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  • Einar Páll Svavarsson

Valagjá volcanic crater


Valagjá crater
Valagjá crater

Valagjá is the name of a volcanic crater located near the mountain road Fjallabak Nyrðri or Landmannaleið in the southern part of the Icelandic highland. The geological term for the crater is "maar," and it is similar to a few other craters such as Víti, Grænavatn, and the nearby Hnausapollur and Ljótipollur, but without the water. (The meaning of the term "maar" is "explosion crater.") Although Valagjá might not be a major attraction, it is an interesting stop for visitors who are not in a hurry and are interested in geology and landscape. Valagjá is actually more than one crater. It is part of Mount Hekla volcanic system and formed around the time of settlement, about 1200 years ago.

Highland in Iceland map
Highland in Iceland map

Landscape like you may envision on the planet Mars:


North slope of Valagjá crater
North slope of Valagjá crater

Arriving at Valagjá, you get the feeling of a distant place and isolation. The surrounding seems lifeless, as vegetation is struggling. Valagjá is a landscape of sand, volcanic ash, raw and edgy rocks, small hillocks, and mountains. However, interestingly, lava at the place displays multiple hues, which impart the region a mystical atmosphere. A walk along the brim gives you a better view, but remember to have your hiking shoes on. The landscape is harsh and a bit difficult to walk, but a short hike is worthwhile. This kind of landscape is probably most similar to the moon or a planet like Mars. In fact, this is the landscape that captivated Ridley Scott when he chose a location for his movie Prometheus (2012). It is by any definition exotic, otherworldly, and unique. Like many places, destinations, and natural wonders in the Icelandic Highland, it is different from anything you will find anywhere on this planet.


Landmannaleið road:

Valagjá towards the west side
Valagjá towards the west side

When you drive from Reykjavík with a plan to drive Landmannaleið (Dómadalsleið), it is recommended that you rent a good 4X4 vehicle. On the southern part of the Ring Road, look out for the road Landvegur (Road Nr. 26) after you pass the bridge on the mighty river Þjórsá. You need to drive approximately 50 kilometers north, and by the mountain Búrfell, you take a right turn on Landmannaleið (Mountain Road Nr. F225). Another 15 kilometers of drive will get you to a split on the road with a sight pointing to Valagjá, which is only about two kilometers from this intersection. When you have made your stop, it is recommended to go back on F225 and continue on Landmannaleið, and along the way, you can stop at some fascinating places such as Rauðifoss, Ljótipollur, and, of course, Landmannalaugar.



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