The impressive Eldhraun lava field is the biggest lava flow in the world. It occurred during the Laki eruption of  the late 1700s. The enormous site, which is 565 square kilometers (218 sq mi), is where the Apollo 11 crew trained for their moonwalk.

The Laki eruption lasted from 1783 to 1784, and Icelanders know it as the Skaftareldar.  Scientists consider it the most poisonous eruption occurring during historical times. It is fair to say that this was a cataclysmic event, not only for Iceland but also for Europe. In Iceland, it caused disease, crop failure and famine. As a result, between 53% and 82% of domestic animals and 20% of the human population perished.

The cause of the French Revolution?

Europeans felt the eruption, as well. In Great Britain, that summer was known as The Sand Summer due to the fallout of ash. The eruption haze blocked sunlight, causing crop failures and famine in Europe. Because of this, many historians speculate the Laki eruptions helped contribute to the French Revolution.

NASA Exploration

During the 1960s, NASA astronauts used Eldhraun lava field to train for the Apollo 11 mission. NASA belived that Eldhraun’s landscape and geological conditions would match those of the moon.  The astronauts also trained at Askja caldera in the northern highlands.  If you would like to learn more, the Explorers’ Museum in Husavik village has interesting information on these training missions.

How thick is the Eldhraun lava field?

The lava field has a thickness of about 12 meters (39 feet) and is covered with fragile moss.

How large it the Eldhraun lava field?

It is 565 square kilometers  (218 sq miles) and is Iceland’s second largest lava field.

Respect the nature

Justin Bieber filmed part of his famous music video “I’ll Show You” in Eldhraun.  The video shows several people dancing in and trampling the moss. Environmental scientists heavily criticized the video, explaining that the moss was severely damaged as a result. 

The Eldhraun lava field and craters are covered with a special type of moss: woolly fringe moss. This moss is why the landscape looks alien and unearthly. However, Icelandic moss is very fragile and takes about a hundred years to grow.

If you plan on travelling to Eldhraun, please respect the moss;  do not touch it or step on it. If the moss is damaged, it will take decades to heal.

Where can I see Eldhraun?

Eldhraun is the mossy lava field you’ll see when driving the Ring Road of South Iceland. You will see it just before you reach the village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur.

GPS: 63.676944 N, -18.140833 W