Head into the Dyngjufjöll Mountains, to the north of Vatnajökull glacier, and you will find Askja, a massive caldera and volcano. The bedrock of the caldera sits atop a cavernous magma chamber that is still in the making. This was a volcano that essentially went unnoticed and unexplored until the 19th century. Scientists became interested in Askja after it unleased a number of eruptions between 1874 and 1875, with a particularly huge one coming in March of 1875. When that one hit, Askja spewed out w billion cubic meters of ash and pumice, forming a new caldera inside the old one in the process. In the years that followed, water filled the new caldera, which is where you will now find the 11km² Lake Öskjuvatn. This lake goes down 220m, making it one of the deepest in Iceland. There were a few more eruptions during the 1920’s, but nothing since the fall of 1961.
How to get to Askja
By car (only 4×4):
Take road 1 from Mývatn to mountain road F88 via Herðubreiðarlindir to Drekagil. The mountain road has a few fords to cross on the rivers Grafarlandsá and Lindá, some of which simply cannot be done in small jeeps.
SBA-Norðurleið has tours to Askja that includes accommodation in the price:
By Super Jeep:
This is a once in a lifetime experience that has to be seen to be believed. You will be riding in a Super Jeep across terrain that NASA once used to train astronauts. In the middle ages, this land was occupied by Icelandic outlaws. This is our favorite way to see Askja.
What to do in Askja
– Hike to the edge of Lake Öskjuvatn and peer down into “Viti,” which translates to “Hell.” The walk takes about 35 minutes.
– Jump into the warm milky-blue geothermal waters inside the Viti crater.
– Take a hike into the canyon “Drekagil.” The canyon name comes from a pair of dragons that “live” there. The shape of the dragons is formed by protruding pillars of a rock. A beautiful waterfall is also waiting to be discovered in the canyon.
– German scientists Walter von Knebel and Max Rudloff visited Askja to study there in the early 1900’s, and now have a monument dedicated to them there.
– The tephra lava flowm from 1961, known here as “Vikrahraun,” can be visited. The lava is so light it floats on water.
There are all kinds of great walking spots in this area, some of which are challenging, while others are good for a leisurely stroll. Be aware that while many of the trails are marked by posts, many more are not. You can gain access to all of them by picking up a trail map from the information center, or from the park rangers’ office. The maps will shows how long the trails are, and how challenging.
Where to sleep in Askja
Huts and campgrounds are available at the Akureyri Touring Club, which can be found in Drekagil and Herðubreiðarlindir on the way to Askja.
The Herðubreðarlidir: Þorsteinsskáli hut is part of the Herðubreiðarlindir oasis, which sits about 4 km east of the stunning Herðubreið table mountain. The huts has been around since the late 1950’s, and is spacious enough to sleep 30. Access to the hut can be found on mountain road F88 from the ring road west of Jökulsá á Fjöllum river to the Askja caldera.
Location: 65°11.544N 16°13.360W
Askja: On the east side of the Dyngjufjöll massif at the mouth of the Drekagil gorge is where you will find the Dreki hut. There are a pair of huts there that can hold a total of 60 people, combined, and they can be accessed reached by mountain road F88 from the ring road east of lakeMyvatnor by mountain road F910. http://www.ffa.is/en Tel. +354 462 272
Iceland Travel Guide, Reykjavík (Iceland)