Information about Askja

A beautiful view of Askja

Askja is a caldera in the central Highlands of Iceland, just north of Vatnajökull glacier. It is best known for its dramatic eruptions, as well as the training grounds for Apollo astronauts because of its otherworldly, lunar landscapes.

The highest point of the mountains forming the crater is 1,510 metres (4.954 feet), which is remarkably tall for an Icelandic peak.

Askja is a popular destination for hikers, with mountain huts to reside in, although can only be accessed in summer with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Major eruptions at Askja

Askja was not known to a feature of note throughout most of Iceland’s history; it would only gain significant attention 1875, when it erupted with great force, and poured poisonous ash across much of the East Fjords; this ash reached far Poland, to give some idea of the scale.

The effect on the local people was catastrophic, as livestock and crops wilted and died. This forced a major wave of emigration from the country to the United States and Canada, and many towns on their East Coasts have high populations of Icelandic descendants, particularly the Canadian town of Gimli.

Though this appeared to be the first time Askja was known to have an international impact, it was not; 11,000 years ago, tephra from its eruption got as far as Romania.

Askja last erupted in 1961, though to no such significant extent. It has, however, rumbled since, with there being tremors in the region in 2010, and no ice cap in April in 2012, indicating heat below the peak.

Viti crater lake, within the boundaries of the mighty Askja.Wikimedia, Creative Commons, Photo Credit: Ulrich Latzenhofer

Öskjuvatn lake

Askja is also well known for being home to the second deepest lake in Iceland, Öskjuvatn, which misses out on the top spot for the newly formed Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

Lying about 50 metres (164 feet) beneath the main level of the caldera floor, it has depths of up to 220 metres (722 feet).

This lake was formed after the 1875 eruption, and covers an area of twelve square kilometres (about five square miles). It is frozen the majority of the year, and if unseasonably liquid, a worrying sign of a potential eruption.

Science and Askja

Askja sits in what is called the ‘rain shadow’ of the great Vatnajökull glacier. This means that the area is remarkably dry, with only 450 mm of rain annually, about half of what falls in Reykjavík. It is also particularly cold, due to its elevation and proximity to the glacier.

These conditions mean that there is little to no vegetation surrounding Askja, and as such, it was a perfect place for Apollo astronauts to acclimatise to the environment of the moon. While other places around the country, such as the Reykjanes Peninsula were also used, this particular environment was considered the most accurate reflection of a lunar landscape.

The Apollo scientists were far from the only ones to come to Askja, with it attracting meteorologists, geologists and volcanologists for decades. In fact, before the astronauts came, Askja had already claimed the lives of two people studying it.

In 1907, two scientists from Germany, Walter von Knebel and Max Rudloff, were studying the volcano, and took a boat journey out onto the surface of Öskjuvatn. They would never return, nor would any sign of them be seen again, in spite of the hard work of von Knebel fiance, Ina von Grumbkow.

What happened to them has been an enduring mystery, a probable answer to which was finally found in 2014.

A study taken in this year in the caldera revealed what effects a landslide can have on the lake. When displaced earth struck its surface, it caused a wave 30 metres (98 feet) tall. Any small boat in its path would have been completely shattered, and it is little wonder why no sign of them has ever been found.

 

Services near Askja

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Attractions nearby Askja

Dyngjufjöll

Dyngjufjoll is a volcanic mountain range in the lava field Odadahraun in the Icelandic highlands. The Askja caldera is situated in this mountain rang...

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Víti by Askja

Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Credit:  Ulrich Latzenhofer.  Víti is a geothermal crater lake found in Askja Caldera in the Icela...

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Holuhraun

Holuhraun is an immense lava field north of Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland's Highlands. Holuhraun is the site of a powerful eruption which...

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Hvannalindir

Hvannalindir is a vegetated area within Vatnajökull National Park in the Highlands of Iceland.  While the Icelandic Highlands mostly consis...

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Herðubreið

  Herdubreid is a table mountain (Icelandic: 'stapi'), situated north of Vatnajokull in the deserted lava field of Odadahraun, the most ...

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Trölladyngja

Trölladyngja is Iceland's largest shield volcano, located in the north of Vatnajökull National Park in the highlands. At 1,468 metres (...

