Askja

Askja is a stratovolcano and a caldera, situated in the central highlands. The 50 square kilometer Askja caldera is encircled by a rim of precipitous mountains which rise 500 meters above the lake to the highest summit 1510 m. In 1875, a major eruption after which the trough for the lake, actually a caldera was formed within the older and greater Askja caldera. The Öskjuvatn lake fills about 1/3 of the caldera bottom and the lake is 220 meters deep, the deepest lake in the country and at an altitude of 1053 meters, Öskjuvatn is the highest lying lake in Iceland. On the southern shore of the lake, and separated from it by a narrow rim is Víti; steep walled and lake filled crater with milky white natural hot water – just the right temperature for bathing and swimming. The surrounding mountains are collectively called Dyngjufjöll and are all a result of volcanic action in the past and present.

Catastrophic volcanic eruption

Many are considered still active and the most recent volcanic eruption in Askja was in 1961, absolutely a minor eruption compared to some of it´s previous eruptions, for example in 1875, when there was a catastrophic eruption in Askja. During the eruption, there was a great toxic ashfall that had devastating consequences for the people, especially people living in the northern and eastern parts of the country. The toxic ashes as well as the gases killed livestock and ruined farmlands. This caused a famine and it led to emigration of thousands of people from the worst hit areas in the north and east Iceland in the following years, - especially to Canada. This was one of the greatest and catastrophic eruption in the country in recent times.

Moon-Like Landscapes

Due to the great volcanic activity in the Dyngjufjöll area and its high elevation, mostly well above 500 meters above sea level and therefore cold, as well as fact that this highland plateau is rather dry, vegetation is very sparse, so the land is quite moon like. In the sixties, when preparations were being made for the Apollo mission and before going to the Moon, the American astronauts and other scientists came to Iceland to practice and the main training area was in the Dyngjufjöll area and especially in Askja. After being on the Moon and they returned to Earth, they said that the Moon looks in many ways similar to Askja.

Access

Askja can only be accessed by rough gravel roads by large and high road clearance 4x4 vehicles in summer. There are mountain cabins and a campsite located at Drekagil Canyon in Askja, where it is possible stay or have a base while exploring this magnificent region. Visitors are advised to take provisions along and to fill up the tanks with fuel before visiting this area but there are not any gas stations nor any service stations where food is available, anywhere near Askja.