Choose from 3 Fun Things to Do in South Iceland
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Among Iceland’s most famous peaks, the notoriously difficult-to-pronounce Eyjafjallajökull volcano made headlines when it erupted in 2010, spewing an enormous cloud of volcanic ash that grounded air traffic all across Europe. The imposing, ice-capped volcano has three main peaks, the tallest of which reaches 5,417 feet (1,651 meters).
While a few hardy explorers have managed to summit Eyjafjallajökull, ascending the volcano is considered dangerous, with a deadly crevasse-ridden glacier at the top. Many day tours of the south coast from Reykjavik, whether by car or Jeep, venture to Eyjafjallajökull volcano. These tours typically make stops at other destinations in south Iceland, such as Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Skógafoss waterfall, black-sand beaches at Dyrhólaey and Vik, the Thórsmörk valley, and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. For aerial views of the crater, steaming hot springs, and rugged peaks, opt for a helicopter tour over the volcano.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Eyjafjallajökull volcano is a must for nature lovers.
- Eyjafjallajökull is still an active volcano, and as such, is best explored in the company of an experienced guide who can brief you on safety practices.
- Wear comfortable hiking shoes and warm, rainproof clothing.
- Due to uneven surfaces near the volcano, it’s not recommended for wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Eyjafjallajökull is situated near Iceland’s south shore, just under two hours’ drive from Reykjavik. To get there, follow the Ring Road (Route 1) until Hvolsvöllur, then take the turnoff for Route 261. This route ends at a parking lot, from which it’s possible to view the volcano.
When to Get There
The best time to visit Eyjafjallajökull is during summer, when warmer temperatures and the midnight sun make exploring and hiking easier. Crowds are thinner during September and October.
Though Eyjafjallajökull volcano may be better known among Europeans following its 2010 eruption, it is but one of many active volcanoes in Iceland. Its larger neighbor, Katla, just east of Eyjafjallajökull, is even more mighty and powerful. Katla, which lasts erupted in 1918, lies under the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap—the fourth-largest glacier in Iceland. It is feared that an eruption of Katla could melt the glacier and cause catastrophic flooding.
Address: Vik, Iceland
From $ 89
Covering more than 270 square miles (700 square kilometers) and reaching a thickness of as much as 2,460 feet (750 meters) in places, this vast glacier is Iceland's fourth largest. It sits atop the active Katla Volcano, which has erupted many times over the centuries, spewing meltwater, rock fragments, and ash into the air.
With unstable ice, crevasses, and changeable weather conditions, the Myrdalsjokull Glacier can be dangerous to explore solo. For these reasons, most visitors go as part of an organized guided tour from Vik or Reykjavik. Many glacier experiences take place on Solheimajokull glacier, an easy-to-access section of the larger Myrdalsjokull Glacier.
Choose between Super Jeep tours, snowmobiling excursions, guided glacier hikes, and ice climb adventures that take place on the vast ice cap, or quad bike rides around the base of the glacier. Longer tours typically incorporate other south coast attractions, such as Eldhraun lava field, the town of Vik, Skaftafell National Park, the black-sand Reynisfjara beach, and Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Avoid venturing onto the Myrdalsjokull Glacier on your own, as conditions can be treacherous.
- No prior experience is required for most glacier hiking, ice climbing, and snowmobiling tours.
- Specialist equipment is typically provided on guided tours, though waterproof hiking boots are recommended.
- Because of the uneven surfaces and difficult to navigate terrain, Myrdalsjokull is difficult for wheelchair users to access.
How to Get There
Myrdalsjokull Glacier is located in South Iceland, just west of the town of Vik. The only way to get there is by car or organized tour. Take route 221 leading off from the Ring Road (Route 1). A car park is located at the end of the road. From there, it's a short hike of approximately 0.6 miles (one kilometer) to the glacier's edge.
When to Get There
Tours run to Myrdalsjokull Glacier year-round. Snowmobile tours are available throughout the year, while ice cave tours usually take place from October through April. Summer is Iceland's peak tourist season, but even then, Myrdalsjokull never feels crowded. Try and pick a clear day to visit, as this is when the blue ice and other colors of Myrdalsjokull are most striking.
Iceland's Other Glaciers
The Land of Fire and Ice is home to many slow-moving glaciers. In fact, some 10 percent of the country is covered by glaciers. Other notable examples include Langjokull, Iceland's second-largest glacier, and Vatnajokull, Europe's largest glacier, which sits atop the most active volcano in Iceland, Grimsvotn.
Address: South Iceland, Iceland
From $ 169
The third-largest geothermal power station in the world, Hellisheidi is a state-of-the-art facility run on sustainable methods. This site is of interest to travelers because along with Iceland's other geothermal station at Nesjavellir, Hellisheidi provides 30 percent of the island's total electricity and hot water. Often visited on adventurous mountain biking or jeep tours through southern Iceland, the station creates electricity through the constant geothermal activity that takes place way below the ground, caused by the shifting of the tectonic plates between North America and Europe.
The power station's multimedia energy exhibition showcases ways of harvesting green energy and highlights geothermal sources around the world. Surrounding the power station are raw Icelandic landscapes, hot springs and rivers warm enough to swim in, as well as more than 60 miles (100 km) of hiking trails.
The site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached via a 20-minute drive east from Reykjavík on Route 1 toward Hveragerði.
Address: Hellisheiðarvirkjun, Hengill, South-west Iceland 810, Iceland
Hours: Daily 9am–5pm
From $ 17