Thanks to its long volcanic history, your road trip can include stops around impressive lava fields in Iceland: some still raw and fuming, others covered with moss as nature reclaim the land. Below is my guide to admiring some fascinating lava formations around the island.
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About the Lava Fields in Iceland
Iceland is known as the "Land of Fire and Ice". The fire part of the nickname comes from the history of volcanic eruptions.
However, there is little chance you will be able to see a live lava flow (and I hope you don't as being near an eruption is not fun).
What you will be able to see in Iceland, are dried lava fields of various ages, some of the most fascinating landscapes in Iceland.
Because of the high number of eruptions that shaped Iceland, there are many lava flows around the island that have dried with time.
Younger one like Leirhnjukur as still fuming, however older ones are taken over by moss and then vegetation. Nature is taking back control.
All are great to take pictures of beautiful Iceland.
Best lava field in Iceland
If you are on a road trip around Iceland (see my article to help you plan), you will notice many of them around you. However below is my selection of the best ones you could admire up-close:
- Eldhraun is one of the the largest of its kind and easy to stop by along Road 1
- Leirhnjukur is a young flow, so you can still see fumes coming out
- Dimmuborgir, the famous field near Lake Myvatn with giant formations triggering your imagination
- Berserkjahraun, an impressive filed accessible via an unpaved road on the Snaefellsnes peninsula
- Londrangar, with its famous basalt pillars is also surrounded by dried lava.
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Lava fields are fragile environments.
Make sure to stay on walking paths or roads.
Do not venture on the lava and do not climb formations
Icelandic word for Lava
Any time you see Hraun in the name of a place, it means lava, e.g.:
- Hraunfossar - Waterfalls (Fossar) of Lava (Hraun)
- Eldhraun - Fire (Eld) Lava (Hraun)
Eldhraun - One of the largest Mossy lava fields in Iceland
South Coast of Iceland
Along Road 1, between Vik and Skaftafell, South of Kirkjubæjarklaustur (so it is sometimes refer to as the Kirkjubæjarklaustur lava field).
The field is the result of one of the greatest eruptions in recorded history: the eruption named Skaftareldar lasted several months over 1783 and 1784.
It is one of the largest filed with a size of 564km2
As it is almost 250 years old, vegetation has come back. Moss is covering the lava and trees have grown in the middle.
Its name means "Fire lava"
The area also has lava tubes and caves.
When people mention "the lava field in Iceland", they normally mean this one.
You just have to stop along Road 1, where it is safe (entrance side road)
- Getting around
There is not walking path. Stay on the track along the field.
Leirhnjukur - an active lava field, Iceland (still fuming)
East of Lake Myvatn, not far from the Krafla Viti crater
It is part of the Krafla lava fields. The last eruption, the Krafla fires, date back to 1975-1984: 9 years of volcanic activity!
This is a very young lava fields which is why:
1. You can still see fumes coming from the ground
2. There is hardly any vegetation. You can see a little it of moss here and there and maybe a small plant. This is actually fascinating to see here and there how resilient nature is!
Easy drive from Road 1, short detour on a paved road
- Getting around
Walk from the carpark, first to a geothermal area and then to the lava. There is a single track through the field. Stay on it!
- More photos in my dedicated article
Need to rent a car for your road trip in Iceland?
You can choose from some great local companies!
- I selected Route 1 car rental (and paid entirely for it). I really enjoyed their service to drop and pick up the car, as well as all their advice before going on the road - Check out prices and car availabilities
- Otherwise you can compare the vehicles and prices from local companies on this practical website
Dimmuborgir - Iceland's lava field of imagination
Just East of Lake Myvatn, South of Reykjahlid
They are thought to be the remains of a lava tube which formed above a lake about 2300 years ago, trapping the water. As it began to cool, the reservoir estimated to have been 10 meters deep, was released, leaving only those shapes created by steam.
Donations are welcome
- Getting around
Several walking paths. Map near the entrance
10min on paved path to some formations
Longer walk on trails to others such as the "Cathedral" you can see on the picture below.
- More pictures in my dedicated article
Berserkjahraun - My favorite Icelandic lava field - off the beaten path
North coast of the peninsula, East of Grundarfjordur - off the beaten path
Four prominent craters probably erupted at short intervals approximately 3600-4000 years ago, the largest one first and the smallest last.
This lava field flowed between the mountain side and the sea. And when it cooled down, it created this amazing landscape.
As an older field, it is covered with moss.
Unpaved road - I recommend a 4WD vehicle
- Getting around
No walking path. Stay on the road.
- More photos on my dedicated article
Londrangar - overlooked because of the pillars
West coast of the peninsula, west of Arnarstapi
Londrangar is famous for its basalt volcanic dykes on the the cliffs. The tallest one is 75m high!
However don't miss the younger lava field surrounding it.
Take the other path walking towards the pillars and you will be surrounded by lava covered in moss.
Easy drive to the carpark
- Getting around
There are several walking path to viewpoints and through the lava.
More lava features as you drive around
Lava pillars of Hofdi
Hofdi is often overlooked when visiting North Iceland, because it is not what they are looking for (trees). However the forested area is not the only things to see. From one of the viewpoints, you can also admire lava pillars in the water of Lake Myvatn.
See my article
Waterfall through lava - Hraunfossar
Hraunfossar is one of the most unusual waterfalls in Iceland. The Hraunfossar Waterfalls (literally Lava Falls) is made of a collection of gentle cascades emerging from between the lava rocks covered with moss.
4WD through lava
In the Central Highlands, you will have the opportunity to see many more wild lava area. However a 4WD is mandatory.
And a driver would be, if you want to adventure off the main roads through the region.
Lava Center in Hvolsvöllur
In 2017 the Lava Centre museum in South Iceland opened. It is located not far from Mt Hekla, an active volcano that was considered to be the gateway to hell in the Middle Ages.
Icelandic lava fields in Winter
A lot of the famous lava fields remain accessible in Winter.
The experience is quite different. The details of the rocks, the breaks, the moss are not visible anymore.
However the contrast of the dark lava with the white snow is stunning.
Below are a few pictures:
Where to stay in Lava surrounded by lava
The Dimmuborgir Guesthouse near Lake Myvatn in North Iceland was one of my favorite stays.
Located right next to the lake and with the Hverfjall crater in the background... there is lava all around. Perfect!
Check out more photos and book
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