Visiting Iceland’s volcanic past

By | Category: Travel destinations

Eyjafjallajokull. Image courtesy Árni Sæberg, Icelandic Coast Guard

Think of Iceland and what is your first thought? Possibly the eruption a couple of years ago of Eyjafjallajökull which caused such widespread cancellation of flights? But as soon as the eruption was over, we Brits wanted to see the source of the trouble. And the country.
So holidays and short breaks to Iceland jumped. This year there has been a record growth of 51 per cent in UK visitor numbers between January and April of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012. The United Kingdom now accounts for the top overseas market for visitors to Iceland in the world, having overtaken the USA.

And we still want to see volcanoes. And volcanoes still lure us. At the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano, for example, you can enter an empty volcano crater. A tour, ‘Inside the Volcano’ will take you there throughout the summer, from mid-May to mid-September. It lasts about six hours long which might sound exhausting but it’s not an uphill walk although the surface is uneven and their are some hilly parts.

If you don’t fancy entering a crater how about walking where volcanoes once spewed their lava flows? A new stretch of the Laugavegurinn trail goes over the new lava field in the Fimmvorduhals mountain pass and on to Skogar. The Landmannalaugar – Thorsmork trail, which is known in Icelandic as “Laugavegurinn” or the “Hot Spring Route” in English, is one of the most popular but it is for the fit. The 53 km hike, which usually takes four days to complete, covers various different terrains including a number of mountains, large glaciers, roaring hot springs, big rivers and lakes.

2013 sees the 40th anniversary of a natural disaster that took place in the Westman Islands -Vestmannaeyjar. A volcanic eruption, which lasted six months, started on 23rd January 1973 and almost all of the inhabitants had to be evacuated for their own safety. “Pompeii of the North” is the name given to the project to excavate some of these homes and it gives visitors the opportunity to see what actually happened in 1973 with their own eyes – viewing houses preserved from the era. The inhabitants will be remembering the anniversary of this fatal eruption in a number of different ways this year. On the anniversary of the termination of the eruption (4th – 7th July) there will be an ‘End of Eruption’ festival including boat trips, organised hikes and a huge party on the Saturday evening.

For the visitor, you can really maximise your time because, throughout the summer months in Iceland, the sun never entirely sets meaning that the country enjoys sunlight almost twenty four hours a day. So you can send all your time sightseeing instead of wasting it on… sleeping!

For more information on Iceland, click here.

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