Iceland is a geological feast for the eyes. Over the last twenty million years, volcanic eruptions in Iceland have created a rugged landscape dotted with diverse volcanic features. Moss covered lava fields, enormous explosion craters, bizarre geological formations, ice caves and lava tubes are all monuments to the island’s unique location along the mid-Atlantic ridge at the merger of the North American and European tectonic plates.
This massive ring of nested calderas in the Dyngjufjoll Mountains came as a result of the Askja volcanic eruption in 1875. A highlight for most visitors is to go for a swim in the warm waters of the Viti crater which reaches a depth of 60 meters (197 ft) and a temperature of 30°C (86°F).
Laki is the name of the volcano that caused the infamous 1783 eruption that nearly wiped out Iceland as a nation. Evidence from the monstrous eruption is left in the form of the Lakagigar crater series which is an enormous row of over a hundred craters stretching an impressive 25 kilometers (15.5 mi). Many of the spectacular lava formations in bright red and black colors are still steaming although Laki is long dormant.
This striking crater-lake filled with milky blue-green water was once believed to be an explosion crater formed 3,000 years ago. However, geologists now believe it to be a collapsed magma chamber at the end of a volcanic eruption that occurred more than 6,000 years ago. Kerid is 55 meters (180 ft) deep with red and black slopes contrasting against the aqua blue water.
This 396 meter (1,300 ft) high tephra explosion crater is located near the eastern shore of Lake Myvatn in northern Iceland. Resembling a black ash cone of mammoth proportions, visitors are able to walk up the steep slopes and around the crater’s rim for otherworldly views.
Located in Jokulsargljufur within the Vatnajokull National Park, Asbyrgi is the remarkable horseshoe shaped canyon which geologists believe was most likely formed as the result of a catastrophic flood from the nearby Jokulsa glacial river. The 100 meter (330 ft) high cliffs form a 1 kilometer (.5 mi) wide ring of protective shelter around the rich vegetation and forest.
Halfway between Grundafjordur and Stykkisholmur, lies an enormous lava field created from an ancient lava flow from 3,000-4,000 years ago. Seemingly frozen in time, the elaborate shapes are blanketed in soft green moss, with vibrant hues of red and orange.
Dimmuborgir, on the east side of the lake, are a badlands of lava pillars, caves rugged crags and towering rocks, some of which reach 20 meters (65 ft) in height. Dimmuborgir, which loosely translated means ‘dark castles,’ are thought to have been created about 2,300 years ago in the violent throes of an extensive volcanic eruption.
This impressive lava field the biggest lava flow in the world which occurred during the Laki eruption in the late 1700s. The enormous site which is 565 square kilometers (218 sq mi) is where the Apollo 11 crew came to train for their impending moonwalk.
Hallmundarhraun flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the Langjokull glacier around the year 930. Consisting of dark basaltic rocks covered in soft moss, there are wonderful formations, frozen ripples, crevasses, and Surtshellir cave located underneath.
Located in the Krafla caldera of northeast Iceland, this visually bizarre lava field has a hiking trail running through it with rising steam and brightly colored mosses along the way.
These towering, spiky basalt sea stacks at the end of a dramatic stretch of black sand beach are a visual trademark for the town of Vik in Myrdal. Jutting out from the ocean 66 meters (217 ft) into the air, the Reynisdrangar cliffs are teeming with nesting Arctic terns.
Midlina, also known as ‘Leif the Lucky Bridge’, is a 15 meter (50 ft) footbridge in the Reykjanes Peninsula spanning a gaping rift between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
The lava-scarred Reykjanes Peninsula lies directly on the Mid Atlantic Ridge, the site where these major tectonic plates are being pulled apart by the Earth’s forces.
Thingvellir National Park is the visible site of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, and are being pulled apart at a rate of 2 cm (nearly an inch) per year.
The spectacular geology here includes Almannagja, where you can see the easternmost edge of the North American tectonic plate, which is normally submerged in the Atlantic Ocean. On the east side, at the Heidargja Gorge, you are at the westernmost edge of the Eurasian plate.
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