The Iceland volcanoes are some of the biggest tourist attractions in Iceland and a visit to these incredible feats of nature is one of the best things to do on a visit to Iceland. But what should you know before you go? Read on to learn all about the fascinating Iceland volcanoes.
15 Facts About The Iceland Volcanoes
Iceland is a land of fire and ice, where towering glaciers and bubbling geothermal springs coexist. But did you know that it is also home to some of the most active and awe-inspiring volcanoes in the world?
Whether you’re a geology buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or just a curious traveler, these facts are sure to surprise and inspire you and in this article, we’ll take you on a journey through the top 15 must-know facts about Iceland volcanoes.
1. Hekla Volcano – The Gateway to Hell
Did you know that Iceland, known for its stunning landscapes and breathtaking natural wonders, is home to a volcano with a spine-chilling nickname? Enter Hekla Volcano, also known as “The Gateway to Hell.” But why is it called that? Let’s dive into this fascinating tale!
Hekla Volcano earned its ominous moniker due to its ferocious eruptions throughout history. Legend has it that early observers, witnessing the volcano’s explosive power, believed it to be a direct gateway to the underworld. These awe-inspiring eruptions, often accompanied by thunderous booms and fiery lava flows, created an image of an infernal portal, earning the volcano its bone-chilling nickname.
Hekla Volcano’s eruptions were so intense and unpredictable that medieval Europeans believed it to be the entrance to the underworld. It was even depicted on maps as the gateway to hell!
2. Bardarbunga Volcano – Second-Largest Volcanic System
Located in Iceland, the Bardarbunga Volcano is an impressive natural wonder with unique facts. As the second-largest volcanic system on the island, it commands attention with its sheer size and power. When it comes to Iceland volcanoes, Bardarbunga is an undeniable star.
One fascinating fact about Bardarbunga is its volcanic activity. This mighty volcano has experienced several eruptions throughout history, with the most recent in 2014. The eruption lasted an astonishing six months, making it one of the longest in Iceland’s recorded history.
Another remarkable aspect of Bardarbunga is its subglacial caldera. Hidden beneath the Vatnajokull glacier, this immense cauldron adds an extra layer of intrigue to the volcano.
Moreover, Bardarbunga’s volcanic system extends far beyond the central volcano itself. It includes an extensive network of fissures and lava fields, further highlighting the volcano’s immense power and geological significance.
3. Herðubreið – Has Flat-Topped Summit
When it comes to Iceland volcanoes, there is one in particular that stands out with its unique and captivating features: Herðubreið. This majestic volcano is known for its distinct flat-topped summit, which sets it apart from the typical cone-shaped volcanoes we often envision.
Rising from the surrounding desert-like landscape of the Ódáðahraun lava field, Herðubreið commands attention with its sheer grandeur. The flat summit, resembling a massive tabletop, stretches over an impressive area, offering a mesmerizing sight that leaves visitors in awe.
But what makes Herðubreið’s summit so unique? Well, it’s believed that this flat-topped feature was formed by powerful glacial flood thousands of years ago. As the floodwaters rushed down the mountainside, they eroded and shaped the volcano’s peak, creating this distinctive and visually striking landscape.
4. Eldfell – Causing the Largest Ash Cloud Since 1947
When it comes to Iceland, volcanoes are no strangers to the landscape. They’re like the fiery dragons that occasionally awaken from their slumber, reminding us of the Earth’s raw power.
One such impressive volcano is Eldfell, which erupted in 1973 on the island of Heimaey, part of the Westman Islands archipelago. This volcano reaches a height of some 200 meters (660 feet) and is located on the Icelandic island Heimaey.
First off, Eldfell’s eruption was no ordinary event. It caused the largest ash cloud seen in Iceland since 1947, blanketing the surrounding area with a thick layer of dark ash. The eruption was so intense that it even threatened the town of Vestmannaeyjar, forcing the evacuation of its residents to ensure their safety.
5. Bláhnúkur – Known for its Colorful Rhyolite Rock Formations,
Bláhnúkur, which stands at a height of 940 meters, is nestled in the captivating land of Iceland volcanoes and is a natural wonder that never fails to leave visitors in awe. One of its most remarkable features is its vibrant and colourful rhyolite rock formations, making it a photographer’s dream and a paradise for nature enthusiasts.
Firstly, “Bláhnúkur” translates to “Blue Peak” in Icelandic, derived from the mesmerizing blue hues that adorn its slopes. But the magic doesn’t stop there. Bláhnúkur’s rhyolite rocks showcase a kaleidoscope of colors ranging from deep reds and oranges to striking greens and yellows. It’s as if Mother Nature decided to paint a masterpiece using a vibrant palette.
It allows adventurous souls to embark on a rewarding hike to its summit. From the top, you’ll be greeted with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding volcanic landscapes, including the awe-inspiring Vatnajökull glacier.
