Volcanoes of Iceland

While driving around the Ring Road in Iceland, we frequently saw four natural landmarks: waterfalls,  moss-covered lava fields, glaciers and volcanoes. 

Before leaving for our trip, I had given little thought to the fact that we would be up close and personal to some of the most frightening sites in the world's geological history. As soon as we approached Katla, however, a slight panic set it. 

Last erupting in 1918, Katla has erupted at least once a century since 930 CE, and geologist believe that it may erupt again soon. We had seven more days of driving around a relatively volatile land, with no plan of escape were a volcano to erupt during our visit.

After the initial shock of how large and frightening Katla was (we couldn't even see the peak because the top half of the volcano was hidden by the clouds), each of the inactive volcanoes that followed seemed somewhat tamer. 


Appearing as a large pit of black dirt, the pictures of Hverfjall don't really do this volcano justice. Its steep, fragile sides are lined with two hiking paths, and once on top of the ridge, you can walk along the rim of the crater and view the nearby Lake Mývatn. 

Hverfjall in Northern Iceland. Photo credit: Lauren J. Mapp


Þríhnúkagígur is the only volcano in the world where you can go inside of the magma chamber. While it is an expensive guided tour, it is worth going on as you learn about the geological and cultural history of Iceland and can have the experience of being lowered into a volcano. 

Inside the Þríhnúkagígur volcano near Reykjavik. Photo credit: Lauren J. Mapp


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