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A Complete Guide to Eyjafjallajokull Glacier

2010 Eyjafjallajokull Eruptions - South Coast of Iceland - What to see - What to do

March 14, 2019
author YS Lee

By YS Lee

A journalist, photographer and nature lover, YS finds inspiration in Iceland’s vast wilderness and wants to share with her audience everything about travelling in Iceland through words and visuals.


If we must pick one volcano to represent the dynamic volcanic energy beneath Iceland, it has to be Eyjafjallajokull glacier. The volcano has made its name by erupting and disrupting North European air traffic for more than a month in 2010. And it’s made its way to a crucial plot in a Hollywood A-list movie production- the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It also hosts a spectacular part of the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail, a famous hiking route among the international hiking community. Now, it’s time for us to dive in - what’s so special about Eyjafjallajokull?

A Complete Guide to Eyjafjallajokull Glacier

Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull Eruptions - May 1st and 2nd, 2010 by Sean Stiegemeier

About Eyjafjallajokull Glacier

Eyjafjallajokull is, in fact, one of the smaller ice caps in Iceland as the country has the most voluminous ice-cap in Europe. The ice cap of Eyjafjallajokull covers an area of 100 square kilometers. Like many other glaciers in Iceland, it feeds numerous glacier tongues. Beneath is a volcano caldera, the elevation of its summit is 1651 meters. Since the last glacial period, the volcano has erupted frequently, the most recent eruption being in 2010.

Eyjafjallajökull volcano is a stratovolcano. It’s a type of volcano that’s usually tall and in a conical shape. They are made of one layer of hardened lava, volcanic ash, and rock fragments that are ejected from an eruption.  

Eyjafjallajokull Glacier on a Peaceful Day, South Coast of Iceland

Eyjafjallajokull Glacier seen from the south side with farm houses at its foot, South Iceland

How to Pronounce Eyjafjallajokull

When it comes to the global perception of Eyjafjallajokull, it’s usually about how hard it is to pronounce the name. Even the most eloquent TV journalists have proven how challenging it can be to even get close to pronouncing this word correctly. However, when you know the rules in Icelandic, it’s actually not that difficult. We can dissect the word “Eyjafjallajökull” into six syllables “ Ei - ya- fya - tla - yuh - kutl,” and if you can just pronounce each syllable slowly and repeat the sequence faster, you’ll hear yourself pronouncing the hardest word in the world.

How to Pronounce Eyjafjallajokull

The word literally means “island mountain glacier” when you translate the original Icelandic meaning into English. “Eyja” means “island,” “fjalla” means “mountains,” and “jokull” means “glacier.” The “Island Mountain Glacier” has caused quite a lot of trouble. In the following section, we will talk about the disturbances it caused in 2010.

Next time when you drive to the South Coast of Iceland, you will see this glorious glacier and you will feel very confident talking about it since you will soon be an expert in all things Eyjafjallajökull.

Where is Eyjafjallajokull Glacier Located?

The GPS coordinates of Eyjafjallajokull glacier are N63° 37' 23.985" W19° 36' 41.511".  When we put the coordinates on the map of Iceland, Eyjafjallajokull glacier is located in South Iceland, next to Myrdalsjokull glacier, the fourth-largest glacier in the country. Several famous waterfalls are originated from Eyjafjallajokull. The list includes Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the waterfall where you are able to walk into the cave behind, and Skogafoss waterfall with an impressive cascade of water plunging straight down, and Kvernufoss waterfall, a less visited hidden gem close to Skogafoss.

Eyjafjallajokull Volcano Eruption in 2010

Eyjafjallajokull Volcano Eruption in 2010

Eyjafjallajokull’s Notorious (Famous) Eruptions in 2010

The amazing Eyjafjallajokull glacier has created many spectacular attractions in Iceland. If you are traveling to the south, make sure to check out those waterfalls and take a look at the ice cap from afar. If you want to see the glacier up close, not so close however you are in the burning distance of magma (although it might be a great Instagram picture, not safe at all) a famous hiking route is actually located over Eyjafjallajokull’s east side.

During the hike, if the weather conditions are on your side you will be able to see the ice cap. The hiking trail is only accessible in summer, in winter you will need to go on a super jeep ride with an experienced driver or guide.

At the beginning of 2010, a lot of activity occurred inside Eyjafjallajokull that alarmed scientists as there were signs of a huge eruption. Later, followed by voluminous landslides and earthquakes, there were some unusual seismic activities accompanied by some rapid expansion in the Earth’s crust. Iceland’s Meteorological Institute has recorded these activities and warned about an imminent eruption. Through immense underground stress, magma built up underneath the crust and was pushed into Eyjafjallajokull’s magma chamber. Therefore, causing a displacement on the crust beneath the earth's surface. The institute has registered nearly 3000 earthquakes near the center of the volcano.