Its vibrant colors and unique geological features make it a must-see destination for anyone exploring the wonders of Iceland volcanoes.
6. Askja – Can Descend into the Magma Chamber
When it comes to Iceland volcanoes, one particular marvel stands out among the rest: Askja. This volcanic caldera located in the remote Icelandic highlands offers an experience like no other.
Picture this: you’re standing at the edge of Askja’s massive crater, gazing into the abyss. But here’s where things get mind-blowing. With the right permits and guidance, you can actually descend into the magma chamber itself! Yes, you read that right. Askja grants you the rare opportunity to venture deep into the belly of a volcano.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Askja is also home to Öskjuvatn, a stunning crater lake formed by a past volcanic eruption. The crystal-clear turquoise waters provide a breathtaking contrast against the stark volcanic landscape.
Take a moment to soak in the peace and reflect on the incredible forces that shaped this mesmerizing place.
7. Snaefellsjokull – Role in “Journey to the Center Of The Earth”
Situated on the captivating landscape of Iceland, Snaefellsjokull is a majestic and enigmatic volcano that holds a special place in both nature and literature. This stunning glacier-capped volcano not only boasts breathtaking beauty but also carries a unique claim to fame: its role in Jules Verne’s timeless adventure novel, “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”
In Verne’s novel, Snaefellsjokull serves as the entrance to a hidden world beneath the Earth’s surface, igniting the imagination of readers and immortalizing the volcano in literary history. The novel’s protagonist and his companions embark on a daring expedition, descending into the depths of the Earth’s core through the mysterious depths of Snaefellsjokull.
But Snaefellsjokull’s allure extends beyond the realm of fiction. This stratovolcano, with its glacial crown, stands as a symbol of Iceland’s geological wonders. It is one of the few spots on Earth where you can witness the intriguing phenomenon of ice and fire coexisting harmoniously.
8. Katla – Has the Potential to Cause Significant Flooding
When it comes to Iceland volcanoes, one name that stands out is Katla. It is located in the southern part of Iceland and is one of the country’s most active and powerful volcanoes. Its eruptions are known for their intensity and magnitude, and scientists closely monitor its every move.
What makes Katla particularly fascinating is its potential to cause significant flooding. You see, beneath the thick ice cap of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Katla rests, waiting for the perfect moment to unleash its power. When the volcano erupts, it melts the surrounding ice, creating enormous glacial floods called jökulhlaups. These floods can cause widespread devastation, sweeping away everything in their path.
Furthermore, Katla has a remarkable eruption pattern. Historically, it has erupted roughly every 40 to 80 years, with the last major eruption occurring in 1918. However, the volcano is long overdue for a significant eruption, and scientists are closely monitoring any signs of increased activity.
9. Lakagigar – Caused One of the Most Significant Lava Flows
Lakagigar, a volcanic fissure in Iceland, holds a fascinating place in geological history. Back in 1783, this extraordinary phenomenon caused one of the most significant lava flows ever recorded on Earth. It was a volcanic eruption on a grand scale, with a lasting impact on both Iceland and the world.
The eruption of Lakagigar was a truly awe-inspiring event. It lasted for a staggering eight months, spewing out an unimaginable volume of lava and toxic gases. The lava flow covered an astonishing area of about 565 square kilometers, making it one of the largest basaltic lava flows in history.
The consequences of this eruption were far-reaching. The toxic gases released, such as sulfur dioxide, caused significant environmental and health problems. The eruption also had a global impact, as the vast amount of ash and gases injected into the atmosphere led to a drop in global temperatures and disrupted weather patterns for years.
10. Thrihnukagigur – Accessible Via, a 120-Meter-Deep Open Shaft
Thrihnukagigur is a truly unique and mesmerizing natural wonder. Unlike most volcanoes that are off-limits and inaccessible, Thrihnukagigur offers a thrilling opportunity to explore its vibrant magma chamber, and it’s all thanks to a 120-meter-deep open shaft.
Located in the stunning Reykjanes Peninsula, Thrihnukagigur stands as a testament to the raw power of Iceland volcanoes. What sets it apart is the fact that it is the only known volcano on Earth where you can descend into the dormant magma chamber.
As you descend into Thrihnukagigur’s colorful chamber, you’ll witness an otherworldly sight. The magma chamber’s walls are adorned with various hues, ranging from deep reds to vibrant yellows and subtle blues. It’s like stepping into a surreal painting created by nature itself.
What’s truly remarkable is that Thrihnukagigur has been dormant for over 4,000 years. So, rest assured, you can marvel at this extraordinary spectacle without worrying about an unexpected eruption. It’s a rare chance to witness the sheer magnificence of Iceland’s volcanic past safely and in all its glory.
11. Grímsvötn – Create Spectacular Lightning Displays
Among the many impressive natural phenomena that occur in a volcanic country, one stands out: Grímsvötn, a powerful volcano located beneath the icy Vatnajökull glacier. This majestic volcano possesses a unique ability to create spectacular lightning displays during its eruptions.
