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Hekla Volcano is a famous active volcano nestled amidst the stunning landscapes of South Iceland. Known as "The Gateway to Hell" for its dramatic and unpredictable eruptions, Hekla Volcano is a reminder of Iceland's raw natural forces.

Tours Near Hekla

Where is Hekla Volcano Located?

Hekla Volcano is located in South Iceland, about 115 km (70 mi) east of Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. It is situated within the East Volcanic Zone, a 500-kilometer-long (310 mi) rift zone stretching from the Reykjanes Peninsula in the west to the Reykjanes Ridge in the east. The volcano is centered between Thjórsárdalur Valley and Landmannalaugar.



Hekla's exact coordinates are:

  • Latitude: 63.483° N
  • Longitude: 19.828° W

How To Get To Hekla Volcano?

Horse herd in Hekla backdrop

The most common way to get to Hekla Volcano is by car. The drive from Reykjavík takes about two hours. You'll take Route 1, known as the Ring Road, and go east until you reach Route 26. Take Route 26 south until you reach the Leirubakki Farm, where you will find the Hekla Center. From there, it's a 16-kilometer (10-mile) drive to the volcano. Make sure to rent a four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle as the road to the volcano is gravel and can be rough in some parts.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Hekla is an active volcano, so there is always a risk of eruption. Check the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) for the latest volcanic activity information before traveling to Hekla.
  • The weather in Iceland can change quickly and dramatically. Be prepared for rain, snow, and strong winds.
  • The terrain around Hekla is rough and uneven. Wear proper hiking boots and appropriate clothing for the weather conditions.

Let someone know where you are going, or get a guided tour if you're not experienced in volcano hiking. A guide can help you have the best experience possible while keeping you safe.

General Information About Hekla Volcano

  • Height 1,491 m (4,892 ft)
  • Location South Iceland
  • Type Stratovolcano
  • Activity Active
  • Accessibility Car
  • Time to Visit All year
  • Activities Hiking, sightseeing, photography, camping, skiing

What Is Hekla Volcano Known For?

Hekla is one of the most active volcanoes in Iceland, having erupted over 20 times in the past 1,000 years. It's a stratovolcano, a type of volcano that forms from the accumulation of different layers of ash, lava, and pumice.

Clouded Hekla glowing orange in sunset

It is also characterized by a prominent fissure (volcano crack) - Heklugjá. It extends about 5.5 kilometers (3.4 miles) along the volcano's ridge. During major eruptions, Heklugjá opens along its entire length, allowing lava to flow and ash to rise into the atmosphere. Its eruptions are typically explosive and produce large amounts of tephra (particles), which can be spread over a wide area.

History Of Hekla Volcano

Since the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century and the volcano's first recorded eruption in 874, Hekla has erupted at least 20 times. The volcano's most notable eruptions occurred in 1104, 1300, 1766, and 1947. The 1104 eruption, in particular, was a cataclysmic event that sent a plume of ash over half of Iceland, causing widespread damage. The last eruption happened in 2000, lasting only about two weeks - a relatively short-term outburst for Hekla.

Despite its destructive potential, Hekla has played a role in Iceland's cultural identity. Hekla's eruptions have also contributed to Iceland's unique natural beauty, creating fertile soil and diverse ecosystems. The volcano also provides valuable information about the country's geological history, with its ash layers used to date other volcanic events in Iceland.

The volcano's frequent and destructive eruptions have earned it the nickname "The Gateway to Hell." Early Norse settlers saw the eruptions as an expression of divine wrath, which placed Hekla right into the heart of Icelandic folklore. The following generations also brought many tales about Hekla. Some told about the condemned souls traveling through Hekla on their way to Hell, while others believed in witches meeting with the devil at the volcano. Like the Italian Mount Vesuvius and the German Brocken mountain, Hekla has a supernatural aura shaped by local legends.

Green Landmannalaugar landscape with blue river

Interesting Facts About Hekla Volcano

  • Despite advances in monitoring technology, Hekla’s eruptions remain hard for scientists to predict. The volcano's erratic nature requires constant vigilance to ensure the safety of nearby communities.

  • Hekla's lava contains various minerals, resulting in a spectrum of colors ranging from fiery red to deep black. These volcanic pigments have been used by artists for centuries, adding an Icelandic touch to their works.

  • The name "Hekla" has an interesting origin, meaning "short hooded cloak" in Icelandic. This may be related to the volcano's frequent cloud cover, which often resembles a cloak hood.

  • The first to climb Hekla Volcano were Eggert Ólafsson and Bjarni Pálsson in 1750.

  • Hekla is one of the world's largest lava producers.

What To Do At Hekla Volcano?

There is never a shortage of activities to enjoy at this iconic Icelandic destination. Here are some of the most popular ones.

Snow-capped Hekla in daytime

Hike To The Crater's Rim

The hike to the rim of the crater is a relatively easy one, and it takes about 3-4 hours to complete. The views from the rim are amazing, and you can see all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Visit The Hekla Center

The Hekla Center is a museum and visitor center that is located near the volcano. The center has exhibits about the geology of Hekla, as well as information about the history of the volcano's eruptions.

See The Lava Tunnel

The Lava Tunnel is a natural cave that was formed by the eruption of Hekla Volcano in 1783. The tunnel is about 500 meters (1,640 feet) long and is open to the public for tours.

Ski Around

Skiing is a popular winter activity at Hekla. There are a number of trails to choose from, and they all offer stunning views of the volcano and the surrounding mountains.

Stay Overnight

There are several huts located near Hekla Volcano that you can stay in overnight. This is a great way to experience the beauty of the volcano in the dark, and you may even be able to see the Northern Lights.

Take Some Photos

Hekla is a photographer's paradise. The volcano is constantly changing, and there are always new and interesting things to capture on camera.

Best Time To Visit Hekla Volcano

Hekla is truly a year-round Icelandic destination, so the best time to visit the volcano will depend on your preferences and priorities. Summer is the time to go if you are looking for the most comfortable hiking conditions and don't mind the crowds. Spring or autumn may be a better option if you are on a budget or prefer fewer crowds. And if you are looking for a truly unique experience, winter is a good time to consider, as you can enjoy the volcano's snow-covered landscape. Just check the weather conditions and trail closures before you go.

Cloud-covered Hekla in golden sunset

Where To Stay Near Hekla Volcano?

  • Hekla Cabin: This cozy cabin is only 15 km (9 mi) from Hekla and has a fully equipped kitchen, dining area, and living room. It's quiet and perfect for those who want to relax and enjoy the peace.

  • Afternoon Cottages: These stylish cottages are perfect for couples or small groups, and they're only 30 minutes away from the volcano. They offer a variety of amenities, including private hot tubs, saunas, and heated pools.

  • Hotel Leirubakki: This charming guesthouse, also 30 minutes from Hekla Volcano, offers comfortable rooms with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. It also has a restaurant, a sauna, and a heated pool.

  • Rjúpnavellir Camping & Cottages: A unique camping and cottage complex 40 minutes from Hekla, offering various accommodation options for all budgets. The resort's main attraction is a geothermal swimming pool, fed with hot water from the nearby volcano.

  • Hestheimar Guesthouse: These cozy rooms with volcano views are located in the nearby village of Hella. Perfect for a relaxing getaway and local exploration, the guest house includes terraces and hot tubs.

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