Exploring Reykjavik's Volcanic Wonders: A Complete Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. How to get to Reykjavik
  2. The volcanic history of Reykjavik
  3. Volcanic sites to visit within the city
  4. Volcano hiking trails near Reykjavik
  5. Volcanic lakes and hot springs to explore
  6. Tours of volcanic caves and tunnels
  7. Volcanic museums and exhibits in Reykjavik
  8. Safety tips for exploring volcanic sites
  9. Where to stay in Reykjavik
  10. Best time to visit volcanic sites in Reykjavik

When you think of Iceland, what comes mind? For many, it's the spectacular auroras, the stunning glacial landscapes, and yes, the awe-inspiring volcanoes. Specifically, the volcanoes in Reykjavik have a unique charm that attracts travelers from all over the world. This guide is your go-to resource for an adventure-packed journey through Reykjavik's volcanic wonders.

How to get to Reykjavik

So, you've decided to explore the volcanoes in Reykjavik. Great choice! Now, let's talk about getting there. Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, is impressively connected to the rest of the world. Here's how you can reach this volcanic city:

  • By Air: Keflavik International Airport is your gateway to Reykjavik. Major airlines like Delta, British Airways, and Icelandair have regular flights. It's about a 40-minute drive from the airport to the city center. Convenient, isn't it?
  • By Sea: If you're up for an adventurous journey, consider taking a ferry. The Smyril Line operates a ferry from Denmark and the Faroe Islands to Seyðisfjörður, a town on the east coast of Iceland. From there, it's a scenic, day-long road trip to Reykjavik.
  • By Road: Once you're in Iceland, a network of well-maintained roads and highways connects Reykjavik to other parts of the country. Renting a car and driving around is a popular choice among visitors. You'll be able to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes at your own pace!

Remember, no matter how you choose to get to Reykjavik, the journey is just the beginning. The real adventure lies in exploring the city and its fascinating volcanic sites!

The Volcanic History of Reykjavik

Before we jump into exploring the volcanoes in Reykjavik, let's take a step back in time and learn about their history. Believe it or not, Reykjavik's history is intricately tied to volcanic activity. In fact, the city itself sits on a volcanic field that dates back around 700,000 years!

What makes Reykjavik's volcanic history even more fascinating is the fact that the entire city is built on lava. That's right — the building blocks of Reykjavik are volcanic rocks that cooled and solidified after a volcanic eruption. Can you imagine living on a city built on lava?

But how did Reykjavik end up with so many volcanoes? The answer lies beneath the Earth's surface. Iceland is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a massive mountain range that stretches down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The Ridge is a boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. As these plates move apart, magma from deep within the Earth rises to the surface, resulting in frequent volcanic activity.

Over thousands of years, this volcanic activity has shaped Reykjavik's unique landscape, creating a city that's a dream come true for volcano enthusiasts. From lava fields to volcanic mountains, the city is a living testament to the power and beauty of nature. So, are you ready to discover the volcanic wonders of Reykjavik?

Volcanic Sites to Visit Within the City

Now that we've covered some history, let's get down to the fun part: exploring the volcanoes in Reykjavik! The city is home to several fascinating volcanic sites, each with its own unique charm. Here are a few that you should definitely add to your itinerary:

Öskjuhlíð Hill: This isn't just any ordinary hill. Öskjuhlíð is actually a dormant volcano! Covered in trees and crisscrossed with pathways, it's a great place for a leisurely stroll. And the best part? It's right in the heart of the city.

Elliðaárdalur Valley: Nestled within Reykjavik, this valley is a testament to Iceland's volcanic past. The valley's beautiful river, Elliðaár, cut its path through a lava field. It's not every day you get to hike through a lava field, right?

Grótta Island Lighthouse: While not a volcano, this lighthouse offers stunning views of Snæfellsjökull, a glacier-capped stratovolcano located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. On a clear day, you can see this majestic volcano right from the heart of Reykjavik!

