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Askja Volcano in the Highlands

Updated: Sep 13, 2019

Iceland is called the Land of Fire and Ice, and not without reason. It is well-known as a volcanic island which is a perfect place for those who are fascinated by volcanoes.

Most of the tourists who hear about volcanoes think about the one with the really strange name, Eyjafjallajökull, which paralyzed most of Europe for weeks. The volcanic ash after its eruption covered the airspace, cancelling all flights as a result. This is, however, not the only one that is worth seeing in Iceland. You should know that we have over 30 active volcanoes and one of the most famous is Askja. It consists of several calderas and crater lakes.

A couple of turists exploring Askja volcano in the Highlands

Askja is a 50 m2 central volcano located 1000 m above the sea level in the central part of Iceland, the Highlands. Askja volcano is a part of Dyngjufjoll massif and is a part of Vatnajökull National Park, although it is around 20 km away from Vatnajökull glacier. Despite the rough climate and the severe conditions in the Highlands, there are plenty of people willing to visit this wild and dangerous landscape of the North Iceland.

What type of volcano is Askja?

In Askja you can feel like walking on the moon but still being in Iceland. This is why it was the location where training for the Apollo program took place twice. The first one was organised in 1965 and second in 1967. The reason was obviously preparation for landing on the moon.

Askja caldera had intense geothermal and volcanic activity over the years.

As mentioned above, Askja volcano consists of several volcanoes including Viti which is the volcanic crater. The original crater of Askja was created after the eruption in 1875. It was a very powerful and intense volcanic eruption. The stones that were ejected from the crater reached a distance of 1000 km. Over 30 years there were several more volcanic eruptions in Askja until the upper part of the volcano collapsed. This is how the crater lakes Öskjuvatn and Viti were created. The eruptions caused lava flows out of the vents located near Öskjuvatn lake.

Sveinagja graben and a small volcano Kollatadyngja are also connected to the Askja volcanic system.

A view on Öskjuvatn lake in winter scenery located in Askja volcano in Iceland

Askja volcano tour

You will start the tour from the parking lot where you can leave your rental car. From there we recommend starting the tour by visiting the volcanic lakes. The walk takes around 45 minutes each way and the terrain is mostly flat, so it will rather be an easy walk.

At Askja crater you will find two lakes: Öskjuvatnn, which is the larger one and Viti, a smaller one. Oskjuvatnn is a blue pearl of crystal clear water protected by crater slopes. It is one of Iceland’s deepest lakes. There is a story about this lake. The two German scientists Walter von Knebel and Max Dudloff disappeared without the trace while studying the volcano. They were to this date they still haven’t been found and no one knows what happened to them.

That might be the reason why the lake is not visited as much as the smaller Viti lake. It is located in the Viti crater and is well-known from its milky blue water. The water there is heated and it is said you can even take a dip in it. Everyone would like to go for a swim in a volcano right? Moreover, the view from the edge of the Viti is amazing.

Day Excursions to Askja

If you do not feel ready for such a challenging trip or simply do not plan to rent a 4x4 vehicle for your trip to Iceland, there is nothing to worry about. There are many local companies in Iceland which offer day tours in Askja region. As they are equipped with 4x4 super jeeps, they can also offer you a tour in winter. It is worth to check for any early bird discounts for booking online and read the description of the tour carefully. The companies that really care about your experience and for you to have a great trip list all the necessary things that you should get for your excursion. Also remember that the weather in Iceland is unpredictable and can change really quickly. It is recommendable to always check the weather forecast even few times a day and rather get a guide during the winter time especially rather than going on a self-guided itinerary.

How to get to Askja in Iceland and when is the best time for it?

We have already spoken about that in our previous post but let’s have a quick reminder.

The very important fact we should start with is that Askja is located in Highlands in the central part of Iceland. That is the region which is only accessible through the roads marked with the letter “ F”; F-roads. That means that you can only go there during few months of the year (during the summer) when the F-roads are accessible. The other part of the year they remain closed due to the severe climate and the bad roads conditions.

F-Roads in Askja

One should note that for travelling on F-roads, a 4x4 car is needed and not a small one like the SUV, Sportage or Duster. It has to be a decent one which has enough clearance for crossing the river and driving on extremely bumpy roads. If you doubt if your rental car will manage in Askja, ask your rental company and check if any of the damage you might encounter is covered by your insurance. It is important to avoid any kind of a trouble which results in losing money from your budget.

A view on a Herdubreid mountain in a stormy day from Askja volcano

There are two routes to get to Askja. The first one starts on road 901 to later turn into F905 which is a gravel road, so prepare yourself for a bumpy ride. After that you will need to turn onto F910 which will take you straight up to Drekagil. You should than continue the trip with F894 to get to the parking lot where you can leave the car.

The second route includes road F88 which goes straight to Drekagil from where you already know how to get to the parking lot. That one includes crossing two large rivers so in case you are not a very experienced driver, we do recommend taking the first route.

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