It’s no secret that Iceland is home to some of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders. For millions of years, geological activity has been shaping the landscape of this iconic country. Simply put, there is no shortage of panoramic views and unique landforms. From volcanoes, geysers and hot springs to glaciers, ice caves and waterfalls, Iceland is a land teeming with adventures and experiences for you to uncover.
You have likely heard all about this Icelandic volcano in recent months. Fagradalsfjall is a volcano that formed millions of years ago when lava erupted through a thick ice shield. In mid-March 2021, after several weeks of seismic activity, Fagradalsfjall erupted and continues to erupt today (June 2021). The last eruption was believed to have occurred thousands of years ago, which makes this a historical event.
Located on the Reykjanes Peninsula just outside of Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, the area surrounding Fagradalsfjall is uninhabited and Icelandic authorities do not consider it a threat to local infrastructure or residents. Travelers and locals alike are able to safely visit the volcano and marvel at its ongoing eruption. Expectedly, Mother Nature holds the cards in her hands. Several factors are at play – from the wind to the direction of the lava flow – that can affect your trip, so no two days are quite the same. This is truly a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won’t be able to repeat twice.
Although currently dormant, Katla is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes. While we’re currently seeing Fagradalsfjall’s fissure-style eruptions, Katla typically has explosive ones with a high amount of lava flow. A subglacial volcano, Katla looms beneath the Myrdalsjokull ice cap.
Outbursts are believed to have occurred in the last 50 years, but none have breached the ice layer. The last major eruption occurred over 100 years ago in 1918 – and with anticipated Katla eruptions occurring every 100 years or so, scientists and geological experts are closely monitoring any seismic activity. Recent activity has been detected in the surrounding area, with earthquakes as recent as June 22, 2021. This indicates that an eruption is possible in the distant future. Travelers can visit Katla while driving along Iceland’s Ring Road. Nearby is the remote seaside village of Vik, home to Iceland’s Black Sand Beach, which we will cover in the coming sections of this blog post.
Jokulsarlon is a glacial lagoon located near Vatnajokull National Park in southeast Iceland. For those unfamiliar, a glacial lagoon is essentially a lake made from a nearby glacier’s meltwater. In this case, the glacier in question is Vatnajokull – the largest one in Europe. Jokulsarlon is well-known for its depth (in fact, it is Iceland’s deepest lake) and for its floating icebergs that are considered to be well over 1,000 years old.
Boat tours are offered for visitors who wish to go out into the lake and witness its beauty in an up-close and personal way. The area is known for abundant wildlife as well. You may spot herring, seals and even orcas in the neighboring waters of southeast Iceland.
Responsible for the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon is Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajokull. This voluminous ice cap holds many fascinating natural wonders. Iceland’s tallest mountain peak (over 7200 feet) quietly sits beneath Vatnajokull’s icy surface along with a handful of active volcanoes. Several glacial rivers flow from the glacier, branching out into the west, north, south and eastern parts of Iceland.
Today, travelers can visit Vatnajokull National Park. Made of many areas, some highlights include Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon and Diamond Beach (both of which are covered in this blog post) as well as Dettifoss (Europe’s most powerful waterfall) and marvelous Icelandic ice caves.
Located near Vatnajokull and Jokulsarlon, Iceland’s Diamond Beach is named after the glistening icebergs that scatter its coastline. Over time, chunks of glaciers out in the sea have broken apart and washed up on shore to create a dazzling scene.
While beautiful to witness, the cause of Diamond Beach is largely due to climate change. In the coming decades, there may no longer be ice landscapes to behold. Travelers can visit Diamond Beach on their own or with a small group tour.
Vik Black Sand Beach
If you’ve made it this far in our blog post, then you’ll have realized that most of Iceland’s fantastical features are here today because of the volcanic activity throughout the country. This is no different for the Black Sand Beach in Vik. The shoreline is – as you may have guessed – composed entirely of black sand. Every sandy beach in the world is made of finely eroded rock and minerals. What makes this particular black sand, however, is the nearby volcanic explosions that have cooled and dried into solid rock. Over time, these rocks have been worn down into what we now consider Black Sand Beach.
If you’re planning to drive along Iceland’s famous Ring Road, a stop at Vik is a must. Not only is it worth a walk along these dark beaches, but you can also witness puffins, hexagonal basalt columns (not unlike the ones at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland), and even visit the volcanic site of Katla.
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