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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Mt. Eyjafjallajökull volcano and glacier

Updated: Jun 19

Goðasteinn on the top of Mt. Eyjafjallajökull glacier and volcaon

Mt. Eyjafjallajokull glacier/volcano is probably Iceland's best-known glacier. One of the main reasons is the volcano buried under the ice cap that spreads some 100 square kilometers by the south shore. Eyjafjallajokull glacier stands 1651 meters, or 5416 feet at its highest point, and the volcano has a 3-4 km, around 22 miles, diameter crater that opens towards the north. The volcano Eyjafjallajökull last erupted in 2010, grabbing the world's attention as it severely disturbed flight schedules in Europe and the northern hemisphere. The mountain is in proximity to some of Iceland’s most impressive and beautiful natural wonders like Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Þórsmörk. The mountain's south face was once part of Iceland's Atlantic coastline, but across the millenniums, the ocean has retreated as glacial rivers have carried billions of tons of sand to the shore, leaving sheer cliffs to display magnificent waterfalls.

Eyjafjallajökull is in the south on the map of Iceland
Eyjafjallajökull is in the south on the map of Iceland

Eyjafjallajokull is, first and foremost, a glacier

Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010
Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010

Although in its substance, Eyjafjallajökull is a mountain and a volcano, it is primarily a glacier. It is the seventh-largest glacier in Iceland and has been a spectacular white landmark by the south shore for centuries. Even though the 2010 eruption caught much attention, the volcano is never viewed as one of Iceland’s main volcanoes. It is not likely to erupt again anytime soon. The glacier has two spectacular outlet glaciers or glacier tongues, Gýgjökull and Steinholtsjökull. Both are part of the glacier's fascinating north slopes and the drive to the oasis Þórsmörk. Gýgjökull is right below the crater and is where water and ice came with force into the river Markarfljót during the eruption. The slopes are also packed with fascinating wonders like waterfalls and mystical canyons. From Seljalandsfoss all the way to Þórsmörk, a 30 kilometer, or 19 miles, drive, it is a world of history and landscape packed in one.

Iceland's favorite hiking trail Fimmvörðuháls

The eruption was close to the farms on the south part of Iceland
The eruption was close to the farms on the south part of Iceland

Iceland's favorite hiking trail over the mountain pass Fimmvörðuháls leading into the lower part of the Highland, passes between Eyjafjallajökull glacier and Mýrdalsjökull glacier. One of the reasons for this popularity is the magnificent and unusual landscape along the way exposing new lava, beautiful mountains, ice, and highland vegetation. It starts by Skógafoss just by the Ring Road and ends in the oasis Þórsmörk. Today the track provides an excellent view of the new lava and both ice caps. The trail was closed down for some time after the eruption but has been reopened, much to the Icelander's joy.

Eyjafjallajokull eruption and airplane crash history

Eyjafjallajökull eruption created some spectacular photo oppertunities
Eyjafjallajökull eruption created some spectacular photo oppertunities

Although not a major player in the continuing history of eruptions in Iceland, Eyjafjallajokull had erupted on regular bases since settlement about twelve hundred years ago. The volcano erupted in 920, around 1612, in 1823, and then again in 2010. Eyjafjallajökull also seems to have a bit of a troubled history with aircraft. In 1952, a U.S. rescue plane carrying five aboard crashed into Eyjafjallajokull. One died instantly, but the other four survived only to perish on the vast glacier. Twelve years later, one body and a ring from another were found. The glacier tongue delivered the last three bodies in 1966. Then, in 1966 an American couple crashed into the icecap and was instantly killed. When you drive the Ring Road in Iceland, you can not miss Eyjafjallajökull glacier or ice cap when you approach the magnificent waterfall Seljalandsfoss and continue the south coast. It is quite visible less than an hour after you leave Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

If you're planning to tour Iceland in a rental car, make sure to read this article about the type of car that would be best for your trip.


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