Exploring these volcanoes in Reykjavik is like stepping into a natural history museum, except with fresh air and stunning views. So, ready to lace up your hiking boots and start exploring?

Volcano Hiking Trails Near Reykjavik

Stepping outside the city limits, you'll find a wealth of volcano hiking trails near Reykjavik. Ranging from easy walks to challenging climbs, there's something for everyone, regardless of your hiking experience. Here are three trails that offer breathtaking views of volcanoes:

Þríhnjúkagígar Crater Trail: Fancy walking inside a volcano? Well, Þríhnjúkagígar gives you just that chance! This trail leads to a dormant volcano that you can actually enter. How's that for a unique experience?

Helgafell Volcano Trail: This trail offers a relatively easy hike to the top of Helgafell, a dormant volcano. When you reach the top, you'll be rewarded with a panoramic view of Reykjavik and the surrounding area.

Esjan Mountain Trail: If you're up for a challenge, the Esjan Mountain Trail is for you. This trail takes you up the side of Esja, a mountain range formed by volcanic activity. It's a bit of a climb, but the view from the top is worth every step.

These trails provide a fantastic opportunity to experience the volcanoes in Reykjavik and beyond, up close and personal. So what are you waiting for? Grab your gear and hit the trails!

Volcanic Lakes and Hot Springs to Explore

After exploring the amazing volcanoes in Reykjavik, you might want to relax and rejuvenate. The city and its surroundings are blessed with numerous volcanic lakes and hot springs, perfect for a soothing soak. Here are a few you should definitely check out:

Blue Lagoon: No visit to Reykjavik would be complete without a trip to the famous Blue Lagoon. This geothermal spa is located in a lava field and offers an unforgettable bathing experience. Imagine soaking in warm, mineral-rich waters while surrounded by a beautiful lava landscape.

Grótta Nature Reserve: This nature reserve is home to a small, natural hot spring. It's the perfect spot to unwind after a day of exploring. But remember, it's a nature reserve, so be respectful of the environment.

Laugarvatn Lake: Located a bit out of town, Laugarvatn Lake is worth the trip. Beneath its surface are hot springs that heat the lake, making it warm enough for swimming, even in winter!

So why not take a dip in one of these volcanic lakes or hot springs? It's the perfect way to experience the geothermal wonders of Reykjavik and unwind at the same time.

Tours of Volcanic Caves and Tunnels

Exploring the volcanoes in Reykjavik doesn't stop at the surface. There's a whole underground world waiting for you to discover! Let's talk about some of the amazing volcanic caves and tunnels you can tour.

Thrihnukagigur Volcano: This dormant volcano offers something truly unique. You can descend into the magma chamber of the volcano itself! Don't worry, it's completely safe. The magma chamber is colorful and enormous — the Statue of Liberty could fit inside!

Lava Tunnel Raufarhólshellir: One of the longest lava tubes in Iceland, it is a must-visit. You can go on a guided tour of this lava tunnel and witness the fascinating volcanic formations up close.

Vidgelmir Lava Cave: This is the largest lava cave in Iceland. With a guided tour, you can see incredible lava formations and even ice formations in the wintertime.

Exploring these caves and tunnels gives you a unique perspective on the volcanic activities that have shaped Reykjavik and its surroundings. It's an underground adventure you won't forget!

Volcanic Museums and Exhibits in Reykjavik

When it comes to understanding the volcanoes in Reykjavik, nothing beats visiting the city's informative volcanic museums and exhibits. Here, you'll find interactive displays, educational resources, and knowledgeable staff who can answer all of your burning questions about volcanic activity.

The Lava Center: This interactive, high-tech museum provides a comprehensive view of the volcanic activity, earthquakes, and the creation of Iceland over millions of years. It's perfect for both kids and adults — you'll feel like a true volcano expert after your visit.

Perlan - Wonders of Iceland: This is not just a museum, it's an experience. With a planetarium, a man-made ice cave, and an impressive exhibition on Icelandic volcanoes, it's a one-stop-shop to learn about all things Iceland.

