tourists are strongly advised not to approach the volcano.
How to reach Hekla Volcano
You reach Hekla by car. The mountain trail F255, which is separated from the highway 26, intersects with a small dirt road going to the south and passing by the lava field Nyjahraun. On the way, you will see a small parking lot, which is located seven kilometers from the volcano's top. Some travelers prefer to get to the top on foot making a three-hour picturesque climb. There is snow on the top, so it's better coming there at the end of the summer, in August and September. The climb takes about 6 hours.
In the southern part of Iceland under the 500-meter cap of the northern and western part of the glacier Vatnajokull, there is Grimsvotn volcano. Its name comes from two Icelandic words meaning ‘dark waters’ – likely due to the huge amount of volcanic ash that falls to the ground and waters of the North Atlantic during the eruption. The latter is repeated with frequency of from 3 to 10 years.
According to the observations by scientists, for the last 100 years the volcano has erupted 20 times, and each was a major disaster, catastrophic. Such serious eruptions occurred in 1996, 1998, 2004 and 2011. Subglacial eruptions are terrifying not only with ashes, volcanic gases, lava and debris. They are dangerous primarily because of the rapid melting of glaciers and the flooding of vast spaces surrounding by these melt waters.
In 2004, the volcano Grimsvotn released into the atmosphere over the North Atlantic so much ash and gas that air communication with the major international airports of Akureyri, Torshavn and Reykjavik was broken for a few weeks. Last time, Grimsvotn drew attention May, 21, in 2011. It released ash, smoke and steam into the air for nearly 20 kilometers high. The result of this eruption was flight cancellations in Iceland, and later partially with the UK and Germany. Some flights were canceled in Norway and Denmark.
How to reach Grimsvotn Volcano
You can get to the foot of Grimsvotn by helicopter or super jeep, and then you will have a long climb to the glacier in the western part of which the volcano is located. You can try to climb the glacier by a super jeep, but it can be done only with the help of an experienced guide who knows the local terrain.
There is no more mysterious place in Iceland than the area near the volcano Askja. Scientists went missing there; on the surface, close to the structure of the lunar soil, «Apollo» astronauts were trained; and it is expected to wake up at any moment. Askja stratovolcano located in a remote part of the Icelandic highlands consists of multiple layers of ash, pumice and lava. It also contains several calderas – destroyed craters.
Almost no one knew about the existence of this volcano, until the powerful eruption March 29, 1875. Victims were not special, but the ashes flew even to Sweden and Norway. Since that, the volcano had been sleeping for almost 100 years, and the last time it woke up in 1961. Alarm bells sounded again in the 21st century. In summer 2010, the scientists warned that Askja seismic activity was growing, especially in the north-eastern part of the rock formation. Scientists have come to the conclusion that any activity from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano would entail the activity of Askja.
After such alarming information, traveling to the area was limited, and scientists engaged in the close supervision of the Askja. Nevertheless, Askja volcano attracts visitors like a magnet and is a popular tourist destination. In the mountains that surround this mysterious place, there is an impressive canyon of the Dragon and several interesting volcanic systems. Near the ring road there are two mountain huts and camping sites. You can get there only at the end of June and not later than the end of September.
How to reach Askja Volcano
The volcano is located in the heart of the Icelandic Plateau, on the territory of the Vatnajökull National Park. You will need to walk about 2 km. to the volcano – it’s the distance from the parking lot.
The name of the volcano comes from three Icelandic words denoting island, mountain and glacier, so it is difficult to pronounce and hard to remember. According to the research of linguists, only a tiny portion of the world population can correctly pronounce the volcano’s name.
The last great eruption of the volcano happened in 1821–1823. Then, for more than 12 months Eyjafjallajökull volcano had erupted. Together with the volcano Eyjafjallajökull its close neighbor Katla erupted, as well.
After that, almost two hundred years, the volcano was asleep. And it woke up again 20 March 2010. Up to ten countries had to partially or completely close the air space. Flights were canceled at major airports in Oslo, Copenhagen, London and other cities. Directly from the disaster zone about a thousand people were evacuated, the country urgently introduced the state of emergency. On April 2013, a threatening volcano, which send many Europeans into a spin several years ago, is again going to wake up.
How to reach Eyjafjallajökull volcano
To get to the volcano, you first need to drive by the ring road to the town of Hvolsvöllur. Just before entering the city, turn on the road 261 and go up to Fljótshlí, where you will see the parking lot and a small river. If you are traveling by a 4x4, you can easily cross the river. And there is not far to the volcano.
Katla is one more major volcano of Iceland; it is located in the south of the island and rises above sea level at 1512 meters. Periods of volcanic activity occur with the intervals of 40 to 80 years, and the last eruption was in 1918. In recent years, scientists and seismologists are concerned about an increase in the activity of the volcano Katla. There are records of increasing earth shocks, up to 500 a year.
Katla eruption, except the giant cloud of volcanic gases and ash, as well as powerful lava flow, can cause severe, catastrophic flooding because of the melting of a large glacier. The periods of Katla activity are directly related to the eruptions of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull located 20 kilometers away. It erupted in 2010, a month later specialists-volcanists working in the British Institute for Natural Hazards, warned the authorities and the public in Europe about a possible eruption of Katla.
How to reach Katla Volcano
To get to the volcano, you need to go by the ring road towards the waterfall Skogafoss (about 150 km). Before reaching the falls, for about five minutes, turn left and follow the road to Sólheimajökull.
As a rule, volcanoes bring destruction, fire or, as it was with the famous Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull, the delay and cancellation of flights. It may seem that volcanoes have nothing to be popular for. However, every year more and more travelers want to visit volcanoes both active and sleeping as it is the best way to have fun during a usual tourist trip.