When Grímsvötn erupts, a massive column of ash and smoke spews into the sky. As this column rises, it rubs against ice particles in the glacier, creating a dynamic and electrifying interaction. The friction generates extraordinary static electricity, leading to awe-inspiring lightning bolts that dance across the darkened volcanic plume.
The lightning displays produced by Grímsvötn are nothing short of mesmerizing. Illuminating the night sky with their vibrant and jagged patterns, they create a surreal and captivating atmosphere. The contrast between the dark backdrop and the bright light flashes is a truly breathtaking sight.
12. Surtsey – One of the Youngest Islands On Earth
Did you know that one of the youngest islands, Surtsey, was born out of Iceland’s volcanic activity? Surtsey emerged from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean in 1963 and has since become a living laboratory for scientists to study the colonisation process of new land by plants and animals.
What makes Surtsey truly remarkable is its rapid transformation. Within a year of its formation, the island had already gained an area of about one square kilometer. This volcanic wonderland showcases the powerful forces of nature at work.
Surtsey’s name is derived from Surtr, a fire giant in Norse mythology, and it couldn’t be more fitting. The island’s birth was a fiery spectacle, with eruptions lasting for four years. The molten lava that spewed forth from the depths solidified, creating a rugged landscape of volcanic rock.
13. Öræfajökull – Named as “Wasteland Glacier”
Nestled within the captivating landscape of Iceland lies a glacier that holds both mystery and awe: Öræfajökull, the “Wasteland Glacier.” This name might sound intriguingly enigmatic, but there’s a fascinating reason.
Öræfajökull is not your ordinary glacier. It is also a volcano, making it one of the most powerful and awe-inspiring Iceland volcanoes. Its name, “Wasteland Glacier,” originates from the desolate and barren landscapes surrounding it. With vast, rugged terrain and icy slopes, Öræfajökull paints a picture of untamed wilderness.
But there’s more to Öræfajökull than meets the eye. It proudly boasts the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnúkur, soaring majestically at a staggering height of 2,110 meters (6,922 feet). Standing atop this icy giant provides a breathtaking panoramic view of Iceland’s stunning landscapes.
14. Fagradalsfjall – Offers a Stunning Display of Nature’s Power
Fagradalsfjall, located in Iceland, is a mesmerizing and powerful force of nature that offers a stunning display of Iceland volcanoes at their finest. This extraordinary volcano has recently captured the world’s attention with its ongoing eruption, attracting visitors and nature enthusiasts from far and wide.
Unlike many other volcanoes around the world, which are often situated in remote and inaccessible locations, Fagradalsfjall welcomes adventurers with open arms. Hiking up the slopes, you can witness firsthand the raw energy of the earth as molten lava shoots into the sky, creating an awe-inspiring spectacle that will leave you breathless.
One of the most incredible aspects of this volcanic marvel is its continuous eruption. For months, lava has been flowing steadily, reshaping the landscape and creating new formations. It’s a living, evolving entity that reminds us of the ever-changing nature of our planet.
15. Grimsvotn-Offers “Flood Basalt” Eruption
When it comes to Iceland volcanoes, Grimsvotn is an absolute showstopper. This mighty volcano, located in the Vatnajökull National Park, boasts some amazing and unique features that are worth exploring. One of its most fascinating characteristics is its ability to unleash what is known as a “Flood Basalt” eruption.
So, what exactly is a Flood Basalt eruption? Well, imagine a colossal volcanic outpouring of lava that seems to go on and on, covering vast areas with thick layers of molten rock. That’s precisely what Grimsvotn is capable of. During a Flood Basalt eruption, the volcano releases an enormous volume of basaltic lava, creating a surreal landscape of hardened lava fields that stretch as far as the eye can see.
What makes Grimsvotn’s Flood Basalt eruptions even more remarkable is their sheer scale. These eruptions can last for months, sometimes even years, spewing out lava flows that can extend for hundreds of kilometers. The sheer power and magnitude of this volcanic phenomenon is awe-inspiring, leaving a lasting impact on anyone fortunate enough to witness it.
Now armed with these 15 must-know facts about Iceland volcanoes, you can impress your friends with your newfound knowledge. Share the tales of geothermal energy, volcanic eruptions, and unique ecosystems. Let the conversation flow as you delve into the wonders of Iceland’s volcanic realm.
Whether it’s the powerful eruptions that have shaped the land or the geothermal energy that powers the country, Iceland volcanoes are a true testament to the awe-inspiring forces at work beneath the Earth’s surface. Their unpredictable nature keeps us on our toes, reminding us of the raw power and beauty of our planet.
So, the next time you find yourself dreaming of adventure, consider adding Iceland volcanoes to your bucket list.
Satiate your curiosity and ignite your sense of adventure with these must-read articles that delve into the awe-inspiring world of volcanic wonders.