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The Most Beautiful Place in Iceland

Dyngjufjoll Mountains Sunset in Askja

Iceland is legendary for its numerous lovely sights, beautiful, otherworldly landscapes, and its scorching springs. Most of those sights are simply accessible via the Ring Street – the primary street that circles Iceland and that the majority vacationers take. Whereas the Ring Street takes you throughout the nation, it skips the highlands (central area of the nation), leaving its landscapes principally untouched and rarely visited.

Amongst these landscapes is the well-known Askja Caldera within the Dyngjufjoll Mountains – situated on the northern aspect of the Vatnajökull Nationwide Park.

Whereas I’ve seen dozens of beautiful locations in Iceland these previous two years, I’ve to say that is by far one among my favorites for a number of causes. There’s a way of journey in simply reaching it, it’s principally unknown to most vacationers (because it’s exhausting to succeed in), and the setting is simply one thing you’ll be able to’t discover anyplace else within the nation and even the world!

Askja is a 50 sq. kilometers subsidence cauldron shaped when a lava chamber, slightly below the floor of the earth, emptied in a volcanic eruption, inflicting the roof above it to break down. In truth, Askja consists of three interlinked cauldrons, which makes it the most effective subsidence cauldron instance in Iceland.

There you’ll discover the Öskjuvatn Lake, which has an space of 11 sq. kilometers and a depth of 217m – making it the deepest lake within the nation. Moreover, you’ll see the gorgeous Víti volcano, which incorporates a 60m deep geothermal lake crammed with brilliant blue water at 22 levels Celsius. It’s virtually like a surreal, pure Blue Lagoon inside a volcano.

Given how a lot I liked seeing Askja, right here, I’ll share with you tips on how to get there, along with a number of “do and don’t” ideas. When you have time, please, don’t miss visiting this surreal panorama.

When To Go

On account of Iceland’s climate circumstances, the highlands are solely accessible through the summer time months, principally from Might to September. Typically the F Roads open a bit later or shut a bit earlier within the season relying on the climate and street circumstances.

Climate in Iceland is usually unpredictable because it modifications so shortly, so typically. I don’t advocate going to Askja if there’s extreme climate circumstances and it might be harmful not solely in the course of the drive but in addition through the hike.

I like to recommend checking the street.is website to see the present street situation and whether or not it’s open or not. Verify the location not solely when you’re planning your journey, but in addition on the day of your journey simply earlier than leaving.

Because you’ll solely be capable of entry Askja in the course of the summer time months, you possibly can head there at any time of the day. In the event you head there late within the day (reaching Víti round 9 pm, as I did!), you may even have the gorgeous expertise of leaving Askja with the moon rising on the east whereas the solar nonetheless lingers on the west. That, plus the volcanic panorama makes it a totally surreal expertise.

Driving to Askja

To succeed in Askja, you should drive over the notorious F roads of Iceland. F roads are unpaved, ungraded roads within the highlands. F roads require a four×four car as lots of them have river crossings or go over rocky outcrops that require the torque and clearance of a four-wheel drive.

Iceland's F road sign

The signal on the entrance of an F street.

The F Roads resulting in Askja are not any exception. Don’t even try this drive with a small automotive or perhaps a small four×four (like a Suzuki Jimni) as there are two river crossings that require an honest clearance.

The simplest path to get there’s taking the Ring Street (Street 1) previous Akureyri and Myvatn (when you’re coming from Reykjavik), and getting off on Street 901. From the 901, you’ll flip proper into the F905, which is the place you’ll begin the actual driving journey. After 21 kilometers, you’ll take the F910 till the top – a further 62 kilometers.

You’ll encounter your first river crossing after driving about 5 kilometers after you enter the F910, with the second following just some minutes after. There are a complete of three water crossings on this route, however the first one you’ll see is sort of shallow and straightforward to move, so it isn’t even marked on maps as a river crossing.

Road map to Askja

In the event you can discover it, the “V” marks on the F910 and F88 point out the places of the river crossings.

