Fire & Ice: Visiting An Erupting Volcano in Iceland

by Guest Blogger on April 19, 2010 · 10 comments

This is a guest post by Debbie Gavish. If you would like to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read more here.

On March 20, 2010 a volcano erupted in Iceland near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier after nearly 200 years of lying dormant. On April 7, 2010 I got to see this magnificent force of nature from right up close.

The Mission

Reach the Volcano, by air and/or by land.

The Obstacles

1) Extreme weather conditions made visiting the Volcano impossible for several days during my stay in Iceland. My flight to London was scheduled the morning of April 7,2010. The night of April 6, 2010 tours announced that conditions would enable people to reach the Volcano on April 7, 2010. I pushed back my flight by a day and booked a tour to the Volcano.

2) Find a minimum amount of people for the tour.

3) Combine an air and land tour for a cheaper price than offered.

Tour Details

At the fabulous Reykjavik Downtown Hostel, with the assistance of the receptionist Swantje, I booked a super jeep tour with Iceland Total. Iceland Total (which offers a large variety of tours in Iceland) contracted Amazingtours.is to take us on this tour. Our driver/guide was Jon Ingi Dardi.

Tour Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tour Guide Rating: 5 out of 5.

I couldn’t have imagined a better tour or tour guide.

Cost: The cost for the super jeep tour was 235 Euros which was 41,000 Krona at the time. Other tours were offering a combined helicopter and super jeep tour for 99,000 Krona, but we worked out an arrangement with our tour to separately combine it with a helicopter ride.

Helicopter.is offers helicopter rides from the Skogafoss waterfalls, for 43,000 Krona (normally the helicopter flights are flights to and from the pad and do not drop you off near the Volcano rim, but because we had previously requested a combination of a helicopter and jeep tour we were luckily dropped off near the rim!). Therefore, we managed to combine a Volcano land and air tour for the cheaper price of 84,000 Krona total (currently $657).

Note that a minimum fee payment for two people is needed for the super jeep ride and a minimum payment for four people is needed for the helicopter ride.

The Super Jeep Tour

At 2pm our super jeep picked us up from our Hostel.  I was with my new Canadian friend Michael, and my new friend from Holland, Kim. In total, we were 7 tourists, plus the driver in the super jeep (maximum capacity of 8 people).

The Super Jeep

Our driver drove Southeast to the Skogafoss waterfalls where the helicopter pad is located. We arrived at the pad at 5pm. The tour had not reserved a specific time slot for our ride, but had called in advance to notify them we were coming, and Helicopter.is had been fine with that and had agreed to accommodate us.

The jeep continued with the others to the glacier while Kim, Mike and I impatiently waited for our turn on the helicopter. But as life would have it, after 3.5 hours waiting at the helicopter pad, while others kept taking off, we got the best slot, the helicopter ride at sunset over the Volcano! (Thanks Ingi).

Bird's eye view of Iceland's erupting volcano

Bird's eye view of Iceland's erupting volcano

Sunset Helicopter Ride Over Volcano

The helicopter seats six people. I sat with the pilot in the front, while Kim, Mike and two other tourists sat at the back. The helicopter ride takes about 20 minutes total and circles the Volcano from all directions (ours was less than 20 minutes as we were dropped off on location).

The helicopter set us down near the Volcano rim.

The Super Jeep Tour (Continued)

We had called our driver Jon just before take off to tell him we would be arriving in the next helicopter. Therefore, upon landing, our driver came to get us and drove us even closer to the Volcano rim.

View from the helicopter landing area

View from the helicopter landing area

The erupting volcano

The erupting volcano

Is this a bonfire everyone is huddling around? No! It's a volcano!

Is this a bonfire everyone is huddling around? No! It's a volcano!

After “hanging out” at the Volcano rim (as close as we could get) and taking in the magnificence of it all, we drove in the jeep to another vantage point (which was further away, but also wondrous). We had not spent too long a time at the Volcano rim (due to the fumes), but enough to feel fulfilled and exhilarated!

It took us more than an hour to drive off the glacier. The main route up the glacier was closed and Jon, our driver, said we had to make almost a full circle to get off it. On route down the glacier, we also assisted a jeep that had gotten stuck by roping it to ours. On the drive back to Reykjavik we even got to see the Northern Lights!

We were back at the hostel by 2:30am.

As close to the rim as I could get.

As close to the rim as I could get.

Final Words:

MIND BLOWING, ONCE IN A LIFETIME! I would definitely choose the land/air combination for the ultimate experience.

If you have to choose between a helicopter ride and the super jeep tour, consider the pros and cons of each.

Helicopter Tour

Pros

Get a birds eye view from above (see more than one can see from land); circle the volcano (get to see the Volcano from different directions).

Cons

The experience is very limited in time (20 minutes at most); your experience depends on where you are sitting. I sat near the pilot and had an unobstructed view and could easily take photos/video; one of my friends sat in the back of the helicopter in the middle and found it difficult to take photos and did not enjoy the experience as much as I did.

Land Tour

Pros

You get as close as one can to the lava. You feel the lava stones under your feet (I picked one up and it was still hot!). When I was there I could feel the heat of the Volcanic eruption. The land tour definitely arouses more of one’s senses. However, note that you might not be able to get as close as I did to the Volcano as conditions at the site vary from day to day.

Also, the experience lasts much longer than the helicopter ride (but you may not want to spend the time going to/from the glacier).

Cons

Your view of the Volcano is limited to a land view and you see less of the Volcanic movement than you can see from above; The Glacier itself is very cold (generally between -10 to -20 degrees), but warmer once you approach the Volcano and experience some of its heat. But you can overcome the cold with warm attire (I was wearing thermal pants, pants, three thermal shirts, down jacket, wind jacket with inner fleece, scarf and hat and did not feel cold at all).

Special thanks to Swantje from the Reykjavik Downtown Hostel who did above and beyond her duty to help coordinate this combination tour.

_______

About the Author: Debbie Gavish departed New York City earlier this month on a 5 1/2 month, 17-country ’round the world trip.  You can catch up with all of her adventures at Girls Travel Blog.

About the Author:

is the author of 233 posts on Go Backpacking.

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Categories: Adventures, Iceland
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