Iceland is undoubtedly a magical country full of hidden gems where a bigger and more surprising attraction awaits you around every corner. There are hundreds of travellers who dream of the amazing landscapes and countless attractions they can discover in Iceland. The country of contrasts, where one side is covered in glaciers and the other is hidden under volcanoes, brings more and more tourists every year.
Glaciers, geysers, powerful waterfalls and endless lava fields are only a small part of those attractions. It is only a brief introduction to what you can get out of your trip. This small country gives unlimited opportunity to commune with wild nature and a severe climate. The Land of Fire and Ice has so much to offer, that every lover of active leisure will find something here that will keep him breathless.
One of the most unique and unparalleled areas of our country is Askja, located in the interior part of Iceland. You will find no similar place in the world. You might say the moon’s surface is more similar than any other place on earth.
Askja in Iceland - How it was created
Askja is a 50m2 caldera located in the Icelandic Highlands as mentioned above. It was created at the end of the Ice Age by ash eruptions. The tons of ash was thrown into the atmosphere, creating a vacuum inside. When magma began to accumulate on the roof of the volcano, it collapsed and created the Askja caldera. It consists of several volcanoes and craters.
The bottom of Askja is at the altitude of 1100 m around 1500m above sea level. The chamber is actually located under the Öskjuvatn lake, which is the second deepest lake in Iceland.
Another volcanic eruption took place in 1875 and this is when Viti lake, which is now called Hell as its water can reach 30 ° C (86 ° F) was created. The Eastern Fiords suffered the most as a result of this eruption. A mass emigration from Iceland began after the dust poisoned the soil and killed livestock.
The last volcanic eruption took place in 1961 in Vikraborgir. It was less devastating than the previous one though. The activity of Askja has increased in recent years and scientists assume that another explosion may occur at any time.
Where is Askja located?
GPS N65° 3′ 7.099″ W16° 42′ 37.091″
Askja is located in the so-called desert in the Icelandic Highlands. This is an inhabited area where instead of houses and farms, you will instead find lava fields, calderas and hot springs.This is a completely remote land where the severe climate which is very unstable and is constantly changing.
This makes it impossible for humans to cultivate the land and some might say to even survive there for more than a few days. Roads which are located in this area are known as mountain roads. They can be distinguished from other roads easily as there is a letter “F” in their name.
Snow, mud and loose stones cover the roads from the very beginning of summer which make road conditions challenging for most of the drivers. These kind of roads are curved, narrow, bumpy. Finding one lane bridges or a river crossing is usual for those roads.
How to get to Askja
There are two options to get to Askja starting your trip on road no 1 - the Ring Road.
The first option is that you take road 901 and turn onto F905 which is already a gravel road. From F905 you go to F910 and drive up to Drekagil. From there you will next take road F894 which will lead you straight to Askja. After around 8 km driving from now you will find the car park.
On this route you will need to cross two larger rivers. If you find closed bridges with a fence, your can easily open it, pass it and close it afterwards.
It is the easier route to take so if you are not a very experienced driver in those roads conditions, we do recommend you choose this one.
The second option is to take road F88 towards Drekagil. This route includes river crossing on both rivers Linda and Grafarlandsa which are really deep. This mainly makes the second path more difficult and it is not recommendable for inexperienced drivers and small cars.
Whichever route you will decide to take, you need to be aware of few important things. As mentioned before, are all F-roads, where you can only drive with a 4x4 all-terrain vehicle. Small SUVs like the Suzuki Jimny and Dacia Duster are not recommendable for this route, though.
Some think that the 4WD car is just enough and are extremely wrong. The route is really challenging and can be dangerous. Remember to ask your car rental company about the necessary insurance and do not fear to ask for some advice for your Askja road trip. They will certainly be more than happy to advise if the car you chose is appropriate for your adventure. They will definitely give you some tips and tricks on how to cross the river safely.
When is the best time for Askja tours in Iceland
As mentioned above, Askja volcano is located in Icelandic central region, Highlands. This are is only accessible during few months of the year and this is in summer. The time you can enter Highlands also depends on the opening of the F-roads. Those remain closed during winter starting from mid-September until June. The opening dates depend on the roads and weather conditions, and every year can differ.
This basically answers our question when is the best time to visit Askja. It is important to take that into consideration when planning your trip to Iceland. Do not let the weather ruin your plans and always have a plan B in case the F-roads remain still closed at the time you will be in Iceland.
Askja area is not accessible during winter unless you have a Super Jeep with large tires and of course good driving experience.
The landscapes you find here during the winter are incredible and worth seeing. That is why for those who are fans of winter wonderlands, we do recommend hiring a private tour with an experienced guide who will make sure you travel safe and sound.
There are travel companies in Iceland which offer day tours to Askja both in summer and winter. Some of them even include a guide with adapted wheels for those roads conditions with Super Jeeps 4x4.
The Apollo Program in Askja
I have already said that the land of Askja seem to be rather like out of this world and you can easily find resemblance to the surface of the Moon. I was absolutely not exaggerating. The Apollo program was held twice in Askja.
The first one took place in 1965 and second in 1967. The reason for that was training for landing on the moon. Askja seemed to be the perfect place for this. You can especially see why when you walk from the Vikraborgir parking towards the Viti and Oskjuvatn lakes. The lava fields are grey covered with small, dry boulders and are devoid of any vegetation.
This and a small amount of rainfall, dry, moon-like terrain and lack of tourists made it the perfect place for the training for the apollo project.
How to Reach Askja - Roads and Routes
Askja is an amazing place with breathtaking landscapes but it can also be a dangerous place where nature definitely takes over us. Plan your trip to Askja carefully especially if you decide to drive on your own. You should be prepared than for rough roads conditions and crossing several rivers.
Remember, safety always go first! You need to drive with caution and always check the weather forecast before heading down the road. Weather alerts will become your best friends if you are going to the Icelandic Highlands. With that and our advice on how to get to Askja, your trip should be hassle-free and will bring lots of unforgettable experiences and memories from the volcanic heart of Iceland.