Landmannalaugar Highlands and Mount Hekla
Take a thermal bath and drive to the famous volcano Hekla
Mount Hekla is one of Icelands most famous volcanoes. Together with the volcano Katla in the Myrdalsjokull glacier and Grimsvotn area in the Vatnajokull glacier, it is one of Icelands most active volcano. This linear-shaped volcano has erupted 20 times in historical times – or the last one thousand years. The volcano rises around 1500 meters above sea level, is visible from far away and has a strong attraction. Various hiking routes are by the volcano and to its very summit.
Mount Hekla is a relatively young volcano and its magma-chamber lies very deep, or around 11 kilometers down under. That most likely explains that neither a geothermal area nor a caldera is located by its side. Most probably the volcano started its activity and began its "life" around 500.000 years ago.
Mount Hekla has erupted at least five enormous catastrophic eruptions since the time of the retreat of the vast glacier of the last freezing-period of the Ice-Age, but that retreat took place around 9700 years ago. Since then the volcanic activity has conquered over the erosion These five disaster eruptions took place 7000, 4500, 3500 and 2900 years ago and the last one in anno domino 1104. A white-coloured tephra covered the entire country in these eruptions and tephra-layers from these times can still be detected in the natural soil all over the country. The most powerful of these disaster-eruptions was the one 2900 years ago when the volcano poured over 12 square-kilometers of sour tephra and pumice from its craters. In the 1104 eruption Mount Hekla poured out around two square-kilometers of tephra that caused total destruction of extensive residential area by covering its neighbouring farm-site Thjorsardalur. Farmhouses from the time have now been recovered and enjoy vast tourist attraction. The most notable eruptions of Mount Hekla in historical times took place in years 1104, 1158, 1206, 1222, 1300, 1341, 1389, 1510, 1597, 1636, 1693, 1766, 1845, 1947, 1970, 1980, 1981, 1991 and year 2000.
For many centuries the people of Iceland feared the volcano tremendously and even considered it to be the entrance to Inferno or even Hell itself. The first humans to mount the volcano and reach its top, as far as we know, were two pioneering natural-scientists of the Enlightment-Age, Bjarni Palsson (who later becme surgeon general) and Eggert Olafsson (who also was a beloved pre-Romantic poet), in June 20th 1750. That day will always been remembered as one of the most important dates in the history of natural sciences in Iceland.
One of the most notorious eruptions of Mount Hekla in historical times occured in year 1300 when the entire volcano was ripped in two parts and the vast noise that followed could be heard all the way to the northern shores, and darkness as dim as night prevaild most of the country. In the consequent earthquakes many farms fell to ruin and many people were killed – and the total effect of this eruption caused a grand-scale national cataclysm that lasted over a whole year. In the 1510 eruption Mount Hekla sent flying lava-rocks so far that one such lethal missile killed a man 45 kilometers from the crater. In the grand-eruption of year 1693 fourteen craters were seen erupting simultaneously and over 50 neighbouring farms were ruined. Still one frenzy eruption started in 1766 and lasted, with short brakes, for over two years – in that particular eruption 18 simultaneous fire-columns were seen blazing to the sky. The eruption of 1845 lasted for seven months. In 1947 Mount Hekla erupted non-stop for 13 months. The cloud of smoke rose to 30 kilometers already in the first day and eventually the lava from this eruption covered around 40 square-kilometers of land. The eruption in the Skjolkviar-region of Mount Hekla started May 5th 1970 and lasted for around two months. Minor eruptions occured in years 1980, 1981 and 1991. The last eruption of Mount Hekla started February 26th 2000. Next eruption of this majestic volcano is naturally awaited with much expectance and excitement.
Less than 20 kilometers east of Mount Hekla is the location of Landmannalaugar – a truly amazing geothermal area and probably the most renowned and prestigious highland-paradise of the entire country, situated in around 600 meters above sea level. The mountains encircling the area are remarkably multicoloured since they are mostly made from sour magma that was cooked in the magna chamber of volcano located by Torfajokull glacier south of Landmannalaugar. The Torfajokull-area is richer of riolit than any other region in Iceland and the countries second largest high temperature geothermal area next to Grimsvotn in the Vatnajokull glacier. The sour-magma and the geothermal heat is located within a huge chamber – the biggest of its kind in Iceland.
The Landmannalaugar environment is literally a wonderland. The rich colours of the mountains surrounding the area and its outstanding contrasts appearing in the raven-black and glittering riolit-lavafields, are truly amazing. The neighbouring Hrafntinnuhraun lava-field, which is pitch-black, was created in a volcanic eruption in year 872 but the sour lava-fields closer by Landmannalaugar, the Namshraun and Laugahraun lava-fields, were created in an eruption in 1480, or just over 500 years ago.
From the edge of Laugahraun lava-field spring up several hot-water streams and hot springs as well as sources of cold-water that mix together in a little warm river. The natural warm-water pool there is quite unique and an ideal bathing place all year around – with temperature of around 36-40 degrees centigrade even in the mids of a snowy winter.
The Landmannalaugar area is located on the spit of land between the rivers Jokulgilskvisl and Namskvisl. South of Landmannalaugar lies a spectacular canyon, Jokulgil, reaching around 13 kilometers south to Torfajokull glacier. A truly breath-taking hiking trail runs along the entire canyon. Phenomenal hiking-tours are also to be found in the surrounding hills and lava-fields of Blahjukur, Brennisteinsalda, Barmur and Laugahraun.
Tourist facilities in Landmannalaugar are fairly impressive. In the center of the area there is located a big lodge owned by Ferdafelag Islands, built in year 1969. It is a two-floor building; downstairs is a spacious sleeping-cabin, kitchen, janitor-room, large hall and a storage room. Upstairs are three seperate sleeping-cabins and a small attic. There is room for 75 guests in beds and on floor mattresses. The lodge is heated with geothermal heat and the kitchen is equipped with gas. Pots and pans are available, as well as all other equipments for eating and preparing meals. The lodge is heated up and kept warm all year around and is specially inviting for visitors in cold winter days. The warm bathing-pool is situated just outside the lodge. Sanitary facilities are excellent but the camping site is troublesome and stony – hard to pin down tents. Landmannalaugar is also the starting point for the highly popular hiking-route „Laugavegur“ south to the forested valley of Thorsmork. This much favored hiking route is about 53 kilometers long and commonly it takes hikers 3 – 5 days to reach their destination in the Thorsmork valley.
Extreme Iceland offers tours to Mount Hekla and Landmannalaugar all year a round. Day-tours, two day-tours, weekend tours, and longer trips – all designed to meet the needs and wishes of every single tourist. The Landmannalaugar area is just as amazing and inviting in winter as summer. We offer adventurous trips to Landmannalaugar all winter – wheater is never an obstacle: Welcome to the only warm ice in the world.
We can tailor any kind of tour you want. Send us an email, we will plan your tour in detail.