Special places (1): Askja

I thought it would be fun to look closer at some special places in Iceland. Well, to be honest, the whole of Iceland is special. You can expect another surprise around every bend of the road. And every season is different. I can guide a trip four times in a row in the summer and visit the same place four times, and yet it is always different. That is also the beauty of Iceland, it changes constantly but is always beautiful.

On the way to the Askja

In this blog, I’ll take you to Askja, one of the places we visit on our beautiful and varied inland journey. After bivouacking in the beautiful Myvatn, we drive on the ring road No. 1 and after about an hour we turn off for the exactly 100-kilometer-long road to the Askja. The road named F88 takes you inland through sandy deserts and lava fields.

After an exciting river crossing, we arrive about halfway to what the Icelanders call the ‘Queen of the Icelandic Mountains’; the Herðubreið. It is more than an imposing table mountain, almost 1700 meters high. The stop there, with a primitive campsite and toilet facilities, is a true oasis. Many sagas have been written about this area, about criminals who hid here and were able to survive thanks to, among other things, the spring water here. it is a beautiful place, where you can also enjoy nice walks.

As we continue our journey we pass an impressive waterfall of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River. This glacial river is one of the longest rivers in Iceland and is home to the famous Dettifoss waterfall much further north! The last kilometers go by red-colored mountains, over loose dirt roads, and a beautiful lava field.

And then we see the Drekagil campsite, almost in the middle of nowhere.

Drekagil

There is a beautiful gorge near the campsite (the Drekagil or Dragon Gorge), with an astonishing waterfall hidden at the end. Worth it!

You can cover the last 12 kilometers to Askja by car, from the parking lot at the end of the road it is about half an hour on foot. Especially in early summer, you can often come across snow fields, so remember to wear appropriate footwear! Or you can take a beautiful but quite challenging walk there from the campsite. There and back, it is about 20 kilometers with about 1100 meters of elevation gain, absolutely worth it as you can see below, but as said; spicy. Consider the weather conditions in terms of clothing, food, and drinks, so you don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises if you undertake this. Let the campsite know that you are going for a walk, better safe than sorry!

The Askja Caldera

Askja is the volcano, a Caldera is a bowl-shaped crater – created about 150 years ago by a huge eruption. This resulted in the creation of the deepest lake in Iceland – the deepest part of the so-called Öskjuvatn is about 220 meters below the surface. Next to it is the Viti, an explosion crater filled with water heated by geothermal energy and full of minerals. You can even swim in here! A tip from me: make sure to rinse and clean your bathing suit, bikini, or swimming trunks at the campsite afterwards. I let it dry to rinse it out later, but the, so to speak, ‘less pleasant smell’ of the water never left. The crater is very steep and you have to climb back up through the clay, but the experience certainly more than makes up for that.

I think the photos below are a good idea of what to expect, in recent years I have experienced all weather conditions. From lovely sunshine and pleasant temperatures in July and August to snow at the end of June and beginning of September.

In any case, it is an exceptional place – you’ll feel like you are on another planet!

Askja, Viti and Caldera

New blogs will follow soon about other beautiful places in Iceland! Want to read more blogs? Then consider the hike over the Laugavegur – described in 3 parts. Or about whale watching in Iceland, where you should be and should not be. One of our travelers wrote a nice piece about her journey through the interior, specifically of the beautiful Kerlingarflöll on Mountainreporters, the read, and the photos are more than worth it.

If you want to go to the East Fjords, read the blog about Borgarfjörður Eystri here!

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