HomeUncategorizedHiking the Eyjafjallajokull glacier: Iceland’s volcano is the perfect introduction to mountaineering

Hiking the Eyjafjallajokull glacier: Iceland’s volcano is the perfect introduction to mountaineering

rRemember when an eruption of a volcano in Iceland caused mass flight disruption across Europe, with millions stranded as ash flew into the air? Well, it turns out you can climb that volcano, and it could be one of the best things you do on your trip to Iceland – even if you’re completely new to climbing.

The Eyjafjallajokull Glacier, located about 75 miles east of Reykjavik, is the second highest peak in Iceland and can be seen on most trips around the southwestern part of the country. The peak is 1,651m; for context, Ben Nevis is 1,345m, Iceland’s highest peak Hvannadalshnúkur is 2,110m, Mont Blanc is 4,809m and Kilimanjaro is a 5,895m tower.

Under the shadow of such competition, it doesn’t seem too challenging. That said, you’ll want to consider that you’ll be walking from sea level close enough – walk about 16 kilometers or so and climb about 1,500 meters. It’s been a long day of tough hiking and your feet are sure to feel the same the next day (and possibly many more days after that). But the beauty of Eyjafjallajokull is that it’s completely manageable if you have good fitness, some mental stamina, and a good climbing guide.

Eyjafjallajokull is famous for causing havoc to air travel when it erupted in 2010.

(Tom Barker for Much Better Adventures)

Luckily climbing Eyjafjallajokull as part of Adventure is much better’ Iceland’s 3 Peaks Challenge in the spring, I had the best. Ívar Finnbogason is an Icelandic legend, having summited Hvannadalshnúkur more than 70 times and leading expeditions around the world, including in Greenland and Antarctica.

“Eyjafjallajokull was a great introduction to the whole thing,” he told me as he drank his recovery beer after our hike up the volcano. “You get used to the rope walking, the altitude is achievable, and it only takes 8 to 10 hours of hiking. That’s doable for most people — and it’s fun.”

Read more: How to see Iceland in a long weekend

His second point is key. The world of rock climbing, like many extreme sports, can be intimidating, not to mention dangerous. While it’s foolish to underestimate any ascent, especially one with significant elevation for a day, Eyjafjallajokull is far less punitive than most. Ívar points out that you don’t need technical skills, and if you’re hiking at the right time of year, you won’t need any specialized equipment. However, you still get the glacier hiking craze.

The climb begins with a relatively steep ascent until you reach the glacier, when it reaches a steady climb. Followed by hiking through heavy snow and navigating crevices and icy terrain. The view before we reached the snow line was inspiring (Iceland really is on its own when it comes to scenery), but the glacier itself is almost another world. Moss and gentle streams give way to black volcanic rock that contrasts sharply with the brilliant white of the snow in the sun, with the ice-capped peaks jutting out into the distance.

Walking in the clouds on a knee-deep stretch of white snow is an unprecedented experience. The deep fissures running across the volcano remind you of the great power of Eyjafjallajokull; it’s a bit scary but totally thrilling.

Eyjafjallajokull is a great introduction to the world of rock climbing, according to top guide Ívar Finnbogason

(Tom Barker for Much Better Adventures)

Like most glacier tours, climbing to the top of Eyjafjallajokull requires working as part of a rope crew to protect from falling into crevices, and on cold days may require hooks while walking on ice. For our group, on a sunny May day with some cloud cover, a sturdy pair of Gore-Tex lined hiking boots with cleats were enough.

Fifteen years ago, Eyjafjallajokull wasn’t on the radar of many tourists, but it really exploded into the world’s consciousness in 2010. About 100,000 flights were canceled after the volcano sent clouds of ash and dust into the atmosphere, costing the industrial aviation industry more than £1 billion.

Read more: The ultimate Iceland travel guide

It also brings a significant degree of interest to Icelanders as newsreaders across the globe struggle with the nearly impossible pronunciation of names (if you’re curious, the correct pronunciation is “AY-” uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl- huh”). Despite the disruption and huge financial costs, Ívar spoke surprisingly about the impact of the eruption. “In the long run, it’s publicity,” he told me. “Suddenly everyone was talking about Iceland.”

