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Iceland's Most Famous Volcano

Eyjafjallajökull became one of Iceland’s most famous landmarks when it erupted in 2010 stopping all air traffic with its gigantic ash plume and causing quite the scene in all major television stations all over the world with its ill pronounceable name. It isn’t just a volcano, it’s actually also a glacier and connects to the famous volcano Katla. Here you can read all about it!

Eyjafjallajökull is one of the few stratovolcanoes found in Iceland. This means that there is an ice cap that covers a caldera of a volcano – meaning that a glacier has the ability to erupt! Most of us know the name Eyjafjallajökull for exactly this reason. In 2010 Eyjafjallajökull famously erupted causing quite the scene, with ash clouds reaching all the way to Europe and its smoke grounding all air travel for five days!

The eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 was extraordinary and one would have to search quite far back to find a comparison. The eruption has been compared to the eruptions of the great Katla Volcano which last went off in the year 1918, so as you can see you have to go back almost a century to find a comparison to the one you will read about here.

What type of volcano is Eyjafjallajokull?

Eyjafjallajökull is a stratovolcano and it’s veins follow an East-West direction. It is made up of basalt and andesite lavas.
Most of Eyjafjallajökull’s historical eruptions have been known to be quite explosive as the volcano is fed by a magma chamber that rests under the mountain. The magma chamber is derived from the continental plate meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Eyjafjallajökull is, therefore, a part of a volcano chain that stretches across Iceland. Its nearest and best-known volcano neighbor is Katla which Eyjafjallajökull is thought to be somehow more connected to than other volcanoes as it’s eruptions have generally been followed by eruptions of Katla.
Eyjafjallajökull erupted in the years 920 and 1612.

Eyjafjallajökull 2010 eruption

A lot of activity occurred in Eyjafjallajökull at the beginning of the year 2010.  In the wake of heavy landslides, and earthquake activity, there was a small effusive in the northern part of Fimmvörðuháls. That eruption started on the 20th of March and lasted 23 days.  Then the eruption took a break for two and a half days before starting again on the 14th of April on summit top of Eyjafjallajökull stratovolcano itself. Within the first days, the glacier had melted substantially and a few glaciers runs had occurred. Along with it came clouds of ash which reached all the way to central Europe.

Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano

Photo by Signý Ásta Guðmundsdóttir

The eruption in Eyjafjallajökull can be split into four sections:

From the 14th to the 18th of April:

Rich eruptions and quite a lot of explosion activity where water was able to reach the magma and shred it even more. This part characterized by a lot of ash plumes with finer chemicals the highest ash fall in settlement occurred on the 17th of April and ash was spreading well into South-Europe.

From the 18th of April to the 4th of May:

Now a combination of an explosive eruption and flowing lava went on. The explosiveness was little compared to the days before and the effect of water was limited. Earthquakes were frequent and less magma was reaching the surface.

From the 5th of May to the 17th of May:

The eruption has started to cool down, eruptions were happening less frequently and no new lava was flowing.

From the 18th of May to the 22nd of May:

Decreased upstream of magma and the smoke coming from the eruption was getting a lot smaller. The eruption ended in night time on the 22nd of May.

During the eruption, almost all air traffic was canceled for the next 5 days, more than 100,000 flights. The second eruption, the real Eyjafjallajökull eruption lasted 39 days. It started up again a few weeks later in June but the activity was very limited.

What does the Eyjafjallajökull name mean? Have is the pronunciation?     

Eyja means Islands

Fjalla means Mountains

Jökull means Glacier

Put together you will have island-mountain-glacier.

The land going from Eyjafjallajökull to the sea is often named Landeyjar (that is where the ferry dock Landeyjarhöfn comes from f.ex.) and the reason for that name is that after one of these stratovolcano eruptions occurred glacier runs covered land leaving nothing but water and only islands of land came up. People would sail in between the island placed farms and this is where the location’s descriptive name originates.

Eyjafjallajökull is, therefore, the mountain glacier above the islands. Located in the Eyjafjöll e. the mountains of the islands.

Pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull

Now, that’s a tricky one! The name Eyjafjallajökull didn’t really seem difficult to pronounce until we, Icelanders, started to have to talk about it to other non-Icelandic speaking humans. Then things really started to get complicated!

Here are videos on how NOT:

and HOW TO pronounce Eyjafjallajökull:

Eyjafjallajökull location

63°37′12″N 19°36′48″W

Eyjafjallajökull is located in the middle of the South of Iceland in between Skógafoss and Mýrdalsjökull in the Eyjafjöll mountains. It is surrounded by mountains like Stóra-Dímona and Þríhyrningur.

The main outlet glaciers from Eyjafjallajökull are Gígjökull and Steinholtsjökull. Gígjökull plunges down the hills near Þórsmörk Valley but Steinholtjökull sits higher in the highlands and is lesser known to the general public. 

Eyjafjallajökull hike

There are two options to hike the Eyjafjallajökull eruption site of 2010.

First and the most popular is the Fimmvörðuháls trail.

This trail can be done in one day or two days depending mainly on if you wish to stay the night. The day tour is often nicknamed The Þórsmörk Volcano hike and starts in Reykjavík going from Þórsmörk Valley up to the Fimmvörðuháls, to visit the newly formed craters Magni and Móði and back down, it is about 14 km.

The 2-day version of the Fimmvörðuháls hike starts in Reykjavík but takes you from Skógar the famous home to Skógafoss waterfall and through the highlands, over Fimmvörðuháls and into Þórsmörk valley where you stay the night and get to enjoy it’s hiking trails in the morning.

Second is hiking the actual Eyjafjallajökull glacier. This was a pretty popular trail before the eruption but since the glacier shrunk quite a bit during the eruption the trail has gotten less attention. This trek is considered challenging and should only be done by experienced hikers with a guide.

Eyjafjallajökull facts

  • Eyjafjallajökull consists of a volcano completely covered by an ice cap.
  • Icelanders were quite surprised when it Eyjafjallajökull started to erupt since they were waiting for other volcanoes to go off!
  • The elevation is 1,651 meters or 5,417 feet.
  • No people died in the Eyjafjallajökull eruptions.
  • When the eruption started on the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail it formed two new volcanic craters which were named Magmi and Móði.
  • Eyjafjallajökull feeds Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

Movies & TV Shows Filmed at Eyjafjallajökull

Some of the more famous shows and movies to be filmed at Eyajfjallajökull include

  • Top Gear (2010) – James May drove a Toyota Hilux up the volcano in a 2010 episode of the Top Gear. He reached the top mere hours before the eruption happened, although May and the camera crew had left the volcano by the time the eruption started.
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Interesting places near Eyjafjallajökull