#vatnajokull

Increased indications of volcanic activity in Öræfajökull outlet glacier in Vatnajökull on the south shore has moved the alert state to a higher level.  According to the Icelandic Med Office increased earthquakes, changes in volcanic related chemicals in glacial rivers floating from the glacier, and a new ice-cauldron taking shape on the top of the glacier are all unusual developments.  Not the least when all occur simultaneously.

Öræfajökull glacier on right side seen from Lómagnúpur mountain on the South Shore in Iceland

In recent months earthquake activity has increased in Öræfajökull the southernmost outlet glacier in Vatnajökull icecap. Just like the increased activity in Bárðarbunga outlet glacier on the northern part of Vatnajökull this development is quite intimidating.  Both outlet glaciers are also huge volcanos, and both have a humongous amount of ice on top.

Öræfajökull glcier/volcano

How cool is a selfie inside the spectacular formation of a blue ice cave?

How cool is a selfie inside the spectacular formation of a blue ice cave?

Glaciers are a fascinating part of the Icelandic landscape.  Glaciers and Glacier tongues are often in such proximity to inhabited areas that they are an inseparable part of daily life.

​The interesting thing about glaciers

The mountain Lómagnúpur is among the most photographed mountains and natural wonders in Icelandic Landscape. The 690 meters high cliff at the southern end of the mountain stands tall. Something visitors driving the Ring Road approaching the mountain can not but admire as it lifts from the endless sand Skeiðarársandur south of Vatnajökull and Skaftafell.  The mountain is like a magnet for the eye, and with its small ponds, rocks and vegetation surrounding the cliffs is just a perfect item in the landscape to photograph.  On a beautiful calm day it is almost too easy to take beautiful photos of this magnificent mountain.

A cliff that has been around for a long time in Icelandic history

Stories related to Lómagnúpur have been around for a long time.  One of the oldest one is from the famous Saga, Njála.  One of the main characters, Flosi who originally came up with the idea to burn Njáls farm, lived at Svínafell farm near the Svínafell glacier. In one of his dream, he saw a giant walk out from the mountains as it opened and named 25 men out loud, that ended up putting the flames to Njal's farm. After that, he walked back into the mountain.  Possibly the story has its roots in the fact that the cliffs are so steep and high that people feel dwarfed in the presence of the mountain and gave it a supernatural force. 

An unstable mountain with history of landslides

One could argue that Lómagnúpur is one of few mountains in Iceland that have unexpected landslides, even loaded with large bergs and rocks.  One quite significant was documented around the middle of the 17th century on the west side. The landslide is still visible from the farm Núpstaðir.  Another smaller landslide, also visible today both as a scar in the mountain and also at the root of the mountain, occurred on the east side in 1988. It is an unstable creature and possibly as it is the home of large giants.

The mountain Lómagnúpur is among the most photographed mountains and natural wonders in Icelandic Landscape.

I started my four and a half hour drive early as the weather forecast was great. I was on my way to visit Ice Caves for my information web page Hit Iceland.

Crystal Cave in Vatnajökull Glacier

Our next stop was Holuhraun right by Vatnajökull, Iceland’s biggest glacier. It feels unreal to imagine rocks being only 2 years old. Nevertheless this 85 square km lava field practically just dried up and cooled down. With smoke still steaming up in a few places it is magical to see and feel this newly born mass of lava. We are still traveling in the Icelandic Highland collecting content and photos for our website Hit Iceland. Follow our adventures.

Holuhraun right by Vatnajökull, Iceland’s biggest glacier.

Laugarvellir is probably the best and most impressive geothermal, natural pool in Iceland. The heat in the pool is perfect, around 39 to 41 degrees Celsius (although you should put your hand into the water and check the temperature before jumping in).  If you are visiting the northeast region in Iceland and you are looking for something to do, you might want to visit this fantastic place.  Although situated at an altitude of approximately 600 meters deep in the Highland in Iceland; the valley Laugarvellir is considerably green as it has more vegetation than usual, and almost looks like a place 300 meters lower.  In high contrast to most of a vast area surrounding the valley, you will find endless sand and spreads of volcanic ashes from the many eruptions from neighboring volcanos. The reason is the warmth that comes from underground and the short distance to the sleeping magma underneath that produces heat and heated water that changes everything.  This is the reason why the small creek at Laugarvellir farm is warm. It is a fantastic place and a bit deceptive and might give an indication of being in lower altitude.

The farming experiment that ended with disaster

In hard times in Iceland's history, small farms developed near the Highland in a higher altitude. These were, of course, more complicated farms to cultivate, than other good and valuable estates. One poor farmer built a house and moved to Laugavellir in the benign of the 20th century. This was a hard land to farm and a difficult place to stay during the whole year.  The decision was devastating and after only a few years, he took his life.  He and his wife were the only people that ever tried to live at Laugavellir without success.  The houses are still standing. 

It is not complicated to visit Laugavellir today

Access to Laugavellir today is quite simple although a 4X4 vehicle is preferred.  From the town of Egilsstaðir in the East Region, you drive south on Road 1, the Ring Road.  About seven kilometers south you take a turn to the east to Road 931 all the way over the bridge and take a turn to the south again on Road 933. You drive a short distance on 933 and turn to Raod 910 and drive all the way to Hálslón, the new reservoir by Kárahnúkar.  Once you pass the dam, the distance to Laugavellir is only about seven kilometers.  Since the road from Egilsstaðir to Hálslón is paved you can drive a small car almost all the way to Laugavelllir. The rest, if you prefer, is a seven to five-kilometer hike.

Laugarvellir is probably the best and most impressive geothermal, natural pool in Iceland.

Lakagígar, the Laki craters, is composed of a 25 kilometers row of craters near the eastern side of Vatnajökull ice cap in the Icelandic Highland. In June 1783, the largest eruption in historical times Skaftáreldar began here with terrible consequences for people, not only in Iceland but also in Europe, America, and Asia.  Skaftáreldar eruption is considered to have killed more people around the world than any other eruption. Some have even made the claim that Skaftáreldar initiated the French Revolution as it caused crop failure and devastation in France.  It is the biggest volcano activity on the planet in the last one thousand years, and the lava flow streaming from the craters covered little less than 600 square kilometers of land.   Even the well known Eyjafjallajokull eruption pales in comparison with the consequences of Skaftáreldar. 

A dangerous event produced a stunning landscape

Although an enormous area of land glowed with lava flow and threatened life with toxic steam only about 230 years ago, Skaftáreldar eruption also formed a breathtaking landscape. The activity was such, that enormous carpets of lava flowed on both sides of the mountains between them all the way to shore.  On the west side, the lava filled the (then) largest canyon in Iceland which was 25 kilometers long and is now sleeping under the lava. The whole event changed a large area of landscape forever.

Location in Highland requires 4X4 vehicle

Located in the Icelandic highland it is only accessible from late June until the beginning of October.  It is approximately 40 km from the Ring Road number 1 in the South Region in Iceland on a rather rough road with two unbridged rivers to cross.  The visit requires a good 4X4 vehicle and proper preparation. But although the trip is rather harsh the scenery and the craters are just stunning. 

Lakagígar in the Icelandic highland it is only accessible from late June until the beginning of October.

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