Volcanoes: The Pillars of the Earth
Volcanoes remind us of the beauty, power and majesty of nature, and Iceland has more than its fair share! People from around the globe come to Iceland to see these living mountains that spit liquid fire and alter the world around them, creating lava caves and darkened skies.
At arctic Adventures, we have tours that bring you to the belly of the beast, or walking above them to behold from above, as well as treks that allow you to conquer your volcano of choice by wheel or by foot.
Here’s a quick guide to these mighty natural structures and how you can enjoy Iceland’s biggest attractions…
Going Underground: How Volcanoes Create Caves and Tunnels
Have you ever seen a blowtorch? Industrial forging gives a good indication of how lava works. The basic principle of fire forging is what leads to lava tunnels – as this scorching liquid courses through softer walls of resistance beneath a harder surface. (The surviving surface is what you walk on or under on these volcano tours!) Thankfully, many of these caves and lava tunnels are sturdy and big enough to allow human access.
There are numerous ways to get right to the heart of a volcano in Iceland. A hugely popular choice is the Thrihnukagigur Volcano – literally the only place on Earth where you can explore a magma chamber from the inside.
After crossing a lava field on foot, you take the lift 400 meters (120 feet) down into the heart of the volcano. The burned insides are a sight to behold – shades of red, orange and other colors that cannot be seen anywhere else. And you will see first-hand what shape a mountain’s insides take when it’s ripped apart by lava. Is it any wonder that CNN lists this as one of its must-see places in the world?
If you’re feeling even more adventurous, why not try caving? Iceland’s volcanoes have carved out a vast, intricate and fascinating series of tunnels underground. Our Underworld Tour brings you into the tunnels created thousands of years ago by searing rivers of lava. Behold the otherworldly shapes and colors created by Iceland’s volcanoes and – if you visit at the right time of year – marvel at the beautiful icicles.
Scorched Earth: How Landscapes Are Shaped by Lava
Iceland’s glorious vistas are partly the result of the country’s turbulent environment. Over the centuries, locals created captivating mythology on how some of the landmarks were formed: For instance, the volcanic rock formations of Dimmuborgir (roughly translated as “Dark Castles” in Icelandic) were said to be the home of the half-troll, half ogre Grýla and her 13 children, but the real stories are no less dramatic and exciting!
Iceland is home to over 100 volcanoes, including the mighty Queen Of Iceland: Mount Hekla. Some of these volcanoes’ eruptions formed lava fields, which ran like wide rivers over the land. This molten rock carved through softer surfaces before stopping their journey and becoming land itself. So, the landscape you see in Iceland might be leftover volcanic rock, or the result of its violent odyssey over the earth.
To this day, intrepid explorers hike the rugged terrain created by volcanoes. The Thorsmork Volcano Hike is a trek along the Thorsmork valley to Fimmvorduhals Pass – traversing the new craters Magni and Modi. There, you will see the site of the notorious Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which caused an ash cloud that caused international havoc back in 2010.
This spot has some of the best views in Iceland (which is saying something): From a height of over 800 metres, you can see the rolling green hills, rugged terrain, glaciers and valleys, much of which was forged by a river of fire.
There’s also a separate Eyjafjallajökull Tour, which is done via super-jeep.
The effects of plate tectonics and volcanoes are rich and varied; creating lush green valleys, epic mountains and – in the case of Askja – something truly unique. The Askja Caldera was created when a subterranean lava chamber erupted and caused its roof to collapse. What looks like a vast lake is in fact a deep, crater-like feature.
En route to the Caldera, you’ll cross a barren, steaming, menacing piece of land. If you think it looks otherworldly, you’re not the first: NASA astronauts visited this site to prepare for the Apollo 11 lunar landings in 1969.
A Land of Ice and Fire
Volcanoes have not only shaped Iceland’s landscapes – they’ve played a part in creating the country’s psyche. The memorable vistas they created helped foster Iceland’s love of the outdoors and the environment; the harsh history and violent eruptions spawned a tradition for folklore and storytelling that continues to this day; and these beasts’ towering reputation continues to echo throughout the world.
Iceland’s love for its volcanoes burns like molten and is solid as a mountain.