If you’ve never ridden a small tour bus up the side of a volcanic crater, you’re missing out. It’s amazing to know that you’re traversing a chunk of land that – in geological terms – recently spewed scalding lava across the nearby landscape. And… it’s also slightly terrifying, in that tour buses aren’t exactly made to off-road uphill like this.
Boyfriend Perspective: I’ve never looked at a Ford Econoline and thought, “Awesome! We’re going off-road.” On this day, I learned you don’t need a whole lot to go off-road… just hold the beer of a BADASS tour guide and you’ll be fine.*
HANG ON, y’all.
Our first Icelandic volcano
This was actually our very first stop on our tour of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. We bumped and jostled up the side, then jumped out at the summit to get a look around and learn more about the lava mass we now know as Iceland.
I’ll admit, when I think about volcanic islands, I tend to think of places like Hawaii. But Iceland is almost no different.
The black chunks carpeting the landscape are actually lava rocks. They’re so rough because the hot lava encountered moisture, or an environment colder than it was, so it began to bubble as it hardened. Because lava rock is so mineral- and nutrient-rich, you’ll also notice that you rarely see bare rocks. They’re almost ALWAYS covered in neon, Kermit-green moss. And those same minerals also determine the color of the rock as time goes on. You can see that some of the rock is a rich, orange-red color, and that’s because that particular flow had extremely high iron content that has vividly oxidized in the hundreds of years since it settled.
Also, once you scale one volcano, make sure you take a look around from the top. Not only will you get a beautiful view, you’ll also be likely to get a look at all the other craters grouped together in the area.
This might have been our second stop on the tour. We bumped up another crater, which didn’t just look out on the mountains – it looked out over the Atlantic Ocean. While it was debatable whether the wind or the view was more breathtaking, this was where we learned that Iceland currently has over 800 volcanic craters. 800!! Makes you wonder how they all fit…
Boyfriend Perspective: This is also where Auđunn jokingly dared one of us to climb up the antenna tower on this crater. Yes, there are antennas on volcanoes in Iceland. Yes, I considered it. Yes, I went back to the bus.
If you look up volcanos in Iceland, this is one of the first results you’ll get. So many folks have hiked up these shallow orange stairs to take in the view. In fact, most folks take a picture going up the stairs. Well. Since we’re nothing if not unconventional, we’ve included a shot going down the stairs, instead!
Boyfriend Perspective: That’s me, Captain Luke, there were a couple more mounds that I wanted to climb for a taller view, but I think Meagan would have found a parental ‘NO!’ card in her bag to smack me with if I tried, because it would be “dangerous.” Pshhhhhh…
One of the cool things about some of the taller points on the island is they include static compasses, like the one shown in the second picture. They indicate various landmarks and other points of interest. In this case, Luke is pointing towards Reykjavík.
Just beware that, the higher you hike, the crazier the wind will be. On top of Saxhóll, our entire tour group felt nearly breathless from the cold. We still took plenty of pictures, of course… but we were very happy to make it back down to the tour bus!
What are your experiences with volcanoes abroad? Share your stories in the comments!
*Disclaimer for clarity’s sake: We like our goofy American expressions (a la “hold my beer!”) but our guide did NOT actually drink anything stronger than coffee on our tour, and was nothing but professional. And, yes, also a badass.
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Also published on Medium.