Concentrate although, as there are a number of forks on the street with different F roads. Additionally necessary to notice is that you’ll encounter two bridges with fences. It’s attainable they is perhaps closed, but unlocked. Don’t be discouraged by this. Simply hop off your car, open the fence, cross the bridge, and shut the fence once more.

Keep on the F910 all the time till you attain the shelter (cabins) and campsite on the finish of the street. As soon as on the shelter, referred to as Dreki Huts, I extremely advocate stopping there to ask the ranger (or the shelter employees) concerning the present circumstances at Víti and its hike.

Relying on the present climate circumstances, rangers might shut the final a part of the hike to succeed in the decrease a part of the Víti caldera. However don’t fear, you’ll be able to nonetheless see it from the highest.

This space the place Dreki Huts are is known as Drekagil, or Dragons Gully, and it’s one other sight value seeing as an additional cease in your journey. Its darkish, slender canyon’s geology represents its identify completely, because it seems to be like a spot the place dragons might have lived in a fantasy world. You’ll be able to stroll the canyon as much as the waterfall, the place you’ll see much more fascinating geological formations.

When you’re knowledgeable or completed strolling round Drekagil, you’ll drive for an additional 20 minutes alongside F894 till you attain the parking space on the finish of the street – the Vikraborgir Automotive Park. From there, your hike to Viti will begin.

The full driving time from Street 1 to Vikraborgir, the place the trailhead is, will take you about three hours every method.

Landscape of Askja

Lastly, I extremely advocate not taking the F88 route (which could come up in your google maps as an choice to get to Askja from Street 1). This F street has a number of fords and river crossings that aren’t satisfactory with a four×four. You want a particular car with enough clearance and a snorkel to have the ability to cross them. Keep on with the route proven above (F905/F910) as it’s the best.

Additionally, don’t belief Google Maps driving occasions. It doesn’t take into accounts the street circumstances, so it’ll present a a lot shorter time than what it actually takes.

In case you haven’t rented a four×four, I like to recommend checking Information to Iceland as they typically supply cheaper costs on four×four leases.

Moon landscape in Askja, Iceland

It’s prefer it snowed on the moon.

The Hike to Víti and Öskjuvatn Lake

The hike to Víti takes about 45 minutes every approach alongside a principally flat volcanic valley. The valley might have beautiful views, but in addition, it has fairly an fascinating historical past too. This volcano erupted in 1875, delivering items of ash so far as Denmark.

Again then, it had a devastating influence on the individuals and agriculture, forcing many farmers to to migrate to Canada. Additionally, because of the volcanic composition of the world, it was used throughout coaching for the Apollo program within the 60’s to organize astronauts for the lunar touchdown missions.

You’ll witness the darkish expanse of a lunar-like panorama because it turns into mountains of various shades of browns and ochre. Relying on once you go, it’s extremely possible there might be layers of snow nonetheless overlaying a lot of the hike (even throughout mid-summer).

Hiking in Askja

My pals and I climbing within the snow to succeed in the crater and the lake.

Take your time through the hike. Despite the fact that it’s a leisurely stroll, the snow could make it barely difficult in the event you don’t have correct footwear or boots. Look rigorously the place you step on, as typically, because the ice melts, your ft can land on skinny ice filled with chilly water underneath it (it occurred to me!).

However don’t fear, it’s just some inches of water –nothing harmful– however that chilly water doesn’t really feel good in any respect when it enters your footwear!

Öskjuvatn Lake and the Viti Crater in Askja, Iceland

As quickly as you attain the rim of Lake Öskjuvatn, you’ll see some of the beautiful views in all Iceland. Climate dependent, you’ll see the Dyngjufjoll Mountains virtually completely mirrored on the lake. And within the foreground, to your proper, you’ll see the crater – Víti. Actually, the identify Víti imply “hell.”

Relying on the ranger’s recommendation, you can go down the crater to wash in its warm-ish waters.

Lake Reflection in Askja, Iceland

Bathing in Víti

That is one thing you’ll be able to solely do if allowed by the rangers. That’s why it is very important cease on the shelter to see the present standing. As talked about earlier than, there are occasions when rangers have to shut the entry to the crater because of the terrain and climate circumstances.