Volcanic eruption cost the aviation industry more than 1 billion pounds

(Tom Barker for Much Better Adventures)

Just a few years ago, the country’s tourism industry benefited from another global event that rocked Europe, but unexpectedly boosted Icelandic tourism. Although the economic crisis of 2008 hit Iceland hard, with the complete collapse of the banking system, it made the famously expensive country attractive with affordable prices to visit. visit, fueling an incredible tourism boom.

But although Eyjafjallajokull has done a pretty good job of PR for the entire Icelandic tourism industry, Ívar notes that it’s not yet famous for its climbing.

Read more: Best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

“It’s not really common,” he shrugged. “People haven’t really noticed – most tend to peak (Hvannadalshnúkur). If they only had one day of icy travel on a rope, they would choose a big day.”

That is fair enough; but if you’re not too worried about bragging rights and want the thrill of hiking the glaciers without the grueling ascent, it’s well worth it to Hvannadalshnúkur’s more famous, less intimidating neighbor Go.

The correct pronunciation is ‘AY-uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl-uh’

(Tom Barker for Much Better Adventures)


The Skogafoss Hotel in Skogar is just 15 minutes from where you’ll start your climb at the foot of Mount Eyjafjallajokull, making it the perfect spot for an overnight stay before and after your hike. It has the advantage of being right next to the rather magnificent Skógafoss Falls, which is possibly the most famous waterfall in Iceland and one of the main attractions in the south of the country. The hotel itself is very comfortable, with pleasant double, double and family rooms, and a classy restaurant that is perfect for an post-climbing dinner.

Reykjavik is just two hours from Eyjafjallajokull, where you’ll find a wide variety of accommodation, including some more affordable options. Reykjavik Marina is a good mid-range hotel, ideally located for getting out of the city for outdoor adventures as well as exploring the capital.

More reviews of the best hotels in Reykjavik

When to go

Late spring or early summer is an ideal time for inexperienced climbers to climb Eyjafjallajokull.

(Tom Barker for Much Better Adventures)

You can climb Mount Eyjafjallajokull year-round, but late spring or early summer is an ideal time for the inexperienced. At this time of year, the days are long (about 16 hours of daylight), allowing plenty of time for hiking. The weather is notoriously unpredictable in Iceland – bright sunny days give way to violent storms within hours – but in April and May you’ll have the chance to enjoy clear skies and views. out to the glacier, plus pleasant hiking conditions without hooks.

Climbing Eyjafjallajokull in the winter is entirely possible, but about halfway through it will be dark and you’ll need a good torch. No matter what time of year you go hiking, always be aware of changing weather conditions, listen carefully to the advice of locals, and make sure you hike with qualified climbing guide.

How to get there

Direct flights from the UK to Reykjavik are available on a number of airlines, including Airline British, easyJet, Icelandic Airlines, great atmosphere And PLAY. Flight time is about three hours. Eyjafjallajokull is about two hours from Reykjavik by car or bus.

In Iceland, bright sunny days can turn to intense storms in just a few hours

(Tom Barker for Much Better Adventures)

What to bring?

  • Backpacks day, 30-40 LOT
  • Jacket with hood
  • Waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
  • Waterproof and windproof pants
  • Breathable absorbent layer
  • fleece jacket
  • Heat retention (merino wool)
  • Glove
  • gait
  • Socks, wool or synthetics
  • Scarves or scarves
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking shoes with Goretex
  • hiking poles
  • sunscreen
  • Personal First Aid Kit (includes blister treatment)
  • x2 liter water tank and/or x2 liter bladder
  • Energy bars and snacks

Annabel climbs Eyjafjallajokull as part of Much Better Adventure Challenge 3 mountain peaks in Iceland. The trek, new for Much Better Adventure in 2023, involves ascents to Vörðuskeggi Peak (805m), Eyjafjallajökull volcano (1,651m) and Hvannadalshnúkur (2,110m).


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