Eyjafjallajokull Eruptions April.19 2010 by Jónmundur Gíslason

It’s said that the 2010 eruptions began on March 20th on the eastern part of the crater top, which is situated on Fimmvorduhals. But, the first eruption didn’t cause too much of a mess because it was in the form of a fissure vent. And it soon paused.

On April 14th, Eyjafjallajokull resumed erupting, on a much larger scale. This time the eruption happened in the center of the glacier, causing glacial floods flowing down the slopes to the rivers. 800 people had to be evacuated because of this. As the meltwater entered into the eruption fissure, the second eruption became quite explosive. Scientists estimated the scale of the second explosion to be more than 10 times larger than the one that occurred in Fimmvorduhals. The furious eruption threw an excessive plume of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. The ash spread over few kilometers, disrupting air travel in Northwest Europe for quite a while. It also caused electrical storms, nicknamed “dirty thunderstorm” as the mysterious but powerful lighting went off in the middle of the ash clouds over the volcanic vent.

Finally, until August 2010, Eyjafjallajokull went dormant. The disruptive, spectacular, dramatic, and months-long eruption that attracted global attention in various ways eventually ceased.

2010 Eyjafjallajokull Eruption

2010 Eyjafjallajokull Eruptions

Can I Visit or Hike on Eyjafjallajökull Glacier?

Most of the time, Eyjafjallajokull glacier is very peaceful. It’s one of the most hiked glaciers in the South Coast of Iceland. There are also many other ways, including day tours and multi-day tours, to visit the volcano, completely covered by an ice cap, shining in shades of silver as it glistens under the sun.

One-Day Hiking Trip via Fimmvorduhals Trail

There is also a hike called Volcano Hiking. This hike gives you an insight into the two craters forms through the eruption. In Iceland, we say they were brothers and named them “Magni” and “Modi.” This tour is a great opportunity to visit the two new creatures.

Meeting point: Pick up Reykjavik  / N1 gas station in Hvolsvollur
Pick-up time: 8:00 - 8:30 a.m.  / around 9:40 a.m.

Hiking route: After a stop at the most popular waterfall Seljalandsfoss, which is originated from Eyjafjallajokull, the group will head to Thorsmork valley, an insanely beautiful place in Iceland with a name that means the valley of Thor - the God of Thunder. On the super jeep ride, you will traverse the gravel road and push deeper into the valley. Then, you will start hiking through the majestic canyons as you go up higher on Thorsmork, then the two craters formed during 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption will appear in front of you.

Hiking via Fimmvörðurháls Volcano Thorsmork South Iceland

Spectacular Scene of Eyjafjalljokull Glacier via Fimmvörðurháls Hiking Trail

Two-Day Fimmvorduhals Trek

The entire route of Fimmvorduhals Pass is a challenging hiking trail that’s about 22 kilometers (13.7 miles), with a total elevation of approximately one kilometer (3000 ft). It begins at Thorsmork valley and ends at Skogar or vice versa.  The most common hiking plan is to split the hike into two parts by adding an overnight stay midway in a cabin. The two-day trekking itinerary is suitable for those who want to enjoy the sceneries along the trail at a slower pace instead of rushing to the end in one day.

Meeting point: Pick up in Reykjavik
Pick-up time: 7:00 a.m.

Hiking route: The trek begins on the east side of Skogafoss waterfall. As you reach the top of the waterfall cliff, you will take a short rest to take in the glorious view of the famous waterfall carrying voluminous water plunging down. You will then hike on the mountain trail Skogaheidi, passing smaller waterfalls and other beautiful scenes. From there you will reach a 500-meter summit before you hike across glacial rivers. Soon you will arrive at the best viewpoint for Eyjafjallajokull glacier. On the second day,  your journey continues after passing the volcano until you reach the magnificent Thorsmork valley. Then your group will head back to Reykjavik.

Volcano View via Fimmvorduhals Trail during a 2-day hiking tour

Unforgettable Volcano View via Fimmvorduhals Trail on a two-day hiking tour

Helicopter Tour to Volcanoes and Glaciers

Helicopter tours have been becoming increasingly more popular over the last few years as it’s a splendid way to look at Iceland’s geographics from a bird’s eye view. Although a helicopter tour can be expensive, we have to admit that the view you will have up there is unparalleled. Iceland’s iconic topographic features become a giant abstract painting where river estuaries slicing the land by the touch of heavy strokes in metallic colors, as you will see during the helicopter tour. It’s absolutely unforgettable.

