Iceland’s Volcanos and Worthy Hikes Part 1

Iceland’s Volcanos and Worthy Hikes Part 1

I’m not sure what comes to mind when you first think of ICELAND, but I can tell you the internet is oversaturated with Blue Lagoon articles and damn photogenic Icelandic Horses . . . I know this because it’s what I saw during the early stages of planning my trip. I will admit that both are worthy of seeing if you are making a long haul trip to the country, but exploring VOLCANOS on both the mainland and on Iceland’s very own island of Heimaey deserve a little more love than given. So without further ado, here are my recommended hikes to several Volcanic Craters in Iceland by region.

Northeast Iceland

They say that many of the best discoveries are the ones that happen by chance. Truth is though, I don’t believe in chance anymore. I have seen too many times now that nothing is random, that nothing happens by accident. On the second day of my Roadtrip through Iceland, I drove from the must see Snæfellsnes Peninsula clear across the country via the Ring Road (Highway 1) until I reached the Mývatn area. It’s a stunningly scenic drive that I will highly recommend to you, full of treasures all along the way. Do you like waterfalls? Goðafoss is along this route and does not disappoint (I’ll be writing a WATERFALL Specific Post soon with tons of details and photos). Do you want countryside views? Take your pick. I couldn’t stop pulling over throughout the drive to take in the landscapes and passing green flatlands and hills perfect for grazing horses, sheep, cows. You’ll also have coastal views as you approach Akuyeri town with its cute harbor and snow capped mountains standing in all their glory. But let’s focus on HVERFJALL, the Volcanic Crater nearly 1km in diameter which greeted me as I made my way to the Mývatn baths. I couldn’t help but stare, in silence, in awe of its magnitude, and the ever present sunlight past 8 at night (the Midnight Sun during Summer is Real) made this first encounter a memorable one. Behold. . .

Best hikes on Iceland should include Hverfjall

What would you say if I told you that I actually slept not too far from this massive Crater in my rental car because that was how I rolled in Iceland? With 24 hours of light during Summer most “nights” I was only able to sleep 4-5 hours and as I had limited time in the country, I wanted to make the most of every hour. You could call it a short sleep or a long nap, but whatever time I woke I was ready to tackle the day. First matter at hand, find out if I could climb that thing. Googled it and I definitely could climb it. Great now my morning was sorted. It was then that I realized where I had parked my car overnight, in the lot of the Dimmuborgir Lava Fields, which is an incredible site to visit in my humble opinion. I had not even been aware of them, and yet here I was. Good Morning Iceland, take me on an adventure today!! The best thing about waking up before 7am every morning was that most people were still sleeping. I entered Dimmuborgir, which in Icelandic means Dark Castles, with no expectation and no other souls either. It was the still of the morning and the day’s overcast that allowed me to sit amongst the towering volcanic lava pillars and just Be. I sat and birdwatched, listening to their morning glories. I looked around wondering what kind of place this was. What was it like during the Volcanic Eruption? Energy flowing, transformation of the physical realm; remember that from destruction comes also new life. The greenery all throughout the fields proved that; the cycles of the Earth in perfection. Come here to walk incredible trails kilometers long, with phenomenal views of volcanic pillars and caves, and you can even catch a glimpse of nearby Hverfjall or the Yule Lads (the Santa-like figures from old Icelandic folklore live in these caves) if you come during Winter.

Dimmuborgir Lava Fields (east of Mývatn)

Dimmuborgir Iceland
Lava Fields of Dimmuborgir were nearly all mine

Dimmuborgir, Iceland must be Explored

Dimmuborgir, Summer in Iceland
New Life always finds a way
Figures in the Volcanic Pillars at Dimmuborgir, Iceland
This one is definitely looking at me. Can you see the face?
Hike at Dimmuborgir for these views of Hverfjall
The Church Arch at Dimmuborgir, Church Arch, Iceland
The Church Arch at Dimmuborgir
Yule Lad Caves at Dimmuborgir, Iceland
Yule Lad dwelling at Dimmuborgir
Home of the Yule Lads
Lava Caves in Dark Castles are home to the Yule Lads in Christmas

After wandering around for likely a few hours, I heard other travelers on the trails nearby and was ready to head over by car to the big boy. . . Hverfjall. If you have the time and desire, you can also get to Hverfjall on foot. From the “Church Arch” pictured above, there is a trail that leads to your more challenging hike, the approximately 2800 year old Volcano. The trails are pretty well marked with distance and level of difficulty throughout the park. Drive just 10 minutes and you will arrive at Hverfjall’s base. There are two access points, Northwest and South. Once you arrive do a little stretch, make sure you have some drinking water and maybe a power bar and head on up, I promise the views are supreme.

