Askja Caldera is located in Vatnajökull National Park. The volcano is in the middle of the Icelandic highlands, 1100 meters above sea level. The landscape is nothing short of breathtaking. If you desire to get away from everything and experience the wilderness of Iceland in its purest form, a tour up to Askja Caldera is a great option.
From Akureyri it is a long day tour, 11-13 hours with many stops and a bit of hiking. As a guide I often get asked about my favorite attractions here in North Iceland. The answer is simple, Askja Caldera and its surroundings. Even though it is a long tour and in that sense tiring, it is definitely worth it. A humbling experience to stand in the middle of the highlands, inside one of the biggest volcanoes in Iceland. On the banks of the deepest lake in Iceland surrounded by black sands and lava fields. Humbling and Dramatic.
Askja Caldera is only accessible about 4 months a year, from middle of June until middle of October. During the winter the whole area is packed with snow and the rough gravel roads in the highlands are all closed. Even in summer all kinds of weather can be expected, due to its high altitude. It can be very much different from the coastline. So bring warm clothes and extra layers, good hiking boots and packed lunch.
Hiking into a volcano and to experience the breathtaking scenery is well worth the trip in itself. But there are many other beautiful attractions on the way. The drive up to the highlands is scenic, to say the least and travelling in a small group makes it possible to make many stops and take short walks enjoying the surroundings.
The drive from Akureyri takes us through the Lake Myvatn area which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. A beautiful start to a great day. As we drive from the lake we enter the highlands and turn off the ring road. Ahead of us gravel roads and untouched nature as far as the eye can see.
The first stop is at Herðubreiðarlindir Springs, an oasis with cold water springs surrounded by lava fields. An ideal place to fill your water bottles. The springs are close to the queen of mountains in Iceland, the astonishing MT. Herðubreið.
Gljúfrasmiður Waterfall is an impressive waterfall and its name means Canyon Builder. The incredible force of the Glacier River Jökulsá is evident as the river plunges into a tight canyon. A hidden gem in the highlands.
Next scheduled stop is at Drekagil or Dragon Gully where we take a lunch break before hiking into Askja Caldera. Walking into the Drekagil Gully is highly recommended, beautiful rock formations created by the flow of water and spring floods are impressive.
Hiking into the caldera takes about half an hour each way and we stop at The Askja lake for about 1,5 hour. The scenery is spectacular, the 50 square kilometer caldera, the 220 meter deep lake and last but not least Víti the explosive Crater. In Víti you can take a bath, the water is just about 24 degrees Celsius and you will smell of sulfur for the rest of the day, but it is an unforgettable experience to bathe in an explosive crater inside a volcano.
With Saga Travel you are guaranteed a small group tour in a 4×4 Mini Bus, specially modified for the rough roads in the highlands and for crossing rivers. A small group tour offers more stops, more flexibility and more personal service. There are of course other options but I cannot recommend driving to Askja in a rental car, even if it is a 4×4. The rough roads and unbridged rivers can cause damages not covered by car rental insurance.
Þórður (THOR) Hjálmarsson is an experienced local guide with Saga Travel. He has been to Askja over 100 times.