Meeting location: Reykjavik Domestic Airport, Hangar 1, Nautholsvegur Road.
Departure time: The tour operator will contact you regarding a suitable departure time shortly after you book the tour.

Hopping on the helicopter, you will feel like a professional explorer heading out for an exciting adventure. You will fly over the Southwest of Iceland towards Thorsmork valley. When you reach Eyjafjallajokull glacier, your pilot will make a touchdown on top of Eyjafjallajokull or Fimmvorduhals depending on the weather. You can have a closer look at the craters and appreciate the beautiful scenery.

Eyjafjallajokull Glacier Volcano Seen During a Helicopter Tour

The magnificent glacier volcano view of Eyjafjallajokull you will have during a helicopter tour

Other Ways to Visit Eyjafjallajokull Glacier

Snowmobiling on Eyjafjallajokull Glacier - A fantastic chance to steer your snowmobile on the jaw-dropping landscape and amidst stunning views toward the horizons. When you travel to the south, snowmobiling on Eyjafjallajokull is for sure highly recommended.

Super Jeep Tour to Thorsmork Mountain Ridge - Want to experience your day in a powerful, mountain-road capable super jeep exploring the famous Eyjafjallajokull Glacier? The super jeep tour will take you to Iceland’s iconic volcanic gravel route. You will also have the chance to do a short hike to see the glacier and look down from the summit of the volcano.

Six-day Trekking on Laugavegur Trail - This trail is one of the most renowned hiking trails in the world. Every summer, many hikers come here to Iceland with a determination to finish the six-day trek. The trail eventually leads up to the Fimmvorduhals Pass where you will pass Eyjafjallajokull volcanic craters.

Eyjafjallajokull Glacier Hiking

Six-day trekking via Laugavegur Trail

Other Volcanoes on the South Coast of Iceland

The South Coast of Iceland is famous for its dramatic landscapes where the glaciers and mountains rise up to 1000 to 1500 meters above sea level, forming the highlands, and the southern lowlands extend to the shore to meet crashing waves from the North Atlantic Ocean.

The repeated volcanic eruptions since the last Ice Age have created unique geographics. On Iceland’s South Coast, there are three glaciers that shaped the past and the present. As Europe’s most voluminous ice cap, the massive Vatnajokull glacier is also the largest glacier in Iceland. It’s famous for the glacier crystal ice caves. These astonishing natural phenomena are mysterious wonders only available in winter. And visitors must go with a professional glacier guide. There are several volcanoes underneath it and the highest volcano is Öræfajökull, rising up to 2110 meters (6923 ft) above sea level.

The massive outlet glaciers from Vatnajokull, Iceland's largest glacier

The massive outlet glaciers from Vatnajokull - Iceland's largest glacier

Myrdalsjokull glacier is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland whose outlet glaciers being explored by many local tour operators via glacier hiking tours and ice climbing tours. The most famous and easy-to-access glacier tongue is Solheimajokull glacier. It’s an immense outlet glacier stretching to the south. The glacier hiking tours are very popular among South Coast travelers. Myrdalsjokull glacier is also famous for covering the “monster volcano” Katla. Though with a fearful name, Katla volcano is actually an amazing land of wonder since the ice cave underneath it can be explored all year round.

Katla volcano where you can find mysterious ice caves

Katla volcano where you can find mysterious ice caves

Attractions Near Eyjafjallajokull Glacier

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

As a powerful volcano and glacier, Eyjafjallajokull has carved and sculpted numerous natural attractions. The most popular one is Seljalandsfoss waterfall. It’s located right off the Ring Road when you take the turn towards Thorsmork.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall has a fall of 60 meters (197 ft). The glacial meltwater is originated from Eyjafjallajokull as the glacier feeds Seljalandsá river flowing towards the ocean. The waterfall’s cliff has a cave behind the cascade where visitors can walk behind the waterfall and take a look at the surroundings from the opposite but completely fascinating perspective. Many more amazing facts about the waterfall can be found in the Seljalandsfoss complete guide.

Beautiful Rainbow under Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in South Iceland

Beautiful Rainbow under Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in South Iceland

Gljufrabui Waterfall

Among many hidden gems in an amazing country, Gljufrabui waterfall is surprisingly impressive. Although it’s secluded behind cliffs, the 40-meter high cascade is not being overshadowed by the popular Seljalandsfoss in its vicinity. Instead, it stands out from many beautiful waterfalls on the South Coast of Iceland for its quietness and closeness a visitor can enjoy while visiting. It surely lives up to its name, the “canyon dweller.