Hverfjall (east of Mývatn)

Hverfjall hike begins here, Iceland
And so the hike starts here
Hiking Hverfell in Northern Iceland
A steep climb, challenging but hey I had an injured ankle
Hike up Hverfjall, Iceland
Hiking Hverfjall with these views makes every step worth it

Quick Facts:

approx. 2800 year old Volcano

1km long in Diameter

140m deep, 396m tall

Just a 20 minute hike up to the Rim

You can also walk the Entire Rim of the Volcano

I related to this massive body of rock, earth and ash because I could see its veins of life. I could feel its energy. I felt so alive up high, a common theme of my most recent travels in Israel. Up High you certainly get a new perspective of a place. I’ve hiked Diamond Head Crater in Hawaii before, but it was nothing like this. This was something altogether other worldly. Not to mention, hardly anyone was up there when I arrived at the top. I stared down into the depths and felt the closest connection ever to other planets in the Universe. I liken the experience to exploring an unpopulated planet on foot. Every step moved me into the Unknown, and I like the Unknown.

Hverfell is a must see during Summer in Iceland
Other Wordly Hverfjall, a feast for the eyes
Tephra Cone Volcano Hverfjall, Iceland
Tephra Cone Volcano felt like a visit to a foreign planet
Crater Hverfell Iceland
Volcanic rocks, or Tephra, on Crater Hverfjall

Up at the top was were peace and tranquility lived. So few tourists here. Nobody bothered me, as most seemed to take the opposite trail (a counterclockwise walk) which left me to my devices when I took the trail clockwise. I was inspired here. I felt on top of the world, or ÍSLAND at the very least. I played some more with my auto-timer to capture some fun photos on the crater. Create Create! Play! You are Free! Later, I swear to you I took a very relaxing nap under the sun up there, probably because my swollen ankle (yea I had a slightly infected and swollen ankle from a razor cut days prior) required a real rest after the challenging climb. I couldn’t have felt more at home, though home looked like another planet altogether. I think I was channeling my inner geek, the one that loves The X Files and that believes there has to more out there in the Universe. I appreciated the solitude and the connectedness, for I truly believe all living things are connected.

QU-EEN in her element on Hverfjall Crater, Iceland
Just Breathe on top of this Volcanic Crater, nothing else matters but the present
Photography fun on Hverfjall Crater Iceland
Self timer working its magic

Víti Maar (part of Krafla Caldera)

Viti Crater in Iceland
Some call it hell, I call it Glorious oh Víti Crater

Welcome to “The Crater of Hell”. . . Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Looks too celestial to be Hell. Well Summer in Iceland just kept delivering for me. . . I never encountered bad or difficult weather while out exploring (though often during my drives I got heavy rainstorm) and I had spectacular views and cooperative weather on all my Hikes, especially the VOLCANO HIKES! Universe had my back. This Volcanic Crater is just a short drive from Hverfjall, 30 minutes long and off the Ring Road. Víti is pretty well marked, as this is just one site in a 10km active Volcanic Zone called the Krafla Caldera. This area has been bubbling and brewing for centuries, the most recent volcanic activity being the Krafla Fires in the 1970s (which lasted 9 years). It’s been measured that 1000m underground temperatures reach 200 degrees Celsius (392F degrees), and even lower 300 degrees Celsius (572F degrees). My favorite thing about the drive was that it was Sci-Fi film ready. You’ll pass the Krafla Power Plant and see some futuristic dome structures all working to convert Geothermal Energy into usable energy for the country of Iceland. Steam rising sporadically throughout the landscape reminds how much is actually happening beneath the surface unbeknownst to us. Geothermal activity in full force. But you know if the sheep are still grazing these hills, I’d say it’s safe enough for me.