Volcano House: This small museum in downtown Reykjavik offers two captivating documentaries about Iceland's most famous eruptions and a hands-on geological exhibit where you can touch different types of volcanic rocks.

These museums offer a fascinating insight into the explosive world of volcanoes in Reykjavik. They're a great way to add some educational fun to your visit, especially if the weather is less than cooperative for outdoor adventures.

Safety Tips for Exploring Volcanic Sites

Exploring the volcanoes in Reykjavik is an exciting adventure, but safety should always be your top priority. Here are a few practical tips to help you stay safe while experiencing these natural wonders.

Wear the Right Gear: Sturdy shoes are a must for hiking on rugged, uneven volcanic terrain. Don't forget to pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for protection against the sun. And remember, Icelandic weather can be unpredictable, so dressing in layers is a smart move.

Stay Hydrated: Hiking can be hard work, especially when you’re ascending a volcano. Always carry enough water with you, and maybe a snack or two for extra energy.

Respect the Rules: Volcanic areas can be delicate ecosystems, and some can still be geologically active. Stick to marked paths, heed warning signs, and never attempt to approach a volcano that is off-limits.

Know Your Limits: Volcano hiking can be demanding. If you are not an experienced hiker, consider joining a guided tour. They know the routes, the weather conditions, and most importantly, they know how to keep you safe.

Remember, the thrill of exploring volcanoes in Reykjavik should never compromise your safety. Arm yourself with knowledge, preparation, and respect for nature's power, and you're set for your volcanic adventure.

Where to Stay in Reykjavik

When it comes to finding a place to rest your head after a day spent exploring the volcanoes in Reykjavik, you're in luck. Reykjavik is packed with accommodation options that cater to every taste and budget.

For the Budget Conscious: If you're watching your pennies, consider staying in a hostel. Kex Hostel and Loft Hostel are popular options in Reykjavik. They offer a mix of private rooms and dormitories, and they're both centrally located.

For a Bit of Luxury: If you're looking to splurge, consider booking a room at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica or the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel. Both offer top-notch services, comfortable rooms, and stunning views of the city.

For a Home Away from Home: If you prefer having your own space, consider a vacation rental. Websites like Airbnb offer a wide range of options, from compact city-center apartments to larger houses on the outskirts of town.

Remember, wherever you choose to stay, make sure it's a place where you can rest and recharge. After all, you'll need your energy for all the volcano exploring you'll be doing!

Best time to visit volcanic sites in Reykjavik

When it comes to exploring volcanoes in Reykjavik, timing can make a big difference. The best times to visit depend on what you're looking to get out of your trip.

For Mild Weather and Longer Days: Consider visiting between June and August. During this time, Reykjavik enjoys its warmest temperatures and longest days, which are perfect for outdoor activities like hiking and exploring volcanic sites. Plus, the Midnight Sun phenomenon—where the sun barely sets—can be a unique experience.

For the Northern Lights: If you dream of seeing the Northern Lights, the best time to visit is during the colder months from September to March. Though the weather can be chilly and daylight hours are shorter, the clear, dark skies offer an excellent chance to witness this natural spectacle.

For Fewer Crowds: If you prefer a more peaceful vacation, consider visiting in the shoulder seasons of April to May and September to October. During these times, you'll find fewer tourists at the volcanic sites, and accommodation prices tend to be lower.

No matter when you choose to visit, remember to pack appropriate clothing. Even in summer, temperatures in Reykjavik can be cool, especially in the evenings. So, don't forget your warm jacket, even if you're visiting in July!

If you enjoyed this blog post on exploring Reykjavik's volcanic wonders and are inspired to capture the beauty of Iceland through your lens, we recommend checking out the workshop 'Travel Photography: Chasing the Northern Lights' by David Rocaberti. This workshop will teach you the skills and techniques needed to capture stunning photographs of the Northern Lights and other natural wonders Iceland has to offer.