When it rains, the steep slope down the crater turns into too muddy. Whereas it’s potential to descend, climbing up on mud turns into a critical problem – too steep and slippery. When entry is restricted, you’ll see some picket “x” planted proper on the path main down the crater.

Ought to the path circumstances be good, why not head down the crater? Regardless that individuals can bathe in Víti, the water is just not that heat, averaging round 22 levels Celsius (vs. 38 levels on the Blue Lagoon).

Viti Crater in Askja, Iceland

However on a constructive aspect, that is an all-natural geothermal lake, inside a volcanic crater, and also you’ll have it virtually to your self! Because of the distant location of Askja, not lots of people come right here, so likelihood is you may even be there by yourself for some time.

I went there with my buddies this previous summer time (through the excessive season), and if I noticed 4 individuals go there within the hour we spent on the rim (not counting the climbing and driving time), I’d say it was so much.

As anticipated, there are not any lifeguards on the lake, so take care when bathing there. Keep near the shore and all the time inside straightforward attain.

Staying There In a single day

You possibly can keep within the cabins beforehand talked about right here – Dreki Huts. They will accommodate as much as 50 individuals through the summer time months. To e-book, it’s a must to name the quantity on their official web page, or e-mail, as they at present don’t have on-line reserving. I like to recommend calling with days or perhaps weeks prematurely to safe your home.

Alternatively, the great thing about Iceland is that you would be able to camp virtually anyplace within the nation. Ought to you’ve an F street succesful campervan, you possibly can park proper in entrance of the shelter and spend the night time there or pitch a tent close by.

Should you’re not staying in Askja for the night time, I like to recommend staying by Myvatn lake because it’s the closest (big-ish) place to Askja. You possibly can see the lodge choice and present offers on Myvatn right here.

Right here’s a Google Map with the situation of the huts, the Víti Crater, and Myvatn.

A Few Additional Ideas

It bears repeating. Although individuals say it is perhaps extra scenic, don’t take the F88 route as its river crossings are too harmful for regular four×four. Don’t try it until you’ve gotten a particular car and have expertise crossing rivers. It’s in all probability you’ll drown your four×four.

Some rental corporations supply modified four×four with larger clearance (like 35” or extra). With these automobiles, it’s okay to attempt it. Automotive insurances in Iceland don’t cowl river crossings.

Mount Maelifell, Iceland

Critical river crossing warning!

Earlier than doing any river crossing (whether or not on the F88 or F910), cease and get a way of the present depth. Keep in mind, this can be a dynamic surroundings that may change at any second.

Do you have to not really feel snug with the driving a part of the journey, or not have the sufficient car to do it, Viator gives a number of excursions to Askja which are nicely value checking.

Take some meals, snacks, and water for the journey. You’re going right into a “wild” territory outdoors of cellphone attain (in some areas). Higher to be protected and have provides in case you get caught, have any unexpected state of affairs, or determine to spend the night time there.

Additionally, take some additional heat clothes in case you come throughout an unexpected state of affairs that forces you to spend the night time both on the cabins or within the automotive.

Don’t plan another exercise for that day, because it’ll take you from 10 to 12 hours to go to Askja, and perhaps extra should you take your time to stroll round Drekagil.

You possibly can head there at any time of the day as this can be a pure sight open 24 hours a day. I like to recommend leaving early, although, because it takes a full day to do that. However, do you have to want to see the sundown in the course of the summer time months, you possibly can plan on being there round 10 pm and 12 am. In fact, take into account that you simply’ll both spend the night time there or drive over three hours to your lodging after that.

I share a number of extra tricks to plan a price range street journey in Iceland on this different submit. I extremely advocate checking it when you’re planning on driving and sightseeing across the nation independently.

And final however not least… Don’t miss doing this journey!! For my part, that is the closest we’ll be to touring to the moon! (for now)

How to Visit Askja: The Most Beautiful Place in Iceland

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