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Kverkfjöll

Credit: Wikimedia, Creative Commons. Photo by Pietro Kverkfjöll is a sub-glacial mountain range on the northern side of the Vatnajökul...

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Herðubreiðarlindir

Herdubreidarlindir is an oasis situated near Herdubreid mountain north of Vatnajokull glacier. The area features a campground and hiking trails and i...

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Brúardalir

Credit: Wikimedia, Creative Commons. Photo by Axel Kristinson. Brúardalir is a series of valleys in Brúaröræfi in East&...

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Vesturdalur

Vesturdalur is a green and lush mountainous valley in Skagafjordur, cutting deep into the mid highlands. The place is a popular campsite. The river H...

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Hrafnabjargafoss

Hrafnabjargafoss is a waterfall in the river Skjalfandafljot northwest of Vatnajokull.  Skjalfandafljot falls into several highly impressive can...

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Hafrahvammar

Photo from: Canyon Hiking Tour Hafrahvammar is a vast canyon, north of Dimmugljúfur Canyon in East Iceland.  Hafrahvammar is also known ...

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Bruarjokull

Wikimedia. Creative Commons. NASA.  Brúarjökull is a 1600 sq km (617 sq mi) glacier tongue extending from Iceland's largest ice-...

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Kárahnjúkavirkjun

Karahnjukavirkjun is a Hydropower plant in Eastern Iceland, designed to 4600 GWh annually to serve Alcoa's aluminium smelter east of Reydarfjordur...

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Karahnjúkar

Credit: Wikimedia, Creative Commons. Photo by Christoph Hess Karahnjúkur describes two mountains and a power plant, found beside each other in...

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Aldeyjarfoss

  Aldeyjarfoss is a beautiful waterfall in the mighty Skjalfandafljot river, dropping from a height of 20 meters. Of particular note is th...

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Laugarvalladalur

Laugarvalladalur is a beautiful, verdant oasis, best known for the many hot springs that sit around the abandoned farm on site. Located west of the...

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East Iceland

Stretching from the wide Eastfjords mountain range, set with many small fjords, through the fertile Fljotsdalsherad district and towards the highlands...

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Bárðarbunga

The stratovolcano Bardarbunga is Iceland’s second-highest mountain and lies under the icecap of Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier. Ba...

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Möðrudalur

Modrudalur a Fjollum is the highest positioned farm in Iceland (469 m above sea level) and is located in the east highlands, north of Vatnajokull glac...

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Tours near Askja

Askja Caldera & Viti Crater | East Highlands Day Tour

Walk in the footsteps of the first men on the moon on the Askja Lunar tour. Leaving from Lake......

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Askja Caldera Tour from Akureyri | With Godafoss Waterfall

Experience the barren interior and lunar-like landscapes of the Icelandic Highlands, on this day......

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10 Day Summer Package | Reykjavik, Akureyri & Icelandic Nature

Join this exciting 10-day summer vacation package and discover for yourself the sheer wealth of......

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Askja Caldera Hike | Highland Adventure from Lake Myvatn

Experience the lunar-like landscapes of the Icelandic Highlands on this tour of the Askja......

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15 Day Summer Hot Spring Hunt Self Drive | Iceland in-Depth

Immerse yourself in the Icelandic nature as you travel the Ring Road, circling the entire......

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10 Hour Tour to Godafoss, Lake Myvatn & Askja Crater

Join this tour for an unforgettable journey of north Iceland in summer. Travel through the......

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Askja Caldera & Holuhraun Lava Field | Super Jeep Day-tour

Travel in style with this fantastic Super Jeep tour discovering the wild, captivating landscapes......

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Askja and Kverkfjoll Hiking | 2 Days

Immerse yourself in a land of ice and fire with this brilliant hiking tour into the Kverkfjöll......

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48-hour Full Day Tour to the Highlands of North Iceland

Come along on this tour of the exciting Highlands of north Iceland. This tour is perfectly......

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Private Askja Tour from Lake Myvatn

In this Super Jeep Tour we will travel to the Icelandic highlands and visit two iconic......

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