Hekla the Queen of Icelandic Volcanoes
Hekla erupted most recently in 1991 and again in 2000. Volcanologists say that pressure measurements within the magma chambers under the mountain are currently higher than they were then. No one knows when the next eruption will occur, though it could certainly be said that circumstances are ripening!
In the year 1159, a huge eruption hurled 7.3 cubic meters of Hekla lava into the atmosphere, cooling the climate around Europe and interfering with growing cycles. Traces of volcanic rock from this eruption have even been found in Scottish peat bogs. In the middle ages, when its catastrophic power was feared all over Europe, Hekla was often called “The Gateway to Hell” and in an English poem from the 11th century, Judas was said to be kept in Mt. Hekla. Following this, European clerks celebrated the eruptions in Hekla as they believed the eruptions to prove the existence of Hell. Hekla is a part of a 40 km (25 mi) long rift. The most active part of the rift is named Heklugjá and is 5,5 km long. Heklugjá is located right under the volcano itself and feeds its eruptions.
The volcano mountain, Hekla, is also sometimes known as the “Queen of Iceland”. It is situated in the scenic Fjallabak mountain area. A hike to Hekla’s summit (1491 m) is placed on top on many bucket lists. The hike is best done up the Northern part of the 4 km long mountains ridge and the first known people to ascend were Eggert Ólafsson and Bjarni Pálsson in the year 1750.
A day tour from Reykjavík is the perfect way to explore Hekla and the glorious mountain scenery around it. On a beautiful clear day, you are able to view Hekla from the South Coast and route 1. For those who would like to explore the volcano from a different angle, with a 4×4 car, you can get an even better view of the scenery from the route to Landmannalaugar. Remember to look out the window when going on one of our Landmannalaugar and Laugavegur hiking or trekking tours.
Where is Hekla located?
GPS 63.9923° N, 19.6658° W
Hekla is located in a remote area between road number 26, the F210 mountain road and the Friðland að Fjallabaki Nature Reserve, about 122 km from Reykjavík. The only way to get really close is to follow hiking trails – joining an organized tour is recommended. Other attractions in the area are Hvollsvöllur (61.6 km), Selfoss (73.2 km) and Geysir (106 km).
How did Hekla form?
The story behind the oblong shape of Mount Hekla is actually quite fascinating. Hekla was originally formed in a long fissure eruption, common with Icelandic volcanoes.
The fissure which had a voluminous lava flow created the surrounding lava field you can see today surrounding the volcano. When the power of the eruption decreased the volcanic activity became more focused on one or two craters in the fissure. This resulted in a rise in this certain volcanic zone which and when it cooled down a round shape caldera was created in the center. Other famous oblong shaped volcanoes, Snæfellsjökul, Eyjafjallajökull and Öræfajökull all have this round crater on top in common. This depression at the top makes it easy for snow to accumulate so many some of those volcanoes are now found under glaciers or at least most of the time under a thick layer of snow.
When will Hekla erupt next?
It impossible to know exactly when Hekla will erupt again. In 1947, when Hekla erupted, it was believed to be a fact that the volcano erupted every 100 years and therefore the next eruption shouldn’t be due until the year 2045. This did not prove accurate as Hekla went off 1970, 1980, 1991 and again in 2000.
Tips for hiking Mt. Hekla
- The hike is not recommended without a guide.
- The hike usually takes approximately 8 hours.
- The hike is best done in the summertime.
- If the plan is to hike all the way to the top you will need glacier equipment.
- The easiest way to hike Hekla volcano is from the Northwest side or following the Northern ridge.
Hekla Volcano Facts
- Hekla has been active for thousands of years with 20 recorded eruptions.
- The first people to climb Hekla were Eggert Ólafsson and Bjarni Pálsson in 1750.
- Folktales tell us stories that souls of the damned were once believed to pass through the crater of Hekla on their way to hell.
- In the eruption of 1947, the peak of the explosive eruption chute reached 50 meters (164 ft).
- Hecla is the traditional English spelling of the volcano Hekla and numerous places have been named after the volcano:
- The Island Hecla in Lake Winnipeg, Canada.
- Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park, Manitoba, Canada.
- Hecla, Kentucky, USA
- Hecla, Missouri, USA
- Hecla, Montana, USA
- Hecla, South Dakota, USA
- Hecla, Wyoming, USA, a ghost town near Laramie
- The name Hekla is an old Icelandic word for a short hooded cloak.
- Hekla has produced one of the largest volumes of lava of any volcano in the world.
Accommodation near Hekla Volcano
Hekla is pretty remotely located but still, you can find accommodation relatively near. Here are the ones with the best reviews the nearest being highest in each category.
Guesthouse, B&B and Homestay
- Guesthouse Leirubakki
- Guesthouse Elin
- Hagi Homestay
- Heimaland Guesthouse
- Guesthouse Denami
- Guesthouse Steinsholt
- Birkikinn Holiday Home
- Gljásteinn Hólaskógur Hostel
- Árnes HI Hostel
Cabins and Cottages
- Rjúpnavellir Camping & Cottages
- Afternoon Cottages
- Heimaland Guesthouse
Camping near Hekla Volcano
The nearest camping ground to Hekla Volcano is at Rjúpnavellir located right above Galtlækjarskógur forest. It is accessible for all cars. They offer sleeping bag accommodations for 44 people in two separate cabins and 2 cottages each able to accommodate 6 people. The facilities include cooking stations, WCs, and showers.
Interesting places near Hekla Volcano
- Sigöldugljúfur e. The Valley of Tears
- Sigöldufoss Waterfall
- Landmannalaugar geothermal paradise
- Lake Frostastaðavatn
- Ljótipollur e. Ugly Puddle
- Þjórsá River
- Þjórsárgljúfur Canyon
- Hjálparfoss Waterfall
- Þjófafoss Waterfall
- Háifoss Waterfall
- Þórsmörk Valley
- Eyjafjallajökull Glacier
- Seljavallalaug Mountain Pool
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Gljúfrabúi Waterfall