The intimate distance also means the cascade is likely to spray on you. In order to avoid getting wet, you will need waterproof clothing and shoes to protect you from the drizzle. And be careful while trying to climb on the stone inside the small canyon since it can be very slippery.

The Hidden Gem Gljufrabui Waterfall on South Coast of Iceland

The Hidden Gem Gljufrabui Waterfall on South Coast of Iceland

Skogafoss Waterfall

Skogafoss waterfall has a splendid fall plunging down from a giant wall-like cliff of 60 meters in height. Its cascade is facing south, making the spray iridescent as a rainbow is always shown when the sun is in a favourable position. There are two main viewpoints to see the waterfall. The most popular spot is on the ground. Be careful when you get too close to the cascade since it’s extremely forceful. If time allows, you can hike up the hill to the top of the mountain to look down at Skogafoss. Always be mindful that the trail can be slippery and you need to wear hiking shoes for such activity. And please follow our guide to Skogafoss for more information about this spectacular waterfall.

Skogafoss Waterfall on a Beautiful Sunny Day

Skogafoss Waterfall on a Beautiful Sunny Day

Thorsmork Valley

Iceland has been a brilliant source of inspiration for many photographers. Some of the wonderful visual workers have found their distinctive tones and styles at a location named Thorsmork. It’s a unique place where metallic waterways, silver glaciers, graphite-blackish volcanic gravels, and seasonal birch trees find their perfect graphic balance through the lens. It’s also a hiker’s paradise where outdoor lovers explore trails of various levels of difficulty, making Thorsmork an ideal location for adventurers.

The famous hiking trail Fimmvorduhals Pass starts (or ends) at this location, and Eyjafjallajokull volcano newly formed craters can be seen during the hike.

A glorious view of Thorsmork Valley on a fine day of Iceland

A glorious view of Thorsmork Valley on a fine day of Iceland

Vík í Mýrdal

Further down the south, you will reach Vík í Mýrdal, a seafront town with picturesque sceneries including Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Dyrholaey cliff and lighthouse, and Vik village.

This is a huge area with numerous landmarks and more amazingly, Puffins fly here to nurture their little ones every summer. And there is much more to see and explore in Vik area as this guide talks about in details.

Looking over the horizon from Dyrholaey cliff in the magnificent South Iceland

Looking over the horizon from Dyrholaey cliff in the magnificent South Iceland

Accommodation in the Eyjafjallajokull Glacier Area

Since Eyjafjallajokull glacier is located on the South Coast of Iceland, which is the most popular region with numerous attractions and highlights, there are many options for you to choose if you want to stay in the area for the night.

Hotels

  • Hotel Selja
  • Hotel Skogafoss
  • Hotel Skogar
  • Hotel Edda Skogar
  • Hotel Anna
  • Skalakot Hotel

Hostels

  • Skógar HI Hostel
  • Hostel Skogar
  • Nicehostel Seljaland

Guesthouses

  • Dalsel Guesthouses
  • Guesthouse Drangshlid
  • Guesthouse Raudafell
  • Kviaholmi Apartments
  • Tindar Holiday Home
  • Holt Guest House
  • Skogar Guesthouse
  • South Iceland Guesthouses

Camping Sites, Cabins and Cottages

Eyjafjallajokull area is in the vicinity of several popular hiking trails. There are several camping sites, cabins and cottages for hikers and adventurers.

Thorsmork Slyppugil is the closest camping site to Eyjafjallajokull glacier. It runs every year from 1st June to 31st August. As a fantastic camping site, Slyppugil is quiet and at a perfect location. The price is quite reasonable with only 1300 ISK per night for one adult, and you need to pay 500 ISK for taking a shower.

Hamragardar Camping Site is very close to these two waterfalls we have mentioned above. It opens to visitors all year round. For self-drive travelers, Hamragardar is very convenient since it’s located only about 2 kilometers off the Ring Road, the only national highway circling Iceland. It costs slightly more at a rate of 1500 ISK per night for one adult but only 300 ISK for taking a shower. You need to pay 1000 ISK for electricity per 24 hours, and 500 ISK for using the washing machine and tumble dryer.

Skogar Camping Site is also accessible throughout the year. It's located next to Skogafoss waterfall and the historical site of Skogar. The camping cost is 1500 ISK  per night for one adult plus 300 ISK per shower.

Map

Map - Click to Enlarge 

Map to attractions and accommodations near Eyjafjallajokull Volcano Glacier South Iceland

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