Want to get upclose and personal with some of Iceland's most exciting and dangerous volcanoes? Then this is the guide for you!
Snæfellsjökull is the smallest glacier in Iceland, but one of our most famous volcanoes. Its main claim to fame is being featured as the entrance to Earth's center in the book „Journey to the Center of the Earth“ by Jules Verne.
Some people also consider Snæfellsjökull to be an enormous source of energy and it is often visited by those with an interest in the spiritual and supernatural. An Icelandic politician once had a dream about aliens coming to meet us on the top of Snæfellsjökull, famously attracting people from all over the world to witness this. The aliens still haven't shown up, but if they did, this glacier would be a fitting place for them to land!
Last eruption: Around 261 A.D
How to get there: Drive about 190 kilometers to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. From Reykjavík take highway no. 1 through the town Borgarnes and then you turn left off onto road 54. After a while on that road you will find the road leading you up to the mountain on the right hand side, signposted all the way up to a parking lot.
Hiking: Once you get to the carpark you should be able to make your way up to the top in 3-5 hours, the hike taking 5-7 hours in total. This glacier is unusually dense so unlike other glaciers in Iceland it should be safe to walk on it unsupervised.
One of the most active volanoes in Iceland. Hekla has often erupted with catastrophic consequenses but in recent decades its eruptions have changed and are milder in nature.
Hekla was long belived to be the entrance to Hell until two scientist set out to prove that theory wrong by hiking up to the top of Hekla in 1750.
Now that it has been confirmed that Hekla is indeed not the entrance to the underworld, the hike has become very popular with both travelers and locals.
Last eruption: 2000
How to get there: Drive on ring road no. 1 for 90 kilometers headed East until you get to road number 26. Drive on road 26 direction North for about 50 kilometers to road number F225, which is a gravel road. From here you drive East for about 7 kilometers and then follow the signs to Hekla. If you have a 4x4 drive you can drive up to the base of the mountain but otherwise you can park the car and walk the trail a little further.
Hiking: The way up is partially marked so it should be relatively easy to follow. The hike itself takes about 7-8 hours up and down.
The volcano Katla is under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and is the most powerful volcano in Iceland. Katla is famous for causing trouble when erupting, especially with massive floods and ash fall. The glacier melts from underneath with the heat from the lava, and eventually the water bursts out from under the glacier, sometimes wiping out bridges or parts of highway 1.
In July 2011 a flood from underneath Katla's glacier destroyed a large bridge on highway 1, cutting off traffic on the ring road for several days. However, it has not been confirmed that this was caused by an eruption.
According to Icelandic folklore the volcano is named after a maid on a farm near the mountain who supposedly dabbled in witchcraft.
Katla is now long overdue for another eruption. The thing about Katla is that the glacier on top has severe crevasses and hiking on Katla itself is not possible. However, you can hike the 25 kilometer long Fimmvörðuháls ridge which lies between Katla and the recently famous volcano Eyjafjallajökull which gives you a 2 for 1 volcanic experience.
Latest eruption: 1918
How to get there: To see Mýrdalsjökull, the ice cap covering Katla you can for instance check out a part of it called Sólheimajökull; follow highway no. 1 for roughly 150 kilometers until you get to Skógarfoss waterfall and turn left about 5 minutes later onto the road that leads you to Sólheimajökull.
Hiking: Follow highway no. 1 for about 125 kilometers until you get to Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This is where you can leave your car while you are hiking. Most people catch a bus to Þórsmörk from Seljalandsfoss, then hike the 25 kilometers from there over the ridge and catch the bus again from Skógar where the trail ends back to Seljalandsfoss. On the way you can see both Eyjafjallajökull and Katla, and also a lot of new lava from the 2010 eruption.
This impossible-to-pronounce volcano made headlines around the world when it delayed and cancelled flights all over Europe with its massive ash cloud.
In regards to hiking on Eyjafjallajökull it's the same story as with Katla; the ice has too many crevasses and is considered too dangerous, so to see this your best bet is the popular Fimmvörðuháls ridge hike.
Latest eruption: 2010
How to get there: To see Eyjafjallajökull you follow highway no. 1 until you get to the town Hvolsvöllur. Right before you exit the town you turn left onto road 261 and follow it to Fljótshlí_, the road ends in sort of a parking lot where you can carefully cross the small river IF you have a 4x4 drive and water levels are low, otherwise you still get a good view from behind the river.
Hiking: See Katla hiking instructions above.
Öræfajökull happens to be Iceland's highest peak and is also one of the many mountains under Europe's biggest glacier, Vatnajökull. It is actually the biggest glacier in the world if you exclude the polar ice caps!
Latest eruption: 1727
How to get there: Follow ring road no. 1 for about 320 kilometres, until you get to the sign for Skaftafell national park, where you turn left.
Hiking: You can hike up to the top with one of the two guide companies based in Skaftafell national park, the Glacier Guides or the Mountain Guides. The hike takes about 15 hours from start to finish and starts at 05:00 in the morning, so spending a night or two in Skaftafell national park is advisable. The hike to the top is available May-September. There are also numerous other hiking trails in the area with scenery you won't see anywhere else.
Note: Please show caution when approaching these mountains, make sure you check the weather forecast before you start your journey and do not go onto a glacier without a guide present.
Stay safe and enjoy your volcanic roadtrip.