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Oskjuvatn Lake in Askja

Iceland, a land where fire and ice coexist in dramatic harmony, is home to some of the most extraordinary natural wonders on Earth. Among these is the majestic Öskjuvatn Lake, located in the Highlands Region, an area renowned for its mighty ridges, expansive lava fields, and the awe-inspiring craters that have given birth to magnificent lakes.

Öskjuvatn Lake Facts: More Than Just a Lake

Öskjuvatn is not just any lake; it's a remarkable formation within the Askja caldera. With a depth of 217 meters (712 feet) and a surface area of 11 km², it stands as Iceland's second-deepest lake.

Formed during the volcanic eruption of 1875, which also created the nearby Viti Crater, Öskjuvatn's origins are as tumultuous as they are fascinating. The lake's last major volcanic activity dates back to 1961, adding to the intrigue of this dynamic landscape.

Öskjuvatn Lake

The Enigma of Öskjuvatn

Öskjuvatn's allure is deepened by its mysterious past. In 1907, two German scientists vanished without a trace while exploring its waters, sparking theories and legends that continue to captivate visitors. This mystery, coupled with the lake's stark beauty, makes Öskjuvatn a destination of both natural wonder and intrigue.

Where is Öskjuvatn Lake Located?

Öskjuvatn, the largest and deepest crater lake in Iceland, lies in the northeast of the Vatnajökull glacier, within the volcano Askja. This unique location contributes to its breathtaking beauty and geological importance.

How to Get to the Lake?

Accessing Öskjuvatn is an adventure in itself. The journey involves navigating the F-roads from the ring road, with the safest and most recommended route being from Akureyri via the F26. These roads are only accessible during the summertime (June to September), and conditions can vary. A 4x4 vehicle, like the popular Dacia Duster, is essential for this terrain.

The F-roads are only accessible during the summertime (June to September) but bear in mind that it might vary depending on the weather, it might extend or eventually shorten if the weather gets rough.  These roads are located in the center region of our beautiful island.

Since you will probably come from Reykjavík, the distance is approximately 266 KM (165 miles) and it takes about 2 hours and a half to get there.

It is also good to keep in mind that you need a 4x4 to access the F-roads, as they are not like the ring road, which is paved and always in neat conditions. Most people get something like a Dacia Duster, which is, in fact, the most demanded vehicle in car rentals in Iceland.

Once you reach Askja, you will see a shelter. I highly suggest you talk to the shelter staff, they will be delighted to inform you where to park your car, the lot is about 20 minutes uphill.

After the parking lot is where you start the real adventure. You will spend 45 minutes hiking into a volcanic valley to finally reach the beautiful Viti and Oskjuvatn lake. 

Here is a very recommended website to check the weather and road conditions, keep it close to you, it will be quite handy when you start your adventure.

Öskjuvatn Lake Location

Is Öskjuvatn Lake Worth Visiting?

Visiting Öskjuvatn Lake is an experience that transcends mere sightseeing; it's an encounter with the raw power and beauty of nature. Situated in the heart of Iceland's volcanic highlands, Öskjuvatn, along with the Askja caldera, forms one of the most stunning and otherworldly landscapes in the country.

The lake's vast, tranquil waters, set against the backdrop of the rugged Dyngjufjoll Mountains, create a scene of unparalleled natural beauty. On days when the sky is clear, the mountains' reflection on the lake's surface creates a mesmerizing, mirror-like effect that captivates and enchants visitors.

The nearby Viti crater, a smaller but equally fascinating feature within the Askja volcanic system, adds to the area's allure. Formed during the same 1875 eruption that created Öskjuvatn, Viti is known for its warm, geothermal waters, contrasting sharply with the cold depths of Öskjuvatn. The crater's name, translating to 'hell' in Icelandic, hints at its explosive origins and the once-fiery nature of this now serene spot. Bathing in Viti's warm waters, with views of the stark volcanic landscape around, is a unique experience that many visitors cherish.

Moreover, the historical significance of the area, particularly its connection to the Apollo space missions, as a training ground for astronauts, adds a layer of human intrigue to the natural wonder. This blend of natural beauty, geological significance, and historical importance makes Öskjuvatn and its surroundings not just worth visiting, but essential for anyone seeking to experience the full majesty and mystery of Iceland's unique landscapes.

A visit to Öskjuvatn Lake is more than just a trip to a natural attraction; it's an immersive journey into a landscape that is as close to walking on another planet as one can get on Earth. It's a place where the wonders of geology, history, and natural beauty converge, offering an unforgettable experience.

Öskjuvatn Lake and Viti Crater

Bathing in Viti Lake

Speaking a little more of the Oskjuvatn sister, you might, in fact, be able to bathe in it. Yes, you’ve read right! If you want to bathe in the beautiful Viti lake, you shall first speak to the ranger in the shelter I previously mentioned, as he is the only one allowed to give you permission to bathe in it, as it will mostly depend on weather conditions and the water conditions as well, which is by the way, not as warm as you might desire. The Blue Lagoon’s water is actually more heated with 38 degrees Celsius (100,4 F).

Please do it under your own responsibility; there are no lifeguards here, so you must be careful if you do not know how to swim, we highly discourage you from doing it.

Apollo Program in Askja

This is probably one of the best parts of this post, the most exciting and appealing if you are into astronomy. Some people might know about Askja due to this amazing fact:

This area was used as a training ground hosted by NASA to prepare astronauts for the lunar missions where the main purpose of the training was to study its geology. This event happened back in 1969 prior to the moon trip.  You can find further information in our Apollo Mission in Iceland post.

Askja area

Visiting Öskjuvatn Lake in Askja

To wrap this chapter up, it is good to give extra options to get there. Some of you would rather go on a day tour and be picked up directly from Reykjavík.

Askja is a one of a kind place, not everyone has the chance to be in a crater, and certainly not with a perfectly milky blue water. It is without a doubt one of my top 3 places in Iceland.

Lastly, do not forget to bring the right gear, keep hydrated, be respectful with the mother nature, and enjoy your trip!

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