Volcano fever: Swim in an Icelandic crater in Askja

FROM the peaks of Hawaii to the uplands of Iceland, whether they be active or dormant, volcanos inspire the imaginations of numerous travellers. Relaxnews has gathered the necessary information to choose a volcanic destination for every type of vacationer. En route for Iceland and its volcanic highlands, which offer the opportunity for a pleasant swim in a geothermal lake.

Curriculum vitae

With its 30 active volcano systems and hundreds of craters, Iceland is a mecca for volcano lovers. Among the best known and the hardest to pronounce, Eyjafjöll is notorious for having caused severe air traffic disruption in 2010. The dormant Thrihnukagigur is also famous, both for its proximity to Reykjavik and the unique spectacle of its magma chamber, which is open to visitors and sometimes used for concerts.

Adventurers aiming to leave the beaten track may also want to pay a visit to Askja. Located in the remote central highlands of the island, Askja is a complex of nested calderas in a volcanic mountain range to the north of the Vatnajökull glacier. In March 1875, an eruption created a new caldera, which filled with water and became one of the country's deepest lakes, Öskjuvatn, as well as the nearby Viti crater.

Who should visit?

This is a good destination for a family excursion centring on a swim in the Viti crater. Having said that, the terrain you have to cross to get there can be hard going. There are sharp rocks, the trail can be slippery on the way down to the crater, and then there is the effort required to climb back out again. Given the remote location and the difficult climate, sometimes the only way to reach Öskjuvatn is on foot. Forewarned is forearmed, conditions in Iceland are often unpredictable. As a general rule, it is important to check weather forecasts before setting out, and to use a vehicle that is suitable for the highland roads. A four-wheel drive is a must.

Why this destination?

Hikers may prize the volcanoes of Lanzarote (in the Canary Islands) and Indonesia for their trekking, but those in Iceland can offer some unique sensations. This is the case with Askja and the Viti crater where the water is at 25°C. Viewed at a distance, Viti is an attractive blue-green colour, but the water appears milky white when you are wading in. And there's no denying that a swim comes as a welcome reward after several hours spent hiking over lava fields.

How to get there?

Agencies organize daytrips to Askja, which are relatively expensive. Count on spending more than 100 euros per person. The price covers the cost of the journey there and back on board a four-wheel drive, as well as the services of a professional guide, who will stop to take time to explain any important sites. The daytrips usually set out from Mvatn or Egilsstair. — AFP Relaxnews