Icelandic Sheep are the best
Because I just can’t NOT photograph Icelandic Sheep
Icelandic Sheep, Summer in Iceland
I will follow Icelandic Sheep wherever

Quick Facts:

born in 1724 when Krafla Volcano erupted

300m in Diameter

Víti means Hell in Icelandic

The Lake changes color depending on the sun/clouds

You can also walk the Entire Rim of the Volcano

Just off Highway 1

After parking your car, take in the endless mountain views in the surrounding. They come in various shades: deep purples sprinkled with snow, tans, browns, maroons. If you’re lucky like me you’ll see sheep grazing and follow them around for awhile. Now for your hike. It’s not a steep climb like Hverfjall, and the view down into the crater is one all its own: Viti Lake, whose Turquoise/teal water changes slightly depending on the sunlight, so perfect that you won’t want to look away. The hike around Víti Maar’s rim would likely take an hour, but if you are like me, you’ll want to stay much longer. When would I be standing here again in this moment of my life, traveling around Iceland Solo, going with my intuition and discovering exactly what I was meant to? Never Again. The present is fleeting, so I took my time to enjoy every second here.

Viti Crater is worth the climb, Iceland
Tiny humans walk the Rim of Víti Crater
Viti Crater on a spectacular Summer in Iceland
Viti Crater on a spectacular Summer day
Hiking up to Viti Crater and Lake Iceland
Changing blue hues at Víti
Sheep of Iceland
Summer Vibes, wildflowers and little lamb butts
Krafla Region, Iceland
Smaller Lake next to Viti, usually a milky blue

Hike around to a smaller lake for milky blue views and less people. I sat here endlessly. What is time anyway but a Human Creation? Earth knows energies, cycles, connections. I honored this. Víti Maar and surrounding is one of the most beautiful places in all of Iceland for me, hands down, and gets serious bonus points for its uniqueness. Summer hikes in Iceland are surely easier than in other seasons, but one must be conscious in Iceland in all seasons at all times. Steepness, rock slide, freak-storm… any one of these could totally change the game so BE CAUTIOUS NOT COCKY!

And be MINDFUL of where you are. Treat Nature and Mama Earth with lots of love and respect. This is how you Honor her

Summer at Víti Crater, Hikes in Iceland
Greens of Summer in Iceland, even in this Geothermal region
Wildflowers in Krafla Region of Iceland
Bloom!
Summer Wildflowers of iceland
Wild and Free Iceland

So there you have it, Part 1 of Iceland’s Volcanos and Worthy Hikes. Every one of these hikes was Free! I didn’t spend a dime. With that said:

Other QU-EEN Recommendations***Bring plenty of water. Bring snacks in case one hike turns into a few hours of exploring, which happens often in beautiful Iceland. Be aware that the weather changes very frequently in Iceland. I got blessed with cloudy skies at times, but no rain, severe winds or snow. I’m glad I visited in PURE SUMMER because I got to see most of the sights with great weather conditions, but certain hikes are obviously more dangerous during rain or other conditions. Don’t be that Cocky Traveler.  SEE ICELAND in all its glorious seasons. Summer was right for me, but I’ve seen photos and heard first hand that it’s stunning in Fall, Winter and Spring too. On another note, you are in the middle of nowhere without bathroom facilities for long periods of time. Stop often and frequently when you see civilization or a visitor center somewhere in the region to do your business.

All photos taken JUNE 2017- ARIANA DEL RÍO

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23 Responses

  1. When I was 16, National Geographic devoted an entire issue to Iceland. Ever since then, I have wanted to go! It seems so close, yet so far away. Many photos I have seen of Iceland have a lot of blues. I like that yours have a lot of browns in them. It adds credibility to what you say in the opening of your entry that you went off the beaten path.

  2. Love your photos as they are different then many of the photos you see of Iceland from other blogs. I hope to visit one day!

  3. That is amazing that you went to Iceland solo – I’ve always been hesitant to because of driving/weather, but I think your recap might have just convinced me that I can pull it off too. This is such a refreshing take on Iceland, there truly are a vast number of things to see and do aside from the typical tourist attractions that everyone always talks about (aka. the Blue Lagoon). It is amazing the way nature can take a hold of you. Hope it was a great trip!

  4. i always love a bathroom tip! that is amazing that you visited solo, i love the story about sleeping in the car, something I would have done in my younger days! Maybe a hotel would have had black out shades for the midnight sun? All of this looks stunning. Im so ignorant, I didn’t realize Iceland had volcanos. duh! That crater is also amazing! Iceland is very high on my must visit list, but I think I am more of a summer girl (would love to see the midnight sun) plus i hate the cold!

  5. I’m heading to Iceland this winter, hitting mostly the west coast and some of the south. Would’ve loved to have had more time to hit the east, but I guess that means I’ll just have to already start planning a trip back. Oddly enough the landscape around Hverfjall remind me of some parts of Nicaragua.

  6. Oh Iceland looks amazing! You had an epic adventure. I’d happy follow Icelandic sheep too

  7. Waterfalls? Volcanos? Few tourists? That sounds like the perfect destination to me!

  8. The daylight thing would totally throw me off – but I totally agree about wanting to squeeze every last bit of time to see all the sights. Based on your pics, it looks like the weather varied a little – tshirts and jackets? I might’ve missed this – but what time of year did you visit? Ts and jackets are way easier to pack than the heavier winter gear!

  9. Iceland is a complete package. I’ve heard and read a lot about the country’s dramatic landscapes and it’s on top of my bucket list. I love off the beaten path itinerary. Viti crater looks out of the world. I want to visit Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon and Westfjords of iceland too. Quite an informative post with some great clicks 🙂 Definitely saving it for later!

    XO http://www.travelwithanjali.com

  10. I was actually going to go to Iceland but cancelled at the last minute because I don’t think I had enough money! Haha. Those lava fields and craters look so alien like, so cool! I’d love to see the lagoons. Sounds like you had a blast! I want to go so badly.

  11. I love hiking so really enjoyed reading this! I was supposed to visit Iceland last month, but had to cancel my trip due to a family emergency, but your post has me thinking I need to re-schedule my trip soon!

  12. wish I got to see this part of Iceland! only visited the south and the west.. I must come back to see these areas!

  13. Lovely post! Reminds me of our road trip in Iceland. We spent 16 days in the country in August. Would love to go back some day in the winter to see the Northern Lights! 🙂

  14. Wow so beautiful! I visited Iceland in May but have not been to the North yet. One excuse to go back next time haha!

  15. Now this was refreshing to see other sights of Iceland than what everyone else seems to always share! I haven’t been yet and had no idea about the existence of most of these so thank you for sharing them with us 🙂 Tephra Volcano especially got me – looks so surreal!

  16. You know, Iceland has been a country I’ve always wanted to visit but never got around to it, then when I was in New Zealand I was told by other travelers that Iceland and New Zealand are very similar in regards to terrain, and both being volcanic Islands – New Zealand has black sand beaches, volcanoes, glaciers etc – however it was said New Zealand is like a mini version of Iceland. Since I’ve been blogging (4 months now) I’ve read so many posts on Iceland and each one, this one included makes me want to bump it up on my list. 😀

  17. Thank you for this informative post, Iceland has been on my bucket list since forever…. The Crater of Hell looks amazing though! 😀

  18. I went to Iceland a year ago with my sister and this actually made me cry cause I miss it so much! I think that it is time to go back for sure!!! Thanks for sharing so much information! I will have to save this for when I am back there!

  19. Looks pretty awesome! I wished I had more time to do the Ring Road. Next time I’m in Iceland, I will def do this!

  20. Awesome post on something different to go for in Iceland. I love hiking and going offbeat. Also, it’s my wish to visit a volcano top someday. So this is my kind of place that is totally untouched. Loved reading your experience and liked the sheeps at the last. 🙂

  21. We visited this area a few years ago and I’m loving your photos of it! It’s so beautiful. I am not able to trek / climb so we missed some of the sites you share, especially the photos of the crater lake, but the rest we loved too. You are hardcore sleeping in the car to get on the road again sooner! Impressed!!!

  22. Gosh! Even if I sleep near a massive Crater, I don’t think I’d be scared! Just look at that beautiful things around you! I’d be taking lots of selfies there!

  23. These pics look fantastic!
    Iceland is on my list of places to go ASAP.

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